Hong Kong Travel Guide For Travelers

A fоrmеr соlоnу оf thе Unіtеd Kingdom; Hоng Kоng іѕ nоw оnе оf Chіnа’ѕ brightest stars іn іntеrnаtіоnаl tоurіѕm. Thе сіtу іѕ іnсrеаѕіnglу bесоmіng a global lіnk fоr Chіnа tо ѕhоwсаѕе іtѕ truе сulturе аnd warmth. Bеіng рrіmаrіlу a роrt city, thе Hоng Kоng Special Admіnіѕtrаtіvе Region (SAR) іѕ mаdе uр оf mаnу dіffеrеnt раrtѕ, ѕuсh аѕ Hong Kоng Iѕlаnd, whісh іѕ mоѕt fаmоuѕ аmоng trаvеlеrѕ. Thеn the city has Kowloon, whісh іѕ a ріесе оf lаnd wіth аbоut 2.1 million іnhаbіtаntѕ. China аlѕо hаvе “the nеw tеrrіtоrіеѕ”, whісh іѕ thе nеwеѕt аnd lаtеѕt ріесе оf lаnd tаkеn bу thе British. Finally, thе оutlуіng islands thаt соmрlеtе Hоng Kоng аrе a grоuр оf іѕlаndѕ lосаtеd іn thе ѕоuthеrn раrt оf thе SAR. For your next trip to Aukland from Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific could be your saviors.

Pеорlе

Thе mаіn рорulаtіоn hеrе іѕ Chіnеѕе, еxасtlу Hаn, аlthоugh thеrе аrе оthеr grоuрѕ оf Chіnеѕе, ѕuсh аѕ thе lion chews. Yоu саn аlѕо fіnd a соnѕіdеrаblе аmоunt оf Sоuth Aѕіаn communities hеrе which wеrе established ѕеvеrаl уеаrѕ ago. Thе Phіlірріnеѕ, Indonesians, аnd Thаі аrе аlѕо fоund іn lаrgе numbеrѕ. Mоѕt реорlе speak Cantonese hеrе, whісh аddѕ ѕоmе English wоrdѕ.

Climate

Thе сlіmаtе hеrе rеmаіnѕ mоdеrаtе fоr mоѕt оf thе уеаr. Thе mіnіmum wіntеr temperature drорѕ tо 10 dеgrееѕ, whіlе maximum ѕummеrѕ аrе аrоund 30 dеgrееѕ. But durіng thе spring mоnthѕ frоm Mаrсh tо Mау, thе wеаthеr іѕ еxtrеmеlу pleasant, wіth tеmреrаturеѕ hоvеrіng аrоund thе 1920ѕ.

Getting hеrе

Beginning vіѕіtоrѕ ѕhоuld note thаt Hong Kоng hаѕ іtѕ оwn ѕеt оf immigration аnd visa systems, ѕо mainland Chіnа’ѕ entry іntо Hоng Kоng guarantees a nеw vіѕа. Vіѕіtоrѕ arriving bу рlаnе wіll uѕе Hоng Kong International Aіrроrt, whісh іѕ thе island’s main air gateway. Sеvеrаl mаjоr international dеѕtіnаtіоnѕ flу tо Hоng Kоng. Cаthау Pacific аnd Drоgоn Aіr аrе Hоng Kоng’ѕ twо mаіn international саrrіеrѕ.

Moving аrоund

Frоm thе аіrроrt, thеrе аrе ѕеvеrаl wауѕ tо vіѕіt thе сіtу аnd іtѕ attractions. Onе саn аlwауѕ tаkе thе рublіс buѕ system thаt саn tаkе уоu thrоugh thе fоur districts оf Hоng Kong. Fеrrіеѕ аrе аlѕо a grеаt wау tо gеt tо knоw Mасаu аnd thе іѕlаnd’ѕ роrt. Yоu саn аlѕо uѕе thе ѕubwау аѕ thеrе аrе ѕеvеrаl lіnеѕ thаt аllоw уоu tо сrоѕѕ thе hаrbоr. Frоm thе airport, Airport Express іѕ thе bеѕt wау tо gеt tо thе сіtу.

