Archives for January 2017

Iceland: What To Know Before You Go

church6If you’re being honest with yourself, Iceland probably only recently came on your radar.  It’s not like you dreamed of going to Iceland since you were a child. In my opinion, social media has almost single-handedly boosted tourism to the once mostly unknown (from a tourism perspective) country. But now that you know about it and have seen all the amazing pictures, you HAVE to go right?!?! I mean, it is soooo cheap! You can get there in just a few hours and for just $99! I know! I felt the same way. Which is why I am writing this post.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a GREAT time in Iceland. The people are so friendly! The country is so beautiful! The food was delicious! But there were things about Iceland that I didn’t know until I got there, and I do A LOT of research for our trips. So, I feel like it is my duty to arm you with as much information as possible about this trip so that you come prepared and enjoy every second of it.  Here we go …

FLIGHTS 

There are basically two ways to get to Iceland: WOW Air and Icelandair. I am sure you have heard of WOW.  Big pink planes? Low, low fares? Well, there’s a reason for that. You.Pay.For.Everything! Want a seat? It will cost ya. Bringing a bag? Gotta pay! Would you like to drink some water or eat a snack on the plane? Well, there are no freebies here.  You MUST pay. FOR WATER! (This is NOT a joke).

So, assuming you can even find the $99 fare (they exist, but most of the time it’s slightly higher than that, like in the $200 range), you have to be prepared for the extras. And, that is also assuming you live in a city from which WOW departs.  If not, then you have to factor in your domestic ticket, and don’t forget to leave enough time to claim your luggage, transfer to the international terminal, re-check your bags (and check yourself in), and go through security. Once you factor in all the extras, your $99 fare is more like $400 to $600, which honestly, is still pretty inexpensive.

Also, make sure you adhere to their very strict baggage restrictions because if you don’t, you’ll be paying. And, before you board, load up on snacks, drinks, and in-flight entertainment, because their planes do not even have TVs!

Icelandair is slightly better.  Yeah, their base fares are higher, but once you add on the basics from WOW (which you don’t pay extra for on Iceland Air), there’s not much of a difference, and you can get JetBlue points for flying on Icelandair. Also, their baggage allowance is a little more generous, if you are making a stop and are flying JetBlue for the first leg, your bags will be checked all the way through, they offer a beverage service, and there is in-flight entertainment. So, if you ask me, it all shakes out to about the same in the end, with Icelandair being less of a hassle.

HOTELS/APARTMENTS

Iceland’s tourism really started to grow in the last eight or so years.  First, they experienced a financial crash in 2008 and then, in 2010, they had a massive volcanic eruption which covered the European skies in ash and grounded planes all over Europe for days. As a result of these two events, the media flocked to Iceland to cover these stories, putting Iceland on the map. Since then, tourism has gone from an insignificant industry in Iceland to the island’s biggest industry. In fact, tourism has risen by 30% every year since 2010. Then Hollywood came a knocking: Game of Thrones, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Instagram followed, and before they knew it, Iceland had more tourists than they knew what to do with.

Why am I telling you this? Because, Iceland is still learning how to host and cater to tourists. This is most evident in its tourist accommodations. Compared to other cities, there aren’t that many hotels, and most people stay in apartment-type accommodations. If you are used to big, fancy luxury hotel brands, well, sorry about your luck. There aren’t any. Even at nice, corporate run hotels, there is a sense that something is just lacking.

For example, most of the flights get into Iceland at an ungodly hour (like 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.), so I suggest you book your room for the day before you arrive so you have a room ready when you get to the hotel. Don’t expect the hotel to accommodate you.  They won’t.  All they offer is luggage storage. So, you see many weary travelers napping in the lobby.  Same goes for the apartments.

If you are lucky enough to get a hotel that serves breakfast, don’t expect much. It will be buffet style and basic. No omelette stations here. Any special requests will be met with looks of bewilderment. For example, a lot of the tour pick ups begin before breakfast does because you have to travel a long way. Most hotels in tourist cities know this and can accommodate guests with a breakfast box or bagged lunch. Not here. Thankfully, they have 24-hour grocery stores, so you can (and really, have to) fend for yourself.

