Today I’m sharing Part 2 of my winter in Iceland journey across the Golden Circle (if you missed Part 1, you can catch it here!) With snowmobiling, a geothermal spa experience and the Northern lights crossed off our list, we set off towards the excursion I had been waiting for my entire life: DOGSLEDDING. That’s right. We were gonna get up close + personal with over 60 Siberian and Greenlandic pups, and I could hardly contain myself.
We had breakfast first thing in the morning at Sandholt, a family-owned bakery with fresh treats daily. I opted for fried eggs and a croissant with jam + butter to boot. I’m not sure how such a simple meal could taste as good as it did, but I’m not exaggerating when I say I recently looked at flights to Iceland for the spring specifically so I could eat here again.
With our hearts full, we began our drive towards the sunrise dogsledding excursion. I missed an exit…. one exit… that set us back 30 minutes so panic mode ensued for the next hour and a half as I thought surely, we’d miss our chance. But God smiled down on us as we arrived exactly at our tour time, so as soon as we we donned our extra layers and thick wool gloves, we hopped onto our all-terrain “sled” and mushed like the wind.
Seriously, these dogs ran like their lives depended on it, but there was no mistaking their enjoyment of every second. Our musher paused in a few different places to give them a break (and gives us epic photo opps too), and the 10 dogs assigned to us were jumping up in the air, ready to race again. They loved it. We loved it. I may or may not have cried. Did I mention there were 60 dogs I got to pet within 60 minutes? With the wind rushing through our hair and the winter chill numbing my fingers, I knew this was a moment I’d never forget. Every of the ice glistening on the lake, every sunbeam shining into my eye, every wonderfully slobbery puppy kiss was a treasure to me. And for that I am so thankful. Even though I still have “fumigate gloves” on my to-do list because of the endearingly everlasting scent.
I’d recommend this tour to anyone staying in or around Reykjavik – it departed about 1.5 hours from the southern port city in someone’s incredibly picturesque backyard of all places. The tour company actually gets to work off this guy’s land for free in exchange for a barbecue dinner about once a month. This is Iceland.
After our tour, we headed back to Reykjavik center where we grabbed a quick lunch about 10 obese pigeons eyed vigilantly from the most popular hot dog stand in the world: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. We took this opportunity to wander Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur – those colorful streets with boutiques, vintage clothing, Nordic goods (a window shopper’s paradise)! We were supposed to peruse the flea market, Kolaportið, as well but I cannot stress to you enough how little we could feel our bodies at this point. Into the car it was for a drive up the hill to the Perlan Museum where we immediately launched towards the glass-domed coffee bar on the top floor. We saw an unbeatable view of the city right as the sun began to set, and then studied up on science and nature. Did you know that the largest bird cliff in Europe is in Iceland? Látrabjarg, friends! Remember that for the next time you’re drafted for Jeapordy!
We splurged on the Wonders of Iceland ticket, which gave us access to the full museum, observation deck anddd their snazzy 328 ft. long ice cave tunnel! We learned about volcanoes, earthquakes, geysers, glaciers and even the electromagnetic forces behind the Northern Lights. Trust me, this state of the art exhibition is worth a trip! And if you don’t have a car, they offer free shuttle rides to and from the Harpa Music Hall (at the bottom of the hill/more central to the parts of Reykjavik you’re likely to hang out in).
Side note: Be sure to check out the events going on at Harpa Music Hall when you visit – it seems like a dreamy experience!
I’ll be honest, I was exhausted from our jam-packed day that began at 6am, so we ducked into a cozy gastropub called Saeta Svinid for dinner. My mom got their special Icelandic Christmas bento box with local delicacies, while I, not as likely to feast on Rudolph himself, chose a juicy beef burger instead. We loved the atmosphere in here. Everyone was low-key, relaxed and just having a good time. Plus, they have karaoke on certain nights of the week! Just imagine the Icelandic tunes you’d get to witness.