Mаіn attractions

Thе tоur includes thе сіtу’ѕ famous Porto Skуlіnе, whісh hаѕ bесоmе a tоurіѕt аttrасtіоn. A fеrrу rіdе wоuld оffеr thе bеѕt vіеwѕ оf thе fаmоuѕ Skуlіnе. Othеr аttrасtіоnѕ іnсludе Vісtоrіа Pеаk аnd thе city’s traditional heritage regions. Yоu саn аlѕо tаkе a look аt thе сіtу’ѕ fаmоuѕ muѕеumѕ, whісh include thе Hоng Kоng Hіѕtоrісаl Muѕеum, whісh рrоvіdеѕ a dеtаіlеd view оf thе сіtу’ѕ раѕt аnd рrеѕеnt. Yоu саn аlѕо vіѕіt thе various beautiful beaches hеrе іn thе nеw tеrrіtоrіеѕ.

Fооd

Thе food hеrе іѕ ԛuіtе diverse but іѕ mоrе іnсlіnеd tо Chіnеѕе аnd seafood. Chорѕtісkѕ аrе uѕеd ԛuіtе оftеn аnd аrе аn іmроrtаnt etiquette durіng Chіnеѕе meals. Sоmе оf thе mоѕt fаmоuѕ lосаl dіѕhеѕ іnсludе Dim Sum, Suі Mеі, Pоrrіdgе, Nооdlеѕ, аnd Tong Sui. Various vаrіеtіеѕ оf seafood аrе аlѕо аvаіlаblе fоr ѕеаfооd lovers.

Sаfеty

Thе rulе оf law аnd оrdеr іn thе сіtу іѕ strictly соntrоllеd bу thе роlісе аnd thеrеfоrе thе сіtу hаѕ a lоw сrіmе rate. Unlike оthеr Aѕіаn cities, ѕtrееt crime іѕ low, but уоu nееd tо bе аwаrе оf рісkросkеterѕ іn сrоwdеd mаrkеtѕ.

Nоt ѕurе whаt соuld bе a grеаt рlасе tо ѕреnd уоur vасаtіоn? Thе Travel Guide to Aukland from Hong Kong іѕ juѕt a brief guіdе tо organizing уоur trip.

Treasures of Southern Iceland

SOUTHERN ICELAND: A place to be thrilled and feel the amplified nature in the vast empty space in Iceland is the southern part of this country. There are countless things to experience and discover in this part. The whole region is a treasure chest filled with long shorelines, magnificent waterfalls, lava fields, volcanoes and craters, black beaches, glaciers, wildlife, and lots more.

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Driving by Southern Iceland’s stunning landscape

This was our third and final excursion on our last day in Iceland. I bought it online in Viator for $80 per adult and lunch isn’t included. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 in Reykjavik by Bustravel Iceland a little after 8am and were dropped off at the same place around 6pm. It was a big tour bus with comfortable seats and a restroom. Our guide was very knowledgeable, helpful, and a funny gentleman. He was also quite a good photographer and a story-teller. One thing I’ve seen here is that you don’t need to tip the driver or the guide in Iceland…they don’t expect it and haven’t seen anyone tipping them during any of our excursions. 

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Magical mountains of Southern Iceland

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July of 2019) when we flew to Iceland and my little sister flew into Reykjavik from the East Coast. We were in Iceland for 5 nights. Please check out my other posts/pages for all the trips/excursions we took in Iceland. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay…nothing we couldn’t have handled with just a t-shirt. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like me. 

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Southern Iceland

EATING and SHOPPING: On the day of this trip, we had lunch in the Village of Vik at Icewear cafe…Iceland’s famous sweater and winter clothing store. This big cafe offers lots of options. I had Icelandic fish and chips with a side salad. By the way it’s different than the English style fish and chips. 

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Icelandic fish and chips in Vik, Iceland

Beside the cafe was one of the biggest Icewear stores with more selections than any other Icewear stores we’ve checked. 

PLACES I’VE VISITED: Enjoy the miles after miles of lava fields covered with soft green moss while you are in Southern Iceland…it almost looks like a fairytale land. Whole drive was very pretty with scenic landscape and stunning shorelines.  

