Only 3 days in Iceland? Driving along the Ring Road – A Perfect Itinerary.

Happy New Year readers!!! I hope you have started planning your travels for this year. Well read on, and I can promise by the time you are done reading, you will be adding at least one country to your bucketlist for this year-Iceland.

Talking of travel, Iceland has become much more accessible than ever, thanks to IcelandAir. If you haven’t heard already, you can add a stopover in Iceland at no extra airfare while flying to certain destinations in Europe. You can stay in Iceland from 1 day to 7 days without additional cost to your airfare. If the alluring beauty of Iceland is not good enough reason (rolling my eyes at ya!!!), then this deal should definitely be a reason to visit Iceland.

However, how do you decide where you want to go and what you want to see? It is a small endearing country, however, there is a lot to see. And when I say a lot, I was there for 10 days but saw about 40-50% of places in the entire country. The landscapes vary from volcanic mountains to staggering waterfalls to deep gorgeous fjords. A lot of people take about 3-5 days stopover in Iceland. Mind you that is not enough. Well, even 3 months may not be enough for this beautiful land of fire and ice.

Anyway, so if you only have 3 days in Iceland, what should you do, where should you stay and what all places should you definitely visit. You would want to visit everything of course-but that’s not practical. I am looking at ticket prices as I write this, because hey, Iceland is prepossessing!!! I can’t wait to explore more.

I am going to provide you with 2 itineraries here. I will provide with details about each of them. I have also provided maps for each day’s itinerary at the end.

If you are a first time visitor to Iceland, there are certain things that you definitely shouldn’t miss out. Yes, certain places may be a little touristy. However, as I have mentioned in some of my previous blogs, touristy in Iceland means just about a hundred people at one place or maybe 200. No more than that. Coming from San Francisco, and having visited some places such as Rome, Zürich, Hawaii, India, 100-200 people does not bother me at all.

Additionally, driving in Iceland is very easy. Most roads are one lane only. Also the signs are quite easy to understand as they are in English. You would be driving mainly on the Ring road or Route 1 which goes all around the country. However, you would be taking a few detours to see some areas in the interiors of the country. The road has been built such that the major attractions lie in its path so you would not be going too much out of the way to see all the places I’ve mentioned below.

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Just a random spot-and still so beautiful

A lot of people prefer to go to the Blue Lagoon right after landing in Iceland. However, after driving around for hours on end, I liked the idea of visiting Blue Lagoon on the last day before the flight. That was a relaxation day for me right before the flight.

Feel free to mix and match the places I’ve mentioned below..it’s a vacation..not a time-table. Also, give yourself enough time at every destination. Be flexible, plans can change and so can the weather in Iceland. Icelandic weather has a character of its own. That’s the only thing that matters in Iceland-the weather. It can change from bright and sunny to cloudy and rainy to windy and snowy in a matter of minutes.

So back to the places to visit

  1. Reykjavik downtown.
    About 45 minutes from the airport, lies downtown Reykjavik. Just like any other downtown, but completely different..haha. Here you still have the sea and the mountains on one side and the hustle and bustle of the city on the other side. Visit the sun-voyager for some cool pictures. But definitely, don’t miss the Hallgrimskirkja (maps).

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    The grand Hallgrimskirkja

    The intricate designing of this church is fascinating. It has a unique shape and you can pretty much see it from anywhere near Reykjavik downtown while driving. You can also visit the church tower to get panoramic views of the city. Make sure your visit does not coincide with the prayer timings, as access to the top is prohibited at that time. Since it is an active working church it may also be closed at certain times without notice. But it looks beautiful from the outside nevertheless and nothing says Reykjavik like Hallgrimskirkja. I would like to specially mention Kaffi Loki (or cafe Loki) right across from Hallgrimskirkja which serves some delicious crepes filled with the- oh so yummy Skyr. You have to polish it off along with their delectable coffee while enjoying the view of the church.

  2. Þingvellir national park.

    This is a world heritage site. Not one but a double World Heritage site. And you have to visit it because you are going to be walking between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. And here lies the only man-made or should I say Viking-made waterfall Öxarárfoss. You would be walking in the mid-Atlantic ridge and on one side would be Europe and on the other America–how cool is that. No wall to separate 😉 but just a ridge. Þingvellir is also the place where the first ever parliament in North Europe was formed. Apart from the historical significance, some of the shots from the famous Game of Thrones were shot right here. So GoT buffs, this place may hold a special significance for you.

