Two months! How has it been two months since we left on our life-changing Scandinavian adventure? I've been dying to share this trip with you. But you know, with the holidays and everything, life got pretty busy. So here we are, two months later...and I'm just now getting around to editing and sharing these photos with you.
Ever since we saw [easyazon_link identifier="B00ISJSFUW" locale="US" tag="wanderzestb00-20"]The Secret Life of Walter Mitty[/easyazon_link] when we were first married, Jacob and I have been completely fascinated with Iceland. The waterfalls and the volcanoes and the unique landscape. It's all just so cool! But, naturally we decided that we had to hit the "big" countries on our bucket list first, which is why this trip didn't happen until now. I mean, London, Paris and Italy have always been those must-sees for me. But Iceland? Not so much. Boy, did I realize how wrong I was after this trip though!
So, this past year, we finally decided it was time to make this trip happen! We invited our good friends, Sami and McKensey, to join us. And we even added Norway to our itinerary (so glad we did!). Random fact, did you know Jacob's ancestor, Roald Amundsen, was one of the first to reach the South Pole? Everyone in Norway was really excited to meet us when they found out we were related to a Norwegian explorer. Definitely our claim to fame, ha!
I hope you're ready for a serious amount of photos. I can guarantee you'll be wanting to plan your next trip to Iceland and Norway after viewing these...sorry, not sorry. Really though, they are some of the most magical countries I've ever visited.
After taking an overnight train journey (which was purely magical by the way!), from Oslo to Stavanger, our first stop was Preikestolen. Preikestolen is an incredible hike in Norway. It is very strenuous, especially in the winter when you have to make the trek through snow. But the views of the fjord at the top are so breathtaking and completely worth the four mile hike in freezing temps. Since the trail was covered in ice and snow, we decided to rent crampons so we weren't slipping and falling the whole way there. Crampons or micro-spikes, are basically these things you slip over your shoes (see photo above. Also notice that I am wearing ankle-high socks. Not a great idea for a hike like this!) that give you extra traction when you are walking on slippery surfaces.
Fun Fact: Tom Cruise was filming Mission Impossible 6 at this very spot the day before we arrived. So if we would've tried to do this hike a day earlier, well...we wouldn't have been able to do it! Crazy, right?!
We decided to make a stop on our way home from the hike to check out the Swords in Stone in Stavanger. It was quite the sight to see!
Bergen is a beautiful city in Norway. I'd say Oslo is probably more well-known, but Bergen is much more impressive in my opinion (our Airbnb host certainly agrees!).
Delicious pub food in Bergen!
Norway in a Nutshell was an absolutely amazing way to see all of the beautiful sights that Norway has to offer. During the day-long tour we found ourselves on a bus, train and boat to experience well, "Norway in a Nutshell". The highlight of the tour was definitely the fjord cruise that took us down the Norwegian fjords. While it was absolutely freezing to sit on the boat's deck for longer than twenty minutes, the fjords were so stunning. We also decided to take an early train back into Oslo, which also meant we had to wait at a train station in literally the middle of nowhere for our connecting train to arrive. It was certainly quite the adventure!
Our fjord cruise boat!
I'm always in search of the perfect picture.
There were little Norwegian towns nestled in the fjords. So cool!
Norwegian hot dogs are so yummy!
Delicious train food! These Norwegian waffles were so tasty. They traditionally serve them with brown cheese and jam, which may sound like a strange combination. But it was amazing!
The next few days of our trip were spent enjoying the stunning scenery of Iceland. While it was a bit hectic trying to catch our plane, as I left my laptop in the locker at the train station and we almost missed our train to the airport, we were able to make it to Iceland without any other problems (except almost losing my passport on the airplane...that's another story).
Our first stop in Iceland was the Blue Lagoon. Like any typical tourist who visits Iceland, we just had to make a stop at the geothermal spa. And while the Blue Lagoon is totally a tourist attraction, it was way better than I had expected it to be! It was just the R&R we needed to get back to exploring the rest of Iceland. Side note, I couldn't believe how many people were holding their phones in the water. Let's just say I would have definitely dropped mine. Our GoPro was really nice here as we didn't have to worry about a water-logged iPhone...