Our final day had no time for our tears – it was waterfall day. A risky business I had been worried about all week, this would be our furthest drive yet. Two and a half hours into the cold, blank expanse where not much exists besides you and nature’s glory. I had doubts about leaving this until the last day because so many people had warned me about the unpredictable weather during the winter. It’s not uncommon to have a beautiful sunshiney morning and within two minutes be faced with a blizzard that leaves all roads closed for 24 hours. (By the way, bookmark this website if you are driving in Iceland. It’ll give you up-to-date news on road closures and weather predictions).
Unfortunately, with all the excursions we had to reschedule earlier in the week because of other weather complications, we had no choice but to save this drive for our last day and I was not about to miss these waterfalls. We hit Seljalandsfoss first, and my-oh-my, did it leave me speechless. The famous Golden Circle waterfall you can walk behind (most times year), icicles glistened from this cavernous peak as water crashed down like one of those kiddie pools with the giant bucket. The stairs to get a closer look were blocked off due to ice…. FOR GOOD REASON… yet I felt a surge of invincibility kick in, so I hopped the rope. It took me no less than 15 minutes to climb 30 steps, clutching the makeshift rail for dear life as locals trudged past me with their snow boots, mocking me with every confident crunch of ice.
Once I was 80 years old and reached the top, it was so worth the view. I stood there, transfixed, at the powerful mist and was grateful for how far I’d come. The journey down was even less glamorous. I’ll admit it, I sat down on each step and made progress like a child throwing a tantrum over coming down for chores. No votes of confidence from my mother either. She just filmed the whole thing laughing, and then sent it off to the internet. Thanks, Mom!
We drove about 30 minutes to our next nature’s marvel, Skogafoss. With even more magnitude than the last, I half expected a crazy baboon to lift a newborn lion into the air at the peak. When you park, you are at the base of the riverbank where this awe-inspiring waterfall has been pouring millions of gallons of water into for thousands of years. You can make quite the climb for a unique view from the top, but I already danced with death once that day. Not to mention, every step we took felt more like organized iceskating with a spectacular view. After appreciating the scene for as long as our exposed faces would let us, we hopped back into our car and drove all but 50 feet away to Mia’s Country Van where the best fish + chips of my life were waiting. The owners of this food truck catch fresh cod daily, and there is no mistaking how big of a difference this makes.
Rejuvenated by the fuel in our car and in our bellies, we drove onwards towards the coastal village of Vik. Truth be told, I wish we had seen Vik on a warmer day. It was the picture perfect snow globe town, don’t get me wrong. But on days like this, everything is just quiet. We drove up to the famous church where a choir practice was just beginning to break out. We admired the views from every angle. And then we drove on. I have a feeling Vik is the sort of place that comes to life when the sun is out and the birds are singing, so until then, I’ll reflect lovingly on our serene winter’s day.
Just around the corner from Vik is one of the famous black sand beaches. We parked in the designated spot near a cafe and trudged towards the sea, as fields of volcanic rock wore powdered caps fresh from the night before. A charcoal cliff that looked to me like a gigantic crystal cluster took our full attention. I made my way towards the unique rock mass I had seen so many times in pictures before, and still felt myself completely breathless.
It was the perfect end to a perfect week. A dazzling reminder that the best places in the world are those that have always been here, just waiting to be discovered. I’ve never considered myself too granola. I prefer boutique hotels to camping any day. But Iceland left me feeling changed. It left me feeling whole. Actually, it will never leave me. I’ll forever be touched by my time there and hope to get back faster than you can say VAÐLAHEIÐARVEGAVINNUVERKFÆRAGEYMSLUSKÚRAÚTIDYRALYKLAKIPPUHRINGUR. Translation: key ring of the key chain of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers on the Vaðlaheiði. Gosh, what a magical place.
From Iceland, we were on to the Christmas Markets! A tale it’s a little seasonally inappropriate to recount now, but who cares? The world needs to hear about the best source for wiener schnitzel!
Pictures tell a thousand words, but videos let you experience a scene at a whole new level, so check out some of my favorite moments in this quick snippet below!
‘Til next time!