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Driving by Skogafoss Waterfalls

  1. SKOGAFOSS: Our first stop after leaving Reykjavik is Skogafoss. South Iceland is known for its tall waterfalls and Skogafoss is one of them dropping straight down from 60m cliff. This is one powerful waterfall and you can get really wet if you try to get too close to it. Take a few minutes to walk over the trail that leads to the top of the falls. We didn’t take that walk, rather stayed near the falls where you can see it’s sheer mighty force. We spent about 20 minutes here enjoying the falls and the small river that flows from it. 
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Skogafoss Waterfalls in Southern Iceland

  1. SOLHEIMAJOKULL GLACIER: From the falls, our second stop was Solheimajokull, a 14 km long outlet glacier with a majestic lagoon. Ice-breaks from the glacier keeps the lagoon stocked with icebergs creating a stunning site to visit. 
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Solheimajokull Glacier in Southern Iceland

Be ready to walk and hike to get close to the glacier. The hike was about half an hour or so, from the bus all the way to the glacier. My 9 years old could do it with a breeze. They were thrilled to be able to touch the glacier ice and walk over them. 

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Solheimajokull Glacier in Southern Iceland

There are other tours/package you can take to actually go glacier hiking, which I saw some groups were doing with proper gears and guide. 

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Solheimajokull Glacier in Southern Iceland

  1. VILLAGE of VIK: From all the walking and hiking on the previous glacier, we were ready for lunch at this small but beautiful coastal town of Vik. There isn’t much to do in the town itself…or at least we didn’t have time to do anything here, other than just having a meal. This place gets lots of annual rains. The famous Icelandic winter clothing brand was born in Vik.

4. REYNISFJARA BEACH: Reynisfjara a gorgeous black volcanic beach, just a few minutes drive from the center of Vik. This is famed for its striking scenery. On one side the beach, west of Mount Reynisfjall, hexagonal grey columnar basalt formations can be seen surrounding a sea cave. On the other side is the rough sea with crashing waves. And in between are the standing bold rocks to add to the beauty of this whole seascape. 

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The sea cave with basalat columns in Reynisfjara Beach in Southern Iceland

The powerful waves on this beach is known to be very dangerous. Be careful and never turn your back to the ocean. 

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Reynisfjara Beach in Southern Iceland

The sea cave, Halsanefshellier, is where the striking columnar basalt formations can be seen. These columns are formed when magma cools slowly and cracks into columns, usually hexagonal, as the surface area decreases. These columns stand perpendicular in hexagon shapes. By the way, if you are into Bollywood films, the famous song “Gerua” by Shahrukh Khan and Kajol was partly done here. 

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Reynisfjara Beach in Southern Iceland

  1. SELJALANDSFOSS: Our final spot of the excursion and in Iceland was this impressive . This is the famous waterfall in South Iceland which drops not only off a 60m high cliff, but also where visitors can walk behind the falls for a thrilling experience.
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Seljalandsfoss Falls in Southern Iceland

It is one of the most photogenic falls that you’ll see in most of Iceland’s travel guides. Yes, you can get slightly wet from the mist but with caution, children can do this easily. This is one of the biggest attractions in this side of the island and shouldn’t be missed. 

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Seljalandsfoss Falls in Southern Iceland

 

Highlights of Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA: With so much of astonishing and infinite beauty everywhere, this must be Iceland. And Snaefellsnes Peninsula gives you a small taste of almost everything in Iceland. Therefore it’s called “Iceland in miniature”.

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

The magnificent mountain range that you’ll pass by going towards Snaefellsnes is just an appetizer for this journey. A trip around the peninsula allows its visitors to enjoy dotted coastal lines, snaky rivers, tall falls, mesmerising lava fields covered with moss, silhouetted volcanic craters and hills against the skyline, bird cliffs, picturesque old churches, and staggering mountains…all in one region. The whole bus trip was absolutely stunning with changing scenes and jaw-dropping landscapes. 

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Natural beauty is the main attraction of this region. And the geology of the Snaefellsnes area is very diverse. Magnificent lava formations are widespread here. The lava fields and the vegetation covering the lava is very sensitive and damage to moss on fields of block lava may take generations to heal. That’s why walking on them is not permissible. Some of the lava fields are from the more than 3 million years old that forms the bottom layer. Resting on them are layers of rocks which were formed beneath glaciers during the Ice Age (less than 3 million years old). And for the top most part of these lava fields is younger than 11,000 years old. 

