Icelanders have a saying, “The raisin at the end of the hot dog.” This refers to something surprising, but good, at the end. Iceland was the raisin of my most recent trip.
Iceland, the land of fire and ice. Iceland, northern lights in the winter and midnight sun in the summer. Iceland, the country you’ve never visited, but should absolutely add to your travel bucket list.
Over the last few years Iceland has been reinventing itself as a hot tourist destination. Icelandair has been leading the way with their free stopover program. For no extra charge, we added three days in Iceland at to the end of our trip to England.
Most people flying into Iceland will land in Keflavík International Airport. The airport is about 40 minutes out of Reykjavik. Several companies, including Gray Line and Flybus, offer quick shuttle service to your hotel. Buy your tickets online ahead of time to save time.
Reykjavik is a small, but vibrant, walkable city with about 120,000 inhabitants. We chose a hotel in the downtown area so that we could walk and explore the city at leisure.
After booking our stopover in Iceland we found out about another promotion called the Icelandair Stopover Buddy. The idea behind the promotion is that a like-minded employee will spend their day off being your personal tour guide. They will help you plan your Stopover and then accompany you, all the while showcasing Iceland. There are several categories to choose from including Adventure Buddy, Culture Buddy and Food Buddy.
We applied for an Adventure Buddy and got paired up with Lilja, an avid hiker, spelunker and cross country skier. After emailing back and forth a few times we decided to go for a buggy ride up a mountain.
We met Lilja and her boyfriend, Jon Petur, in the morning and headed out to Safari Quads to start our Buggy Ride. Our original plan was to travel up two mountains. However, the melted snow resulted in dangerous conditions and forced a change of plans. We explored the Mosfellsdalur valley instead. The company provided all the outdoor gear for us to wear, including overalls and helmets. It was great to have the overalls because there was lots of great mud and water to drive through.
After a quick lunch of seafood soup we set off for a hike. First stop, Raufarholshellir Caves. Lilja, our amazing travel buddy, provided us with helmets and head lamps. We weren’t able to hike very far into the caves due to ice, but what we saw was very cool. The dripping water was freezing itself into stalagmites that covered the cave floor.
Next stop, Reykjadalur, which directly translates into “Steam Valley.” From here we began a 3 km hike up to a natural hot springs. Although the hot springs at the top was our destination, the hike alone was worth it. Along the way there were amazing views of the hillside and valley.
Steam burst randomly out of the landscape, at times even blocking our vision. There were bubbling mud pots. A brook full of hot geothermal water snaked its way down the hillside, at times to hot to even touch.
And at the top, a wooden boardwalk to enjoy the hot springs from. I honestly can’t praise this hike enough. It was the raisin at the end of our raisin.
Thanks to Lilja and Jon Petur and Icelandair for giving us such a great day in Iceland!
If you want more information on the Icelandair Stopover Buddy Program click here
Stay tuned for my next post: Icelandic Horses…they’re not ponies!
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