If you are staying in an apartment, there will likely be no breakfast. But, that’s okay, you can go to the 24-hour mart and buy food to prepare on your own. But, check and make sure you have the necessary tools to cook (you know, like a pan) because a lot of the apartments have nothing!

Also, bring ALL your toiletries.  The hotels will provide soap (from a pump bottle), and it ends there. No shampoo. No conditioner. Nothing. This is especially the case if you are staying in an apartment. Time to hit that 24-hour market again. But, I will say, the WiFi in Iceland is good, strong, and readily available!

FOOD/ALCOHOL

The food in Iceland is delicious. Fresh fish galore. But it is EXPENSIVE! Like very expensive. I dare you to eat dinner for two for under $150. I literally dare you. It is nearly impossible.  And, not just at nice restaurants, but everywhere. A salad and pizza for lunch cost us $80! Lunch at the Blue Lagoon was $120!

Also, you need reservations everywhere. This is also not a joke. If you don’t pre-book restaurants, you are going to have one hell of a time finding a place to eat dinner. Again, this is another painfully obvious sign that, while well-meaning and friendly, the tourism industry in Iceland is simply overwhelmed and playing catch up. Time to get back to that 24-hour market! No, but seriously, even local, seemingly casual spots will ask you if you have a reservation when you walk in. The good news is that tipping at restaurants is not a thing here. Like, not even 10%. They literally don’t expect to be tipped.

If you are shocked by the food prices, you will die when you see how much alcohol costs.  Chad was looking at a beer menu that had $85 beers. As in $85 for a bottle of beer. He was able to find a good, locally brewed craft beer on draft for $15 (that was the best “deal” he found!). We paid $8 for a ginger ale. It is insane! So, what’s a lush to do?  I’ll tell you! When you get to the airport and collect your luggage, you will see a duty free shop.  Stop in and LOAD UP.  Better yet, stop at duty free in the States and LOAD UP. Buy all the alcohol you think you will need. You’ll be the most popular person in town.

Also, a side note about the food: Some restaurants offer puffin (a cute little bird that looks like a penguin), Minke whale, and Icelandic horse on the menu. Please don’t order/eat these things. These are traditional foods that were eaten back in the day out of necessity. Most locals do not regularly (if at all) eat these things. They appear on the menu solely for tourists. Please don’t contribute to the terrible whaling industry or support the needless slaughter of cute little birds and horses. Okay, PSA over.

TOURS

You are going to be hard-pressed to find a company that offers individualized private tours. I asked around. They looked at me like I had two heads. Who would pay for that? (Um, ME!) They literally do not seem to understand the concept of private tours. The best you can hope for is a small group tour.  Opt for that.  It is a much nicer experience. Unless, of course, you want to rent a car and go at it alone; but I would not recommend that in the winter when there is about four hours of daylight and a whole lot of snow (sometimes causing unexpected road closures)! Most of the waterfalls and scenery spots are two or more hours outside of Reykjavik. In the spring/summer when there is endless daylight, you should be fine. Whether you take a small group tour on a mini bus or larger group tour on a big bus, you can rest assured that your vehicle will be equipped with WiFi. Also, most people were not tipping the guides; but, if you were on a small group tour, and the guide was good, you should tip. They don’t really expect it, but, in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do.

You are also going to have to pre-book these tours. They fill up fast, and they are also not that cheap. Because the weather changes so quickly in Iceland, make sure you have a Plan B activity in case your tour gets cancelled.  Three of our tours got cancelled, but luckily, we were able to re-book onto other tours. Be mindful though that if everyone’s tour cancels due to weather conditions, a lot of people will be trying to re-book onto the few tours that are still operating, unaffected by the weather.

Finally, have an idea about what you want to see and make sure you are going in the correct season. For example, if Northern Lights is your goal, then you have to go in the winter.  But, in the winter, you have limited day light (sunrise is at about 11:00 a.m. and sunset at about 3:30 p.m.), so you don’t get much time for day-time activities and there is no greenery.  If greenery and scenery is your goal, then go during the spring or summer where they literally have almost 24 hours of daylight.