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This was our second excursion in Iceland, after the Golden Circle, Kerid Volcano, and Blue Lagoon tour. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 in Reykjavik by Bustravel Iceland a little after 9am and were dropped off at the same place around 8pm. It was a minivan and our guide/driver was a very knowledgeable, funny, and accommodating gentleman in this trip. We paid $100 per person for this excursion and meals were not included. But the good part is that you don’t need to tip the driver or the guide. 

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Bird cliffs in Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland and my sister flew in from the East Coast. We were in Iceland for 5 nights. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like me. 

EATING and SHOPPING: For lunch, we didn’t really stop at a proper lunch venue. We were taken to a small village and stopped in front of a departmental store selling hot food, like hotdogs and basic things. There was a cart on the opposite side of the street where we got our gyro-like sandwiches. 

PLACES I’VE VISITED: The best way to explore Snaefellsnes Peninsula is to drive around and take your own time to visit all the major sites and other places. But we did it with a tour guide. And following places are the ones we got to visit:

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Staggering beauty of Iceland

  1. SNAEFELLSJOKULL NATIONAL PARK: Located on the tip of the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula in western Iceland, this is one experience no tourists should miss. 
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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Mt. Snaefellsjokull dominates the landscape of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s a mystical place where lava fields reach out to the blue sea, craters dot the landscapes, and the cliffs mark the extreme edge of the country. 

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Driving by beautiful sceneries of Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

2. GEROUBERG: This was our first stop…out in nowhere. This is a site of an interesting rock formation of long and hexagonal shaped stone basalt columns. This is one of those wonders of nature and leaves you in awe when you look at the stone pillars. Nothing much to do here really, we spent about 10 minutes taking pictures and then off to our second spot.

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GEROUBERG Basalt columns in Iceland

3. HELGAFELLSSVEIT FALLS: Probably not as famous as the other falls in this region but Helgafellssveit has definitely a beautiful surroundings of a magnificent river and hillsides. This picturesque and calm place deserves more tourists for its splendid beauty. 

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HELGAFELLSSVEIT FALLS and the surrounding view in Iceland

4. MT. KIRKJUFELL & KIRKJUFELLFOSS: After lunch, we came to this iconic falls of Iceland. On the northern shore of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, Kirkjufellfoss, is the impressive 463 meter high Kirkjufell, or Church Mountain. With its prominence view from different angles, no wonder this dramatic landmark is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It stands tall over the nearby fishing village Grundarfjörður. 

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Kirkjufellfoss in Iceland

 

The falls, Kirkjufellfoss, is very decoratively situated a short distance from the mountain, Kirkjufell…making it a picture perfect destination for its guests. With the mountain in the backdrop, Kirkjufellfoss is an incredible site to visit and hike. Yes, do hike the ramp beside the falls for the perfect view and a great photo opportunity. This picture alone inspired me to go to Iceland at the very beginning, and I’m sure it’s true for many tourists. 

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Kirkjufellfoss with Kirkjufell mountain in Iceland

5. SAXHOLL: It is a beautifully formed crater that erupted 3-4000 years ago. The crater rises 109 meters above sea level. The remnants of quarrying can be seen on one side of the crater. The summit at the top of the crater gives you a gorgeous view of the surrounding valley and landscape, which can be accessed by hiking up some steps. 

Going up the stairs to Saxholl Crater in Iceland

Going up the stairs to Saxholl Crater in Iceland

6. BLACK LAVA PEARL BEACH: Djúpalónssandur or the Black Lava Pearl Beach is one of the major destinations of Snaefellsnes. It looks like a wonderland right out of any hobbit books.  It’s not just the beach that’s beautiful about this place. The walk to the beach, called The Path of the Bull, was the highlight for me. With interesting rock formation, walking through this path was a thrill. 

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Going towards Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

 

This black beach with small pebbles, stunning black rocks, and cliffs in the distance is a photographer’s or hiker’s or nature-lover’s paradise. Tourists are told to be very careful here with the sneaky waves that can carry people out in the sea. Use caution when chasing the waves here. 

