7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland – by Henya Mania

7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland in Winter

I’ve traveled to many countries in my life, I’ve seen many terrains, cultures and viewpoints. But I’ve never seen anything like Iceland. As soon as I landed and got in their super efficient bus service, I could smell the sulfur, view the volcanic ground and see the sky as the 3rd and last hour of sunlight for the day was dimming away.

I got to The Bus Hostel in an hour or so, and my friend (soon to be girlfriend) Gaia arrived later that day from London. I was starving and immediately went shopping for food. Astraurthur, the kindest receptionist I’ve ever met, gave me directions and I soon found food! Hurray!

Being vegan in a new country can be a challenge but to me it’s like a fun puzzle that lets me try new foods if I win. I couldn’t read half the ingredients and I had no data on my phone so I asked people in the shop if the bread I was holding was vegan. To my surprise, everyone’s English was impeccable and my bread was indeed vegan! Great success. I bought a few more bits and bobs and got back to the hostel. I made some porridge with banana and peanut butter and sat in the hostel’s common room.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel bus hostel common room 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland - by Henya Mania

The vibe in the common room was the epitome of cozy. It was warm feeling, warm looking and adorned with the most eclectic array of beautiful vintage furniture that worked wonderfully with each other. The people were friendly and nice, and the music was EVERYTHING. I spent half of my time in the hostel next to the speakers shazaming away all the songs.

Reykjavik

On the first full day, we went exploring the Reykjavik city center. It was a 10 minute walk from the Bus Hostel, just walk towards the big white church and you will find it. Reykjavik’s city center is tiny, walkable and absolutely beautiful. Every coffee shop looks more hipster than the other, the street lights are tasteful and subtle, the street art is absolutely gorgeous and there’s even an ocean at the bottom of it. Great photo opportunities, trust me.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland - by Henya Mania

We met up with an instagram friend living in Iceland and went to the lake right before the sun set. I cannot even explain how impressive and inspiring that sunset was, it was the strongest sun I’ve ever seen. It was so bright that you could even take pics with the sun in the back and the object would still be lit. It was magic. I literally felt like I was on a different planet. I felt so incredibly lucky for the opportunity to see such a wonder in real life.

henya mania reykjavik iceland sea travel 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland - by Henya Mania

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel marina 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

After that we went to The Coocoo’s Nest at the marina for the best vegan hot chocolate of my life and some really good soy lattes. I ended up confessing my love for my friend Gaia there (with the other friend still there!), which made for a very awkward afternoon.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel coocoos nest marina cafe 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

Icelandic swimming pools

The next day we were recommended by Astraurthur (what would my Iceland trip be without Astraurthur?) to check out the geothermal pool Vesturbaejarlaug (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either). Even though every hot tap water drop in Iceland is geothermal (Fun fact, that’s why you should never drink or cook with the hot water from the tap) we decided to go viking and bathe in a geothermal pool with locals.

We were warned in advance to shower COMPLETELY NAKED (instead of while wearing swimsuits) before getting in the pool. The locals really hate it when foreigners show up in the pool with their private parts not properly washed as it wouldn’t be fun for anyone in that case.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel pool geothermal bikini 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

So we made sure to clean every little bit, but, stupidly enough, we forgot our towels, not to mention we had one pair of flip flops and the ground was freezing. We couldn’t be bothered to rent a towel (it cost almost as much as the entrance fee!), so we just froze every second we spent outside the hot water. Oh and we had to dry off using blow dryers. Viking indeed. After channeling our inner Ragnar, we ran as fast as we could to the 40 degrees water. At first I felt like I was burning alive, but after a few seconds the water felt sooooooo good.

It was an insane experience I will never forget and if I can give you one word of advice (besides showering naked!), DO NOT wet your hair AT ALL or do it only right before you get out of the pool. The wind will literally freeze your head off and make this experience a nightmare if you have long hair like mine.

Off to the country side

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel golden circle 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

One thing you probably know about Iceland besides it not having any forests or their high chlamydia rates (oh you didn’t know that? Well now you do. Practice safe sex kids!), is that it’s very expensive. If you’ve made up your mind to travel here, you should be fully aware of that fact.

If you want to see anything touristy, the northern lights, the national parks or the geysers, you should probably rent a car. Bus tours are great but they are very costly, so if you’re on a budget, finding people at the hostel to share a ride with or organizing with some people off of couchsurfing to rent a car with you, would be a good idea. The national parks are free and you can split gas, insurance and car rental costs to see more of Iceland for less money.

