1. Wow Airlines Lived Up To Its Name
We arrived in Iceland via Wow Airlines, which will begin service from St. Louis Lambert International Airport in May 2018. We went for the XXL seats for some extra room, but the standard seats have the same amount of legroom as any other carrier at half the price.
What stood out was the friendly crew throughout the journey. Our flight attendant even stopped for a quick chat when she saw us at baggage claim. You can’t put a price on good tips from a local.
2. Picking The Right Hotel is Key
We stayed at Hotel Borg in the heart of Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. The hotel had a stylish art-deco vibe. The large room had plenty of room to throw our suitcases open on the floor without having to tiptoe around them the entire stay. The room also featured two French doors that looked out into a courtyard, offering a beautiful view as the snow fell. The bathroom had a large shower and heated floors – a sweet amenity in a chilly country!
Attached to the hotel was Jamie Oliver’s (Yes, that Jamie Oliver!) Italian Restaurant. In the morning, they offered complimentary breakfast that was more than just your typical continental spread. It was great for fueling up before starting the day.
Hotel Borg was also a short walk from the pick-up site for our excursions.
3. They Won’t Let You Miss the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are synonymous with Iceland, on many people’s bucket list. Before this trip, two people told me they were not able to see the lights on their trip.
We did the Reykjavik Excursion’s Northern Lights Tour. They allow you to join another tour free of charge if you don‘t see any Northern Lights during your first tour. My tip: Plan this for the day you arrive, so if you don’t see the lights you have plenty of time to reschedule later in your trip. Hotel Borg offered daily “Northern Lights” forecasts at the front desk to help with planning.
4. The Blue Lagoon Should Be Called the BIG Blue Lagoon
Equally as famous as the Northern Lights is the Blue Lagoon: The geothermal hot springs water has a unique composition of silica, algae and minerals. The blue color comes from the way the silica reflects sunlight.
The lagoon was much larger than I’d expected, containing 9 million liters of water! There is plenty of space to swim around and lounge, and there’s even a swim-up bar and a spa bar with a free face mask.
We did the premium package, which included a second face mask, plus a complimentary glass of champagne. In addition, the package also offers reservations to the Lava Restaurant, with an additional glass of bubbly.
I didn’t anticipate spending a full day there, but I’m glad we did. Its close proximity to the airport makes it a great final stop on your trip. There was baggage storage on site and we used a shuttle service to the lagoon and airport offered by Flybus.
5. Reykjavik Is Fun to Explore!
This is the best way I can think to put it: Reykjavik is big enough to get lost in, but small enough to never feel lost. I was worried that in a small city I would quickly bore of exploring and regret not planning more adventures for the day: I was wrong.
We walked from Hotel Borg to Reykjavik City Hall to pick up the City Card. It included access to museums, thermal pools, art exhibits and free use of public transportation: Well worth it.
We also stopped by Mink Viking Portraits to unleash our inner Viking spirit as we mean-mugged for the camera. The Mink Studios proprietor is Guðmann Þór Bjargmundsson, who’s had a successful career in both photography and film. You may have heard of one of the shows he’s worked on: “Game of Thrones.”
6. The Food And Drink Scene Alone Is Worth the Trip!
The food scene in Iceland is poppin’ – from great local beers, amazing Icelandic stew, fresh seafood and even hearty hotdogs the culinary scene was robust to say the least. Right outside of Hotel Borg was a great spot called Apotek, which had a happy hour menu that would put a smile on the face of any weary traveler.
Reykejavik also has its own Michelin-rated restaurant called Dill. It currently books three months out. People make reservations here before booking their air travel to ensure they can dine here during their stay.
My personal favorite was Sumac. We grabbed a spot at the bar, where we were able to watch them prepare our food in front of us in a full-contact dining experience.
7. Adventure is Everywhere
Reykjavik Excursions offer so many adventures it was hard to choose. We opted for the Golden Circle tour that ended with snowmobiling on the Langjokull Glacier.
First we stopped at Geysir. Why the lack of a more unique name? Well, it was the first geyser to be named Geysir, appearing in print in the 13th century. The name comes from the Norse word for “to gush.”
We then stopped at the Gullfoss Waterfall. A two-drop waterfall that is one of Iceland’s many natural marvels. It offered stunning views of water and ice dropping over its edges while rainbows formed from the sunlight reflecting off the snow.
Last, but certainly not least, we hoped into a giant military-style truck and voyaged off the road onto the Langjokull Glacier. After a few “Are we stuck?” moments, we arrived at the snowmobile base camp where we suited up and headed out to explore the glacier.
There were no words to describe the feeling of excitement from the snowmobile paired with the peacefulness of nothing but crisp snow as far as the eye could see
8. It Wasn’t That Cold…
Don’t get me wrong, the temperature hovered between the high 20s and the low 30s, but after an extreme winter in St. Louis the weather in Iceland was comfortable enough to stay outside as long as you would like to enjoy the snowy scenery and walk the city.
9. But the Summer is a Great Time to Visit Too!
After browsing the Reykjavik Excursions site, I was surprised to see how much Iceland has to offer during its warm season — from hiking in ice caves to whale watching, I’m definitely looking forward to returning to Iceland in warmer weather to see it through a different lens.
Maximize St. Louis is excited to team up with Wow Air to offer you a chance to explore Iceland.Follow us on Instagram @MaximizeSTL by April 30th. One lucky follower will win a pair of return-tickets from Iceland to St. Louis. M