Chasing Big Adventures in Iceland
When my fiancé and I started planning our wedding, we were completely overwhelmed with venues and flowers and invitations. Shortly into planning, we decided we wanted to elope. However, deciding to elope was the easy part, finding countries we could legally get married took a little legwork. But, since I’m an ultra-marathoner and love destination races, we based our decision on a country we could legally marry and I could add another notch to my marathon belt. After some searching, Iceland fit the bill.
Once we decided I got to work on getting the documents to get married in Iceland. Goodness, did it take some work. My recommendation for anyone wanting to get married in Iceland, find someone you can hire. Early on, I had gotten a quote from Pink Iceland and scoffed at the idea of paying money for something I could do myself… stupid decision. My biggest regret is not hiring them. The paperwork and timeline were so stressful, there were a couple points in the process I didn’t know if we were going to be able to do it. But, after a lot of emails and documents, we were all set.
Now let me tell you how these two girls faired in the land of fire and ice.
Day 1, Monday, after a lengthy flight and passing through time zones and over a desolate Greenland, we landed in Keflavik. The airport was eclectic and the service at the rental car desk was top notch. We got the keys for our little eco car and hit the road to our first stop; the Loft Hostel in Reykjavik. Never could I have been prepared for navigating in a new country with no clue where we were going and a cell phone that freaked out the minute I turned it on. A little WIFI at a gas station to get international service, and we got to where we needed to be. Now, I have never in my life stayed at a hostel, what an experience. Two women, from the states, planning to elope, with tons of luggage was not ideal for a hostel. We barely slept, the time change impacted us more than we could have imagined and we were not really on a backpacking excursion like most of the other guests we roomed with. But, Iceland lodging is not super cheap so we saved a bit of money the first couple of days, living in dorms and showering in a communal shower. Surviving that experience mad the rest of the nights in legitimate hotel rooms that much more enjoyable.
Day 2, was spent exploring the capital. We saw Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful church downtown. We walked to the shore to take pictures of Sólfarið and checked out some of the adorable little shops in town. We ate some yummy food and found a local coffee shop. The coffee in Iceland was mind-blowing, I couldn’t get enough. While exploring in the capital, we found Nauthólsvík Beach; a geothermal pool and beach in the capital. We noticed the locals soaking in the geothermal pool, and then hopping into the freezing cold ocean water. Polar diving for Icelanders was just as casual as swimming in a pool on a summer day here in the states. Since we weren’t quite as hardy as the Icelanders, we opted for a bit warmer water. So, we made reservations for the tourist hot spot, The Blue Lagoon. It's worth buying into the hype and planning ahead to go, the food was delicious and the experience of the lagoon was unforgettable.
Day 3, we headed west. My goal was to get to the west fjords, but I seriously underestimated the time it would take and the stops we would make. Our exhaustion got the best of us and we made it to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but the views we saw there were other worldly. If I had to choose the most beautiful terrain drivable, it was the cliffs at Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Along the way were falls and horses and more sheep than I had seen my entire life. We passed trolls, ancient churches and rivers colored with gray glacier water.
Day 4, we drove the Golden Circle and did a little bit of puffin searching. We ventured off the path a bit and found some rocky beaches, ocean pools that originated from troll legends, underground volcano pockets and miles upon miles of barren lava ash fields that led to cliffs with hundreds of birds. The background for the drive was enormous mountains and volcanoes so high the peak was above the clouds.
Day 5, was one of the coolest experiences. We drove to Þingvellir National Park and snorkeled in Silfra. The waters are said to be some of the most clearest in the world. The water could send you into a hypothermic state if you stayed too long but, how often can you swim in water straight from a glacier that flows between tectonic plates? We took the risk. The water was a balmy 35 degrees Fahrenheit; we were completely outfitted in wet suits but by the end my lips were numb and my teeth were chattering but, it’s an experience I will never forget. We used Dive IS and our guide Maria, was fantastic. Our accommodation for this night, the night before my Ultra, was an adorable little studio apartment in Selfoss. When you visit Selfoss, don't leave without grabbing a cool treat at Ísbúð Huppu. Best ice-cream I ever put in my mouth.
Day 6, I spent on two legs, running through the highlands of Iceland for an ultra that kicked my ass. The race covered the Laugavegur hike which covers a trail that typically takes hikers 3-5 days. The pain is masked by the beauty and isolation of the highlands. The untouched area of the highlands offers insane mountain ascents, views that never end and more colors than you would think possible in one landscape. Even though I was in pain, the beauty completely engulfs you. To get to the highlands is not easy, hiking it you had better be prepared but it’s completely worth it to see endless terrain of Iceland all but cutoff to human intrusion.
Day 7 , we started off in the beautiful coastal town of Vik and spent the day making our way to the east fjords of Iceland. Vik beaches were filled with basalt, rocks, caves and legends of trolls. The vast ocean was held back only by the contrasting coal black sand. Past Vik was Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon just off ring road. The lake filled with glaciers that’s boat accessible. From the lake, the icebergs travel down a short waterway and into the ocean but not before washing upon the black sand beaches. From the icebergs we continued to make our way east, stopping at cliffs to search for puffins and explore the rocks that lined the coast. We ate dinner in a cute little fishing town called, Höfn. There we ate local cuisine of horse and duck. After filling our bellies, we continued east toward the Fjords and made several stops along the way to explore waterfalls and beaches. To our surprise, when we arrived at our accommodations in eastern Iceland, after miles and miles flat terrain, followed by gigantic mountains and cliffs along the ocean, we were surprised to find ourselves in a forest that surrounded a beautiful lake. Hallormsstaður National Forest was like this little secret hidden in a country with every terrain imaginable. We spent the night at Hotel Hallormsstaður, and I want to tell you online did not do this place justice. The hotel, the food, the forest was amazing.
Day 8 WE GOT MARRIED!!! We spent the day driving back to Vik where we had our ceremony at a hidden waterfall tucked away near Skogafoss. After the ceremony, we spent the evening exploring more black sand beaches and making our way back to the capital to wrap up our amazing trip.
It's impossible to capture the beauty of Iceland in pictures or explain the county’s exquisiteness. We didn’t know what to expect when we booked our flights but, I was amazed from day one and completely satisfied with how accessible Iceland was. Two women traveling in a country where volcanoes and glaciers are surrounded by green pastures and black sand beaches, was the adventure of a lifetime!