24 Hours in Iceland and Puffin Pictures

Vík í Mýrdal, more commonly known simply as Vik, is conveniently located on the Ring Road in Iceland. Vik is known for its stunning black basalt beaches and it’s a great place to stop on your way from the Westman Islands to Skaftafell National Park. It’s a small town with under 300 inhabitants, but it’s one of the last place to stock up as you head east on the Ring Road. Here’s what to do in 24 hours in Vik, Iceland.

Where to Stay in Vik

Book a night or two at the Nordur-Vik Hostel, where you can get a 6-bed private room for $180 US (including four sets of linens). They have one of the best breakfast spreads I saw in Iceland: it included waffles and eggs.

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Where to Eat in Vik

Be sure to stop in for a meal at Halldorskaffi Restaurant. It’s cozy and reasonably priced, and the food was quite good. I tasted the char (a fresh, local fish) with a baked potato and veggies, skyr cake, and meringue cake. The skyr (Icelandic yogurt) cake wasn’t as dense or sweet as American cheesecake and was tasty. Iceland does meringue very well and the meringue cake was delicious. The char was fresh and delicious.

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Skyr cake, Halldorskaffi Restaurant, Vik, Iceland

What to Do in Vik

Stroll along the black basalt beach, where you can watch puffins on the nearby cliffs. Wander around the town and take in the view of the church on the hill. Then swing by  souvenir shop Icewear / Norwear to pick up wool, clothing, and other souvenirs. Before you leave Vik, stock up on food and drink at the grocery store Kjarval Vik. It’s the last decent sized grocery store on your way to Skaftafell National Park, unless you stop in for Klaustur.

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Black basalt beach, Vik, Iceland

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Church on the hill, Vik, Iceland

24 Hours in Iceland – Kirkjubaejarklaustur (Klaustur), Iceland

Klaustur, also known as Kirkjubaejarklaustur, is a tiny town in southern Iceland with a population of just over 100. If you’re heading east on the Ring Road, it’s the very last place to stop and buy groceries before heading into Skaftafell National Park. Klaustur has quite a religious past. Originally settled by Irish monks, it is best known as being home to Benedictine nuns in the 12th century. Today, it makes a scenic stopover off the Ring Road. Don’t plan on staying more than one night, though; there’s not much to do in this sleepy town. Here’s what to do in 24 hours in Klaustur, Iceland.

24 Hours in Iceland

24 Hours in Iceland

 

Where to Stay

You can find farmhouse accommodations near Klaustur, but be sure to book ahead. Accommodations are limited and get booked early in the busy season. We ended up staying at the Hotel Klaustur IcelandAir Hotel, which felt quite high-end and was quite expensive; we paid $220 for one room. If you’re in the mood to splurge a bit, Hotel Klaustur is a nice place to do it. If you’re on a budget, there’s also scenic camping.

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Where to Eat

We had a fancy dinner at the Hotel Klaustur restaurant, where two lamb specials and two glasses of wine cost $84. The breakfast spread there was the best I saw in Iceland. You can also try Restaurant Geirland, which is just outside of Klaustur and has lamb, fish, and vegetables. If you’re a budget traveler, check out the hot dog stand near the visitor center. Be sure to stop by the Sveitabragginn farmers’ market, located next to tourist info center, which sells big containers of locally made ice cream and crafts.

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What to Do

By far the most popular attraction in Klaustur is the basalt columns of Kirkjugolf. Once thought to be a church floor, these honeycomb basalt columns form a flat surface you can walk on. To get to them, follow the path through a field (ask around if you can’t find it). You can also check out the Systrastapi (Sisters’ Pillar), where nuns were killed for supposedly having relations with the devil. There are also a number of scenic hikes out of Klaustur.

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Basalt columns of Kirkjugolf, Klaustur, Iceland

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Pictures of Puffins: Our Best Puffin Photos from Iceland

One of the things I was most looking forward to about visiting Iceland was seeing puffins. Our first spotting was on the ferry to the Westman Islands. But they were flying and far away. (Despite their distance I still tried to capture a few pictures of puffins. None of those photos made this cut.). When we arrived in the Westman Islands, we drove a short way up a hill to a hike through a field of sheep, where we discovered hundreds of puffins. And in Vik (at Dyrholaey) we saw even more puffins. They were even cuter in real life than I thought they would be. Here are my favorite pictures of puffins.

Best Puffin Photo

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Have you ever seen a puffin? What’s your most memorable wildlife viewing experience while traveling?