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    Öxarárfoss

    If you are up for some adventure, then I would recommend you to go diving in the Silfra fissure. If swimming in 2° Celsius glacial water is on your bucket list, then here is your chance. However, keep in mind that the activity total can take up to 4 hours and if your plan to be in Iceland only for 3 days, then fitting this into the whole itinerary might be a challenge. Check my other blog which describes my experience in Silfra. Snorkeling in Silfra-Best experience in Iceland. The water is the clearest that you will ever see. The crystal clear water allows you to see 100 meters ahead of you underwater. Please drink the clear, cold crystalline water. It is the purest water you will ever find.

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    Swimming in Silfra fissure
  3. Gulfoss waterfall:

    Lying just along the Golden Circle is the massively spectacular Gulfoss waterfall. As you walk by the parking lot, you see a huge cloud of mist right above the falls. It plummets down into an abyss. Seriously you can’t see exactly where it falls, but only the Hvita river flowing.gullfossreIt is about an hour drive from Thingvellir. You can view the falls from two levels. The view from above gives you sweeping views of the Icelandic landscape with the waterfall and Hvita river. From the lower level, you can get up and close to the falls. There are protective railings, but please don’t cross them.

  4. Geysir:
    Just about 10 kilometers from Gulfoss is the phenomenal Geysir and from where we all got the word geyser. Iceland landscape is punctuated by numerous wonders of Nature and Geysir is the biggest one of them. Walking along the lava field, with the geysirs erupting every now and then, its a striking site.The biggest one-Geysir does not erupt anymore, but you have the other one named Strokkur. It erupts every 3-5 minutes. Every time it erupts, everyone gasps in one unanimous wonder at the beauty of nature.

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    Strokkur Geysir
  5. Faxi foss:
    Faxifoss or Faxafoss is yet another waterfall in Iceland. It is about 9 minutes from Geysir. Breath-taking views, gushing water and misty air are all very refreshing. There is also a coffee shop with a nice deck with views of the falls. Again coffee and good views!! That’s all this girl asks and loves.

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    Faxafoss
  6. Laugarvatn:

    If you want to soak yourself in natural geothermal waters, then Laugarvatn Fontana (maps) is a great place to visit. They have an on-location bakery as well, where you can check out their geothermal cooking and try their geothermal or lava bread. It has a delicious earthy flavor to it. It tastes great with some butter spread on it along with their hot coffee. I am a coffee fanatic, can you tell?

  7. Kerid crater:
    Start your second day at Kerid crater which is about 20 minutes from Laugarvatn. A volcanic crater that you can walk to the bottom of, filled with clear water is a splendid site to visit. Walk along the rim taking in panoramic views of the surrounding red rock which is unique to this crater, before climbing down the stairs to the bottom of the crater to the lake. The water is cold so not recommended for swimming.

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    Kerid Crater
  8. Skogafoss:

    Confession, I am a little partial to Skogafoss. When I first read about Iceland about 5-6 years ago, I saw a similar image first. Ever since that day I’ve been dreaming of visiting this one waterfall. Finally, I got a chance. I was so overwhelmed, that I ran from the parking lot to the falls. And I am not a runner. In fact, I hate running. So you can imagine, how excited I was. Take the time to climb those 500+ steps to the top of the falls, where you can see the lavish river culminating in the Skogafoss. On your way, you will be greeted by numerous sheep that dot the lush green landscape surrounding the falls. Pictures don’t do justice to the enormity of these falls. You have to visit it to truly admire its beauty.

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    Standing in front of the mighty Skogafoss
  9. Seljalandsfoss:
    Walking behind a beautiful waterfall while looking at stunning scenery with panoramic views of Icelandic fields. It is very windy and its fun. However, protect your camera gear as it can get really drenched in the mist created by the falls.

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    Icelandic views form behind Seljalandsfoss
  10. Reynisfjara beach

    Pitch black beach with strange scary looking waves coming at ya…This beach is located near a dormant volcano which has been under ice for 100+ years. This is the most Insta-worthy beach I’ve ever been too. Seriously, I am done with blue beaches and white sand. Give me some black beach. Okay, I am being overly dramatic here. I still love my blue beaches. But in all honesty, the stark contrast between the black sand which is solidified lava and the basalt columns hanging upside down is a sight to behold. Be careful with the waves and you will see caution signs everywhere as the waves sneak up on you.

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    Reynisfjara Beach
  11. Dyrhólaey:

    Dyrhólaey offers panoramic views of the south coast of Iceland and is very close to the town of Vik. It is about 2.5 hours drive from Reykjavik. The massive arch rock makes for a great view and this is a great spot for some puffin watching which are the migratory birds found in Iceland in the warmer months. On one side you can also see the black sand beach which gives it a surreal almost eerie look. When I went there, I saw that the arch was inaccessible and it is not recommended to go there, although I saw some people walking to the arch. The reason is, it is very windy there and that makes it dangerous. Also, there are no railings on top of the arch.