WEATHER

Which brings me to my next point– the weather. The locals say if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. That saying is so true.  One minute its snowing and the next the sun is out! So, come prepared! Depending on the season, it could be snowy, then cold, then FREEZING, then sunny all in one day. Bring layers– clothes for the cold and for the rain. And, now is not the time to be cute; wear sturdy weather-proof boots.

MONEY

The official currency is the Icelandic Krona, but most places take the Euro or the U.S. Dollar. But, if you pay in Euros or dollars, they will give you change back in Krona.  My advice is to avoid all of this, and just use a credit card that does not have foreign transaction fees. Surprisingly, credit cards are widely accepted in Iceland. On planes, at hotels, on the tour buses, in taxis (in case you were wondering, there is no Uber here, but the entire city is very walk-able), in stores, and at restaurants.  This way, you get the daily rate and don’t have to bother with cash.

THE NORTHERN LIGHTSNL7It’s basically on everyone’s bucket list. It’s like one of, if not, THE reason to go to Iceland. But, if you go to Iceland expecting to see all those (filtered!) photos from Instagram with your naked eye, you may be disappointed.

This is a pretty good explanation of the what the Northern Lights are. Visibility is measured on a scale (known as the Kp index) of 0 to 9.  Zero means no chance of seeing the lights, while 9 means the best viewing ever in life. Just so you can temper your expectations, 9 hardly ever happens.  In fact, the highest our guide had ever seen in all his years of chasing lights was a 7, and that was a rare event that he told us about with a great deal of excitement. He said he would basically die if he ever got to see a 9. In Iceland, a 5 is about the best you can hope for, but usually you get between a 2 and a 4. You can monitor the Aurora forecast for Iceland here.

You may want to take a seat for this next one. You should know that you rarely see the bright green color in person.  To the naked eye, the lights appear as a whitish/grayish band that kind of looks like a wisp of clouds. On the night we went out, the forecast was about a 4, and, after many hours of standing outside and waiting in frigid temperatures, we saw a faint green color. I was not prepared for this. I thought I was going to see a magnificent bright, neon green band of lights dance through the sky. You know, like the ones I’ve seen on Instagram. I was wrong. I also thought I was going to capture this phenomenon on my iPhone camera! Wanna know how that turned out for me?  Like this:NL iphoneThere are some iPhone apps that claim to help you capture the lights, but I could not get them to work. If you want to get fantastic pictures of the lights, you need professional grade gear. And it’s not enough to have a professional camera, a tripod, and the correct lenses. They all have to be set to the correct settings. It is very technical, so I found what appears to be the definitive guide on how to photograph the lights, and I linked it here. Amazingly, when you photograph the lights correctly, you can see all those beautiful colors right from your digital camera!

But don’t despair, here’s the good news: If you take a small group tour with a professional guide, the guide will set up your equipment for you and help you shoot the northern lights. If you don’t have all this fancy gear, the guide will also be shooting, and, at the end of the tour, the company will email you a file with all the lights from your trip already edited for you! Also, I learned a neat little trick. Apparently, the guide sets the shutter to flash like 10 times.  He had us stand in front of the camera with the lights behind us.  He then used his phone’s flashlight which he brought up to about eye level and then lowered again while the lens was shooting. Apparently, this helps people show up in the foreground with the lights in the background!NL4Finally, patience is a virtue with the lights. You sometimes have to drive to a couple of spots and just wait. It is VERY cold, so overdress in layers and pay special attention to your shoes and socks situation. There are no bathrooms, and you will be out there for about four hours. Although I was initially disappointed that the lights display was not quite as bright and colorful as I was expecting, it was still a pretty amazing experience, and I am so glad we did it.

THE AIRPORTReykjavik AirportFor being so relatively new to tourism, Reykjavik has a surprisingly impressive, modern little airport! First, it is all digital and almost all self-service. You can check yourself in, print your boarding pass, and print your bag tags all from self-service kiosks.