Blue Lagoon, Iceland Guide

When I saw photos of the Blue Lagoon, Iceland, I was intrigued but wary. The beautiful, milky blue water looked inviting, but I’d been warned that the Blue Lagoon was a tourist trap. In the end I decided it was worth the risk to see it and I’m glad I did. Even though the sky was overcast, visiting the Blue Lagoon was a great experience. The Blue Lagoon (Bláa lónið) is a man-made geothermal spa located between Reyjavik City and Keflavik International Airport in Iceland. It came about accidentally when the runoff from a geothermal power plant pooled and formed a temptingly warm pool. The Blue Lagoon is crowded and a bit expensive, but it’s a must-see on your trip to Iceland.

How to Get to the Blue Lagoon

Many people visit the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa on their way to or from the airport since it’s about 50 minutes from Reykjavik and 20 minutes from Keflavik airport. If you have a rental car, it’s an easy stop on your way to Reykjavik. Just follow the signs for Bláa lónið off of Route 41. We were jet-lagged, though, so we decided to sleep and explore Reykjavik on our first day in Iceland, then return to the Blue Lagoon on our second day. Since the Blue Lagoon is only 20 minutes from the airport, you can even stop in if you have a long layover on your way to mainland Europe. Reykjavik Excursions offers roundtrip bus tickets from the airport, with admission to the Blue Lagoon, for just 8900 ISK (about $75 USD). (For 3200 ISK, you can get a roundtrip bus ticket to the Blue Lagoon that doesn’t include admission.)

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View of the Blue Lagoon Spa, Iceland

What to Do at the Blue Lagoon

Upon arrival, the first thing to do at the Blue Lagoon is decide which spa package you want to buy. Basic entrance in the summer months (the “standard” package) is about $45 USD and you’ll need to bring your own towel. For a more extravagant experience, get the Experience for about $95 USD. The Experience package includes entrance, a towel, a bathrobe, a mask, a drink at the swim-up bar in the Blue Lagoon, and the lunch buffet at LAVA Restaurant. If that’s not indulgent enough for you, there’s an Exclusive Experience package you might enjoy.

Once you’ve paid for your package, you’ll be given a bracelet that track your purchases and allow you access to the lockers, then you’ll head toward the locker rooms. At this point, I was annoyed when all of the lockers on the main floor were full; I needn’t have been because there are more locker rooms upstairs. You use your bracelet to open and lock the lockers and the instructions are a bit confusing. To claim an open locker, close it, then quickly swipe your bracelet in front of the nearest sensor. Be sure to remove all jewelry, as the sulphuric water can corrode metal. Hose off in the communal shower (yes, you have to get naked) before suiting up and heading into the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is family-friendly, but note that kids under 7 are required to wear arm floaties (which are provided). Our 9-month-old son loved splashing around in the water and didn’t mind the arm floaties at all.

Once you’re in the Blue Lagoon, you’ll have no trouble finding your own space to relax. Hang out by the back wall for maximum heat. When you want to cool off, head to the swim-up bar and order a cold beer or sparkling wine. If you need a break from lounging in the water, relax in the sauna or geothermal steam baths. For a natural massage, stand under the waterfall then apply a mask of white silica mud, which is said to be great for your skin.

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Swim-up bar in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Where to Eat at the Blue Lagoon

You’ll be sure to work up an appetite after all of that lounging, so head to the LAVA Restaurant for an extensive lunch buffet. The buffet is about 3900 ISK ($32 USD) per person and is included in the Experience and Exclusive Experience packages. You’ll see traditional Icelandic foods like local fish and seafood, meat soup, lamb, and skyr (Icelandic yogurt) on the menu. For lower-key fare, dine in the cafe, where you’ll find sandwiches, salads, paninis, and chips. A panini is 1350 ISK (about $11 USD) and you have a great view of the Blue Lagoon. After your meal, you may want to relax even more with a massage, head back into the Blue Lagoon, stop in the gift shop for Icelandic clothing and souvenirs, or call it a day.

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The Blue Lagoon and the geothermal power plant that warms it

Is it Worth the Trip?

It may be a bit of a tourist trap, but there’s something magical about the Blue Lagoon. It’s crowded, but there’s plenty of space to spread out and relax in the geothermal pool. I would definitely recommend a stop at the Blue Lagoon if you find yourself in Iceland, even just for a short stopover on your way to mainland Europe. You can fill an entire day with a trip there, but I was content after a solid half-day. The Blue Lagoon is a conveniently located, family-friendly destination in a beautiful country. If I’m in Iceland again, I’ll be sure to return to the Blue Lagoon.