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    Dyrhólaey arch

    Plan on staying in Vik for the night. Vik has some nice hotels, Airbnb. If you want to stay in a farm-house there are some options as well. Book in advance as the good places are always booked first. If you are looking for budget accommodation, there are a lot of hostels offering various options from shared rooms to private.

  12. Glacier lagoon:

    Jökulsárlón or glacier lagoon is located about 2.5 hours from the town of Vik. It is a serene azure lake dotted by stunning blue icebergs. It is on the border of Vatnajökull National park. You can take the boat ride in the lake and if you are lucky, you can spot some seals enjoying the icy cold water. Chunks of ice breaking from the glacier sound like thunder. The view of Vatnajökull from the boat is alluring and you can get very close to the icebergs and the glacier as well. This glacier-Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, is actually a tongue of the larger Vatnajökull glacier.
    If this glacier lagoon sounds a little touristy, visit the neighboring Fjallsárlón which is about 15 minutes away.

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    Jökulsárlón
  13. Diamond beach:
    The icebergs breaking off from the glacier float in the lagoon finally meeting the Atlantic ocean. As it flows into the ocean, the icebergs get washed ashore forming the famous diamond beach. They seriously glitter like diamonds when the sun’s rays hit them. This makes them look quite exquisite. If you go during the winter months, the icebergs washed to the shore are even larger and bluer.I would recommend to return to Vik to spend the night. However, if you want to stay closer to Vatnajokull, there are some accomodations here as well.

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    Diamond beach
  14. Blue Lagoon:
    The blue lagoon is a must when you go to Iceland. I know you must’ve heard, that it’s a tourist trap, crowded etc, But I would say you should not miss it. Blue Lagoon gives Iceland character and it makes for a memorable Instagram worthy story, right? Plan on spending at least 5-6 hours here. So if you have only 3 days, adjust your itinerary accordingly. Also, definitely try the Lava restaurant while you visit The Blue Lagoon. It has a very good menu with fresh seafood, great ambiance and you get to wear your bath-robe while fine dining, haha…Make sure you reserve well in advance as closer to the date of your visit, the slots may be full. Yes, you have to book a slot for yourself. Once you are inside you can stay there the whole day, hence plan on going there early.
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The Blue lagoon

So here are my two itineraries:

ITINERARY 1:

  • Day 1: Keflavik airport → Reykjavik downtown → Thingvellir National Park → Gullfoss → Geysir → Faxifoss → Laugarvatn. (maps)
  • Day 2: Kerid crater → Skogafoss → Seljalandfoss,/Vik (map1)
  • Day 3: Blue Lagoon → leave for next European destination or back home

ITINERARY 2:

  • Day 1: Keflavik airport → Reykjavik downtown → Thingvellir National Park → Gullfoss → Geysir → Faxi foss → Laugarvatn. (maps)
  • Day 2: Kerid crater → Skogafoss → Seljalandafoss → Reynisfjara beach → Dyrholaey (maps) →Plan on staying in Vik.
  • Day 3: Glacier lagoon → Diamond beach → leave for next European destination or back home. (maps)
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Top 10 Tips: Smart travel to Iceland!!

There are many things that we want to get done before visiting any country. Planning places to visit, hotel reservations, activity reservations, the list is endless. However, there are a lot of considerations that you have to pay attention to when planning a trip to Iceland. Iceland is DIFFERENT. Other than the fact that it is drop-dead gorgeous, there are a significantly large number of natural factors that you have to consider. There are more volcanic mountains here than any country that size, the delicate flora and fauna, ash coming from the mountains, winds etc.

Let me make it a little easier by giving you a checklist you need before you embark on your gorgeous Icelandic vacation.  Now when I say gorgeous, it’s not like those pretty places like Switzerland, Canada or Hawaii. Iceland is rugged, it will test you, it will make you walk long distances, but the rewards at the end of all the hard work are stunning waterfalls, icebergs, pitch black sand beaches, cliffs, and auroras.

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Vestrahorn lake, Iceland-lunch views

 

 

The first few are general tips for any country in Europe and then followed by specific tips for Iceland.

