Welcome to Iceland, Solo Edition.
Why did I book this trip alone and why Iceland?
I booked this trip unexpectedly when my days off got approved. Originally I was supposed to go someplace hot (a baecation) but I had this urge to just want to get away from everyone and New York. Typical Cancer, ambivert in me. Wanting to be alone but still socialize with random people in another country. 2019 was a very interesting year for me. I’ve been in a place where I’m just getting myself out of this “black hole”. At least that’s what it felt like at the time. Weeks/Months later I feel like I’m in a better head place. So why not top it off with a solo vacation? And it was the best decision ever.
I learned more about myself although it was nerve recking to think I'd be traveling alone.
3 things I learned:
1. Being in your own solitude once you learn to enjoy it can cause you to overthink... This is not always a bad thing. I sparked new ideas, goals and life decisions that I was hesitant about before or just wasn't ready to accomplish at the time. You know like those goals you're still working on from 2016... it’s OKAY. Trust me.
2. You never know who you may meet. Granted I don't always like to make convo if I don't feel an inviting energy from the environment I'm in. However, I met this lovely girl from Japan, Rika. We tried to understand and speak to each other the best way we could. To my surprise her Spanish was better than her English! We exchanged emails and hopefully I'll see her again in the near future. Or you may not meet anyone. But at least you stepped out of your comfort zone. I've been to bars alone before but I went to one that was pretty popping and I got a few looks but I forced myself to get a drink and feel out the vibe. That was ALOT for me.
3. Things may not always go as you plan them. I’ve always been a planner but a flexible one, especially on vacation. I usually create a list of things I want to do but not an itinerary which I tried to do this time. The main thing I wanted to do was go snowmobiling in the glaciers... which then got cancelled last minute because of “bad weather”. The first two days ended up wandering the town with no direction and the northern lights tour was more difficult than I thought, it was literally a mission. But In the end, I made it work and saved a little bit of money too! I didn’t want to force something that wasn’t meant to be, maybe the weather was really bad in the glaciers. However, I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t call another excursion company. Sometimes it’s best to “go wherever the wind takes you”. Keep calm at all times, things will work themselves out and you might even have more fun that what you originally planned.
On to the details...
This trip was booked using Expedia.com. (I sing the commercial every time I write out Expedia lol.)
4 days is pretty much enough to get through the basic Icelandic Touristy attractions. Any longer than that and you might get bored. I arrived to Iceland Saturday morning (an overnight flight on Friday) and departed Wednesday evening.
Cost: Roundtrip Flight (Keep in mind it is Icelandic air and Expedia automatically books you for the “ltravel light ticket” I paid extra for my luggage because it was overweight but going to Iceland at JFK they checked in at the gate for free ) So beware and mindful of your packing. + Hotel $577.32 plus tax $843.38
My home for the next few days was Center Hotel Plaza, this is a chain throughout Iceland so if you see Center Hotel just know its a good one. Good as in 3.5-4 stars don’t expect the ritz. Breakfast is included and its continental style. This was a must for me, because its one less meal I needed to purchase. What I loved about my location is that is it located right in front of the ice skating rink and literally a 1 minute walk to the main street where all the restaurants, stores are located. If you keep walking down this street and up the hill you’ll cover the main part of the city.
What I wish I would have known was how expensive Iceland actually is. However, I took this as its my first solo trip, enjoy it. Money is replaceable. So why be frugal? (this can eventually back fire)
Money Currency: about- $1-$122 ISK
Iceland you are exactly what I thought you would be, and more. I made sure to plan out my days in advance. Keep in mind things may not go as planned, so have backup plans
If your bank has a foreign transaction fee try using a credit that doesn't. Everywhere you’ll go will take bank cards and I only converted $100 for my trip for emergencies
What I packed:
-My own soap from Soulcasecollection.com
-Lotions for the dry air
-Steli Cosmetics is a must. Face melt kept my face hydrated the entire time
-Under thermal and gloves from Uniqlo
-Canada goose Jacket. However if you can purchase another jacket from a company that practices sustainably do it!
-Faux Leather Pants (worn over the thermal pants)
-Long sleeve turtleneck shirts
-A bathing suit (actually I always pack a bathing suit no mayor where I go) You never know what you may end up doing…don’t let the weather fool you
-Bring a converter. I forgot mine but thankfully the receptionist had a spare one I could use. I went to a convenient store next door to the hotel and I saw a converters being sold for $12 dollars.
-Minnie Mouse fur ball hat from Duckie Confetti
You won’t need a car if you’re planning on staying within the city limits and doing excursions. From the airport to Reykjavik is about 45-50 mins with other drop offs. I used FLYBUS and they have a kiosk at the airport right before the exit. They dropped me off at the nearest bus stop which is Bus Stop 1 City Hall. It’s really convenient and not uncommon to take the public buses. Bus stop 1 and 3 are closest to the hotel and each a 2-3 minute walk. Everyone does this so you won’t be deserted waiting by a pole.
I sort of already knew what I wanted and needed to do here in Iceland. Theres plenty of sites that offer excursions online and in Reykjavik. I realized most excursions charge an extra fee for pickups if you aren’t near their main bus terminal.
Things you should see and eat:
- Although I did visit the waterfalls I think you should definitely add that to your list.
- The Golden Circle.
- If you're a Game Of Thrones Fan, they have a tour for this as well. Scenes from Season 2-3 were filmed in Iceland!.