Me and my girlfriend hired a van from rent.is and did a roadtrip around The Golden Circle. We checked out the Thingvellir national park, which was stunning, the geysirs at Gullfoss and we spent the night in a camper van all the way out in Selfoss. Astraurthur told us to go to Vik to see the black sand beaches, but we were too exhausted from driving in the dark and the cold finally got to us, so we got back to Reykjavik for some fries. On the way home we almost got stuck in a snow storm (I was terrified) but we made it back safely. Sadly, we didn’t get to see the northern lights the whole entire trip, but it only means we will have to go back one day right?

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel van life nature 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel van life 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel geysir gullfoss 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

The Blue Lagoon

On our last day we decided to be proper tourists and go to The Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland and it is one of the 25 wonders of the world according to some important list. We got there in the middle of a thunderstorm and everyone was so concerned, they were actually considering closing it off for the day, but all ended up well and we went in. The showers were lush and we got a towel this time (#winning).

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel blue lagoon pool 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

After we showered we were about to go outside to the pool while it was hailing. I don’t know how I embraced my inner viking, but I eventually did it and I don’t regret one second of that experience. The water outside were soooooooooooo nice and I felt amazing after bathing in them. We got into one of the caves and took some nice insta pics , then went back inside to the indoor pool. This pool was substantially colder than the one outside for a reason my brain can’t comprehend, but we survived it all. We got there when it was already dark, so sadly, we couldn’t see much of the clear blue water. I would HIGHLY recommend booking well in advance and scheduling your visit to daylight hours, as short as they may be.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel blue lagoon 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for (or maybe just me?). Let’s talk food.

I don’t know about you, but I am a huge foodie. I wasn’t fully happy with the oats, rice and baked beans for every meal and I decided to sacrifice my budget for eating out. You know what they say, food is a great way to learn about a culture, and I wasn’t learning much when I was making my sad little porridge for every meal. Surprisingly enough, we found a vast variety of vegan options through the app HappyCow (it’s a must for the vegan traveler), and there was even a fully vegan restaurant! Here are some places we visited.

Vinyl cafe

This is the first and only (so far) fully vegan joint in Iceland. They have a super chill vibe, great music and delicious food. Gaia tried the soup and the kale salad (she approved) and I had the holy grail of sandwiches – the Kawaii sandwich with added Oumph. OH MY LORD. That sandwich was probably the best sandwich of my life. It was crunchy, oily, salty, and super flavorful. It had a fair amount of avocado, soy cream cheese, grated vegan parmesan, caramelized onions and mushrooms and Oumph. Oumph is a Swedish soy meat that needs to be exported to every corner on earth inhabiting humans. We also had their vegan viking beer called, well.. Viking. It was very tasty and made me feel cool. I’m a huge sucker for anything viking OK. I don’t judge you, you don’t judge me.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel soup vegan food vinyl cafe 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

kakwai sandwich reykjavik iceland henya mania travel vinyl cafe 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel viking vegan beer 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

Aalto Bistro

This bistro is located in the Nordic House and we went there after the pool. Thankfully it was marked on the free map we got at The Bus Hostel so after asking some bus drivers that stopped the bus for us to help with directions (show me another country that does that! God, I love Iceland), we made it to Aalto.

They have a vegan menu that was so decadent and christmassy. It was next level vegan gourmet food. We had the nut roast with some fancy salads and fancy bread, which were all super good, but my favorite was the dessert. We got a spread of seasonal sweets that literally blew my mind. Thankfully Gaia doesn’t like sweets so I ate hers too. I love my life.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel aalto vegan food menu 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel aalto vegan food 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

Bike Cave

Another cool restaurant with an interesting twist. It’s a bike repair shop as well! With a shower (van life anyone?)! We had a nice vegan burger, delicious fries in all shapes and sizes, vegan onion rings and a few more things. I am a huge fan of vegan junk food, so this meal totally hit the spot.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel vegan junk food bike cave 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

Supermarkets

I know, I know, as travelers we all have a budget to adhere to, and I’m not gonna lie. Eating out in Iceland is expensive. So why not go to the supermarket and cook yourself a feast? There’s a nice variety of vegan essentials in the supermarkets in Iceland.

We went to Bonus because we heard it’s the cheapest. We got yummy hummus (looked awful, but as an Israeli, I approve), Linda Mccartney’s sausages, vegan nutella (by euroshopper), bread, flat bread (omg it was amazing), probably the best tasting spinach i’ve ever had and lots of other bits and bobs. For dessert we also found vegan chocolate chip cookies (by europshopper) that were super good! They also have a variety of soy products you shouldn’t miss out on.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel grocery supermarket 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

Airport food

Being emetophobic, germophobic and an extreme foodie, I NEVER eat at airports. But there I was, in the airport for 24 hours, my stash of chocolate covered rice cakes was dwindling slowly. I finished the last bit of peanut butter and I was slowly getting famished. I knew it had to be done. It was time for my first ever airport food. And what a surprise it was!

