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  • Writer's pictureNadji

Iceland You Beaut! (MAPD Episode 6 review)

You're heading east on Route 1, dusk is approaching and there is a brilliant bluish haze to the air. In the distance you can faintly see a waterfall to your left, so you detour and follow the trail. You can't read the sign but it ends with the word "falls" so you figure you're heading in the right direction. Your hunch is correct and you see a parking lot full of cars and a pathway leading to an astoundingly gorgeous waterfall.

"It's freezing outside, but serenely beautiful and beautifully serene"

The Instagram caption is righting itself at this point. It's freezing outside, but serenely beautiful and beautifully serene. You snap pictures with both your camera and your phone and maybe record a little b-roll on the Go Pro while you're at it for good measure. On the way back a random snow storm starts so you drive slow and grip the steering while tight. As you bend a corner a herd of sheep scampers across the street and you decelerate before stopping completely. You didn't get the insurance on your rental so you can't afford a scrape of any kind. You laugh and continue on your way. You bought an aux cord from the gas station so you can blast Biggie Smalls as you stroll the terrain. Life is good.

Thanks for allowing me to paint that picture for you, you're the real mvp. The land of fire and ice, formally known as Iceland, is an outrageously underrated destination despite it's ever rising stock among travelers. I spent 5 days there for MAPD Episode 6, the official breakdown starts now.



For starters, Iceland is expensive. Like $20 per meal on average expensive. Saving should start before your trip let alone on the trip itself. I was able to snag a ticket for $350 thanks to a flash sale from WOW Air (yes, that's really the name of the airline). The caveat was that I had to book within 48 hours of the sale being announced which was on President's Day (February 17), and for travel only in early March. It worked for me, so I went for it.

It's worth mentioning that WOW has since tanked and seized all operations for good, so this is perhaps a mute point now, but I thought you might like to know the semantics anyway. If it helps, I have since seen similar deals from apps and sites like Secret Flying, Dollar Flight Club, Scott's Cheap Flight's, and Next Vacay.

Also, WOW's main rival, Iceland Air, offers trips all across Europe (aside from Iceland of course) that always stop in Iceland first. They will allow you to add an extended layover in Iceland for up to 7 days and then ship you off to your final destination free of charge! Well, for no additional cost that is.

If you can find a bargain flight to Iceland, take it. You will end up spending the money you saved anyway, might as well spend it on adventure instead of the flight.

It's hostel not hostile

Aurora Guesthouse:

We went the hostel route here because finding affordable lodging in Iceland is exhausting and virtually impossible. Guesthouse Aurora was our choice not because it is distinctly better than any other hostel, but because its location was perfect and also offered free street parking. We paid $375 for the 5 days (two people in total so costs were split in half) so it was fairly affordable as well. Breakfast is included in the cost and is served every day from 7-11 a.m. which is useful. Although some hostels offer private bathrooms, this wasn't one of them. We had a room to ourselves, but shared a bathroom down the hall with three other rooms.

That can be problematic in some cases, but we were fortunate to have clean neighbors and an attentive cleaning crew, The bathroom was pretty tidy and almost always available. I of course can't guarantee you those same conveniences should you book there or any other hostel, but it's worth pointing out.

Hostels tend to scare some, thanks in part to the horror movie of the same name and because the notion of sharing a room, shower, and toilet with strangers can be off-putting. Understandable, but I would encourage you to do some research. There are plenty of hostels that offer private rooms and or bathrooms, and even those that don't usually offer locks for your valuables. It's not all bunk beds and bacteria ridden urinals.

Also, you will find that the majority of hostel guests are young backpackers (usually well traveled and generally social) who just want a cheap place to sleep at night (and are out of the room most of the day). They have their own valuable belongings and itineraries and generally aren't really concerned with yours. I of course can't vouch for the character of all hostel goers, but I said that to say that the folklore of that old creepy guy who lurks in hostels is usually just that, folklore. I've had nothing but positive experiences. I found and booked this place on but you can search the name itself and book elsewhere as well.

Things to note:

  • Check in is not until 2 and they are seemingly strict about it. Our flight landed at 5 a.m. and despite calling in advance to notify early arrival, our room still wasn't cleaned and ready until around 1 p.m. We had a rental car where we could store our things and drive around to kill time luckily, but it was still annoying

  • Breakfast isn't great. Bread, cereal, deli meats, fruit juices, yogurt. Standard stuff. There isn't a chef cooking for you, and if you aren't there early there is no telling how long the food was sitting for. Standard hostel fare

Now for some wheels

Lagoon Car Rental: Having crunched the numbers for average transportation costs (tours, taxis, ubers) we found it slightly more cost efficient to rent a vehicle instead. Slightly is the optimal word. Plus it allowed us complete freedom of course. Considering we are always on the move and would require quite a bit or transportation, it worked better for us. We chose Lagoon Car Rental, who seemed to have the fairest rates, and got an automatic 2017 Kia Sportage 4x4 for about $250 for the four days (you aren't charged for the day you return the car). Not too shabby. We also paid a small additional fee for the GPS device, and you are responsible for your own gas, which is almost always Diesel by the way. Again, two of us on the trip, so splitting down the middle made this an affordable option.

Transportation costs of course varies by itinerary so there is no telling if this would be the cost efficient choice for you also, but it's worth exploring.