- The Black sand beach should be an experience for you to see as well. I did have enough time to do everything and that's okay.
- Local indoor Flea Market
- Hallgrímskirkja (The most famous Landmark in Reykjavik) A Church
- Reykjavik Harbour (where the photos above where taken)
- Have Lunch or Breakfast at Sandholt
- Get some pastries at Braud and Co (I got the Cinnabon roll)
- Have Fish and Chips (the fish tastes so fresh its great) Most places have Cod Fish.
Saturday (arrival day). It was pitch black outside being that sunrise doesn’t happen until 11am or so. I wasn’t prepared for that at all. (This is only during the winter). I left the luggage in my room (there is an extra fee for early check-in… of course), and walked down the block to the nearest open place and had breakfast. People were outside but not many. I took a nap and woke at 1:30pm when I knew the sun would be out and began my day. I made it around the city being from New York this is EASY. The cold isn’t too bad if you’re bundled up correctly. I also stopped by the local Flea Market.
Sunday: I sort of did the same thing the the day before and walked further out into the city. I also stopped by the Magic Ice Reykjavik Bar, I went at an off time so it was empty.. (literally just me and the ice Viking Statutes). With the basic entry pass you get 1 free drink and you’re welcome to come back at another time.
Later that evening… The Northern Lights. I finally did something that people travel across the world to see, and sometimes don’t. I felt so blessed to chase after this magical thing the universe allows us to see with our EYES.
Heres a link on what the northern lights are and how it works. https://www.aurorahunter.com/what-are-the-northern-lights.html
Typically departures are around 8:30pm This you can save for the day of rather than purchasing in advance during the off season because you may not get to see it. However, most excursions will allow you to continue to join the trip until you do. I used a company called “East West” and purchased my ticket the same day after confirming with the tour guide location (Whats On Iceland; It is within walking distance of the hotel) if I would have any luck.
Cost: If you purchase it through GrayLine, another tourism company they have a storefront which might be a bit cheaper, online the cost $42
Monday: was supposed to be the day I go on my snowmobile excursion.
Instead I found a last minute tour around the city on a bus. Pickup was at 1:30pm and took us to a few places. The Presidents un-gated house. Nothing like you would imagine let me tell you. If you didn’t already walk throughout the entire city and get an overview about Iceland from a native this tour would be great for you. You’ll see Perlan which is a beautiful museum with a nice cafe at the top with a seamless view of the city. Most of the things I saw from walking around the first two days but it was nice to hear a natives perspective on the country. Once the tour was over I was at the top of the hill on the Main Street and walked back to the hotel. I stopped by this Restaurant called Cafe Babalu, that serves vegan options and it was very quirky which I LOVED. Food was good enough to suffice my appetite.
Once I arrived back to the hotel and I relaxed showered, napped and headed back out to the bar. Literally a 1 minute walk across the street from the hotel, you'll hear the music. Totally out of my comfort zone but I did it and rewarded myself with some Cod fish Halal food "Mendi" also across the street from the hotel lol.
Luckily I found another company called “Mountaineers of Iceland”
https://mountaineers.is/tours/reykjavik-snowmobile/ who were still running their tours despite the “bad weather”.
This tour was amazing, long (bring snacks) and cold... emphasis on cold. It was as if I was driving through clouds. It’s easy to get lost as everything is white and a few feet ahead the next snowmobile can just seem like it disappeared. I WILL NEVER FORGET THE VIEW OR EXPERIENCE. 10/10 and would 100% Recommend before all the glaciers melt… haha but seriously.
Cost:$237 includes pickup
Keep in mind if you are a solo traveller the option is not available online. Send an email and they will gladly assist with the accommodation.
Later that evening, my dinner was Indian food and it was sooooo good. Probably the best meal I had my entire trip. The hotel also has a happy hour so take advantage!
Departing day. The Blue Lagoon which is very commercialize but worth it and was saved for last for good reason. I went on this trip with my hair straight to save me the curly hair drama of not being able to wear a hat ( I’m sure someone reading this can totally relate). The sulfur in the water and air can make your hair very dry and it recommend to wash your hair after your experience. So that’s why I saved it for the end. It was very relaxing and quite awkward at times once it started to get busy. Everyone with their friends and partners and then there’s me. Lugging around my camera in the water like a “loser”. But I wasn’t the only one !
For my experience I purchased the premier package which gives you a reservation for lunch to their restaurant, flip flops (if not you have to bring your own), Bathrobe, 2 free facial masks, Sparkling Wine at the restaurant, and 1 free drink at the bar. It was totally a “Spoil Tyler” Day.
Next time I think I will go to a real Hot Spring further out in the country of Iceland. Just for a different experience.
Cost: $110 plus $44 for transportation from the bus stop to the blue lagoon and then to the airport which runs every 1.5 hrs.
Once you get used to that this city is safe (not to say put your guard down entirely) you enjoy it so much more. Everyone just does their own thing. The people aren’t overly friendly but are understanding that you are a tourist. Similar to us New Yorker but without the attitude.
I hope this blog inspires you and your friends to travel alone or to a new place. Don’t let the cold deter you from visiting. This isn't a cheap trip, I was nearly broke afterwards not prepared for how much I was about to spend. Like I said earlier, money is replaceable, experiences aren't.
Thank you Iceland for the experience. It changed me in many ways. Xo -Tyler
If you haven't seen my Solo Trip to Iceland Vlog... Check it out below