* Update 9/2015: Some details may be outdated as much has changed in Iceland since I went.  I have updated links and tour names.

When I decided to go to Iceland in 2009, a lot of people asked me why??  Of course, now it is a super popular destination as Iceland Air adds flights.  Back then, I had started to follow a travel expert on Twitter, Stephanie Michaels, also known as Adventure Girl.  I also read her book for independent travel ideas for women.  In one of her twitter posts, she referenced an article she wrote for the Huffington Post that highlighted the top 12 things she loves about Iceland.  I love to take advantage of three day weekends, and this sounded perfect for a little 4 day/3 nighter.  At the time, Iceland Air flew out of Boston on a red eye, so just a quick hop up there, and the adventure would begin!  The good news is that now Iceland Air has a direct flight out of Washington DC Dulles airport.  Perfect for a return trip!  


I emailed Stephanie on her website for advice on how to see everything in such a short amount of time.  She suggested I contact Villie, a private guide that picks you up from your hotel in Reykjavik and designs the perfect tour for you and the things you want to see.  He's a little expensive, but if you do your research, you'll find out that rental cars and gas tend to be expensive too.  And the tour buses that do the Golden Triangle highlights are ok, but you don't get the flexibility and the personalized experience.  Part of my personalization ended up being a session of singing Beatles tunes in the car!  


At the time of this trip, I was also doing some indoor rockclimbing, so the obvious thing to do in Iceland was to go for a glacier hike that included some ice climbing.  I arranged for a group tour through Arctic Adventures - the Blue Ice Tour to be exact.  


With the planning all done, all I needed to do to start my adventure was to get on my AirTran flight at BWI and get my butt up to Boston to catch my connector!  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had a different plan.  My flight was delayed for hours, and by the time I would board my flight in Baltimore, my Iceland Air flight would be taking off.  Hmmmm, that wasn't going to work.  I rebooked my flight for noon the next day, knowing that if it left on time I was going to be stuck at Logan airport for several hours, but at least I knew I would be on the plane.  


So now a 3 1/2 day trip has turned into a 2 1/2 day trip.  Time to call up my super travel powers! Missing that first day was "okay" in that it was planned for a relaxing walking tour of Reykjavik. Without that cushion, I arrived at Keflavik Airport at 6:30am.  I didn't have to meet up for the glacier trek until 9am.  I took the Flybus to my hotel - Hotel Fron.  They were so nice at my hotel - let me check in early AND did not charge me for the missed night.  Quick shower and I'm off!


The BEST part of traveling on organized tours is that you get to meet some great people.  On my glacier hike were three very friendly people from Malta and a Canadian, also amazing.  First stop was Sólheimajökull Glacier.





Once we got up on top of the glacier, it was time to adapt my rockclimbing skills and tackle the ice wall with my crampons and ice picks.  Let me tell you, it's a lot more exhausting to climb when you have to dig your shoes in to create your path up the wall, and even more exhausting when you have to hammer your ice picks every few feet (about 3 whacks), only to grip it and pull yourself up.  Surprisingly, I was doing really well and on my way to reaching the top.  It was taking a little extra effort to go around an ice shelf, but I was getting there.  Then I had an "uh oh" moment.  No! Not that kind of "uh oh!"  As I pushed on my right foot, my boot felt loose, but I kept at it. Then when I needed it the most to get over this lip, my shoe failed, flipped off, then rolled to the bottom of the wall!!!  There I am, near the top, dug in on the left foot, pink sock quickly getting soaked on the cold ice on the right foot.  Oh well, I almost had it!!

  
Also part of the tour were stops at some incredible waterfalls!
Skogafoss
Seljalandsfoss
Remembering I had lost a day of travel, it was time to kick up the energy and do all of Reykjavik in a few hours.  Of course, I'm such a talented travel planner that I could not have been in a better place for an evening tour --  July in Iceland means it's daylight until 11:30pm!!!!!  All of these photos were taken at 8:00 at night or later!  







The next morning, Villie picked me up outside my hotel, and we were off to check off all of the Golden Triangle highlights - waterfalls, geysers, intercontinental divides (where Europe meets North America), and horny Icelandic horses.  Ok, maybe the horny horses were not on the Golden Triangle.  See, I told you private guides give you flexibility!

Pingvellir National Park
Geyser eruption but not Geysir, instead Strokkur next to Geysir


Faxi




Gullfoss
To cap off the long day of driving and sightseeing, I asked Villie to drop me off at the Blue Lagoon.  The Blue Lagoon is a large geothermal pool that has been turned into a spa.  People will go there, adults and children alike, and just soak in the mineral-enriched, naturally heated pool.  If you are not embarrassed easily, you can slather your face up with the mud mask sludge provided to you in buckets on the pool's edge.  You know I did it!  The only drawback to a geothermal pool, of course, is the slight scent of rotten eggs.  But then again, that smell permeates the air all over Iceland.




Day 2 was, yet again, a long day!  So, for my last day, I only planned one thing - a boat trip out to the puffin islands, because those birds are oh so cute.  Did I say I did just one thing?  Of course I also included a little shopping.  I had to get a fleece and fun winter hat from 66°North because their logo is such a great conversation starter.  






That's it!!!  Iceland's  Reykjavik and outskirts highlights in 2 1/2 days!  I know, I'm a miracle worker!  The next time I head up to Iceland, I've decided that it must happen in the early fall, so I can see the Northern Lights, but not freeze my butt off and have barely any daylight.  I've been to Alaska before in the winter, and it's a strange experience.  
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