You get your boarding passes and bag tags here:Reykjavik Iceland Airport Check in Reykjavik iceland Airport Bag DropYou check you luggage in on your own here: Reykjavik Airport baggage claimEven their security is fully automated! Reykjavik Airport Iceland SecurityIt is a very quick and easy process, which leaves plenty of time for you to stroll through their quaint little shops and have a real meal before you board your (meal-less) flight!Reykjavik Iceland Airport FoodEven the restrooms are automated, allowing you to wash your hands and dry them all from the sink!Reykjavik Iceland Airport BathroomAnd, throughout the airport are little stations asking you about your satisfaction with check-in, security, the restrooms, and cleanliness!Reykjavik Iceland Airport satisfactionAs you can see, Iceland is a dichotomy of sorts.  In some ways it is so progressive (airports, WiFi, credit card usage), and in other ways so primitive (accommodations, tour operations, and the fact that they believe in invisible elves who have their own political lobby (that’s not a joke; give it a Google)). Nonetheless, I absolutely recommend that you hop over for a few days and check it out for yourself. It truly is a beautiful country filled with incredible sights, delicious (albeit insanely expensive) food and friendly people.

If you have any questions about planning a trip to Iceland or want to share your own quirky Icelandic tale, leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail! Until then, Vertu Blessaður!

Reykjavik, Iceland: New Years 2017

FireworksIt seems like everyone went to Iceland in 2016. Instagram was littered with photos of the Blue Lagoon and the Northern Lights.  Facebook  and travel magazines touted the cheap airfares to Iceland and relatively short travel time.  At least one person you know went to Iceland in 2016 (hell, even the Kardashians went!), and we were no exception.  In early 2016, after returning from our New Year 2016 trip from Paris, I decided that we would spend New Years 2017 in Reykjavik, and I went into full research and planning mode.

Iceland is just as beautiful and otherworldly as it looks on Instagram; but, there were also some things about Iceland that surprised us.  Things that no magazine, blog post, or Facebook or Instagram post on Iceland ever mentioned.  It is for this reason that I plan to do a series of posts about Iceland, because I want you to get inspired to go, meet the friendly people, eat the delicious food (but not the Mike Whale and Puffin), and see the amazing sights; but I also want you to be prepared so you can maximize your time and your dollar and really enjoy your vacation.  In this post, I will tell you about our five-day trip to Reykjavik.

Day 1: 

Not being one to waste time, I had a tour planned for the day we got into town.  Sure our flight got in at 4:30 a.m. and when we got to the hotel our room wasn’t anywhere close to being ready.  And, yes, there were unexpected blizzard-like conditions (new to this South Florida girl), but that was NOT about to stop me.  We had been invited to go on the Reykjavik Food Walk (which, I am sure you guessed, was a walking food tour), and I was really looking forward to this tour because, not only was it a tasting tour, it was also sight seeing tour of downtown Reykjavik! So at 12:30 p.m, we gathered at the Harpa Concert Hall to meet our guide and small group and embark on our culinary adventure through the streets of Reykjavik.harpa2 reykjavik streetsThe first thing you should know about the Reykjavik Food Walk team is that they are uber (as in, “super,” not the car service!) friendly, responsive, and accommodating. They respond to emails and are happy to give you suggestions and recommendations both before and during your stay.  They will even help you secure dinner reservations (which, you will find out in my next post, are crucial if you want to actually eat anywhere in Reykjavik). I found them an absolute pleasure to work with and would recommend this tour to anyone (actually, I insist that you take it).  It really is a great way to orient yourself to the city, while eating some great local favorites.