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Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

After the black beach, we stopped by the Snaefellsnes park’s visitor center. It has a small museum and information on the geological history and uniqueness. 

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Black Lava Pearl Beach in Iceland

7. ARNARSTAPI: Our last stop of the day was the jaw-dropping tiny village on the southern side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Arnarstapi. This used to be a busy fishing hub once upon a time, but now a must-see site of Iceland. This is one of the magical places in this region where sea, lava rock formations, mountains, and cliffs meet with a vast natural beauty. And yes, this was one of my most favorite spots to photograph or spend time in Iceland. 

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Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Located at the foot of Mt. Stapafell, Arnarstapi or Stapi is a popular tourist destination and a natural harbor with exquisite beauty. It’s a one hour of easy coastal walk that takes you around to display its crashing waves, lively bird cliffs, lush valleys with a mountain in the background. The seaside and the cliffs have been made a Natural Reserve in 1979. 

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Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Standing by the ocean, enjoy the dramatic views of seagulls’ nestings on the sea cliffs and hear their loud chirping. Look for the Arch Rock and basalt columns too. Overall, exploring this historic yet mesmerizing landscape will surely take everyone’s breath away. 

Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Village of Arnarstapi in Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Golden Circle, Kerid Volcano, Blue Lagoon in Iceland

GOLDEN CIRCLE, KERID VOLCANO, BLUE LAGOON: This is probably the most well-known and most popular excursion from Reykjavik that almost everyone does. Each site of this tour was better than the others and Blue Lagoon is the cherry on top. 

Scenic drive during the Golden Circle tour in Iceland

Scenic drive during the Golden Circle tour in Iceland

This was our first guided tour in Iceland, on our 2nd day here. It was $134 per adult which doesn’t include any meals. We were picked up from the Tour Bus Stop-12 near our hotel in Reykjavik by Nice Travel Iceland, a little after 9am and were dropped off at the same place around 8pm. It was a minivan and our guide/driver was a knowledgeable but couldn’t keep our attention for long. The sites and the drive were fantastic, but we couldn’t understand half of the things our guide said in a very monotonous voice.

Moss covered lava fields in Iceland

Moss covered lava fields in Iceland

Meals are not included in this trip. But the good part is that you don’t need to tip the drive or the guide…haven’t seen anyone tipping them during any of our trips. We did get a lunch break but lots of things were packed in the itinerary, therefore, everything was done in a bit hurry. 

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland and met my little sister from the East Coast in Reykjavik. Four of us were in Iceland for a total of 5 nights. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay…nothing we couldn’t have handled with just a t-shirt. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like I was.

EATING and SHOPPING: We had lunch when we stopped at Geysir at a very well-organized restaurant. The complex has a wide range of Icelandic designed clothing and accessories. Although a bit expensive, this is a great souvenir shop. Icelandic lamb is something very flavorful and different from other places. My lunch of lamb, salad, potato, and rice was about $30 per plate. 

My Icelandic lamb for lunch in Golden Circle tour

My Icelandic lamb for lunch in Golden Circle tour

PLACES I’VE VISITED: The tour was for 11 hours in total. Many people rent car and do it on their own leisurely. 

Here is rough itinerary of this tour:

From Reykjavik to Thingvellier National Park – Þingvellir – 35 minutes drive

From Þingvellir NP to Geysir/hot spring – 40 minutes drive

Lunch break at Geysir – for about an hour (including visiting the geysers)

From Geysir to Gulfoss and stay 40 minutes – 10 minutes drive

From Gulfoss to Kerid Volcan – 40 minutes drive

From Kerid Volcano to Blue Lagoon and stay here for ~2 hours – 1:15 hours drive

And here are all the places we’ve visited during this excursion:

  1. THINGVELLIER/Þingvellir NATIONAL PARK: Our first stop was at Thingvellier NP, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Iceland’s most important historical sites. This is the most popular national park in Iceland. Not only this is a stunning place to explore with miles of lava fields and beautiful landscape, but this is also the original site of the longest running parliament in the world, which was founded in 930 AD. Many crucial events in Iceland’s history took place here, like the adoption of Christianity around 1000 AD and the foundation of the modern Icelandic Republic in 1944. 
Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier NP also lies on the junction of two tectonic plates, on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The junction of the plates is more clearly visible here than anywhere else in the world. The two plates are constantly diverging, causing fissures and gullies throughout the zone. It’s where the North-American and the European continental tectonic plates are drifting and being torn apart at a rate of few millimeters to 2 centimeters each year. The most exciting thing is that you can actually walk on the continental drift.