  1. Check if you require a visa.
    Now, this tip is valid to travel to any country in Europe or pretty much any country in the world. For citizens of certain countries, a Schengen visa is required to visit Iceland. Make sure you have given yourself adequate time to apply for the visa, set an appointment for the interview. Also, gather all documents required for the visa application. You will require documents such as flight return tickets, hotel, and car reservations, bank statements etc. Get the list of docs required here: http://www.utl.is/index.php/en/application-basic-requirement
    For countries that do not require a visa, you will require a passport that is valid for a minimum of 6 months. So check your passport accordingly.
  2. Check your airlines’ baggage policy.
    When you make your flight ticket reservations, pay attention to the fare rules and regulations. Specifically when you are booking through a third party travel website, be very careful. I had booked a ticket wherein I was allowed 1 checked baggage on my trip to Iceland. While coming back, the airlines asked me to shell out money for the checked bag. Since I booked through the third party the airlines didn’t give me any refund. However, the third party website after a few phone calls and social media reviews got in touch with me and refunded me the baggage fees. Apparently, the website gave me the lowest fare which included an Economy flight one way and Economy Basic flight (that doesn’t allow free checked bag) while coming back. However, since my ticket didn’t show 2 separate tiers of booking, they refunded me the baggage fee. So just a word of caution, when you are booking through these websites, you should be vigilant.
  3. Pre-book your rental car/RV.
    Iceland gets sudden changes in weather ranging from sunshine to rain to wind and snow in a matter of hours. Getting a Four Wheel Drive (4×4) is the best way to avoid getting stranded. There are some roads in Iceland where only 4WD is allowed. You have to respect that; not only because you should follow rules, but also because a 2WD will be unsafe on those roads due to the weather and land conditions. Personally, I liked the SUV we rented as it was spacious, it allowed me to keep my food, bags and camera equipment segregated. Also, I was able to dry my swimsuits on the back seat-haha!!!

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    Blue water of Myvatn Nature bath.

     

  4. Get car insurance
    Get ‘ash and wind coverage’ because reportedly there have been incidents of car doors flying off with the wind…I didn’t believe this until the day my car door slammed shut on me while I was trying to get inside. Always hold the door firmly while getting in and out of the car if you want to avoid heavy penalties from your rental insurance. Also, since Iceland has a lot of volcanoes and some of them have on-going volcanic activity, there can be ash damage to the car. Most car rentals offer a combo of coverages, so select the one with ‘ash and wind coverage’.

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    Our SUV-spacious and sturdy
  5. Pack a lot of layers.
    Iceland is cold, windy, rainy. So pack in as many layers of clothing as you can. Start with a warm thermal wear as a base layer, followed by a regular shirt, followed by a warm jacket/ sweater and finally a rain or wind jacket. A windbreaker jacket is the best investment I made for my Iceland trip (Check it here). It protected me from the rain and the cold weather.

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    The windbreaker jacket for my rescue in the cold weather.

    Another important piece of clothing you will need is water resistant pants. The last thing you want is to get soaking wet during your hike in the cold weather and getting sick. These pants on Amazon (check here) are super comfortable, water and stain resistant and have an amazing fit. They are my most loved pants and I wore them all over Iceland. I wore jeans only on one day when I was in downtown Reykjavik.

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    You don’t want to wear jeans while walking here.

    I would surely not recommend wearing jeans on your hikes, strolls, adventure activities because they would be super uncomfortable, get soggy wet if you end up getting drenched in rain and would be extremely hard to dry.
    Having an infinity wool scarf will keep you comfortable and is easily removable when you are in the warm comfort of your car/van.

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    Warm socks-perfect

    A few other pieces that I had worn were warm long socks, beanies, ear muffs, good sunglasses to protect you from the glare of the snow and water-resistant hiking boots.

  6. Using credit card/cash in Iceland
    I did not carry any local currency in Iceland. Credit cards are widely accepted in Iceland from the most remote towns to local boutiques. So you don’t have to worry about carrying cash with you during your trip. However, it is advisable to buy a gas card which you can either buy with your rental car company or the local stores such as N1 who also sell them. If your credit card does not have a pin number, then you won’t be able to use it to pump fuel at the gas station. In that case, you can go get it from the store selling the gas. However, to save time and efforts, getting a prepaid card is easier. Also, at night, most stores would be closed, so having a prepaid gas card would make sure you don’t get stranded without gas in your tank.
  7. Carry car chargers, USBs, whatever you can.
    You are going to take tons of pictures, so your phone, camera, drones, gimbal, etc need to be fully charged. We would be out at 6 am and return to the hotel at 8-9pm. So having a car charger was a smart decision. Also, you would need European adapters for your chargers. Do not forget to take multiple memory cards for your camera/phone as they will surely run out of space.
  8. Pack a lot of food.
    If you are allowed to check in free luggage in your flight, do it. Take a lot of food from your home country. If you don’t like the food (I don’t think that could happen, but if you are with dietary restrictions). Usually, I am all about trying local cuisine. However, because most Iceland restaurants make extremely fresh foods, it takes quite some time. Also, they are on island time, they are never in a hurry. You have a set schedule and itinerary. If you have given yourself 2-3 hours for lunch/dinner then it’s fine. However, if you don’t have adequate time on hand and want to go from one place to another, eating in your car is the best option. I carried a thermos with hot water and would make coffee/tea on the go. Usually, we would have one meal in a sit-down restaurant. But most of our lunches were in the car. I bought bread, jams, butter, deli meats, fruits in a local store called Bonus (cheapest and you will find everything here). We would normally snack in the car, and eat one meal in a sit-down restaurant, mostly at the end of the day. Also, carry a lot of protein bars to keep yourself full. Some places may require you to walk more than what you thought, so having something at hand to eat is a good idea.

