Hours of planning, watching vlogs, reading blogs, shopping, researching, and saving, it was finally here. Our departure day. The day we waved goodbye to the USA for 6 months (we’ll be back briefly for a wedding this summer). After breakfast with some of my extended family, Kevin, my parents, and I were off to Dulles airport. We were dropped off around 13:20 EST for our 19:35 flight. Our plan was to check in, find some food, and set up shop at the gate.

We didn’t anticipate that the check-in counter would be closed. We sat by the counter for three hours, chatting with other passengers and playing Solitaire. The counter opened at 16:15 and after a bit of shuffling, we approached the counter to check in. Now, this is where we were thinking the first thing may go “wrong.” We packed in 40L bags that are the appropriate dimensions for even the strictest of airlines, however, with the camping things strapped to the outside of the bags and with shoes stuffed into outside pockets, our bags are an odd size. The agent at the counter eyed my bag when I told her it was a carry on and she asked to weigh it. 24lbs. Damn. I had weighed my bag at my parents and it had registered 21lbs and I thought I would be able to get away with 1lb over. Apparently someone’s scale is off, so I watched my bag, then Kevin’s bag get whisked away to be stored under the airplane.

Now, it was a bit disappointing that we had to check our bags, but in the grand scheme of things, if that’s what went wrong that day, not too shabby. Security was a bit lengthy, but we were settled at our gate with about two hours to spare. Kevin went to find dinner while I watched our things that were charging. Kevin returned with a rice bowl that we split (paid with leftover cash, so not configured into our budget). We ate, chatted, and watched some TV shows while we waited. Both of us more than ready to get the trip started.

A glimpse of Icelandic landscape at Thingvellir National Park

Finally, we were boarding. We settled into our seats and did our best to immediately fall asleep. Kevin had taken some melatonin earlier to help him, but I had been tired most of the day, so I opted to let my exhaustion take over. I’m not sure when Kevin fell asleep, but I was out right after we had taken off. I woke up after sleeping two hours (three hours and forty five minutes to go). I tried my best to fall back asleep, but I was wide awake. I passed the rest of the time by watching Luther and The Good Wife. Kevin woke up a couple of times, but definitely was able to sleep more than I had.

At 7:23 GMT, we were finally in Iceland. After dreaming about and planning this trip for what feels like ages, it was finally beginning. We readied ourselves for customs and baggage claim – assuming it would take us about an hour. Customs was a breeze. Our bags were waiting for us. And we were on the FlyBus by 7:45. I settled into the hour and fifteen drive and was thankfully able to take a nap. Once we were at BSI Bus Station, we attempted to walk to a cafe, but were met with dark skies and black ice on the sidewalks. After walking a few meters, we turned back and ate at the cafe in BSI. I knew Iceland was pricey, but paying 1970 ISK (18.86 USD) for a wrap and two coffees was jarring. We sat in the bus station cafe for a few hours while we waited to be picked up for our Golden Circle Tour.

More details of our tour here!

We saw some Icelandic Horses on our Golden Circle Tour

The next day we were back at BSI around 10:00. Kevin and I set off down the road to Reykjavik Hostel Village and immediately regretted not asking to be dropped off at the hostel. The wind gusts were up to almost 50mph, it was raining heavily, and I had discovered the day prior that I had forgotten my rain jacket. It was a fifteen minute walk, but we showed up soaked and chilled to the bone. Check-in was a breeze, though, and we were upgraded from a dorm to a private room for no extra fee since the hostel was not very busy. The only unfortunate bit was that we had to traipse back outside to a separate building where we were staying. Thankfully, it was just around the corner.

After a bit of trouble with the key (user error), we were inside our warm, private room. We peeled off our wet clothes, changed into nice dry ones, and examined our bags to ensure nothing important had gotten drenched. The wind and rain stopped around noon and by then, we were ravenous. We bundled back up (it may not have been raining, but it was still Iceland in January) and walked about ten minutes to Noodle Station. We split a bowl of vegetable noodle soup and a sparkling lemon water. After lunch, we went across the street to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Yes, it is what you think. Yes, it was a museum of penises. It was…interesting.