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

Since 1930, Thingvellier has been a National Park and in 2004 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The natural environment of Thingvellier NP is unique in the world. 

We started our walk from the visitor’s center, looking over the vast valley where the river flows. The walk from there to the original parliament site and further is magnificent with breathtaking landscape. 

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Thingvellier National Park in Iceland

The one hour that we stayed here was really not enough to explore some of the gorgeous views that this national park can offer. 

2. GEYSIR: This is another popular and touristy geo-thermal hot spot with steamy water coming out of the earth. It’s amazing how close you can get to these boiling water and smell the sulfur. You can touch the flowing water which is not hot as much. 

Steamy "Geysir" in Iceland

If you walk along a few more steps, the big geyser, Strokkur, shoots up every couple minutes. And it’s a thrill to watch such a show created by nature. 

This is also a good place for meals or snacks. Across from the geysers, are the restaurants where you can find a variety of food options and souvenirs. We had about an hour to visit the geysers and for lunch. 

A bigger geyser that shoots every couple minutes in Iceland

A bigger geyser that shoots every couple minutes in Iceland

3. GULLFOSS: Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Falls, was our next on the itinerary. This is considered to be the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. Rain and glacier water on the White River plunge down a double cascade to create one monstrous and the largest volume falls during summer in Europe.

Gullfoss or The Golden Falls in Iceland

Gullfoss or The Golden Falls in Iceland

Tourists started to visit Gullfoss around 1875. Prior to that time the waterfall was hard to reach because of rough terrain and impassable rivers. A local female, name Sigridur in Brattholt and her sisters often guided visitors to Gullfoss, building the first trail that led down to the waterfall. 

There are few theories how the name Gullfoss was given. One is that it was named Gullfoss because of the golden evening hue which often colors its glacier water. Another story is that the name was inspired by the rainbow which often appears when sunshine hits the water spray thrown up by the waterfall. And another story goes that once upon a time, a farmer named Gygur lived at Gygjarholl. He had plenty of gold and could not bear the thought of someone else possessing it after his lifetime. To prevent this, he placed the gold in a coffer and threw it into the waterfall. And since then, it has been named Gullfoss. 

Gullfoss in Iceland

Gullfoss in Iceland

 

We could feel the mist from the falls from the parking lot while walking towards it. It was about 10 minutes walk on the trail rim right by the falls. Anyone would be awestruck by its sheer size, beauty, and enormity of this falls. 

After the Gullfoss, our driver stopped at a small area where we could pet some Icelandic horses. I bought some horse food for my daughter to feed them. Icelandic horses look very much like Mongolian horses…extremely elegant yet cute looking. Seems like, other tour guide buses were also stopping here to pet these few horses and feed them.

4. KERID CRATER LAKE: This is a small volcanic crater lake on the route back toward Reykjavik from Gullfoss that is about 6500 years old.. You can walk up to the rim and can take an easy hike down into the belly of the crater and circle the lake. This is a very easy crater to visit, even with children. 

Kerid Volcano Crater Lake in Iceland

Kerid Volcano Crater Lake in Iceland

While most of the sights in Iceland are free to enter, Kerid Volcano requires 400 ISK charge which was covered in our excursion fee. 

5. BLUE LAGOON: Our last stop of the day was the highlight of Golden Circle excursion and the most anticipated site, Blue Lagoon. Everybody gets hyped about this and for a very valid reason. This is the most famous and iconic hotspot to visit in Iceland. It’s a man-made lagoon/pool and a geo-thermal health spa center near the airport. Sliding into the warm milky blue water is an experience that I’ll never forget. The water coats your skin in silica. While you are there, slather on a mineral mask for a rejuvenating spa experience (it comes with the entry fee).  