    View from a farm restaurant in Myvatn
  9. Check the exact address for your hotels/farm stays etc.
    Connect with the people with whom you will be renting your accommodation whether it’s a hotel or farm stay or Airbnb. They are the locals and would be able to help you with the exact location of their farm/barn/hotel/Airbnb. Google maps were messed up especially in Northern Iceland. It took us to the wrong spot multiple times. Finally, the owner stayed on the phone while we drove to his farm. Especially, if you are going to reach late, let them know so they can guide you accordingly. Since some towns are not as developed, there may not be any street lights, hence plan on reaching such places early. The above experience we had was in Vermahlid, where we stayed on a barn, but there was no light whatsoever on that road and we kept missing the entrance to the barn. Also, you may not get good reception at certain locations in the country, so written directions, are the way to go.

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    View from our rental farm stay.
  10. Carry at least 2 swimsuits
    There are a lot of natural springs in Iceland. You would want to try at least a few of them. So if you are going to jump from one to another, you don’t want to wear a wet swimsuit. Some famous ones such as the Blue Lagoon, have changing areas and rental swimsuits. However, most secluded ones, may not have changing rooms. It is better to wear a swim-suit underneath your clothing. One such place where you definitely want to wear your swim-suit beforehand is the hot river in Reykjadalur. They have small stands to change clothes, but it is mostly open. Thankfully I had the swimsuit on beforehand so, it was not a problem. However, while leaving I had to do some shenanigans to remove the wet swimsuit and wear my clothes without anyone noticing..haha!!

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    The Blue lagoon.

    I hope these tips help you make planning your trip a little easier. If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I will answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.

    Here is a checklist for your convenience:
    Check if you require a visa.
    Check your airlines’ baggage policy.
    Get car insurance.
    Pre-book your rental car/RV.
    Pack a lot of layers.
    Using credit card/cash in Iceland.
    Carry car chargers, USBs, whatever you can.
    Pack a lot of food.
    Check the exact address for your hotels/farm stays etc.
    Carry at least 2 swimsuits.

    The links for products mentioned above are not sponsored and I do not receive any remuneration for suggesting them. These products have been bought by me. I have liked them and hence I am recommending them. 

Snorkeling in Silfra-Best experience in Iceland

How many times do you get to swim between two tectonic plates?? Not many… I would assume. Unless you are lucky enough to live in Iceland. Then you can have multiple opportunities to swim, snorkel, dive in the continental divide.

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Seriously so blue!!

But if you are like me and the rest of the world, then you only have once in a lifetime opportunity to experience this wonderful experience. If you are a thrill seeker like me or even if you are not, this should be on the top of your ‘to-do’ activities in Iceland. Where else are you going to get a chance to swim in 2º Celsius (35º F) water, get out alive and scream it to the rest of the world??? So add this to your bucket list for your dreamy Iceland trip.

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Let me tell you a little about country and the Silfra fissure. Iceland is rightly called the land of fire and ice. The entire country was formed millions of years ago; thanks to volcanic eruptions. Every 3-4 years, they have a major volcanic eruption. Well… how can we forget the famous volcanic eruption in 2010 that no one could pronounce. Remember Eyjafjallajökull??? So easy to pronounce right?? By the way, I found a local person and practiced with him multiple times to say the name of this mountain, but still have difficulty. Anyway, so Iceland is special and unique. It is the only place where you can stand on both continental plates at the same time. And even more remarkable is the Silfra fissure.

The American and Eurasian tectonic plates, drift apart 2 cm every year and due to formation of various cracks and fissures from earthquakes and volcanic activities this Silfra fissure was formed. However, what makes Silfra different is that when it opened up it cracked through a fresh water spring and that’s why it is filled with the most crystal clear water that humankind can see in this age and time. This is a World Heritage site located within another World Heritage site- The Thingvellir national Park (again a good reason to snorkel).

