Iceland Excursion – Part I: The First Breath

It started with sitting in traffic for about two hours to shuttle between airports in New York, (which were only about 12 miles apart), then scrambling to our gate where we found out we didn’t have seats next to each other. We should probably sleep during the flight anyway, I thought.
inally our layover ended and Bryce and I boarded our flight to Iceland. The hurriedness in my nerves settled when the flight attendants closed the cabin door and the seat next to me stayed empty. I was happy that Bryce could sit by me, but it was the three kids behind us that disturbed my edgy nerves. The screams weren’t helping anyone of us and after nearly two hours of sitting on the tarmac, the plan took off.

About seven hours later, we walked off the plane, found our bags and went through customs in a matter of minutes at Keflavik Airport. The building was warm and quiet. We followed the line of people walking in the same direction while only the sounds of tired voices and footsteps were heard. I felt washed over with a brush of relief in the quietness and my first sense of being somewhere new. It was about 6 a.m. and we had our whole first day ahead of us in Iceland.

We shuttled from the airport – about a 45 minute ride – to Reykjavik then hopped on another bus to get our tired bodies closer to the campground. It didn’t help that we could hardly pronounce the street we needed to get off at, but the driver had a good idea of where we were going.

Bryce’s mind exploded when he saw 20 different cars that aren’t sold in the states and I enjoyed the fresh air, the light drizzle and being able to say, We’re in Iceland. There’s something about the smell of the air in a new place and I was taking it in.

It was about noon when we woke up and the last thing I remember was setting up our home for the next 16 days and telling Bryce I was going to close my eyes for “just a few.” Four hours of sleep treated us well.

Reykjavik Campsite had everything (and more than) we needed: showers, a dining room, a kitchen, wifi, outlets, and good people from all over the world. The kitchen areas made this campground more over-the-top than any in the states. Each section of the kitchen was equipped with its own stove, sink, toaster and a community shelf piled with utensils, pots and pans.

Reykjavik Campsite1

The kitchen area even a pantry that you can take from or leave food you weren’t going to use. The dining area felt more like a sunroom with all the windows and skylights. The many tables scattered around made us feel like we were part of the Icelandic adventure everyone was gearing up for.

  • For information on Reykjavik Campsite, check out their website here.
Reykjavik Campsite
Reykjavik Campsite

Bryce and I made this our home for three days. The camping area was a wide, green field next to Iceland’s national football stadium, Laugardalsvöllur, where the team won against Croatia one-to-none that year. The cheers erupted from the stadium and I think the whole country partied that night.

Bryce and I walked to downtown Reykjavik each day – about two miles from the campground. The weather gave us constant drizzle, a breeze and cloudy skies. But the weather never dumped anything a rain jacket couldn’t handle.

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Recommended Gear, Clothing, and More…

Shop for and cook your own food!!
Prices + taxes on food in Iceland is expensive compared to US rates. I’m confident in saying we cut our $$ spent in half because we ate at restaurants just a few times.
I suggest bringing a trail stove (like this one we use), utensils, etc. to cook your own meals. Keep in mind though, you can’t take the fuel tanks on the plane. You can find takes at Bonus (supermarket).

-Water and wind resistant boots, jacket and pants 
I bought both linked items from Columbia
-Whether you pack a ball cap or beanie, make sure it fits tight
Iceland gets some crazy-strong winds
-Warm socks will treat you well and gloves weren’t a bad idea
Or bring a few extra $$ and buy a pair of locally-made wool socks.

Downtown Reykjavik
Downtown Reykjavik. Photo by Brycen McCright

During our three days of walking on the town, I had my first (legal) drink at 20-years-old at a dark, empty bar before we stumbled into a tattoo convention down the block. These artists were gathering from all over the world to showcase their work and were offering stenciled pieces, trust me – we thought about it. We moved on and drank rich coffee and took hundreds of photos of all the colorful buildings, roads, murals and (of course) foreign cars.

Icelanders say the painted buildings give the city color during the dark months of winter. Also to combat the blinding-white snowfields and the lingering dark days, the blue Nootka Lupine (native in North America) was introduced to Iceland soil in the mid-1940s.

Flower Knowledge…

The flower was brought by Icelandic Forest Service director, Hákon Bjarnason, in 1945. The agency sent Bjarnason to Alaska to gather plants and vegetation to bring back to Iceland. Then, the island was considered Europe’s most damaged country after years of burning the land for agriculture. About 75 percent of vegetation was gone by this time. (Hakai Magazine)

The Lupine seeds were then released to the wild in the mid-1970’s, according to the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland. The flowers took off as wildflowers do and re-fertilized the land with incredible results. But years later, the results were too good.

Now, Iceland has fields of these tall, purple flowers. Most fields are seen in southern areas and the stems reach several feet high.

Lupines in Iceland

While spending three days downtown and a lot of time walking, Bryce and I had to figure out our next 13 days. Our backpacking plan fell through because of heavy snow and dangerous river flow, but that was only an opportunity to do something different. We walked into a visitor’s information office, (there are several offices in Reykjavik), and a young Icelander told us, “You have plenty of time to drive the island.”

Bryce and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and smiled.

“Let’s drive the Ring Road.”


Coming Soon >> “Iceland Excursion – Part II: The Ring Road” <<

Google map of Iceland
Ring Road is highlighted in yellow. The stretch in the northwest corner skips over the West Fjords, which Bryce and I have promised to ourselves and each other to drive next trip to Iceland.


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