What to Do in Iceland

A couple of years ago, I decided to go embark on my own personal journey to a country I've always wanted to visit, Iceland.

Lately, it seems as though Iceland has been the topic of many conversations and the backdrop to a myriad of movies and media. Even Justin Bieber recently filmed a music video there. If you're thinking about taking a trip to visit this majestic wonderland, keep reading; there are travel tips throughout this post.

Residences in Reykjavik 

My fascination with Iceland began in 2003 when I fell in love with Sigur Rós, an Icelandic post-rock band. I've always been curious about Iceland because of Björk and Sigur Rós. But it was after watching the film Heima "home", that got me hooked. I just had to check out this gorgeous, magical place for myself.

Booking this trip was kind of a random, spur of the moment decision. I was poking around online, stumbled onto icelandair.com (great airline btw), and came across a sweet deal to Stockholm with a free, extended layover in Reykjavik. I didn't really care if anyone went with me, I actually wanted to travel alone. So I thought, eff it, booked it, and then told my friends and family I was going to Iceland. Most people couldn't understand why I wanted to go. 

"Why Iceland?"
"What are you going to do there - isn't it covered in ice?"
"You're leaving next month?!"
and finally, "Can I come??"

What started off as a solo trip, eventually became a pilgrimage to the land of Sigur Rós with my good friend, Adam. 

Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland  Skogafoss waterfall Iceland 

Skogafoss waterfall

I didn't know exactly what I was going to do once I got there. Lucky for me, Eric, my dear friend and fellow Sigur Rós fan, had been many times and was happy to share some great suggestions. Thanks Eric! 

Turns out, most people take the Golden Circle tour to see the Gulfoss Waterfall and the Great Geysir. I was more interested in a glacier hike and doing something different, so I booked myself on the South Coast tour with Iceland Guided Tours. They were excellent. When I went, the tours were under 20 people and our guides were funny and super cool. Did you know, the English word "geyser" is actually derived from the Icelandic word Geysir?  

Icelandic Horses
I was absolutely in love with these guys. Icelandic horses are super friendly.

Icelandic Countryside 
Icelandic Turf Houses

Icelandic Countryside 

We literally spent all day traveling through the south coast of Iceland. We checked out two waterfalls, played with some super friendly Icelandic horses, drove through the countryside, and hiked the Sólheimajökull glacier. I couldn't have been happier.

Sólheimajökull Glacier Iceland

My Glacier guide said his traditional Icelandic wool sweater was enough to keep him warm on the glacier. Whereas, this California girl was in a down parka with 4 layers underneath.

Sólheimajökull glacier

 The Glacier was huge. That's another group below us hiking.

In Reykjavik, be sure to check out the view from Hallgrímskirkja. It's the tallest church in Iceland.


This was the view from the top of the tower.

The Harpa music hall is just as gorgeous inside as it is outside. It is also the venue of the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival every November.
Most famous restaurant in Iceland
Baejarins Beztu, the world's most famous hot dog stand is located in Iceland. It was actually pretty tasty. 
Noodle soup in Iceland nudluskalin
A bowl of hot rice noodle soup at Nudluskalin kept us warm. So we ended up eating here a lot.

Northern Lights in Iceland

Adam and I were freezing while we waited 10+ seconds (which felt like an eternity) for our picture to be taken. Our guide took this shot with an extra long exposure to capture the light you see above us. It was actually pitch black when we were out there. It's freezing at night, so be sure to dress very warm. We were super lucky to see the Northern lights dancing around that night. We found out that tours for the rest of that week were cancelled due to poor visibility. 


When you're walking along the water, be sure to look out for the Sunvoyager Sculpture.





ETJ was just an idea when I was out roaming around in Iceland. When I eventually began designing my first collection, I knew I wanted to incorporate my trip into one of my pieces. The Constellation necklace pictured above was inspired by the glaciers and the stars over Iceland and it's still one of my favorite pieces and best sellers!

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

If you want my advice, plan your trip to the Blue Lagoon on your way to or from the airport to save on travel time and costs. It takes about 40 minutes to get from the airport to the city and the Blue Lagoon is in between both destinations. I ended my trip with a nice, long soak in this natural geothermal spa before a 10-hour flight home. I totally recommend it. Just make sure you book a late afternoon/evening flight so you have ample time to shower and dry off after the pool. I got there right when it opened and stayed for about 4 hours. And be sure to use a lot of conditioner before and after to reduce the tangles in your hair.

I can't emphasize what an amazing experience Iceland was and I can't wait to go back. One day, I'll shoot a look book there to the musical score of Sigur Rós. In case you're wondering; no, we didn't meet anyone from my favorite band. We did however, meet another fan :)

Sigur Ros tattoo
Sigur Rós tattoo on a local  

Other Trip Details:

I wanted to be downtown and within walking distance to restaurants, bars, and cafes. I was very happy with Hotel Ódinsvé. They were clean, modern, and friendly. Adam stayed at the Hilton. It was a really nice hotel with larger rooms, but it was an extra 10 minute walk to the city center.
Travel Tip
It's not necessary to buy bottled water in Iceland. The water is very clean and safe. Drinking from the tap is normal in Iceland. Save your money for an Icelandic Wool sweater. 
Places I Missed on This Trip

I was bummed that I didn't get to check out the Glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón. It's literally a lagoon filled with pieces of glacier that have washed up onto the black sandy shore. Although it's a 5-hour drive from the city, it definitely looks like it's worth the trip. 

The Imagine Peace Tower memorial dedicated to John Lennon by Yoko Ono. Although I didn't see the memorial, I did run into Yoko at the Blue Lagoon when I was there.


Photos: Emmy Trinh

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