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As with all other activities in Iceland, make sure you book you tickets to the snorkeling activity in advance especially during summer time. In summer, the bookings get full really fast. We visited during shoulder season, but even then a lot of dates were full. We did the activity through a company called Troll Expeditions. We did all of our activities in Iceland through them, and we had the best experience. It is a relatively newer company, but definitely one of the best. They were less expensive than other companies and had great reviews. Even from the time we made the bookings, I had a great experience. They were very responsive providing all important information beforehand via emails. I had some questions and they were promptly answered literally at any time of the day when I emailed them. Our tour guide was Wesley. He is the funniest tour guide. And when I say funny, I mean he literally jumped right on to our picnic table face forward to show us how to swim with the fins!!! He helped us through the entire process of getting dressed for the activity-putting the double suits, hat, shoes, flippers, gloves. He was very patient with each and every one of us. He cracked a lot of jokes but was also serious and cautious about our safety. Extremely knowledgeable about the water conditions. Never once through the entire experience did he make us feel unsafe. He was very responsible and I would recommend him and Troll Expeditions very much for Silfra snorkeling. We briefly met some of his other team mates and they were all very professional but friendly too.

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Us being crazy!
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The blue beauty awaiting us!!!

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Our guide had moved to Iceland only a week before our Silfra tour so he was doing it only for a few days before he took us. But never once did we suspect it. We were surprised when he told us at the end of the tour. His professionalism, knowledge about the place was impeccable. Of course, all of us made it back alive and no one had to be rescued.

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We had Angelina Jolie’s lips afterward

You have to be a good swimmer to participate in the snorkeling activity. Now I’ve mostly snorkeled in sea-water so I was a little skeptical about fresh water swimming as it provides less buoyancy. But the suits were so buoyant, we didn’t have to worry about floating. They provide you with 2 suits on top of your thermals- the middle layer was the one that kept you nice and warm. The top one is a dry suit. Then you have gloves, shoes, flippers and the snorkel mask. Our instructor and guide, Wesley, helped us every step of the way here. You walk through the parking lot to the fissure and one by one you enter the magnificently blue world of ice-cold clear water. The water is so clear that you can see 100 meters (300 feet) ahead of you. It has various sections that you go through namely Silfra crack, fissure, cathedral and lagoon. My favorite was the cathedral which is the biggest and deepest portion of the fissure resembling a ‘cathedral’. the water is so clear that you can see from one end to the other of the cathedral. It is almost magical to be underwater in ice-cold water and you suddenly appreciate the beauty of nature.

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Such a beauty!! The water, I meant 😉

The last turn from the Silfra cathedral to the lagoon is the hardest as the current has picked up and if you miss the turn you can go right into the lake. That might not be a very pleasant experience as they would have to rescue you using helicopters. But like I mentioned earlier, the instructors are very good, follow safety precautions. Wesley had explained us very well in advance about how he was going to proceed through this part of the Silfra and made sure we turned safely and accurately.

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The upside down, is it??

This last turn brings you to the lagoon. Once in the lagoon you can play around, get some good pictures, explore the whole area.

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Touching America and Europe at the same time!!!

It can be a tiring swim, but if you do get tired, just turn on your back take the mask off and let the buoyant suit keep you afloat. Also, drink that delicious glacial water. It is the cleanest water you will ever drink.

Once you are done with the tour, they take you back to the meeting point; and here you will be welcomed with delicious & warm hot chocolate and cookies. That was a great idea to warm us up after the cold but fun swim.

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Down-side up reflections

So all in all, my experience with Troll expeditions was amazing. I loved the courteous nature, responsible but still funny manner of the employees. I must’ve emailed them at 11 pm the night before the activity and also on my way to the lake as I was running late, and I would get instant reply. They are very accommodating and they also take pictures for free. So you don’t have to worry about taking your Go-Pro with you. The pictures don’t do justice though. You have to actually see it to assimilate the vastness, the surreal beauty of this place.

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It’s an abyss

I would definitely recommend Troll Expeditions and also Wesley for anyone doing this tour in Iceland. Even though they are relatively new, my experience with them was perfect.

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Our tour guide-Wesley and I

The review here is my own, and I have not been compensated by Troll expeditions to write this review!!

Colorful Cheerful Colmar- A Storybook town in France

As a child, you’ve read fairy tales. Everyone does!! There are God fairies, magical villages, knights in shining armor and what not..As you grow up you realize there are no such things…and I am actually kind of glad there is no Frog Prince. That story still sends a shiver down my spine thinking of kissing the slimy, cold, wet frog!!! Yikes. Anyway, but some places on this beautiful planet prove that such magical places exist. They make you believe that may be those stories may could be real..

Colmar in France is one such place.

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Storybook, right??

We decided to visit Colmar on a whim. We had one extra day at hand while we were in Switzerland and instead of spending time in Zurich which is just another big city like New York or San Francisco, we hopped on a train to Colmar. I had seen some bright colorful pictures of Colmar all over the internet which didn’t seem real at all. I thought they were one of those enhanced pictures you see everywhere and not a real picture of the town. Colmar was real…It was really a colorful, storybook town. This gorgeous town is about two and half hour train ride from Zurich. It is nestled near Germany and Switzerland borders in the Alsace region of France. If you are coming from Zurich, you have to change trains in Basel to get here. It is about thirty minutes from Strasbourg which is the nearest big city. This is one thing that I absolutely loved about traveling in Europe. The connectivity between different cities, countries and towns is amazing with trains running on time. If you have planned your train timings perfectly, they are the fastest way to get anywhere. Definitely better than driving around, looking for parking, avoiding running into cows..well that was in Switzerland.

