Discover (Ice)Land of Elves and Vikings

I love reading about parapsychology and metaphysics. I’ve heard a lot about “genies” growing up so imagine my curiosity and excitement when our film director friend told us that she is working on a documentary about Elves in Iceland. So, we decided to add Reykjavik as another stop on our honeymoon and meet the “Elf Lady” that our friend was talking about.

We didn’t know much about this isolated island apart from Björk and the erupted volcano (that we still can’t spell or pronounce properly). We booked our flight tickets 2 months in advance and found a cosy Airbnb. We didn’t have time to plan any additional details, so we landed and figured things out by talking with locals.

We had such a great time in Iceland that my friend from Zentrips asked me to write our experiences so that you might be inspired to go to Iceland too. Read more stories from me and my friends at: http://www.zentrips.co


Planning the trip

Icelandic people are very informative, starting from the airport.
  • There are a few cheap flights to Reykjavik from Europe. We used Vueling Airlines from Barcelona and Wow Air to return to United States.
Beware: Additional luggage charges might make you go “WOW!” (Image)
  • Prepare yourself mentally for endless days, literally! (or endless nights if you are going in winter.)
Our adventurous travel companion Lou Seal was enjoying this charming view after midnight.
There are so many cute little clothing stores on Laugavegur Street. (Image)
  • If you are planning on traveling outside the city of Reykjavik (which you should), renting a car is a smart thing to do. We chose Sixt: www.sixt.com/Iceland‎.
  • Iceland uses Krona as their currency which seems hundred thirty times (more or less) cheaper than a dollar but the prices are in thousands.
Can you tell what is the main source of income of the country by looking at their coins? (Image)

Learning about the Icelandic Culture

  • People are very respectful, happy and peaceful in general. Surely they will talk about corruption and politics but Iceland consistently ranks in top 5 according to the World Happiness Report (even after the 2008 crisis.)
Don’t be alarmed when you see a baby in that stroller. Crime rate is so law that Icelandic moms leave their babies outside of cafes and stores. Yes, it is that safe! (Image)
  • Despite the usual gray skies, life in Reykjavik is very colorful:
Chalk paintings… (Location)
Murals…(Location)
Graffitis…(Location)
Tulips in the gardens…(Location)
Vividly painted buildings…(Location)
More Murals… (Location)
Single Gloves matchmaking system that works better than Tinder…(Location)
  • When the sun comes out, there is nothing they would be doing rather than enjoying the sun, even at midnight. People were sunbathing at 11 pm at Arnarhóll:

-And this mesmerizing view of Reykjavíkurtjörn

Summer Solstice, 11:30 pm and the sun is just setting, only for 3 hours.
  • They are a proud nation. They love talking about Icelandic celebrities, a brief history of all the movies and shows that were shot on the island.
Did you know that Of Monsters and Men are Icelandic? (Image)
  • Listen to the real stories of Vikings from locals.
Ask about the Vikings TV show and you will hear a lot of “That’s not how it happened!” (Image)
  • Listen to the Elf (Huldufólk or Hidden Folk) stories as well. After all, Iceland is the land of mythical creatures and runes that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write Lord of The Rings. Here’s a brief explanation of how LoTR was inspired by Icelandic sagas: http://www.sacred-texts.com/ring/
An illustration to the Icelandic legend of Hildur, the Queen of the Elves. (Image)

