Iceland : The Land of Fire & Ice

Lindsay on Location goes to Iceland

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Where to Stay

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Hotel Ranga

Our homebase for the week was the beautiful Hotel Ranga, located on the southside of Iceland. It is a four-star countryside hotel that has it all for your stay in Iceland. The resort is built in a log-cabin style with views that go on for days. The resort has 52 decorated rooms and suites. There are views of the snow-capped mountains, a winding river, and the open fields. Also, a celebrity hot spot where Kanye, the Kardashians, and Charlize Theron have stayed. Not to be missed is the Icelandic suite with a rotating living room. 

One of the best amenities is a call service that they provide for the northern lights. If the lights can be seen, they will call your room to get out and see them. They also have an observatory with a local astronomy for any questions you might have about the stars or constellations. 

Frederick, the owner, is an absolutely wonderful man. He has so much pride and it shows with all the attention that he puts into the property. We felt like family from day one from him and all the wonderful people who worked at the hotel. 

The restaurant is hands down the best food in Iceland. Make sure to try some special delicacies on their menu, like reindeer carpaccio . There isn’t anywhere to go wrong when ordering from the menu. The best part is after dinner. Order yourself some bubbles and head out to their hot tubs heated naturally, to enjoy the Icelandic sky.

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Caves of Hella 

Travellers can walk the caves of Hella, which are strewn about on the hillsides of the south coast. Carved out a few hundred years ago, they seem to have a variety of uses: religious, cooking, or sheltering cattle. But the mystery is, who made the caves? 

As you see the carvings on the walls, the images of the settlers can be felt. All the artifacts have left the caves, but the best part of the tour is right at the end when you get to try some local whiskey in a cave. The drinks can be strong on the island, but everything tastes a bit better in a cave. There are five whiskey tastings from the local distillery Eimverk Distillery. But, there is one that outshines them all. 

Have you ever tried whiskey smoked by sheep dung? Now is your chance to fulfill that dream.

Iceland has been using sheep droppings for centuries for almost everything. The company makes a smooth bottle and it is an experience not to be missed. 

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Skeiðvellir – Icelandic Horseworld 

Don’t call these majestic beings ponies, even though they look like them. Icelandic horses are a bit shorter and more stout than horses. But, they are definitely horses. 

We decided to take these animals out on the open fields. This was the welcome-to-Iceland moment when the Arctic wind hit us straight on. The cold trickled into our bones, but the horses kept buzzing along. There is just something about tolting on a horse, on the open plains in Iceland that one has to experience in their life. The horse, snooki, and I definitely shared a moment that I will remember. He was 22 years old and fresh as a daisy. 

South Coast Adventure 

Super Jeeps are the way to go when traveling in the land of the ice and snow. South Coast Adventure took us to waterfalls, volcanoes, secret hot springs, and everything in between. Our tour guide, Siggi, had tales that filled our minds. A man based in science, but still had stories about elves, trolls, and hidden people. These stories all have a place in Iceland’s culture. 

They picked us up every morning for us to start our adventures. They provide super jeeps to go mountain scaling, vans to accommodate a group, or a TESLA for a smaller party. 

South Coast Adventure provides a buggy tour that has you ripping around in the lowlands. The route has you ripping through streams, soaring over hills, and mud thrown in your face. It is an hour of you feeling the Icelandic air while hearing your passenger screaming in either terror or joy. 

South Coast Adventure took care of us all week, and their knowledge, as well as care, made the trip that much more enjoyable. 

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Waterfalls:

There is no official record of waterfalls in Iceland, but the estimate is over 10,000, some locals even say 20,000. But no matter the number, you need to see as many as you possibly can. 

Here are some of the favorites:

Seljalandsfoss

It is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. You can see images everywhere, but no matter the hype, it is definitely a must see. 

A main characteristic is a pathway that wraps around the fall. It allows visitors to see it on all sides. Don’t get too close though. With the wind whipping around the water you are likely to get a face full of water. A wide cavern sits behind the waterfall that makes for some wonderful views.

Skógafoss

Legend has it that there is gold at the bottom of this waterfall. Let’s hope that it’s true. Be prepared to get wet because there’s a lot of water coming down. 

The most magical part is the double rainbow that regularly makes an appearance here. If you love rainbows, look no further. 

Kvernufoss

The forgotten sibling to Skogafoss. Just a short twenty-minute walk from Skogafoss, and it can provide some beautiful views. The hike provides a cutting river that the wind just cuts right through. Be careful on this one. The trail is narrow with some loose gravel. The trail takes you behind the fall, and the view has the fall, the gorge, and miles out to the ocean. Cannot be beat. 