Second, the tours are lead by young locals who know a lot about their city.  Our guide, Kjartan, was also an author.  He gave us tons of information about the city (including things we would have never noticed had he not pointed them out) and their Christmas traditions. For example, did you know that in Iceland, they don’t have Santa Claus?  (No Santa Claus?!?!) Instead, they have Yule Lads, and Christmas lasts 13 days — from December 23 to January 6 (it’s like a longer Hanukkah for gentiles!). During this time, Icelandic children are visited by 13 Yule Lads. Each Yule Lad is mischievous and has his own vice.  For example, Spoon Licker comes to your house and licks all your spoons.  Meat Eater eats all your meat.  You get the idea. Here is an image of a Yule Lad, indicative of those projected on buildings all over the city as a reminder to children that the Yule Lads are watching (kinda like the mall Santa):Yule LadEach of the 13 nights, children place a shoe in their bedroom window.  If they were good all year, they will find a treat in their shoe the next morning. If they were bad, they will find a rotting potato. Also, if Icelandic children don’t receive and wear a new article of clothing on Christmas Day, the Christmas Cat will come and eat them!  The Yule Lads are descendants from Gryla, an ogress who lives in the Icelandic mountains. She also eats bad children! I think this is why Icelanders are so nice! Growing up, all they hear is about how they are going to get eaten if they are bad. Anyway, if you are interested in these folk tales, you can learn more about them here.

Also, the people in Iceland created their own version of Pokemon Go.  Someone has pasted tons of small action figures on top of the city’s street signs. Locals go around finding them, and then they snap pictures of them and post them to social media.  If one goes missing, a new one appears in its place the next day.  According to our guide, nobody knows who is responsible for them, and honestly, had someone not pointed this out, we would have completely missed it.REY pokemanDuring the four-hour tour, you will also taste 13 traditional dishes, including Icelandic lamb soup, Iceland’s famous hot dog, homemade rye bread ice cream (which sounds gross, but was so delicious), seasonal meats and cheeses (which, unfortunately, includes Icelandic horse which I did NOT eat), lobster soup, and an amazing dessert! Along the way, our guide pointed out great local bars, breweries, bakeries, and restaurants. By the way, the man bun and beard game in Iceland is so strong.food walkdeliYou know what else I learned on this tour? If you ever you planned to go to jail, make sure you go to jail in Iceland.  First of the 300,000 people in Iceland, only 89 are in jail.  Also, until recently, the jail was located in this quaint little building in downtown (no bars, just views for days!):JailYou get a room with a view! Also, if you have a job and have to support a family, no problem! You can just check yourself out of jail and go to work and home for dinner as long as you check yourself back in at a reasonable hour! (Who is the arbiter of reasonable?  I don’t know, and they don’t either!) But, you know what the BEST part is about jail in Iceland?  On Sundays, they take the prisoners out for ice cream!!!! Not a bad deal, right?

The tour also walks you through the old harbor, stops for pictures at the famous Hallgrims church, and also gives you a taste of Reykjavik’s amazing street art scene. After the tour, we were pretty full, but that didn’t stop us from keeping our first reservation in Reykjavik at the Grill Market, or, as the locals call it, Grillmarkadurinn. grill marketDay 2:

So, today was the day we were set to go on an adventure! Chad was going to snorkel in between two continental tectonic plates, we were going to go into an ice cave, visit Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and hike a glacier.  It was going to be epic! Except, remember that blizzard from day one? Well, she stuck around for day two, and all adventure tours were cancelled. Bummer!  But, that’s okay.  This is a common occurrence in Reykjavik during this time of year, and we were ready with Plan B — a tour of the South Coast! I am glad we did this tour because we got to see some amazing waterfalls, we walked on a glacier, and we visited the famous black sand beach!

We started the tour at the amazing Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which is famous because you can walk behind it!waterfall6 waterfall vikingFor some reason, these people were there in traditional viking garb, but we didn’t mind because they made for great photos!