Sightseeing and Discoveries

  • Take the Golden Circle Tour. Golden Circle is the circular route towards the south and center of Iceland, covering most of the exciting and amazing landmarks.
  • There are many companies that offer Golden Circle tours. These tours usually take half or a full day depending on the tour’s itinerary. You can choose to take an Off-Road tour (like we did) that is limited to 2–6 people (because you travel in an Off-Road Jeep) or you can go with those huge tour busses.
  • We found Discovery.is when we were searching online, offering variety of landmark visits and snowmobiling. Prices are more or less the same for different companies but I highly recommend the tours that are taking you to the following locations:
  • Þingvellir: This area is a national park formed with geologic history and variety of natural beauties.
  • Lake Þingvallavatn:
World’s clearest water. (One of the coldest waters as well.)
  • Apparently, you can dive here too (We haven’t tried it yet):
  • You will find breathtaking waterfalls in this national park:
  • Öxarárfoss or Ax River Fall:
Öxarárfoss
Öxarárfoss
Öxarárfos
Vatnsleysufoss
Gullfoss
  • And don’t forget to stop by in this valley that takes you to Öxarárfos:
Does this look familiar from somewhere?
How about this?
Let’s play some Game of Thrones!
Remember when Hound was taking Arya Starck to her aunt? (Image)
Yep, that place is in Iceland and you get to see it in your tour! (Image)
It is a very interesting valley indeed!
See the roaring Öxarárfos waterfall at the end of this road?
  • Golden Circle Tours usually include Geysir hotsprings. It is much fun to wait for the geysers to erupt.
I mean, look at that gorgeous blue!
  • The highlight of our tour was definitely snowmobiling on glaciers. It was included in our tour. Much more expensive than a regular Golden Circle Tour but how many times can you ride a snowmobile on a glacier in your lifetime? We couldn’t pass on that!
  • Langjökull glacier is the location for snowmobiling:
Langjökull glacier
Our tracks on snow :)
You might lose sense of where the ground ends and where the sky begins but thats the beauty of it!
Our white horse a.k.a. red snowmobile.
Glacier lakes are so blue and beautiful that you need to get your reality checked every now and then!
  • There are many volcanic crater lakes in Iceland. Golden Circle Tours include Kerið as a main attraction.
Aquamarine blue water and red volcanic rocks make Kerið so attractive for tourists and a trivia quiz!
  • And if you are lucky, you might even see the elves! No, just kidding, but I bet you would feel lucky when your tour guide takes you to a secret spot such as this old lava tube cave Raufarhólshellir that became famous after that cave scene in Netflix Original series Sense8:
Raufarhólshellir is the 3rd largest lava tube cave in Iceland.
That famous scene from Sense8
The length of the tube is estimated to be 1360 meters.
At this instant our tour guide was saying: “This cave goes on for another 1.5 km.” We did not! go through all of it.
  • Apart from the occasional attractions of Golden Circle Tour, these amazing scenes keep you company along the way:
You will need to book your tickets in advance, it is a very popular destination for tour buses. (Do you know how many Asians a bus can carry?)
Lou Seal was very happy in the hot blue waters of Blue Lagoon.
Spa day in a nutshell. We never wanted to leave.
  • There are a few more locations to see. Like this rocket ship formed iconic church Hallgrímskirkja:
Unlike what we think, its architect was inspired by the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.
  • And this concert hall and conference center with modern architecture called Harpa:
And now you are watching: The dancing lights of Harpa
  • Last destination of our 4 day trip was the Elf Garden. The Elf Lady Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir gives Elf Garden Tours and tells the stories of elves and many other invisible creatures. It might sound strange at first but it is best if she explains it herself. If you don’t believe in the magic of nature, her elves and she might give you a mental nudge :) And even if you don’t feel their existence or see them, you will still spend a splendid day within this secluded garden:
Lou Seal in front of the ‘Elf Church”.
  • According to what she told us, Ragga (as we call her) started seeing elves, trolls and dwarves when she was a little girl. Unlike the majority of Icelandic people, she continued seeing them even when she grew up. These creatures are frequent habitants of this park and its natural rock formations:
Elves, trolls and dwarves are believed to live in volcanic rocks with very interesting forms and shapes.
  • All these creatures live in harmony within a form of democracy. There is division of labor for each kind and they use the energy of light to keep the peace, to heal and to cherish life.
You can’t miss that light game in the picture. Is that a message, what do you think?
  • These stories are not exclusive to the Elf Lady. Most Icelandic people truly believe in Elves and other invisible creatures. They claim to have seen them when they were kids. They are also believed to be the protectors of the nature. It explains a lot about their respectful relationship with nature and how they keep it untouched.
Next time when you see rocks with weird shapes or positions, look closely, you might be looking at elf architecture!

Tapping into Icelandic cuisine

  • Eat traditional delicacies such as whale steaks and puffin. Strictly avoid fermented shark meat! (It is the most disgusting food we have ever tried, EVER!) We went to Islenski Barinn (Icelandic bar) to try these traditional Icelandic dishes.
Puffins are as delicious as they are cute. (Image)
  • Icelandic people LOVE! hot dogs, so do we! We tried the famous Bæjarins Beztu hot dog stand. It was really good but we couldn’t tell what makes it so special.
  • Upon our friend’s recommendation, we discovered this cute little cafe with great coffee and macarons, Kaffihús Vesturbæjar:
You wouldn’t believe how fast these went down!
  • Although we don’t really like beer, our tour guide highly recommended this Kaldi Bar/Café with their own brew (they are really good.)
  • For seafood, we followed the reviews and tried this shack called Sægreifinn. They have whale meat on skewers and a famous lobster soup.
A small blue shack right by the water. (Location)
  • Our last meal was in Sjávargrillið (means Seafood Grill), a beautiful restaurant with so many seafood options.
Gosh, I am hungry again!

We only had 4 days in Iceland but it made such a strong impression on me that I was heartbroken to leave. This trip was purely magical for me. I felt so close to nature and rooted, like I was realizing that I am a part of it for the first time. There’s still so much more to see and discover. One thing I know for sure: I will see you again, Reykjavik!

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

p.s. I am Turkish so please excuse any English grammatical issues.

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