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After a full day of traveling and no sleep, we headed straight to the Blue Lagoon right after we got off the plane! Conveniently located just 20 minutes from Keflavík Airport, Blue Lagoon is the infamous geothermal spa with milky blue water (due to its high silica content). The water is also rich in salts and algae and its temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37-39 °C. We grabbed a couple of smoothies, relaxed, and recharged at the lagoon before heading out to spend the rest of the day exploring Golden Circle.

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Golden Circle is a popular route just an hour outside of Reykjavík. One can easily do the entire loop in one day (which is what we did). The three primary stops on the route are Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, and a geothermal area in Haukadalur where Geysir and Strokkur are located. Though Geysir has been mostly dormant for many years, Strokkur continues to erupt every 5-10 minutes.

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Let's start with Thingvellir, shall we? It became a national park as a result of legislation passed in 1928 to protect the remains of the parliament site, thus creating the first national park in Iceland. The park was decreed "a protected national shrine for all Icelanders, the perpetual property of the Icelandic nation under the preservation of parliament, never to be sold or mortgaged." Thingvellir is situated on the northern shore of Thingvallavatn which is the largest natural lake of Iceland. The river Öxará traverses the national park and forms a waterfall at the Almannagjá, called Öxarárfoss. On the lake's northern shore lies Silfra which is the world's most desirable diving and snorkeling spot! Not only does it have the world's clearest water, it is the only place on earth where you can swim between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plate! We went back to Silfra on our last day and snorkeled! You can read all about that here.

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From Thingvellir, we continued on the route and reached Geysir and watched Strokkur erupt a few times! Water there was so hot that there were signs everywhere telling you not to touch them or else you'd get burnt! Last but not least, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset (and rainbow) over at the massive Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall). It was so so so beautiful. We drove back to Reykjavík, had dinner at Fiskfélagið (Fish Company), and spent the night at Radisson Blu Saga Hotel (blog post here). We couldn't believe that it was only Day 1 and we had already seen so many amazing things!

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Iceland Day 1: Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss)

June 19, 2019

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After a full day of traveling and no sleep, we headed straight to the Blue Lagoon right after we got off the plane! Conveniently located just 20 minutes from Keflavík Airport, Blue Lagoon is the infamous geothermal spa with milky blue water (due to its high silica content). The water is also rich in salts and algae and its temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37-39 °C. We grabbed a couple of smoothies, relaxed, and recharged at the lagoon before heading out to spend the rest of the day exploring Golden Circle.

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Golden Circle is a popular route just an hour outside of Reykjavík. One can easily do the entire loop in one day (which is what we did). The three primary stops on the route are Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, and a geothermal area in Haukadalur where Geysir and Strokkur are located. Though Geysir has been mostly dormant for many years, Strokkur continues to erupt every 5-10 minutes.

01iceland-thingvellir-nationalpark-goldencircle-travel

Let's start with Thingvellir, shall we? It became a national park as a result of legislation passed in 1928 to protect the remains of the parliament site, thus creating the first national park in Iceland. The park was decreed "a protected national shrine for all Icelanders, the perpetual property of the Icelandic nation under the preservation of parliament, never to be sold or mortgaged." Thingvellir is situated on the northern shore of Thingvallavatn which is the largest natural lake of Iceland. The river Öxará traverses the national park and forms a waterfall at the Almannagjá, called Öxarárfoss. On the lake's northern shore lies Silfra which is the world's most desirable diving and snorkeling spot! Not only does it have the world's clearest water, it is the only place on earth where you can swim between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plate! We went back to Silfra on our last day and snorkeled! You can read all about that here.

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From Thingvellir, we continued on the route and reached Geysir and watched Strokkur erupt a few times! Water there was so hot that there were signs everywhere telling you not to touch them or else you'd get burnt! Last but not least, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset (and rainbow) over at the massive Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall). It was so so so beautiful. We drove back to Reykjavík, had dinner at Fiskfélagið (Fish Company), and spent the night at Radisson Blu Saga Hotel (blog post here). We couldn't believe that it was only Day 1 and we had already seen so many amazing things!