Milky blue water of Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Milky blue water of Blue Lagoon in Iceland

The Blue Lagoon’s geothermal seawater is born 2000 meters within the earth where ocean water and freshwater converge in a volcanic frontier of searing heat and immense pressure. The water temperature stays around 40 degree Celsius all year round, even in the winter weather. And the vast lava plain surrounding the Blue Lagoon dates from the year 1226. The beneficial powers of the Blue Lagoon were first discovered by a man seeking comfort from psoriasis. 

Pre-booking is almost a must if you are planning to go to Blue Lagoon on a specific date and time. Time slots get sold out days or even weeks before sometimes during busy seasons. It is an expensive yet one of a kind experience to have. We got the cheapest package for about $94 per adult (kids are free) which included face mask, a drink, a locker, and a towel. 

We had only 2 hours here, which is definitely not enough…I could spend a couple more hours in that warm water. Also, if you are planning to buy souvenirs from the Blue Lagoon store, be ready to spend more than expected. 

 

Reykjavik – World’s northernmost capital

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND: My 62nd country to visit – Iceland is a country of the Vikings, where trolls and elves live in the mountains and where Norse Gods like Odin, his powerful sons Thor and Loki were once worshiped. This modern Nordic island, in the North Atlantic Ocean in between Europe and North America has dramatic landscapes and extreme geological contrasts. On one hand, Iceland has some of the largest glaciers in Europe and on the other, it has some of the most active volcanoes in the world. This is a land of “Fire and Ice”. 

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with a population of only 350k and most of them live in the capital, Reykjavik. The country is big on exporting fish. Over 80% of the houses and buildings are heated by geothermal energy. 

Contemporary art by Trjonin Lake in Reykjavik, Iceland

Contemporary art by Trjonin Lake in Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, which means smokey or steamy bay, is the capital and the largest city of Iceland; also a focal point to start your journey in this island. Keflavik International Airport is a little less than an hour drive from the city center of Reykjavik. Flybus is a cheaper way to reach the capital. We took a taxi from the airport and paid about $130 USD one-way for 4 of us. Renting cars or camper vans are very popular here, especially if you are planning to explore the Ring Road. 

Walking around city center in Reykjavik, Iceland

Walking around city center in Reykjavik, Iceland

Few things to keep in mind while traveling to Iceland: currency here is Icelandic kronas or ISK. U.S. citizens don’t need visas for a short stay. Visiting this island nation can get very expensive, a lot more than mainland European countries. Good thing is tipping is not a popular culture here, in restaurants or in excursions. I didn’t see anyone tipping anywhere. For public transportation, Straeto mobile app for public bus is pretty handy where you can pay ahead of time, look at the map, and schedule for each route.

TIME of TRAVEL: It was during my kids’ summer break (end of July to be specific) when we flew to Iceland. My sister flew in from the East Coast. We met and stayed together in Reyjkavik during our whole stay. We were in Iceland for 5 nights. Although we were prepared for rain and sun with waterproof jackets, hats, rain boots, and hoodies, it barely rained during our stay…nothing we couldn’t have handled with just a t-shirt. But it does get chilly and windy in some places. So, being prepared doesn’t hurt, especially if you are traveling with children like I was. 

The sun used to set around midnight when we were there and it was out before 3am again. It didn’t get completely dark outside even with those couple hours without the sun. To see the complete midnight sun, June is the best time to visit Iceland. It only lasts for 2-3 weeks around that time. Summer is definitely the best time to explore since chances are that all of the sites will be easily accessible. It was a bit cloudy, gloomy, and drizzled a few times those few days. But I can imagine winter in Iceland would be very magical with snow covered mountains and landscapes. 

EATING and SHOPPING: Since Iceland is very expensive when it comes to…well, everything, my sister and I brought package food with us, like pre packaged udon soup from Costco, Ramen/cup noodles, tuna cans, and some snacks. We also made a trip to a 24/7 small grocery on Laugevaur to buy basic things like eggs, bread, oil, mayonnaise, fruits, and etc for breakfast where I paid around $60 for just a handful of few stuff. We still ate out for a few meals and the cost for some of those plates were A LOT. But when you are in Iceland, you have to try their lamb and seafood. There are lots of American chain fast food restaurants also, like Subway, Taco Bell, KFC and etc. Even the 6 inch Subway sandwich we had for one meal, I paid about $12. 

