Rainbow over Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland
Though my time in Iceland was painfully short, I tried to pack in as much as I possibly could. That being said, I didn’t prepare particularly well for a number of different things. Here is a list:
Things I Didn’t Prepare For
1. Waking up really late the second day. Jet lag hit me and I completely passed out after getting back from the Blue Lagoon and slept until one of my phone alarms went off at 11am the next day.
2. Booking tours in advance. After waking up, I went online to try to get an afternoon Golden Circle tour only to discover that you can’t do it online on the same day. I emailed two different tour companies to see if I could get a last-minute spot. Fortunately, the cheaper one emailed back within twenty minutes and said there was a spot- they even sent a bus to pick me up! Despite some scheduling mishaps (more on that later), I really liked all my tours with Reykjavik Excursions and wouldn’t hesitate to book them again.
3. The weather. It was chilly but not cold in Reykjavik, so I assumed it would be the same out on the tours. I was only half correct- while the temperature was roughly the same, in Reykjavik the buildings block the wind, but out in the countryside (aka the entirety of the rest of the country) there’s nothing to keep it from cutting right through you and biting down to the bone, and I was caught unprepared in just a cardigan and scarf. Brrrr.
I look happy here, but I was absolutely freezing!
One of the most amazing things about Iceland is the fact that its landscape is so undeveloped. As you can see in the pictures, the major things (Gullfoss, the waterfall in both photos above, and Geysir, which is kind of self-explanatory) are both big tourist attractions and therefore had lots of people around, but the rest of the land is mostly moss or grass covered lava fields without a person, building or power line in sight. It’s refreshing, especially coming from a country where even land that looks like empty fields is probably farmland of some kind.
Geyser, Iceland
A bit blurry thanks to having to take photos while on the bus, but there were Icelandic horses everywhere!
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
Þingvellir National Park
Break between North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
At the break between the North American and Eurasian tectonic places
In true Emily fashion, no trip would be complete without a story of something weird happening to me. At the end of the Golden Circle tour, the clouds were starting to break up and our guide told us it was likely you’d be able to see the Northern Lights that night. So while out to dinner with the lovely Finnish girl staying in my hostel dorm room, I booked a seat on the company’s tour for that night. After having drinks with the Finnish girl and a lovely American couple who had been on the same bus in from the airport, I went downstairs to wait for the pick-up bus, and I waited… and waited… and waited. The guy waiting with me went upstairs to have the hostel call the tour company, and they sent another bus to pick us up. When we got to the main bus terminal, the one Northern Lights tour bus still there was completely full, so the driver of the pick-up bus said he’d take me to another tour bus that had an open seat. We chased down that bus, which was stopped at a gas station, and I boarded to find several dozen pairs of eyes glaring at me. Of course, the one available seat was all the way at the back left corner. Fortunately, the four people in the back row were all my age and seemed quite pleased that I wasn’t some obnoxious older person, and we became fast friends. There’s nothing quite like drinking Smirnoff straight out of the bottle in the middle of a lava field at midnight while freezing your ass off to bond you with other people.
After two failed attempts at seeing the lights, we were dejectedly headed back to Reykjavik when they suddenly appeared in the back window of the bus. We pulled over and ran off the bus to marvel at them as they danced. One of the guys I was with, Shayan, managed to capture them as my camera decided it didn’t want to work while we were out there (too cold, perhaps).
Northern Lights, Iceland, Shayan Nejad
Photo credit: Shayan Nejad
Northern Lights, Iceland, Shayan Nejad
Photo credit: Shayan Nejad
After returning to Reykjavik and exchanging Instagrams with new friends, I returned to my hostel to work on some photo editing before catching my bus to the airport and promptly ran into the trio I had had drinks with earlier that night. They suggested going out for one last drink before the bars closed. I weighed my options- drinks with new friends or photo editing by myself (and not even in the lounge since it was closed)? Kind of a no brainer. Out we went, and chatted over beers and wine until I had to insist we went back so I could pack and catch my bus back to the airport, where I ended up talking to two American guys on their way to Amsterdam while I charged my phone. I can now also say I’ve tried fish chips- literally thinly sliced, baked fish. Yes, it’s as gross as it sounds. I left them with gum (for the sake of their fellow passengers) and hopped aboard my flight to Paris. It was a long day, but I wouldn’t trade any of these experiences for the sleep I missed!

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