However, be aware of any train strikes, as they are quite common and so have flexibility in your schedule to change plans accordingly. Usually, the dates of strikes are on the train websites way beforehand and so you can plan your itinerary accordingly.

Once you reach Colmar train station, you can either take rental bikes or walk. The rental bikes are widely available outside the train station, but you may have to book those first. I have heard Colmar Velo- Velodocteurs to be good. But we instead decided to take a walk to the old town area. After eating all the delicious cheese and chocolate in Switzerland, we needed that exercise. The irony is I am writing this while enjoying my last piece of Swiss chocolate I brought home with me.

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Colmar Station

There are directions given everywhere leading to the Old Town. As soon as you reach the town center, you know it is the right place. There is a bustling energy here that draws you to the center of all the action. The canal comes into the picture first followed by those alluring houses, that I thought were unreal.

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Colmar

How is this town real??? I mean is it really. I had to pinch myself to make sure I am not in some La-La land!! These were my thoughts throughout the time I spent here.

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Walking toward the town center

It is a perfectly fairytale town in an idyllic setting with cobbled streets, the half timbered vintage houses lining a seriously beautiful canal which is the river named Lauch. And the canal is adorned by the most colorful, pretty looking flowers. These houses are a few centuries old and painted with beautiful colors that you would paint as a child in your art class. Charming pinks, yellows, apricot, and with window ledges decorated with flowers again! I was almost jealous of the people living in those houses.

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Look at those colorful homes!! Aren’t they just perfect??!!

As you walk through this dreamy picture perfect town, you will also notice a lot of small boutique stores selling macaron, macaroons, biscuits – C’est un délice!!! Pick a place, buy some of their goodies and wander around. Or take their Petit trains to get a tour of the town as I’ve described later.

There are a number of things you can do in Colmar other than just walking around town which is totally fine too. Here are some of the things, I did.

Fishmonger’s district and Tanner’s district:

This is the famous colorful street in Colmar. These are the houses where the professional fishermen in Colmar lived. These fishermen’s old world charming houses are painted brightly for a reason. The fishermen would be at sea for long and so when they would come back, they could identify their houses far from the shore. It is the same reason, why the houses in Burano in Venice, Italy are so brightly colored.

Also, here were the professional tanners who would use their houses to dry the skins of animals on the ledges outside.

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Colmar homes

Farmer’s market/ Covered Market Hall:

We went around town trying different delicacies. But to get a real taste of French culture, we visited their farmer’s market right near the town center. And this is where the real action was. There were people with their goods and foods on display which ranged from fruits, vegetables to wines, coffees, desserts, breads, and others.

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A vendor selling all goodies
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The covered market-hall

You could smell the aroma of freshly baked bread and delicious madeleines wafting through the air as you walked looking at carefully crafted desserts, sandwiches, breads, jams! You name it and they had it. We had the best brioche here and of course the coffee!!

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Selection of pastries, eclairs etc

You are in France, better have their coffee. And who does coffee better than French, or at least that is what I have heard. French coffee was delicious, but I would still rank Italian coffee as my number one favorite.

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Pretzels, muffins, breads on display

As anyone who has read my previous blogs, they would know my love for coffee!! If you haven’t already check my blog for Italian coffee culture, check it here- Not just your regular cup of coffee- Coffee Culture in Italy.

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Fruits and veggies stand
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Spices for sale

Important tip: Make sure you carry Euros in cash here. Since we were traveling from Switzerland, we just had Swiss Francs. In Switzerland, cards are widely accepted. We wanted to eat at this food stand in the market hall, which was a very local business. They didn’t accept cards let alone any other currency. That lady was ready to hurl some French at me when, thankfully, I found a 20 Euro bill in my purse. By the way, we had 2 brioche sandwiches, one coffee, one cold chocolate, madeleines packet of six, five 1 oz jars of jams, one small cake all in 20 Euros.

Colmar is also popular for its Mirabelle plum which is unique to the region of Alsace. You can get to taste this deliciously sweet plum either directly as a fruit from the fruit stands in the Farmer’s market or their numerous Mirabelle jams, preserves or wines. Those are also some cute gifts for friends and families back home.

Bartholdi museum:

There is a museum of a famous sculptor Bartholdi who sculpted the Statue of Liberty and was local to Colmar. We didn’t get to visit it since there was some kind of construction going on at the time.

