During the warmer months, the capital is by turns quaint and lively, with Reykjavik Culture Night filling the streets with boisterous local revelers and curious tourists alike.

I’m blue la da dee da dee dahhh.

Like many visitors, we kicked off our trip with a stop at the Blue Lagoon– a quick 20 minute drive from Keflavík International Airport. It was a perfect way to relax and unwind after our red eye flight from NYC. Yes, it is overpriced and overcrowded, but since we arrived shortly after opening hours, we had a chance to enjoy the warm, surreal blue waters with beers in hand before the huge afternoon influx of tourists.

Reykjavik Culture Night

Skólavörðustígur facing Hallgrímskirkja Church.

We considered ourselves pretty lucky with the timing of this summer trip. Not only were we #blessed with sunny and temperate whether (not a single drop of rain in sight all weekend!), but our stay happened to coincide with Reykjavik Culture Night. I feel like it’s the Icelandic version of Mardi Gras: Most of the streets in downtown are closed off to traffic and host outdoor concerts, street art, socially acceptable binge-drinking, and intimate backyard performances– all culminating in some very impressive fireworks over the old harbor.

South Coast Sights & Glacier Hike

Obligatory TLC “Waterfalls” reference goes here.

A highlight of the trip was definitely our guided tour with Extreme Iceland. Our day was jam packed with sights including the Black Sand Beach, Reynisdrangar Ocean Cliffs (including puffins galore!), Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and Skógafoss Waterfall. While I’m personally not a big fan of guided tours on buses filled with wide-eyed tourists, it was great for our large group of 12 to experience as much of the countryside in the short amount of time we had and with as little logistical planning as possible.

Where are my dragons?

Glacier Walk on Sólheimajökull

View from the Sólheimajökull Glacier.

The glacier hike itself was awe-inspiring. After a brief introduction to our gear and the necessary safety precautions, our deceptively stoic and hilarious guide led us up the side of the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. At first expecting pristine blue ice, I was both surprised and appreciative to learn about the volcanic ash covering parts of the glacier from recent volcanic activity. It’s a truly unique way to experience “The Land of Ice and Fire”.

Along the hike, we sampled pure, unfiltered glacial water and it was the best water I’ve ever tasted. And it was possibly responsible for curing my hangover from the previous night’s festivities. The fine volcanic mud is also said to have rejuvenating properties, and we were invited to apply some to our travel-weary baggy eyes. The view of the valley below was indescribable and felt like a dream. I would definitely recommend a glacier hike on anyone’s Iceland itinerary. Just be sure to use an official tour guide and operator, as it can be quite dangerous on your own without the proper gear and expertise.

A group shot on our way to Mordor.

Summer Days, Drifting Away

All in all, it was a very exciting and lively long weekend to celebrate Rolando’s fast-approaching wedding. Apparently Iceland is a popular destination for bachelor parties, and I could see why. Reykjavik offers great local craft beers, a variety of outdoor adventures in close proximity, and some of the best burgers and hot dogs this side of the North Atlantic. Not to mention everyone speaks near perfect English and are some of the nicest, welcoming people.

View of Downtown Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church.

Most of the group would return state side as the weekend came to a close. But for the fortunate few of us staying a while longer, the second leg of our Iceland trip involving a road trip along One Ring Road around the country would begin.