Things to note:

  • Lagoon's office isn't located in the airport, once you arrive and enter the main arrivals lobby, you must wait for an employee with a sign to show up and then drive you in a shuttle to the office. They arrive at the 15th minute of every hour specifically so it can be a bit annoying if your plane lands in the times in between

  • The airport isn't in Reykjavik, it is 45 minutes northwest in Keflavik, so you're first trip will most likely be into town

  • There aren't many gas stations in some parts of the highway stretch, so plan ahead and fill up before you take that extended drive across the country. We typically paid about 70 dollars to fill the tank each time, and that was despite not allowing the gas (diesel) to get completely on E.

  • Many travelers rent camper vans to bundle transportation and accommodations together, but we visited in the winter and most of the camping sites close down (hence we were advised against it). If you're going in the spring or summer, definitely consider a camper van instead of a car and hotel.

  • GPS works well for the most part, but can be a little bit wonky at times (places you in the close general vicinity, but not always exact). Keep your eyes peeled


Day 1-Downtown Reykjavik and Thingvillar Park

We had a few hours to kill so we took a stroll around Reykjavik, finding some dope street art and swanky shops and cafes. Many Reykjavik monuments are within walking distance from the guesthouse including the Hallgrimiskirkja cathedral (tall pointy church) complete with a Lief Eriksen statue (cue Spongebob reference), as well as the Icelandic Parliament house, Reykjavik Art Museum, and the amusing Monument to the Unknown (rock with legs and briefcase), which is a perceived jab at the meaningless and anonymous job of bureaucrats and legislators.

There is an American bar that is so aptly named American Bar, as well as an English Pub that is named -- you guessed it, English Pub. We chose Paris Cafe, sensational food, a tad expensive. Recurring pattern for Iceland. Once we finally got into the room and settled in, we headed out to Thingvillar National Park.

Thingvillar national park:

Thingvillar (also knowns as Pingvillar) is not unlike any other park. There is a nice hiking trail and some decent views of mountain tops but overall not a particularly thrilling spot. Perfect for nature lovers and joggers/walkers. Worth the short trip, free to get in but you must pay a 7$ parking fee. This is the only part of the day that made the footage for MAPD.


Day 2-Road Trips and Black Sand!


Day 2 was a fun one. We rose early and headed to the famous black sand beach of Reynisfjara on the south coast just beyond the fishing town of Vik. It is a two hour drive from Reyjavik, and is absolutely worth the trip!

The sand is pristinely black. Like pitch black. There is a natural rock formation that resembles an ancient cave, and the scenery overall is gorgeous. No wonder a few scenes of Game of Thrones were shot here.

Full disclosure though, Reynisfjara is a non tropical beach, meaning it's not for swimming, more so for scenery. Both the air and water are freezing and would for sure cause instant hypothermia. Not to mention, the current would drag you in and suck you under before you even realized what happened. Nobody dares to swim, once you go you won't need me to tell you why. It will be immediately apparent. Dress warm (very) and bring a camera!

Seljalandsfoss and Skodafoss (waterfalls):

There was much more beauty in store for us that day, as the trip to the beach was sandwiched in between two stops at waterfalls! There is an indescribable serenity that comes with marveling at a waterfall. Just me? You don't need me to detail my experience here. They're waterfalls. Beautiful, peaceful, and make the perfect photo backdrop.

Both Seljalandsfoss and Skodafoss waterfalls are en route to Reynisfjara from Reyjavik, with the former being closer to Reyjavik and the latter being closer to Reynisfjara. We stopped along the way at one coming and going. You should stop at at least one of the two if you ever make the trip to Reynisfjara (or on their own, they're that dope). A rainbow appeared at Seljalandsfoss, and at Skodafoss daybreak caused a trippy but sensational blue haze in the air. We definitely got lucky with the photo ops.


Day 3-Vegetated Roofs and Lamb Wraps

This was a slower day, it was Sunday so many stores opened later if at all, and we were a little lagged from the previous day's trip. We headed to the Open Air Museum before checking out the history and science behind the elusive aurora borealis (northern lights) at Aurora Reykjavik, and then finished the day with some traditional Icelandic fare.

Open Air museum:

The Open Air Museum is Reykjavik's collection of buildings and structures that the early settlers lived and gathered in before modern industrialization. My favorite was the vegetation covered houses, farmers harnessed the natural functions of plants to filter water and treat air. The other buildings on the property are your standard 1800s structures. Think looting houses in Red Dead Redemption 2. Minus the violence. And the guns. And the horses. And the cash in the chimney.

There is also a small shoddy football (soccer) goal which to be honest was my personal highlight of the place despite the flat soccer balls. We enjoyed trying to score on each other, perhaps more so than the exhibit itself. Make of that information what you will.

Aurora Reyjavik:

Aurora Reyjavik is the virtual home of the northern lights. Since you know, the real home is nature and in the sky spread out across 8 countries and 2 continents. We had no luck finding them in real life, and while I wouldn't go as far to say the exhibit is a sufficient alternative, it is for sure the best you can do to numb the pain. It has awesome cinematic pictures and videos and more importantly facts and figures into the wonderful world of northern lights. Science nerds rejoice.

I don't have many interesting pictures of the place because I instead captured some dope b-roll footage that you will see in the episode if you haven't already.

Afterwards we walked directly across the street to a restaurant called Lamb Street food to try some traditional Icelandic lamb meat. Sensational. The place resembles Chipotle (how the food is set up) and like Chipotle, the food is served primarily in wraps and bowls. I ordered the "Leadership Lamb Filafel" and enjoyed every bite. I'm not a big red meat eater at home, but when in Iceland...