A huge highlight of Iceland for me was glacier hiking/climbing. It was really neat to get up close and personal with a beautiful glacier. They really are amazing! Also, glacier climbing was sooo much harder than I thought it was. I figured it would be similar to rock climbing, but I was so wrong. You have to dig two ice picks into the ice, and kick your shoes (which have huge crampons attached to them) in too. It's hard! Especially when you're arms and legs are numb from the cold. But it was a neat experience! And now I can say I've climbed a glacier.
One of the unique parts about visiting Iceland in the winter is that you can actually go inside the ice caves! During the summer, the glaciers are melting too much which makes it dangerous to go inside the caves. I certainly suggest visiting Iceland in the winter if this is something on your bucket list! Plus, the ice caves really are that blue. They are super cool! Random fact, this glacier, Vatnajokull was in Interstellar, Game of Thrones and several other movies and TV shows.
After an eventful day of exploring glaciers and caves we decided to grab ourselves some true Icelandic food. The food here is very expensive, so most of the time we would pick up groceries from the local grocery store and make our own food at our Airbnb. But tonight we decided to splurge a little.
Pictured above is lamb and baked potatoes (sorry it's a little blurry)...
...and Skyr cheesecake! Delicious!
This is Skyr by the way. The Icelanders love this stuff! It's basically a really thick yogurt, almost like Greek yogurt, that comes in so many different flavors. I really wish they sold this in the states! I had it for breakfast everyday in Iceland. It was so good!
One of the best ways to see some of Iceland's most beautiful natural attractions is to drive the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a 140 mile drive that includes Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall, which I'd say are all stops certainly worth making! We decided to take this drive on our last full day in Iceland on our way back to Reykjavik. It was breathtaking! And we got to meet some Icelandic ponies along the way too.
I can't believe how much there is to share about this amazing trip! Here's a taste of the rest of the things we saw and explored in Iceland. You can find all of the details of where we went at the end of the post.
The Northern lights were seriously unreal! It was sooo cold though that I could only withstand the arctic temperatures for a minute at a time before I had to go back inside. Amazing though!
Our last night was spent in the city of Reykjavik so we could catch our flight early the next morning. Reykjavik is the largest city in Iceland, so it was nice that we had more time to explore. And we grabbed some delicious food there too!
Found this restaurant in Reykjavik. Homemade soup and bread bowls (and delicious lemon squares on the house). It was the perfect way to warm up, and the owners were sooo nice! Plus, they even let us try fermented shark (which really wasn't that great haha!).
Congrats! You made it to the end! Now here's all the deets.
What we did:
Preikestolen - If you enjoy hiking, this hike is a must!
Swords in Rock - Super cool monument in Stavanger.
Bryggen Historic Harbor District - This is the stunning harbor in Bergen with all of the colorful buildings near the waterfront. Definitely a must-see if you visit Bergen!
Fantoft Church - This beautiful stave church is located just outside Bergen.
Norway in a Nutshell - A great tour for taking you around to see all of the beautiful scenery in Norway. I highly recommend it!
Fram Museum - We visited this museum as it was home to some of the artifacts from Roald Amundsen's (Jake's ancestor) polar expeditions. Super cool if you are interested in this kind of thing.
Blue Lagoon - Probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. I promise it's way cooler than you think!
Glacier Hiking/Ice Climbing at Solhemajokull - Super fun tour to experience glacier hiking and climbing in Iceland.
Skogafoss - You can't come to Iceland without seeing the majestic waterfalls. This one is amazing! It also has a cool overlook you can climb up to.
Seljalandafoss - Another must-see waterfall along Iceland's southern coast.
Sólheimasandur Plane Crash - This plane was abandoned in 1973 after the plane had run out of fuel. It has since become a popular tourist destination.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach - Really cool beach in Iceland with caves, basalt columns and rock formations. This beach is stunning at sunrise.
Jokulsarlon - An amazing lagoon filled with large chunks of ice. Quite the sight to see!
Diamond Beach - This is technically part of Jokulsarlon. Chunks of the ice bergs wash up on the shore here, creating the perfect place to take some stunning photos.
Vatnajokull Ice Cave Tour - Fantastic way to see the beautiful ice caves. Definitely worth the trip!
The Golden Circle - This is one of the most popular ways to see some of Iceland's main natural attractions: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. Gorgeous drive.