We started our adventure in Chicago (I love living close enough to Chicago that it makes sense to fly out from there - the price difference is amazing!) We boarded our plane - named Katla (after the volcano that was near our first AirBNB lodging) and settled in for the flight. Icelandair had some cool 'northern lights' lighting while the lights were down, and I actually caught a glimpse of the real northern lights from the plane when we got closer to Iceland!
When we landed in Iceland, it took us a few hours to get picked up, get our rental car, and get on the road. Our first stop was to a grocery store (I had to take a photo of the "cool American" flavored doritos) and a café for some breakfast and caffeine - we were so hungry! Then we hit the road and headed towards Vik. About 30 minutes away from our destination, we pulled off to see some waterfalls - we explored Seljelandsfoss and then walked down the path to get to Gljúfrabúi - the hidden waterfall, which was super awesome to go explore.
We finally pulled up to our cute little A-frame cottage in Vik and spent some time relaxing, showering, and napping (and chasing some super cute kittens living under the deck!) After a little rest, we had an awesome sunset so Trevor, Katelyn, and I decided to take a little drive over to the black sand beach to explore a little bit. The waves were huge and the photos don't do them justice, and I definitely got too close to the water trying to take photos and got my feet soaked! It was a good thing our AirBNB had some old newspapers to soak up my wet shoes!
This was supposed to be the best day, weather-wise, of our whole trip. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and drive out to Jökulsárlón, the glacier lagoon. We stopped in the actual town of Vik to see the church that’s in all of the photos online of Vik. We then made our way East and found some lava fields to explore, saw so many horses and finally convinced Trevor to stop so I could take some photos of them, we ran into more waterfalls, and the landscape just kept changing. We made it to the glacier lagoon and the glacier beach, walked around for a while, and then decided to go grab some dinner at a nearby hotel before coming back to try to see the northern lights over the lagoon. We were successful in seeing the northern lights, just not over the lagoon.
Our last day in Vik, we went back to the black sand beach and almost got trapped in the cave when the tide started coming in and we spent just a little too long lingering on the wrong side of the cave. We went to see Skogafoss, and then hiked out to Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest hot spring pools in iceland - it makes for some super awesome photos, but it was lukewarm and FULL of algae when we went, and the changing rooms were a bit of an experience between the lack of clean space to put your stuff and the lack of privacy with random people just joining the single room with no regard for the fact that you were in the middle of changing. After the ‘hot’ spring, we went to Fjaðrárgljúfur, an amazing canyon with a name i still can’t pronounce no matter how many times i’ve listened to the pronunciation online. We hiked around the canyon a bit and then filled our water bottles in the river - seriously, best water i’ve ever drank. We got back to the AirBNB and Trevor went to sleep right away, but Katelyn and I decided to bust out the tripods to try to get some cool nighttime photos of the cabin, and ended up with some pretty cool northern light photos mixed in with the clouds.
We left Vik in the morning and made our way to the ‘secret lagoon,’ this was a legit hot spring pool - it was so nice to sit in some hot water in the cold, rainy, windy weather. We then went to Geysir and Gullfoss. Katelyn and I braved the walk to the platform that was super close to the falls and got a little wet from the spray, but it was so cool to see the falls from that vantage point instead of just the main platform. We arrived back in Reykjavik that evening and found our super cute AirBNB there and hung out for the evening.
Katelyn, Loren, and I decided to spend the morning hiking to Glymur - one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland (I think I read it used to be the highest until another was found inside of a glacier a few years ago). That hike started out super great, then I almost fell off a cliff while Katelyn and I were taking photos (well, when we were walking back off the cliff from taking photos), then our shoes got soaked crossing the river, and then the hike got a little more demanding, climbing up super steep rocks with a rope to help. We got to a point where we had a pretty good view and there were no more guide/safety(ish) ropes and decided we went far enough, but a few people passed us and went further. We found some horses on the way there and the way back, and then went back to Reykjavik. Trevor stayed behind because he didn’t sleep well the night before, but he was rested up when we got back, we all rested for a little while after we got back and then went to a hamburger place that was supposed to have a pretty decent deal (since Iceland is incredibly expensive - our $17 burger, fries, and drink deal was pretty good)
Our last day in Iceland, we spent the morning walking around downtown Reykjavik in the rain. We went to Hallgrímskirkja church to take some photos inside and from the bell tower, then we shopped around the city for a while. We ended up at the Chuck Norris grill for lunch, and then gave up on walking in the rain and just went back to the house to hang out and cook dinner.
We left the next afternoon, and since we didn’t want to drive downtown and look for parking just for a super short time, we decided to go to IKEA and get a cheap lunch before heading to the airport. We got to the airport early enough that we weren’t worried about missing our flight, but we ended up having plenty of time. Our flight was first at one gate, so we went there and lined up (because apparently Keflavik doesn’t believe in waiting areas at each gate), and then all of a sudden (without announcement), our gate was changed. The next gate was on the other end of the terminal, at the very end, with 4 other gates scheduled to depart at the exact same time (see the phone photo of the mess of people - that is how packed it was by those 5 gates, with no waiting areas.) We stood there for about an hour before being told that our flight was cancelled. We went to a clear area and asked the Icelandair desk what was going on and were told that our plane was missing. So we sat on the floor and bought some airport wine and got ready to relax for a while as things were sorted out. Finally, four hours after we were supposed to take off, we finally had a flight and were all quickly herded onto the plane to take off. The only plus to taking off so late was that the customs line in O’hare when we got back was completely empty and we got through so fast (in comparison to January of 2016, coming back from Kenya, when we waited for at least an hour to get through customs)