Statue of Liberty:

If you haven’t seen the Statue of Liberty or any of its replicas created worldwide, you could visit it. Since this is the town where Bartholdi lived and made the Statue of Liberty, people love to visit it. However, I wouldn’t put it on a to-do list. It’s okay to be missed.

La-Petit Venise:

If you have been to Venice in Italy, you may think, it’s not worth a visit. But La-Petit Venise is just what it says – ‘a miniature Venice’. There are canal rides which take about half hour and its worth doing it to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful architecture of the town. The architecture is mostly German influenced; is what a local told us. He also told us a trivia that Colmar changed it’s nationality many times during World War going from France to Germany and back. Hence, the mixed culture.

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La-Petit Venise
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Another pretty house with a restaurant down

Petit train touristique:

If you are short on time and want to see a lot of places in a short span of time, I would recommend taking this train ride. It lasts 35 minutes and covers 7 km of the town, showing you all places of interest.

You can book it online or just book it the day of arrival. I would recommend making reservations, on the day of visit as plans may change due to unforeseen circumstances.

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The green train!

It’s easy to go around in this town and we spent most of our day enjoying the beauty of the town and the amazing culture. We ended the day with a delicious dinner in their canal side restaurant while waving to other fellow tourists enjoying their canal ride.

Important tips about visiting Colmar, France

  1. If you are taking train from Switzerland, you have to buy separate tickets at Basel which is the connecting train station.
  2. Carry Euros in cash; credit cards may not be accepted in the very local places.
  3. If you know French, then you won’t have any trouble communicating with the locals, however, English is not widely spoken.
  4. Make sure cameras are fully charged and there are extra memory cards; you will be taking a lot of pictures.
  5. Summers are quite warm, winters are mild. Dress accordingly. They also have few rainy days.
  6. Spring/summer are the best time to visit as the flowers bloom vibrantly. But that also means more tourists and crowds.
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All pictures in this blog courtesy my hubs

Do you want to enter this Fairytale Wonderland called Colmar? Is it on your bucket list too? Shoot me an email or comment if you want to know more about this beautiful place!! Do subscribe to get more of such travel tips and tricks. Comment and share on Facebook to brag about places you would want to go.

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Day trip from Seattle- Snoqualmie falls

About half hour drive from Seattle downtown lies the magnificent and mesmerizing Snoqualmie falls in a quaint little town of Snoqualmie. It is about 31 miles east of Seattle downtown reached by a 30-40 minute drive via I-90 East and about 40 minutes from the Sea-Tac airport. I would recommend taking a rental car because with public commute it can take up to 2 hours.

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The first view of the upper falls

The Snoqualmie is formed from the melting snow in the Cascades mountain range tumbling down the mountain plummeting into the Snoqualmie falls.
It flows downstream to meet another river called the Skyhomish river to form the Snohomish river which finally reaches Puget sound. The Snoqualmie river plays an important role in generation of clean sustainable hydro-electric power for Puget Sound.
If you are visiting Seattle, I would definitely recommend visiting these falls for unsurpassed natural beauty.

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View from the trail toward lower falls

Drive up to Snoqualmie pass and you will find 2 parking lots. There is one paid parking lot which is closer and free ones are at a 5 min walk. Park at any of these lots and walk toward the sound of the water (or follow directions!!!) Yes those are the Snoqualmie falls. The falls create clouds of mist in the air which showers on you like rain. It can get cold so be mindful and wear warm clothes. You can also wear a poncho because you will get some water on yourself.
There is a beautiful lodge named Salish lodge and spa right by the falls which you can visit. You can either stay there or just visit their restaurant for an amazing view of the falls.

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Sitting by the river

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I personally would recommend taking the little hike to the lower falls. It is only about 0.7 miles. It is a slightly unpaved road so wear good shoes. There are innumerable trees such as salmonberry, elderberry, douglas firs amongst others here that provide natural shade. A lot of information is displayed about the trees on plaques that you can read while walking down the gravel road. This is a great place to take children as there is a lot to learn here about the native flora and fauna as well as the Native American culture, while getting a good exercise. You will see a lot of people taking their dogs here for walks too. So if you are a dog owner or a dog lover like me, this place is a good way to let those furry animals get their share of exercise.

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So many different shades of green!!!!

Walk all the way down to the lower falls and to the river to get some beautiful pics of the natural beauty that this place is. There is a small boardwalk that leads to the lower falls. You can spend some time here exploring the surrounding area, but do not try to get closer to the falls, as it can be dangerous.

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Snoqualmie river

On your way back, explore the restaurant at Salish lodge, check their store for any souvenirs!!
Let me know if you have visited the Snoqualmie falls near Seattle, Washington and tell me what you liked most about it.

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View from the lower falls