Iceland: The journey of a solo traveler

This journey was more than a vacation, it was also a turning point in my life. I am a single mother who has always had my daughter by my side to take these adventures with me. Then life happened and she grew up. After all these years of making sure my daughter had what she needed, I forgot to take time to care for me. This trip was for ME only.

It started with me seeing pictures of the beautiful northern lights and the waterfalls on social network. I just knew that I had to see these places for myself. It didn’t take very long for me to do some research for when I wanted to go. I chose March. Why March you ask? Good question. The main reason was the northern lights. The lights can be seen between late August to Mid April. Also, daylight was a huge factor for me. I wanted to get the most daylight to enjoy as much as possible. March gives you ten hours of daylight. This will give you enough to drive or take a tour to your next destination. Then, the last factor was weather. I know a blizzard could happen anytime between these months, but I thought that March would be the best and have the least amount of chance.

I got excited when I bought my airline ticket from Chicago to Iceland for $267 round trip. That changed quickly when three weeks before I left, the airline cancelled my flight due to no longer flying out of Chicago. Now what was I supposed to do? I started frantically looking for a new flight for around the same price. No luck. That wasn’t going to stop me! I decided to suck it up and pay the additional amount for a different airline. Thankfully this was the worst of it. Then, I had to decide what type of route I was going to take. The three popular routes are The Golden Circle, South Coast, or the Ring Road all away around. I played it safe with the South Coast and Golden Circle since I didn’t want to get stuck in road closures up around the northern part of Iceland. I was not disappointed with my choice.

After a five hour train ride and spare time to explore Chicago, off to the airport I go. Now the vacation begins.

Before going, I checked en.vendur.is to see if the northern lights were going to make an appearance while i was flying. Just my luck, they danced in the skies for about an hour. I was memorized. This is one of the many reasons I love the window seat.

There are many options how to travel around Iceland, but I chose to rent a car. I wanted to be able to explore and stop wherever I wanted at anytime. I got to Iceland around 6:30 am and I was in my car by 7:30. By this time, I was a little tired due to staying up watching the lights. No regrets!

Driving in Iceland is not much different than driving in the states, just alot of roundabouts. I mean A LOT!!

My first day was pretty laid back. My guesthouse was a two hour drive and I couldn’t check-in until 4 PM. For the time being, I stopped on the side of the road to pet some Icelandic horses. Then, I was off to a couple of waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. These waterfalls are magical. Skogafoss was by far my favorite waterfall. I fell in love with it and knew I would have to come back. They take all your troubles away and give you peace. One step closer to finding me. It was an early night because my eyes just couldn’t stay open. The guesthouse was perfect. Had a kitchenette, private bath, and a great view. Too bad there were no lights that night.

Skogafoss

Getting no sleep the day before helped get on a sleep schedule quick. Now for day two. I took a 45 minute hike one way to the Navy DC plane that crashed back in 1973. You have the mountains on one side and the sunrise coming up by Reynisfjara on the other. No matter what view you looked at, you got the best. The walk was more memorable than the plane. Then drove up to Dyrhólaey. This had my heart pumping with how narrow the gravel was. Cars also coming down this winding road, but the view was worth it. Black sand, crashing waves, and the mountains in the background. If it wasn’t so cold, I could have sat up there all day. Next stop was Reynisfjara. The waves were crashing like I’ve never seen before. They say to be careful because they can knock you over. I seen with my own eyes how true that statement is. This place was crowded, but the little cafe was delicious. I had one of their Skyr cakes. Yum!. Off to see the little town of Vik, with the little white church on the top of the hill. For the best pictures, go up to the cemetery behind the church. If you need groceries or gas, make sure you stop here since limited on gas stations and grocery stores on the route. By this time, it was time to go to next guesthouse.

Here I am trying to grow and get outside my comfort zone by staying in a guesthouse with a shared restroom. I really liked the location; however, I would probably not stay at this place again because I felt uncomfortable with only having one restroom and worried that the other room would need to use. But, if you do stay at this place, you have access to the canyons that have been closed to others. I did get to see a small glimpse of the lights. Great way to end the night. I ended up booking my Ice Cave tour for the wrong day, so I had to rush in the morning to my excursion. I would have loved to hike the canyon. Maybe next time.

Now, this is one of my favorite days. I got up early for a two hour drive over to Jokulsarlon which was breathtaking with all of the little waterfalls along the sides of the road and the glaciers. Don’t forget the volcanoes. Now, I’m at my destination waiting for the tour to start. The jeep ride alone was like being at an amusement park. The driver was entertaining while being on a roller coaster ride to get to the glacier. When we got back, I walked over to Diamond Beach and couldn’t believe my eyes of what I saw. I’ve seen pictures, but they don’t do this justice. Now I see why they call it Diamond Beach. I spent my afternoon here and was in awe. My next guesthouse was a little to the East of Jokulsarlon and the end of the road going East. Anything on the East side of the glaciers, you are able to see reindeer. So the search began looking for reindeer. The entertainment began when I saw this man running like no other. I had to slow down to see what was going on and to my belief, there was a herd of reindeer chasing him. I guess he got a little too close. Is it sad that I got a good chuckle out of this? Thankfully, he did make it over the fence and got to his car safely. Now time to relax and search for the lights.

