If I waited around until the schedules of myself and all of my friends aligned in order to be able to take a trip somewhere together, I would never end up leaving California. When I turned 30 several months ago, I made a deal with myself not to wait years before doing the things I've wanted to do. I love how anonymous traveling alone can be. Nobody knows you, you have no commitments, and you don't have to answer to anyone. I enjoy that kind of freedom.
Upon landing in the early morning in KEF, I knew I had several hours to kill before being able to check into my hotel, so I headed straight to the number one item on my Iceland bucket list- The Blue Lagoon. Grayline Tours Iceland offers transportation directly from the airport and they will take you straight to the lagoon, then drop you off at your hotel later in the day. You can buy these tickets ahead of time or right at their kiosk as you exit airport customs. Now, many people on various travel websites will likely say the blue lagoon is an overpriced tourist trap. They aren't completely wrong. It was pricey and crowded and someone stole my robe off the rack and I had to walk back inside soaking wet and shivering to get a new one. Despite it all, I really enjoyed the Blue Lagoon. I will fully admit that at times I am not the kind of hip traveler that blows off the "touristy" things to do while visiting other countries. I stand in long lines for the Eiffel tower, I eat fish and chips in front of the London Bridge. As uncool as it may be, I slathered on that mud mask with glee, and bobbled around in the warm milky blue water with my glass of prosecco happy as a clam. Word of warning though! Prior to entering the lagoon you are required to bathe naked in front of strangers. Embrace the non- American way of it all. Nobody takes a second look at your goods. But I may have been too thrilled about finally being able to shower after hours and hours of traveling to notice.
I stayed KEX HOSTEL (named after a biscuit factory that used to be in this building) which is one of the most well decorated hostels I have ever had the pleasure of staying in. If sharing a bathroom with 15+ other rowdy college kids backpacking through Europe isn't your thing (I personally am aging out of the ability to tolerate this which is why I mention it) , they also have private rooms and bathrooms available. Between live music on certain nights in the lobby, a great bar with amazing food and drinks, and a gorgeous view of the sea from the restaurant, I am so glad I discovered this place to stay. I loved having breakfast and sipping my coffee while overlooking the water.
Reykjavik is the ultimate cool kids table in the cafeteria in high school. Fashion forward, intriguing, creative, unique, smart and just simply...cool. There is no other better way to put it. There was so much beauty to take in, and I loved how I was able to get everywhere in the city by foot. I didn't have to worry about arranging transportation from one point to another. I was truly able to freely wander, observe, and explore the art galleries, shops, restaurants, and sights without worrying too much about getting lost. Luckily for me, in the summertime the sun doesn't set until close to midnight, and even then it doesn't get completely dark. A traveler's dream. Icelandic people must be very productive!
Reykjavik can be on the expensive side, although I am a Californian that's likely become desensitized to airport prices for years now, so I didn't find it to be completely outrageous. If you're on a budget , my absolute favorite thing to eat while there was also probably one of the cheapest. Enter Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, home of the Icelandic hot dog. Where even the likes of Princess Diana and Bill Clinton have stopped by to eat a hot dog from a street corner hot dog cart. What it is: a pork, beef, and lamb hot dog with a nice snap when you bite into it. Topped with a strip of very sweet ketchup, lightly spiced mustard, and a creamy remoulade made of mayonnaise and gherkins. Hidden underneath are both raw onions and crispy onions and they are everything. I went back another time before leaving however, as I strongly believe that ketchup does not belong on hot dogs. (thank you Chicago for showing me the light) It was far better without, in my opinion. But if you like ketchup, you do you.
The real thing vs. my illustrated take:
Now that we've discussed my favorite food from Rekjavik, I feel I need to discuss my least favorite. Before this trip, I read an article in which Anthony Bourdain deemed Hakarl, or fermented shark, the grossest thing he's ever eaten and yet...I could not be convinced otherwise. When else would I have the opportunity to try shark? I don't think I quite grasped the fermented part. Curiosity got the best of me and I headed to an Icelandic restaurant after taking in the views of the city from the top of Hallgrimskirkja church. Not for the faint of heart, it t was quite pungent, and smelled like the ammonia my grandmother used to mop the floor growing up. It was so strong I could smell it as the waitress made her way to my table with it. In fact writing it is conjuring up the smell and taste, and consequently, my gag reflexes. I must move on now as I'd like to keep my dinner down. You get the picture. Still don't regret it though!