Nauthúsagil – secret waterfall in the canyon

Feeling courageous? This secret waterfall will take some talent to get to. It is a straight shot into a gorge that has a stream running through the hike. The beginning is the easy part, then it gets a bit tricky. There are rocks placed strategically in the stream, but they are always moving from the water. The trail cuts back and forth over the stream, but there is the wall of the gorge to help in some balance. The tricky part is right before you get to the main waterfall. There is a mini fall that can only be passed by holding on to chains and scaling the rocks above the water. It is about fifteen feet/four and a half meters long, but it takes some maneuvering. The view of the waterfall at the end is worth it, even if your feet drop into the water from the hike. A can’t be missed.  

Urriðafoss waterfall 

The most voluminous waterfall in the country. It is quite the sight seeing that amount of water rushing through. No hike involved. Just pull up in the parking lot and enjoy that waterfall magic. There are two vantage points. One that brings you eye level to the falls. The second that brings you to the top to see the whole fall and the river that follows. Get ready to see the mist whipping all around you when you get this experience. 

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Time to Explore 

Landmannalaugar Hot Spring

Everyone will tell you to head to the world famous Blue Lagoon. As usual, we decided to go another route. We took a three-hour drive into the mountains with the super jeep to find Landmannalaugar Hot Spring. There wasn’t a soul in sight while driving through the mountains to get there. Rightfully so, the drive has you carving around mountains and puttering down icy slopes. Rental car companies insurance does not cover river crossings, and there are a few stories of cars bobbing down the rivers you have to cross. Don’t be a hero when crossing these rivers. 

It was a meticulous drive, but the end result was definitely worth it. Get me in a natural spring surrounded by mountains any day of the week. 

On the way back from the spring, make sure to see a lake inside a crater. They call this area the highlands and you will find Hnausapollur. You feel the size of this area just walking along the ridge of this area. 

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Kötlujökull ice cave

Time to super jeep it. You will need an all-terrain vehicle to get to this spot. These ice caves are made from the melting glaciers in the mountains and are ever changing. There are a lot of movies and shows that are filmed in this area because it looks like another planet. A short hike over some streams and hills and you are at the foot of the glaciers. Small holes open up that create ice caverns where you can step inside and explore a bit. Check getting yourself in an ice cave off your list. 

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Thingvellir national park

If standing in between tectonic plates is your thing, there’s a great place for you. Thingvellir National Park is in between the Eurasian and North American plates. Never have I ever taken my water bottle out, filled it up in a lake, then drank it. Things you can do in Iceland. Come for the water. Stay for the views. 

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Geldingadalur volcano

Do you like volcanoes? Well, I have the place for you. Geldinadalur always has some rumblings happening. There is a video stream dedicated to the volcano to see if there is any activity, which is very often. 

Get your legs ready because it is a little hike, which takes about twenty-five minutes straight up. The vantage point to see is quite impressive. The path is on an adjacent mountain where you can see into the active volcano. If you are lucky, there can be some molten lava rivers flowing down the side. 

We saw some tourists walking on the volcanic rock at the bottom of the valley, which everyone is advised not to. Be careful walking on lava. 

Time to Eat

Friðheimar

I hope you like tomatoes. Friðheimar is an all-tomato restaurant that serves tomato based drinks and food. It is an amazing concept. The restaurant is situated in a greenhouse where the tomato plants are grown. Friðheimar is a family run restaurant and company where their passion is infectious. They take such care and love in each and every tomato plant that surrounds you while you eat. Straight from the stem, they are hands down some of the best tomatoes I have ever had. Where else can you try a tomato ale and tomato coffee?

Reynisfjara black sand beach

Do not visit Iceland without visiting one of their famous black sand beaches. With cliffs and rocks that mimic Game of Thrones, this beach is very popular with tourists. But for good reason, the black rock and clear water is breathtaking. You can get a great photo if you climb up on the ledge overlooking the water, but be careful. And, do not miss the Black Sand Beach Restaurant at the start of the beach. Their meat soup with lamb and fish and chips are some of the best in the country. 

Flights

We flew Iceland Air and it couldn’t have been easier. It is only a 5-hour direct flight from the east coast. Also, a great budget tip, because Iceland Air’s home base is in Iceland, it was more affordable than the other airlines. They also had great new planes with delicious food.

Paige Deasley/ Courtesy of Hotel Ranga

Written by Jimmy Salabert and Lindsay Myers

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