I found a 24/7 little shop in the airport with heaps of overpriced sandwiches, and they had 2 vegan options! One was a hummus wrap, and the other was some sort of sandwich. Being the hummus addict that I am, I decided to venture with the hummus wrap. Twice. It was sooooooooo good! Good flavor, good texture, none of the veggies were too soggy or gross and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I took another one for the plane.

reykjavik iceland henya mania travel vegan airport food 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania reykjavik iceland henya mania travel airport vegan food 7 Unforgettable Days in Iceland by Henya Mania

All in all, seems like Iceland has quite a it to offer to any traveler. From restaurants with vegan options, cafes with soy milk, vegan ice cream shops, and fairly vegan friendly supermarkets [it’s all relative right?], you can always find something to eat that will make your vegan tummy happy while in Iceland. In terms of travel, it is a country you have to see at least once in your life. The nature is astonishing, the weather is an experience of it’s own, and if you get to see the northern lights, or at least a happy puffin or whale, you scored big time.

Written by:
Henya Mania
@henyamania
http://www.henyamania.com/
youtube | http://bit.ly/1N0biyk
instagram | http://bit.ly/1HDv9LN

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

Southern Iceland and Glacier Walk with BusTravel Iceland

One of the main highlights of Iceland is the beautiful south coast, so consider taking an adventurous tour of the country’s epic waterfalls. However, you must not forget where these waterfalls are coming from and check out the slowly cascading river of ice that makes up the massive landscape of a glacier. They’re completely stunning and will leave you speechless. That’s why you should book the Southern Iceland and Glacier Tour with BusTravel Iceland.

We took our 6 year old McDonalds burger with us so he could experience Southern Iceland. He skipped the glacier walk but was happy with the sightseeing part of the experience.

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

Walking on a Glacier is a MUST when you are in the Land of Ice. Let us explain to you how awesome it is to take this tour.

Aside from being an epic sightseeing experience it is a learning experience. The guides know a bounty of great tales, rich history, and fascinating geological feats of this land. They are always open to inquiries of the culture, the climate, geography and especially random, quirky facts about the country.

The bus will take approximately 2 hours to journey to the south. The first stop is to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, where, if you’re lucky and the weather conditions are good, you will get a chance to appreciate it and take some pictures—the burger was really lucky. After a quick view of the volcano, the waterfalls will begin to appear. Skógafoss will be one of the highlights as you take in the breeze coming from the falls.

After viewing these awesome sites, you will head over to the Sólheimajökull glacier, the main feature of this tour. What you miss by skipping the black sand beach will be more than made up for by visiting the glacier, trust us.

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

Once at the glacier, Arcanum Glacier guides will take care of you, so, let’s get ready! The guide team is charismatic and will always make you laugh. They are pros at teaching you how to use the trekking equipment such as the harness, helmet, ice picks and the crampons which allow you to walk safely across the ice. You’re more likely to fall down after the tour is finished and you remove your crampons, as many adventurers find out when they’re walking back to the bus.

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

It’s a very special feeling being up on the glacier. Apart from enjoying the nature, you will learn a lot of things from the guides such as the fact a documentary on climate change was filmed here in addition to tons of geographical information.

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

The walk may last 2 hours, but it’ll leave you with a life-long memory.

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

After the walk you will be picked up by the bus and make some additional stops, such as at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the Queen Elf’s Castle, a curious place made in the stones that you have to see for yourself.

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

Don’t forget to dress warm and enjoy! The burger’s been here, so why not you?

Go and book with BusTravel Iceland.

Southern Iceland and Glacier walk

Must-try (Budget) Icelandic food

Print This Post Print This Post

When it comes to travel, one of the first things that we think about is the gastronomy of this new place we are going to discover. Maybe you have heard stories of Icelandic dishes such as the infamous fermented shark, lamb soup, or the sheep’s head. These are just some of the traditional dishes you can find in town, and, just between us, you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to try them.

Although in summer you will find a lot more of street food downtown, you CAN’T MISS trying the Icelandic hot dog. Downtown Reykjavik is home to the famous Bæjarins Beztu (a favorite with locals, presidents, and celebrities), a stand that has been open near the harbor since 1937. What makes them so special? The hot dogs are mixed with lamb and come topped with a few different sauces besides your standard ketchup and mustard. And for coming in at less than 500 ISK, it might be the cheapest meal out you can get in town.