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01iceland-hofn-humarhofnin-restaurant-food-travel

I am a big fan of prawns and lobsters, so of course I would love langoustines! What are langoustines? They are essentially small lobsters but skinnier and lighter in shade. Langoustines were first found off the coast of Norway, the majority of the ones caught today come from the cold waters of the northern Atlantic and the North Sea, particularly off the west coast of Scotland in the Moray Firth and toward Iceland. It's no surprise that Humarhöfnin in Höfn, an Icelandic fishing town in the southeastern part of Iceland, specializes in langoustines. Mark and I had the honor of tasting their new summer menu prior to its launch and wow, what a treat!

For starters, we had Smoked Dried Mutton (from Skaftafell National Park) with feta and basil pesto and Beetroot Gravadlax (a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill) with pickled cauliflowers and rye crumbs. The mutton reminded me of this smoked venison I had in Norway long long time ago so the taste was pleasantly nostalgic. I love how it was paired with fresh greens and ingredients. As for the Gravadlax, the fish tasted light but fresh and the pickled cauliflowers were tasty. The rye crumbs, on the other hand, were good on their own but the pairing seemed a bit off since they were overly crunchy and dry next to the super soft salmon.

Next up... Entrée! We had the infamous Arctic Char (infamous because everyone told me to eat some Arctic Char when I go to Iceland) with Icelandic barley, quinoa, lovage skyr foam, and asparagus. Seriously, every single Arctic Char dish I had in Iceland was sooo fresh! Last but not least, langoustines of course! Whole langoustine and tails with roasted parsnip, pistachio sautéed kale, and curry beurre noisette. I was surprised at how much the curry flavor brought out the sweetness of the langoustine! So so so flavorful!

After having all these delectable dishes paired with white wine, it was rather soothing to enjoy this warm rhubarb compote dessert with hazelnut crumble and citrus skyr. It was so warm and gooey and delicious! Mark loved it so much that he kept looking for something similar the rest of our trip! Thank you Humarhöfnin for welcoming us to your beautiful restaurant and sharing your summer menu with us!

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Humarhöfnin, Höfn, Iceland

May 21, 2019

01iceland-hofn-humarhofnin-restaurant-food-travel

I am a big fan of prawns and lobsters, so of course I would love langoustines! What are langoustines? They are essentially small lobsters but skinnier and lighter in shade. Langoustines were first found off the coast of Norway, the majority of the ones caught today come from the cold waters of the northern Atlantic and the North Sea, particularly off the west coast of Scotland in the Moray Firth and toward Iceland. It's no surprise that Humarhöfnin in Höfn, an Icelandic fishing town in the southeastern part of Iceland, specializes in langoustines. Mark and I had the honor of tasting their new summer menu prior to its launch and wow, what a treat!

For starters, we had Smoked Dried Mutton (from Skaftafell National Park) with feta and basil pesto and Beetroot Gravadlax (a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill) with pickled cauliflowers and rye crumbs. The mutton reminded me of this smoked venison I had in Norway long long time ago so the taste was pleasantly nostalgic. I love how it was paired with fresh greens and ingredients. As for the Gravadlax, the fish tasted light but fresh and the pickled cauliflowers were tasty. The rye crumbs, on the other hand, were good on their own but the pairing seemed a bit off since they were overly crunchy and dry next to the super soft salmon.

Next up... Entrée! We had the infamous Arctic Char (infamous because everyone told me to eat some Arctic Char when I go to Iceland) with Icelandic barley, quinoa, lovage skyr foam, and asparagus. Seriously, every single Arctic Char dish I had in Iceland was sooo fresh! Last but not least, langoustines of course! Whole langoustine and tails with roasted parsnip, pistachio sautéed kale, and curry beurre noisette. I was surprised at how much the curry flavor brought out the sweetness of the langoustine! So so so flavorful!

After having all these delectable dishes paired with white wine, it was rather soothing to enjoy this warm rhubarb compote dessert with hazelnut crumble and citrus skyr. It was so warm and gooey and delicious! Mark loved it so much that he kept looking for something similar the rest of our trip! Thank you Humarhöfnin for welcoming us to your beautiful restaurant and sharing your summer menu with us!

