Last fall I traveled to Iceland with Under30Experience for one of the most unforgettable trips I’ve taken. Iceland always remains at the top of my list of “favorite places I’ve been”, it is a truly magical place whose intrigue is hard to put into words. The ever-changing terrain and harsh weather combined with interesting culture and a thinly spread population; Iceland can be described as nothing less than otherworldly. From Reykjavik we took the tour bus to the South Coast where we stayed for the week.
I made the trek out to Mount Kirkjufell before my tour started to photograph the iconic peak with it’s sister waterfalls. It is about a 4 hour drive from Reykjavik but is worth the drive (beware of the weather, we got stuck in a really bad storm and had to crash on a random families couch since the weather was too dangerous to drive back). The drive there is absolutely breathtaking and changes every time you round a bend. With fallen volcano ash formations covered in moss and treeless jagged hills, it’s hard to not stop every 5 seconds to marvel at your surroundings.
The Hotel Fljótshlið is a boutique farm house style resort with individual cabins and served as our home base. The hotel gets its meat and vegetables from its farm and is committed to running in a sustainable manner. We got a true taste of the Icelandic countryside and enjoyed dinners in the main farm house with delicious home cooked meals every night.
We took the bus along the Icelandic coast to the Thingvellir National Park to hike around volcanic craters, hot springs and waterfalls. Iceland is known as “the land of fire and ice”, but what they don’t tell you is that it’s also the land of gentle wild horses, rainbows, and starry skies like you’ve never seen before. The next day we set off to do a glacier hike. I never in a million years thought I would do something this intense. We strapped on our crampons (big snow shoes with spikes on the bottom) at Sólheimajökull Glacier and got to drink from the fresh springs trickling down from the mountain. On our last day (after zero sleep from staying up for the Northern Lights in our cabin’s hot tub under the stars), we went to the Blue Lagoon. They give you a wrist band where you can get drinks from the swim up bar and you pay when you leave at the end, making the entire (assumedly hectic/touristy) process super efficient. The water is very hot, so hot that in a few spots you feel like you might melt. It rained on us a little, but it only made the experience that much more memorable.
For someone who is a backpacking advocate, I had never been on a guided tour trip before. A friend suggested the Under30 trip for a place like Iceland because it doesn’t have trains or public transport you can easily sort out on your own, and hiring a car can be quite expensive. I was a little reluctant to sign up, but it was hands-down the best week of my life. I immediately became friends with everyone on the trip and we still keep in touch via facebook today. In the evenings we played “rose, bud, and thorn,” where we talked about the best part and worst part of the day, along with what we are looking forward to. I think people who meet while traveling open up much more quickly because you aren’t sure if you will ever see the people again. This group grew so close, so quickly, that I think everyone would agree they had ended up there for a reason. Regardless of some insane weather (60 mph winds and hail in the face) everyone was so positive and never complained.
I can’t recommend Iceland or Under30Experience enough. Check them out to see the other life changing trips they offer!