Must-try (Budget) Icelandic food

If you are a candy person, you need to try PIPP, a chocolate bar that’s a staple in any Icelandic grocery or convenience store. They come filled with caramel, mint, or the ever-popular licorice! You will love it.

Must-try (Budget) Icelandic food

After Björk and volcanoes, one of the most Icelandic things is SKYR. If you’re already here, we’re sure you’ve seen it already. What exactly is Skyr? Well, it’s not exactly a yogurt, despite what your stomach might think. It’s more like a soft cheese made of pasteurized skimmed milk. It’s a really creamy, healthy snack, and it comes in many, many different flavors. You can buy it in all kinds of supermarkets for about 130 ISK.

Must-try (Budget) Icelandic food

A trip to Iceland isn’t complete without trying their famous drink Brennivín. Perhaps you know it by its nickname Black Death. You can ask for it in all the bars and clubs, but also in restaurants after eating a fermented shark (of course you can skip the shark). And the Icelandic way to say cheers? Skál (kind of like scowl)!

Must-try (Budget) Icelandic food

Icelandic cuisine may be very much different than what you’ve expected it to be.

Free Things to do in Reykjavík

Whether you’re running low on funds after exploring Iceland, or you just want a low-key day downtown, there are always cool and free things to do in this city. If you’ve got a couple days to walk around, here are some fun things you can do without spending money.

Explore the street art throughout the city

You probably already know Reykjavik is an enchanting little city of colorful homes, but have you noticed our street art scene? Large murals by local and foreign artists are all over the city; just take a walk downtown to discover these great art pieces!

Free things to do in Reykjavik

 

Visit the Museum of Photography

If museums are your thing, head over to the library in town, where on the top floor sits this museum. It has exhibitions with beautiful photographs that totally reflect the country’s unique spirit. Also, this isn’t the only museum that’s free. There’s a sculpture garden by Hallgrimskirkja, too.

Free things to do in Reykjavik

Go to Perlan

This landmark building offers you one of the best views of the city. Totally free, totally worth it. The photo at the top of this post is taken by Niklas Möller on the sightseeing deck at Perlan in early evening on a winter night.  It’s also a nice spot to watch the Northern Lights if the weather is in your favor.

Take a walk around Tjörnin the largest pond in Reykjavik

It has a park that surrounds it and of course, a lot of happy ducks that may ask you for some bread. After feeding time, head into the town hall to check out a sweet 3D map of the entire country.

Visit Harpa, Reykjavik’s concert hall.

You can’t miss this architectural wonder when you’re in town, but it’s not enough to just take pictures of the outside! During the day, Harpa shines with the natural daylight; however, during the evening, this hall is illuminated with dancing lights. And if you are lucky, you can search online and maybe get a chance to see some free events, like the Icelandic symphony rehearsals.

Free things to do in Reykjavik

Go to the Flea Market.

If you are in town during the weekend, visit Kolaportið down by the harbor. You’ll find all kinds of crafts, books and of course food such as fermented shark. If you do have some money left, or you’ve been holding out for an Icelandic sweater, this is the place to find the cheapest ones.

Concerts and pub quizzes!

There are concerts by jazz and indie musicians for free all over town every single night. Pub quizzes are also frequent, with the most well-known one being the movie quiz held at the Lebowski Bar on Thursday nights. There’s no cover charge or entry fee to join in, either.

These are just a few of the things you can do without spending money while you’re in town, and it just goes to show that you don’t need to buy something to go deep into Icelandic culture.

 

Now, no more excuses: Iceland isn’t only about Geyser and volcanoes, it’s city life, too!

P.S. Check out our blog on Nauthólsvík, the geothermal beach in town, and super close to the hostel! So free, and so awesome that it deserves its own post 🙂

THE BUS HOSTEL REYKJAVIK ARRIVAL GUIDE

 

We present the Bus Hostel Reykjavik Arrival Guide. We get a lot of the same questions so we decided to combine all the answers for you in one place. Voila.

Bus Hostel Reykjavik in summer

FIRST, SOME INFO ABOUT BUS HOSTEL

Bus Hostel is always open!
Check in is at 15.00 / 3PM and check out is at 10.00AM

Remember! Our dorms are sleeping bag accommodation, so duvets aren’t included. You can bring your own or rent one from us for a one-time fee of 1000 ISK. We can also rent out towels for a one-time fee of 500 ISK.

We have two kitchens for our guests to use. There’s enough fridge and shelf space for each room (or each guest). Each floor of the hostel provides many, generously sized private restrooms and showers.