Afterwards, I requested that we find a cafe so that I could get a coffee and we could plan out the rest of the day. We walked a bit and settled in Nat. Two coffees and a lot of Google searches later, we were back on the street. The next stop was the Icelandic Punk Museum. That was not necessarily up my alley, but it was still interesting to learn more about the punk movement in Iceland. The entire museum took about 30 minutes to tour (it’s inside a converted public toilet), so we still had some daylight left when we finished.

We headed off to the The Volcano House but decided to stop for some chips before we went in. Icelandic Fish & Chips is connected to the museum, so it’s a perfect stopping point. We split an order of chips with a three dip sample. After our snack, we looked at the prices for the museum and decided against it. When Kevin had looked it up online, admission was listed as “free,” so we hadn’t been prepared to pay. We decided to grab some drinks before dinner instead.

A street in Reykjavik

We walked parallel to the water and chose The Coocoo’s Nest as our first stop for libations. I ordered a blueberry Moscow Mule and Kevin chose a Kaldi. We were there at happy hour and were offered free soup, but passed when we were informed it had turkey in it. Instead, when we checked out, we had 200 ISK removed from each of our drinks. Next, we walked all of fifty steps across the street and ordered a Pinot Noir (me) and a Thule (Kevin) at Kaffivagninn. At 19:00 we went to Bryggjan Brugghus for dinner. We had looked at the menu before we came and I was immensely excited about the prospect of trying their vegan pate. Turns out, they had removed it from the menu. Instead, I ordered the vegetarian burger (vegan without the cheese) and Kevin had the mushroom croquettes with root vegetables. We also had more wine (me) and beer (him). Once dinner was over, we went to Microbar for one last drink each. We finished up the night by trekking back to our hostel in more rain – at least this time, the wind was minimal.

We got back to the hostel, dried off (again), and went to bed. Easily exhausted by the eventful last two days. We woke up the next and final day in Iceland and were sad we already had to leave. We packed up, checked out, and headed back to BSI. It had dipped below freezing throughout the night, so the sidewalks were covered in black ice again. We shuffled along, still making okay time to the bus station. We boarded our bus that took us to Keflavik and both ended up napping the entire ride. So much for once last glimpse of Icelandic landscape. Checking in and security was a breeze and we were seated at a cafe with a sandwich for me (Kevin wasn’t feeling well) well within an hour of arriving at the airport. I scarfed down my sandwich and bought a smoothie before heading to our gate.

I had been impressed with the efficiency of the entire trip up until our boarding to Copenhagen. The gate was downstairs and we had to walk outside to get to the plane. It wasn’t walking outside that I had an issue with, it was the fact that to have our passes scanned, we joined in on an overcrowded staircase and then were guided to another holding room with very little elbow room. Thankfully, the process was not longer than 30 minutes and we were in our seats.

Our only picture together in Iceland. We were obviously not prepared yet for the wind…

Now, as we are in the air somewhere between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, I’m already missing our first country. Good thing is that we have many more to explore!

Kevin’s Viewpoint

I had high expectations for Reykjavik and it did not fall short at all!  In fact it was still able to impressed me in many aspects.  The weather was brutally windy and wet at points, but the temperature was never a problem.  You would expect to be very cold while visiting Iceland in the dead of winter, but a wool sweater and jacket was more than enough to keep me cozy.  The buildings were beautiful and had a unique mix of old colorful shipping buildings and futuristic architecture.  The streets were walkable and a joy to explore.  The food and beer were also a pleasant surprise as I was not expecting to find vegan meals and micro-breweries so easily.  The only major downside I can identify is the high prices for nearly everything, but that was expected.  Overall I loved my time in Iceland and would love to go back in the summer to see how different the country is with almost constant daylight.  However, the lack of daylight didn’t bother me as much as I expected because we made good use of it and it felt like much longer than 4.5 hours.

We’ll have more specifics on The Golden Circle Tour, food and drink, our hostel, and how our budget did in more posts later on!