do it: Iceland

Iceland has been on my bucket list for awhile and so two weeks ago, I went with a girlfriend to see what the fuss was all about. First off, Icelanders are such incredibly nice people, our host not only picked us up from the bus station, carried our bags up three flights of stairs and had breakfast ready for us (smoked salmon with egg on toast and yogurt with fruit). Talk about hospitality! I was surprised at how well everyone could speak English so we had no trouble getting around. But I was also surprised at how expensive Iceland is! It was quite cheap to fly and stay in Reykjavik but the cost of living there was insane. Main courses in nicer restaurants run from $50+, I had a soup that was $18 and by the end of the trip, I thought a $13 grilled cheese sandwich was quite reasonable! I'll share some cost saving tips in this post and the next one on food in Reykjavik. Here are a couple of things I did on the trip that I recommend. blue lagoonYes, it is as magical as it looks. We spent the day here at the Blue Lagoon and got the package which included a robe and a towel. If you can bring your own robe and towel you'll be able to save about $30. Since we came during winter, the water felt wonderfully warm and we didn't want to leave the pool. There are buckets of mud masks that you can put on your face along with a bar in the pool. We also got an in water massage where they have you floating on a piece of foam and a blanket over you to keep you warm. I would probably recommend this only during the warmer months because the blanket could only do so much to keep you warm.Tip: Try and bring a sandwich and snacks with you to the Blue Lagoon, they have food to buy, but again very expensive ($15 for a sandwich). We bought sandwiches from local convenience stores for $6.

northern lightsPardon the crappy photo, this was actually an iphone photo off a dslr camera from a friend we made on this tour. Fingers crossed he sends me the photos! This was the best thing I did in Iceland. The Northern Lights tour companies don't guarantee that you'll see the lights but you are welcome to go on the tour again until you do. Luckily for us, we saw it on our first tour! They picked us up from our apartment and drove for about 40 mins where we stood outside for an hour waiting for the lights to happen. It was a very long hour and it was blisteringly cold (I just opted not to get back onto the bus). I saw many shooting stars while waiting and then finally a soft green glow started appearing in the sky and the lights danced for us! I didn't actually see any red lights but in the photos on the dslr with a long exposure, the red lights appeared. This is a must do in Iceland but dress warmly and bringing heat packs are a good idea! Northern Lights can only be seen from September to April.

open air museumThe Abraejarsafn museum or it's also known as the Open Air museum are a collection of old houses, antiques and relics they've restored to show how people use to live. In the summer, they have people dressed up playing the roles of farmers, etc, they bring livestocks in, have hay barreling contests and grow crops. In the winter time, they close down and only have a daily tour at 1pm. The museum isn't in downtown Reykjavik but I wouldn't suggest taking a taxi since again, it's a very expensive city! Instead, we caught bus 19 from Hlemmur for $3.50 which took 20 mins to get to the museum. We caught an earlier bus since we didn't trust ourselves to get there in time so we were there a whole hour early. The tour guide was very nice and let us into the children's toy exhibit room so we would be out of the cold. We saw the room and our eyes lit up. They had tons of costumes, masks and sets to play with so I quickly made a makeshift tripod and did an impromptu photo shoot! Thank goodness the tour guide never checked in on us once, we looked ridiculous. Afterwards, he led us around the grounds where we went into a church and two houses. I would love to come back in the summer when everything is open and people are dressed up and playing roles. Tip: Bring a sandwich with you for lunch since there's nothing to eat near there.

tigerIf you're getting the shopping itch, you'll have to get yourself to Tiger. It's probably the only store you can afford anyways. Everything in there is usually either $3, $6 or $9. They had very random stock ranging from tissue paper to home decor to toys to makeup to stationary. I as usual went nuts over anything that was packaged well and is paper related. Tip: They seem to get new stock every week, so if you have the shopping itch, go back often to see if new inventory has come in.

phallological museumYes, that's me, next to a whale penis. Before the trip, Final Member was playing at the Bloor Cinema and we knew we had to see it. It's about how the founder of The Icelandic Phallological Museum wanted to find a human penis to complete his collection. It felt like coming to a full circle after seeing the film and then being able to appreciate the museum for what it is. Don't be a prude, it's the only phallological museum in the world. Do yourself a favour, watch the movie and then go, it'll make the experience that much better.

hallgrimskirkjaThe Hallgrimskirkja church is another must do in Iceland. If you're lucky, there will be an old man inside playing the organ. Take the elevator up to the top and you'll be treated with a wonderful view of Reykjavik. geysersGeysers are these natural hot pools of water in the ground where it erupts into the sky. They're quite a spectacle to see and I don't think any picture can do it justice. These geysers are part of any of the Golden Coast tour. Also, as part of the Golden Coast tour we saw the Gulfoss which is a waterfall and Þingvellir which is where Iceland took their first step to independence. There were a lot more other tours I was interested in, but I think next time I would do my research on all the different natural sights I wanted to see, and rent a car so I could do it on my own time. A lot of times they gave you too much time at one place and it's extremely windy in Iceland! Tip: Again, bring your own sandwich and snacks on these tours. I ended up getting a $18 soup where the Gulfoss is.

cafe rosenburgWe spent three nights at Cafe Rosenberg where they feature live music every night except Mondays. There's a cover to get in though, usually $20 but on Saturday we paid $25. The atmosphere was lovely and it was great hearing local bands play in both Icelandic and English.

Stay tune for my next post on food in Iceland (I tried puffin!)