We then made our way to a glacier on which we were able to take a short hike and enjoy the views!glacier6 glacier glacier5 glacier7Up next was the amazing Reynisfjara beach, better known as the black beach.  But, this is no ordinary beach.  You CANNOT swim here.  The wind is wicked strong and the waves are the most insane waves I have ever seen in my life. Like ever. In fact, tourists are warned to not stand too close to the shore, because more than one has been swept away by the swell and drowned. beach blackbeach7 black beach 2 black beach3When BAE matches the beach: black beach blackbeach5 blackbeach6 DSC3390 IMG_5523Seriously, these waves though… IMG_2200Our final stop was to the Skógafoss waterfallwaterfall7 waterfall8Day 3:

By day three, we were ready for some R&R, and there is no better place to do that in Iceland than at the Blue Lagoon, one of the 25 modern wonders of the world! I’ll save the logistics of the Blue Lagoon for a later post, but I will say here: make advance reservations (well, you have no choice on this one) and try to go at the earliest available time if you want the lagoon (almost) to yourself! BL BL16 BL18 BL19 BL6 BL10 BL4 BL5 BL11 BL12 BL8 BL14 BL7 BL3There is something surreal about being in your bathing suit in the snow and freezing cold. BL15 WE we2Our day didn’t end with the Blue Lagoon.  After a short nap, it was time to eat dinner at what is considered Reykjavik’s best restaurant and hardest reservation to score, Dill. dill4 dill3 dill dill2Dill serves classic Icelandic fare with a modern twist.  It is a small place that offers two tasting menus.  We had to do the shorter menu, because the weather had cleared up, and this was the first day since we arrived that the Northern Lights tours were operating!

The Northern Lights experience was the literal reason for this trip at this time of year, but there are some things I learned about the Northern Lights that I wish I knew before I went.  This will, in part, be the subject of another post about things you need to know before you go to Iceland, but I will give you a hint: seeing the lights is the exception, not the rule; patience is a virtue when hunting for the lights; and I hope you came prepared with more than just your iPhone!

This is what the Northern Lights look like on your cell phone camera (pretty amazing, right?):NL iphoneAnd here is what you get with a professional camera, with the right lens, set to the correct settings, and resting on a tri-pod:NL NL1 NL2 NL3 NL5 NL6 NL7 NL8 NL10 NL11 NL12 NL4 NL9Day 4:

Today we explored the Golden Circle, but, as you will soon see, it was more winter wonderland than golden. We did this tour with Time Tours, who also took us on our Northern Lights Tour (and provided our airport transfers), and, in hindsight, I wish I booked all of our day-tours with them.  They offer small group options, are very responsive, flexible, and very accommodating.

On the Golden Circle tour, you can explore the National Park of Thingvellir where you will find Silfra, the Mid Atlantic Ridge which is the divide between two continents (Europe and North America) and home to the Eurasia and North-America tectonic plates.  You can actually snorkel and dive between the two continents here, which Chad was all signed up for, until the weather spoiled his plans!GC11Silfrarock GC17You also visit Gullfoss Waterfall, one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls.GC5 GC9 GC4 GC15gc21And, you stop at the Great Geysir, which is Iceland’s version of Old Faithful and erupts every 6 to 10 minutes.GC3But, perhaps my favorite part was an impromptu stop to meet the friendly Icelandic horses, a breed of horse developed in Iceland. Unlike regular horses, Icelandic horses have five different gaits. They are the only horses in the world that have five gaits. Another rare (and beautiful) trait possessed by these magnificent horses is that they grow long furry hair in the Summer and Fall (which they shed in the Spring); this coat allows them to brave the extreme cold without need for shelter during the Winter. Because they have few diseases, Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and once exported, an Icelandic horse is never allowed to return.GC20 GC18 GC13 GC14 GC19 GC7 GC6petThey are so friendly and cute, so please do not eat them!