We can store your luggage as long as you’re a guest with us! We have a secure luggage room which only staff members can open. You can also rent a secure locker to keep your stuff safe while you are out enjoying Iceland.

BUS HOSTEL BAR AND LOUNGE

After a long day of exploring the city or trekking through the Icelandic countryside, come and unwind in our cozy, atmospheric common room. Here, guests can grab a drink or some snacks from the bar, strum out a tune on the guitar, or browse through our bookshelf.

Our Happy Hour is from 5-9pm every day.

We offer a breakfast plate of a bagel, skyr, coffee and other goodies for 800 ISK. It is available from 8-10am.

THE BEST WAY TO GET TO THE HOSTEL

Taking the FlyBus or Airport Express are the best options. You can buy tickets in advance on their websites, or in the arrivals hall of the airport. Both shuttles can bring you directly to the hostel, and run according to flight schedules, so you’ll always be able to catch one.

You could also rent a SADcar from our partners at sadcars.com and pick it up at the airport or at our own front desk. As a Bus Hostel customer, you get a discount at SADcars! Just e-mail them at [email protected] for details. There is plenty of free parking for our guests at the Bus Hostel Reykjavik.

BUS HOSTEL LOCATION AND SURROUNDINGS

We’re tucked into the corner of a residential area not too far from the city center. It’s only a fifteen minute walk up to Hallgrimskirkja or to Laugavegur. In the nearby area, we’re close to BSÍ bus terminal, Klambratún park, Nauthólsvík beach, Perlan, and Kringlan shopping mall.

On the below map you can see what is near to the Bus as well as basic information such as the nearest supermarket, ATM and money exchange. Some further information can be found in the below FAQ.

Location map Near Bus Hostel Reykjavik

 

Getting around Reykjavik

Bus Hostel Reykjavik is on a bus route to all directions, check out straeto.is or their nice app to plan your trip. BSÍ – the main bus terminal is within walking distance. Don‘t forget – we do lend you a bike for shorter errands (only during summer)!

Where is the nearest supermarket?

The closest shop is Sunnubúð. It’s a small market which closes a bit later in the neighborhood. It’s just a few minutes away from us.

The closest full sized grocery store is Bónus, and there’s one in the shopping mall Kringlan, and on Laugavegur.

Where can I exchange my money?

You can exchange your money in the airport, but if you don’t manage to, then there are several banks downtown where you can exchange your money as well as in the Kringlan mall. The banks are generally open between 10:00 and 16:00 on weekdays only. The Tourist information Center on Aðalstræti has longer opening hours and can exchange money.

Where’s the domestic airport?

We’re close by, but the entrance you need depends on where you’re flying to! If you’re flying with Air Iceland to Isafjordur, Akureyri, Egilsstadir or Greenland; with Atlantic Airways to the Faroe Islands; or with Air Arctic to Saudarkrokur, the entrance is by the University of Iceland. You can take bus 15 or a taxi there. Otherwise, it’s about 30-35 minute walk.

If you’re taking Eagle Air to Bildudalur, Gjogur, Husavik, Hofn and the Vestman Islands, then you can take bus 5 or walk as we’re only about ten minutes from this entrance.

Which swimming pools are there in the neighbourhood?

The closest one is Sundhöllin on Barónsstígur, just up the road behind Hallgrímskirkja. It has an inside swimming pool and outside hot tubs and small sauna. The hot tubs are nice in the evening.

Vesturbæjarlaugin is quite a bit further in the west of town but it is an outside pool, bigger, and has a fitness center. It could be combined with a trip downtown, especially if the customers are driving. It’s on Hofsvallagata.

Laugardalslaug swimming pool is by far the biggest pool and very popular with the locals. It has inside and outside pools, large and small waterslides, lots of hot tubs and fitness center. Take bus number 14 on Snorrabraut, go to the right out the door and over the bridge over Hringbraut, straight ahead at the right side of the road until you reach the bus stop.

TRAVELING IN ICELAND

If you plan to travel outside of the comfortable Reykjavik bubble we reccommend checking out the following sites.

Safetravel.is is an excellent source of information on how to stay safe in Iceland. Check this site out. There are a lot of dangers in Iceland. For real!

The Icelandic Met Office has weather station forecasts for the whole country.

They also have an Aurora forecast so if you plan to hunt the Northern lights, this is the place to start.

Finally, you can check real time info on road conditions at the awesome road.is site. Very useful if you have your own rental car (especially in winter, spring, fall and summer). Speaking of driving rental cars, our buddies at SADcars car rental have written a lot of blogs on that subject.

 

We are happy to answer any and all questions you might have.
We look forward to seeing you at Bus Hostel!
The Bus drivers.