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01iceland-reykjavik-radissonblusaga-hotel-travel

We began and ended our Iceland road trip in Reykjavík and stayed at Radisson Blu Saga Hotel both of those nights. After a long day of travel, we arrived at the hotel and took a quick two-hour nap before adventuring out to the Golden Circle. To be honest, we only planned on napping for half an hour but the bed was so fluffy and comfy that we just didn't want to get up. Oops! Radisson Blu Saga Hotel is currently under renovation and the new room is an major upgrade! We stayed in the old wing on our first night which was nice but when we checked into our room in the new wing on the last night, we were like, "Wow"! So modern, yet minimal and sleek. My favorite part? Definitely the rain shower! After a week long road trip, an awesome shower is quite the treat. Another great thing about this hotel is its location. We could easily walk along Lake Tjörnin to downtown Reykjavík, Hallgrímskirkja, and to grab one of those infamous hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Did I also mention that breakfast (so many options) was included in our stay? The lobby also has a nice bar and restaurant along with many lounging areas. Thank you Radisson Blu Saga Hotel for hosting us, we shall be back one day!

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Radisson Blu Saga, Iceland

May 18, 2019

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We began and ended our Iceland road trip in Reykjavík and stayed at Radisson Blu Saga Hotel both of those nights. After a long day of travel, we arrived at the hotel and took a quick two-hour nap before adventuring out to the Golden Circle. To be honest, we only planned on napping for half an hour but the bed was so fluffy and comfy that we just didn't want to get up. Oops! Radisson Blu Saga Hotel is currently under renovation and the new room is an major upgrade! We stayed in the old wing on our first night which was nice but when we checked into our room in the new wing on the last night, we were like, "Wow"! So modern, yet minimal and sleek. My favorite part? Definitely the rain shower! After a week long road trip, an awesome shower is quite the treat. Another great thing about this hotel is its location. We could easily walk along Lake Tjörnin to downtown Reykjavík, Hallgrímskirkja, and to grab one of those infamous hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Did I also mention that breakfast (so many options) was included in our stay? The lobby also has a nice bar and restaurant along with many lounging areas. Thank you Radisson Blu Saga Hotel for hosting us, we shall be back one day!

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00iceland-katla-icecave-silfra-snorkeling-arcticadventures-travel

I spent nearly three months planning my trip to Iceland, but as soon as I thought I was done planning.... I realized I had forgotten something! Tours! Ok, you're probably thinking jump-on-a-giant-bus-with-50-people type of tour. No, that's not what I am talking about. Although Iceland has so many different terrains and natural attractions that anyone can wander to, some of these activities need to be guided by experts. While whale watching and horseback riding sound fun, I wanted something a little bit more thrilling so I decided on Katla ice cave and snorkeling in Silfra. There are plenty of companies who offer tours in Iceland but I went with Arctic Adventures because they seem the most stress-free, organized, and that the group is very small.

Let's start with the ice cave... I have never been inside an ice cave before, let alone one under Katla, an active volcano. We were already in Vík so we met on location, however if you are in Reykjavík, they also pick up from there. There were only 6 of us and our guide Stefan. We hopped into a Super Jeep and drove through black sand with movie-like landscapes and jaw-dropping sights that a normal car wouldn't be able to get through. I love how Stefan also did some tricks going over crazy dunes and such. About 45 minutes later, we strapped on our crampons and hiked out across the Myrdalsjokull glacier before arriving at the black and white ice cave of Kötlujökull glacier on Mt. Katla. It was sooooo coooooool!!! PS. These photos are NOT black and white photos, they truly look like this in real life!