I enjoyed Diamond Beach so much, I went again in the morning and watched the seal swim through the broken glaciers that were making their way out to the Ocean then the waves were bringing them back onto the beach. Now it’s time to see more of this beautiful country. I was debating about driving an hour away to hike 45 minutes up a mountain to see the Svartifoss waterfall. Am I crazy? Yes. Did I tell you that this has been the coldest day too? Nine degrees cold. It didn’t stop me. Although I thought the thinning of the cold air was going to stop me. The rock formation is one of the things that make this waterfall unique. I’m happy I made this hike. Back to the guesthouse I go. No lights tonight.

Now it’s back to go west towards Reykjavik. Today was a longer drive to get to my next destination. I stopped by the Black Sand Beach to see the beauty of it one last time. I hit the jackpot and i got to the beach when no tour buses were there. The ocean was much calmer today that I got to even enjoy the cave that was there that I didn’t see the first time. I’m so happy I went back. Now back to my favorite waterfall, Skogafoss and conquer the stair to the top. I got there and stared at those stairs for about five minutes and contemplated if I really wanted to do this. I haven’t been defeated yet and wasn’t going to let 429 steps defeat me. I finally made it to the top! I won’t tell you how many people passed me up or how long it took, but I MADE IT!! Tonight I stayed at this cute little farmhouse. It also had shared restrooms; however, not so bad this time. There were many shower rooms and restrooms to choose from so I never felt like I was making someone wait. I looked for lights, but no luck. I did see Orion’s Belt though.

I made one last stop at Skogafoss before heading to my next destination. I got there early so I had the place to myself, except for the people still sleeping in their campervans. It was so peaceful just to hear the water falling. It was hard to say goodbye to this place. Before driving to the Golden Cirlce, I made a quick stop and donated to the bra fence to help keep the local tradition alive. There is so much to see at the Golden Circle, but I only seen the top three things. I spent a good amount of time trying to get a good selfie of me while the geysir erupted, but that didn’t happen. Next stop was Gullfoss. It just got done snowing so the waterfall was covered with snow. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it was beautiful. I decided it was time to eat. There is this tomato farm called Friðheimar that I wanted to try. I had the tomato soup. A bumble bee decided he wanted my soup too, so he dove right in and drowned. I had a little memorial before I gave the bowl back to the waiter for his final resting place. The next bowl, I got to have to myself. After I ate, I went to visit the volcanic crater, Kerið. It was there. I wasn’t too impressed. Now the night was something to talk about. I stayed at a nice bed and breakfast, but tonight the lights decided to dance for me. It was worth my fingers to freeze. I stayed out there for an hour and they were still going. I decided that I needed to keep my fingers, so inside I went for the night.

Last full day in Iceland. I drove to Reykjavik and looked for my guesthouse so that I could park my car and walk around. First place that I went to was the Icelandic Phallological museum, also known as the penis museum. For all you men, size doesn’t matter to most women and I hope you keep that in mind if you decide to go here. I spent a full day of sightseeing. I’m one of those people that love to do the hop on/ hop off buses just so I can go around and get an idea what there is, then next round hop off where I want. Harpa, the Sun Voyager and Hallgrimskirkja are just a few places to stop and see. Any cat lovers out there will want to stop by Kattakaffihúsið, the cat cafe. I had a bite to eat and play with the cats before walking around to explore more of the city. By the end of the day, I was tired, but knew the lights were going to be strong tonight so finally checked in to the guesthouse and relaxed some. When it was time, I drove out to the Grotta to watch my last night. They were stronger than the night before. I sat out there for about an hour too before driving around to see the city at night. It was time to call it a night.

I wasn’t looking forward to leaving today. My flight was leaving around 5 PM. I was told to be there three hours before, especially if you needed to drop off a car and wanted to get a tax refund from my purchases. I had the Blue Lagoon booked for my last day. I was told to either book the day you get there or the day you leave. I decided that for the day I left so I could be relaxed on my flight home. I liked the Blue Lagoon and don’t have anything negative to say about it, but if I go back, I wouldn’t go there. I’ll find a natural hot spring to sit in. After getting dressed, I had one last stop before the airport. It was the Bridge Between Continents. I wanted to say I was in two different continents at the same time. This was the end of the road. Now off to the airport to come home.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I actually like spending time with me. I will survive being on my own. My anxiety kicked in sometimes about doing things on my own, especially going on a tour with other people that were with groups and I was alone. Going out to eat and sitting in a natural hot spring for two hours by myself. I actually enjoyed taking time for me.

I hope you all enjoyed my first blog and come back for more. I’ll be posting Thursday about tips on visiting Iceland. Please leave questions below if you have any. Thank you all.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Veronica Hendrickson says:

    I’m jealous and in awe at the same time! Going so far from home alone takes guts, and I’m not sure I could do it. The pictures are incredible. I’m happy for you to be able to learn so much about yourself. Can’t wait to read the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome tips, great writing and beautiful photography, Tina! We‘re planning a trip to Iceland next year, so this is really helpful! Thanks for sharing! Marcus

    Like

    1. tinastepek says:

      Thank you. You will love it. The people are so nice too. It’s easy to get around

      Liked by 1 person

  3. laurabooksandblogs says:

    Your story is amazing and very gutsy. I’m glad that you were able to have fun on your own, and your photos are National Geographic quality. I hope you’re able to plan more solo trips in the future to share with us.

    Like

    1. tinastepek says:

      Thank you. I loved the trip for sure. I’m planning a trip to Europe right now to hit about 7 countries and see their Christmas Markets in December

      Like

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