We also made a couple of stops just to enjoy scenery and a beautiful sunset! By the way, during this time of year, it is only daylight from about 11:00 a.m. until about 3:30 p.m. That’s right a whopping 4.5 hours of daylight, so use your precious daylight hours wisely!GC GC12This was the perfect way to spend the last day in 2016! But, we had a whole evening of celebration ahead of us, which began with arguably our favorite restaurant in Iceland – Apotek. We came here first on the last stop of our food tour to enjoy a delicious dessert made by their pastry chef, who is so talented that he is the official pastry chef to the government of Iceland. Honestly, I understand why they chose him.  We came back for NYE dinner, where we enjoyed a delicious pre fixe 5-course dinner with champagne for under $200 USD for a couple.  On NYE.  This, by the way, was one of the cheapest meals we had in Iceland. That’s not a joke.   apotek2 apotek3 apotekAt midnight, we took to the streets to see the epic fireworks show that happens all around the city.  There is no official fireworks show that is put on by the city. These fireworks are courtesy of the locals. Apparently, fireworks are illegal in Iceland, except on New Years, when locals can buy industrial strength fireworks and proceed to set them off (sometimes in an impaired state) all over the city! The nice thing is that the proceeds from the sale of the fireworks goes to The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue. It is their biggest annual fundraiser! I think the best place to see the show is at the Hallgrims church.NYE1 NYE2 NYE3 NYE4 NYE Fireworksnye6And, of course, no NYE celebration is complete without a late night snack from Iceland’s most famous hot-dog stand! Bill Clinton (and the Kardashians) ate hot-dogs here. NYE5Day 5:

On our last full day in Iceland (and in keeping with our 2017 New Years resolution to try new things and have more adventure), we decided to take to the open seas in search of whales! Now, if you have a sensitive stomach, this may be more of an adventure than you bargained for because, on this day, the seas were ROUGH!  But, we would not be deterred because Elding Adventures had invited us on an adventure, and we are not ones to turn down an adventure.  Also, they support animal conservation through education and eco-tourism, so win-win.whales whales2Booking the tour was super easy.  The Elding team is very responsive to emails and very accommodating to its passengers. We made our way to the harbor and easily found Elding’s office for check-in. Just down the road from their office is the dock where you can find their boats.  If you are worried about getting sea sick, they have a bowl full of Dramamine (both in the office and on-board), and you are free to help yourself!whale5 whale 3whale4 whale6 whale8Once on board, you are issued a jumpsuit which doubles as a life suit and an extra layer of warmth because it was freezing out! Check out this sexy #OOTD:whale10The boats are triple deckers, with the first deck being the internal cabin which is equipped with restrooms, a snack, bar, and barf bag stations! The second and third floors are exterior.  The boat has a guide and spotters who do the work of finding dolphins and whales for you. As I mentioned, the day we went, the seas were very very rough, but the staff was very attentive and helpful to passengers that were not feeling well.whale7 The tour lasts for about four hours, and while we did not get to see any whales, we did see white-beaked dolphins! Also, if you go on a tour and don’t see whales, you could redeem your ticket for one more voyage in hopes of catching a whale sighting!2 White-beaked dolphins 5 2 White-beaked dolphins surfacing2 White-beaked dolphins 7 2 White-beaked dolphins 9Whale Watching Iceland leaping DolphinsSince we didn’t get to see whales on our tour, I was curious about what the tours that do get whale sightings get to see, and Elding was kind enough to provide me with photos taken from some of their other tours where whales were spotted, including humpback whales, Minke whales, and killer whales. It is magnificent, so this activity goes back on the list! Must.See.Whales.2016_07_11_Megan 330Whale Watching Iceland Orca Killer WhaleWhale Watching Iceland Humpback PassengersElding Whale Watching from Reykjavik IcelandIn addition to whale watching tours, Eldin also offers fishing tours, northern lights tours, and, when in season, tours out to puffin island to see puffins birds, which are SO stinking cute (so PLEASE do not eat them)!Whale Watching Iceland PuffinsWhale Watching Iceland PuffinsWhale Watching Iceland Puffins????????????????????????????????????Whale Watching Iceland Flying puffin14 Puffin islandWhale Watching Iceland PuffinsFor the remainder of the afternoon, we walked the city streets to admire the street art and to visit the inside of the Hallgrims church, including a climb to the top of the clock tower to get some amazing views of the city!art sculpture art2 arty sign church5 church church1 church2 church4 church6Thus ended our five-day adventure in Iceland. We had such a beautiful time. I hope this post inspires you to plan your own trip to this (mostly) unspoiled nature lover’s paradise. Be sure to check out my future posts on Iceland to help you get ready for your trip.  And, as always, I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email or leave a comment if you have any questions about this trip or Iceland in general.