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As for Silfra... Snorkeling in Iceland? Unheard of, I thought! However, my excitement grew as I was researching and soon I was completely fascinated with the idea of swimming (well, snorkeling) between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plate. The Silfra fissure, located in the heart of Thingvellir National Park, is one of the world’s most desirable snorkeling spots. From above, it doesn't look like much but through the water, it has perfect visibility (reaching somewhere around 150 meters) of supernatural shades of blue and incredible rock formations. We chose to meet on location for the "Into the Blue - Snorkeling Tour" because we were already exploring the Golden Circle that day. If you want to get picked up from Reykjavík, you can choose the "Snorkeling in Sifra Fissure from Reykjavík" tour instead. Instruction to the meeting point was very clear and simple. After the staff and snorkeling instructor set up all the equipment, we (again, it was just a small group of 6) were given a detailed rundown of everything. Although the water at Silfra is 2°C, I didn't feel cold at all. I was layered up in an insulated jumpsuit and a neoprene dry suit. I also had on a neoprene hood and neoprene wet gloves which protected my head and hands from the cold. We were also provided with fins, mask and snorkel. To be honest, I know how to swim but I am never truly comfortable in water of any kind but the drysuit helped me float and all I had to do was, well, float (and frog-kick with your feet). Snorkeling in Silfra is probably one of the coolest things I have ever done and what a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Did I also mention this is the clearest water on Earth??? Like c'mon, you kind of HAVE to experience this!

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Thank you Arctic Adventures for sponsoring us and for these incredible experiences that I will never forget!

Iceland: Ice Cave and Snorkeling with Arctic Adventures

May 16, 2019

00iceland-katla-icecave-silfra-snorkeling-arcticadventures-travel

I spent nearly three months planning my trip to Iceland, but as soon as I thought I was done planning.... I realized I had forgotten something! Tours! Ok, you're probably thinking jump-on-a-giant-bus-with-50-people type of tour. No, that's not what I am talking about. Although Iceland has so many different terrains and natural attractions that anyone can wander to, some of these activities need to be guided by experts. While whale watching and horseback riding sound fun, I wanted something a little bit more thrilling so I decided on Katla ice cave and snorkeling in Silfra. There are plenty of companies who offer tours in Iceland but I went with Arctic Adventures because they seem the most stress-free, organized, and that the group is very small.

Let's start with the ice cave... I have never been inside an ice cave before, let alone one under Katla, an active volcano. We were already in Vík so we met on location, however if you are in Reykjavík, they also pick up from there. There were only 6 of us and our guide Stefan. We hopped into a Super Jeep and drove through black sand with movie-like landscapes and jaw-dropping sights that a normal car wouldn't be able to get through. I love how Stefan also did some tricks going over crazy dunes and such. About 45 minutes later, we strapped on our crampons and hiked out across the Myrdalsjokull glacier before arriving at the black and white ice cave of Kötlujökull glacier on Mt. Katla. It was sooooo coooooool!!! PS. These photos are NOT black and white photos, they truly look like this in real life!

01iceland-katla-icecave-arcticadventures-travel
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As for Silfra... Snorkeling in Iceland? Unheard of, I thought! However, my excitement grew as I was researching and soon I was completely fascinated with the idea of swimming (well, snorkeling) between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plate. The Silfra fissure, located in the heart of Thingvellir National Park, is one of the world’s most desirable snorkeling spots. From above, it doesn't look like much but through the water, it has perfect visibility (reaching somewhere around 150 meters) of supernatural shades of blue and incredible rock formations. We chose to meet on location for the "Into the Blue - Snorkeling Tour" because we were already exploring the Golden Circle that day. If you want to get picked up from Reykjavík, you can choose the "Snorkeling in Sifra Fissure from Reykjavík" tour instead. Instruction to the meeting point was very clear and simple. After the staff and snorkeling instructor set up all the equipment, we (again, it was just a small group of 6) were given a detailed rundown of everything. Although the water at Silfra is 2°C, I didn't feel cold at all. I was layered up in an insulated jumpsuit and a neoprene dry suit. I also had on a neoprene hood and neoprene wet gloves which protected my head and hands from the cold. We were also provided with fins, mask and snorkel. To be honest, I know how to swim but I am never truly comfortable in water of any kind but the drysuit helped me float and all I had to do was, well, float (and frog-kick with your feet). Snorkeling in Silfra is probably one of the coolest things I have ever done and what a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Did I also mention this is the clearest water on Earth??? Like c'mon, you kind of HAVE to experience this!

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Thank you Arctic Adventures for sponsoring us and for these incredible experiences that I will never forget!
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