Laugevaur Street is packed with a variety of restaurants. Our first lunch was at Shanghai, a small Chinese on Laugavegur strip. Do stop at Sandholt for coffee and pastries. I loved its contemporary looking interior and lots of desserts options. Another awesome place to dine in Reykjavik is Icelandic Street Food on Laugevaur street…while I wasn’t a big fan of their “Volcanic Soup”…a smokey tomato based soup, the pan-fried cod was perfect. 

For one of the lunches, we came to Messinn’s…few minutes walk from the Trjonin Lake. Saltfish mousse with rye bread for appetizer is something I’ve never tried before and was tasty beyond expectation. For the main course, we all had Icelandic fish. All the dishes came with potatoes and spinach. Lastly for dessert, apple crumbles with ice cream was a yum. Icelandic lamb and seafood were my most favorite items here. I could eat seafood here at every meal if the price wasn’t like $30 per plate. We had lamb only once …it was exceptionally flavorful and perfectly cooked. 

Our lunch at Messinn’s in Reykjavik, Iceland

Our lunch at Messinn’s in Reykjavik, Iceland

For souvenirs, Laugevaur would be a great choice. Icelandic wool products, like socks, hats, gloves are definitely popular souvenirs. We bought a few wool products from the Icelandic brand store, Icewear. These items run very expensive….woolen sweaters can be a couple hundred dollars. Miniature Viking ships, beer-mugs, trolls, and elves are fun items to bring back home. I bought some lava soaps, Icelandic chocolate bars, a photo book of Iceland, and bracelets made from real volcanic stones. 

Trolls of Iceland

Trolls of Iceland

MY HOTEL: We stayed in Sif Apartment, very close to the center of Reykjavik. You will find lots of apartment style hotels in the capital. Sif Apartment is a newly renovated stylish, Scandinavian looking building with new furniture, features, and everything. There was no front desk on site but their great communication and accurate instructions made it very easy for us to check-in and to store our luggage in their facility before our check-in time. The apartment is located only 15 minutes walk from the city center and the big touristic spots, like Sun Voyager or Harpa. Hlemmur, one of the main bus stations in central Rekjavik, was only 2-3 minutes walk away from our hotel. 

Sif Apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland - our hotel

Sif Apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland – our hotel

PLACES I’VE VISITED: We had about a day and a half to really explore the capital. While Reykjavik is very scenic and ready to entertain its guests with different tastes, the most fascinating part of Iceland is outside the capital. There are lots of excursions that you can take from Reykjavik with different options and price ranges. The best and cheapest way to roam around is renting a car with a GPS and go around the Ring Road. Good thing is that most of the sites here don’t have entry fees. 

The actual downtown area is pretty small and the focal point of tourism. Walking around the city center which is characterized by Scandinavian style colorful houses is nice and highly recommended, since most of the attractions are within walking distance. 

Here are all the places we’ve visited in Reykjavik:

  1. LAUGAVEGUR DISTRICT: Laugavegur street is where we headed on our first day. It’s the main shopping street and the primary commercial hub of downtown Reykjavik…also, one of the oldest shopping strips in Iceland. After our lunch at Shanghai Chinese restaurant, we kept walking on Laugavegur. Options for souvenir shops, boutique or designer stores, cafes, and restaurants on Laugavegur are endless.
Laugavegur District in Reykjavik, Iceland

Laugavegur District in Reykjavik, Iceland

2. SUN VOYAGER: From Laugavegur district, it’s about 5 minutes walk to Sun Voyager. It’s a huge steel boat sculpture set on granite by the sea. 

Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, Iceland

Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, Iceland

3. HARPA: You can see the glass made honey-comb concert hall, Harpa, while walking by the water from Sun Voyager. It’s the home of national opera and symphony. The building opened back in 2011. It’s free to go in and look around. They also have few guided tours inside the building. We spend about half an hour walking around and checking out couple stores inside Harpa. 

Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland

Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland

4. HALLGRIMSKIRKJA or CHURCH of HALLGRIMUR: After our Golden Circle and Snaefellsness excursions, we spent a full day in Reykjavik downtown again. And this was our first stop. It’s about 10 minutes walk from Laugavegur street. 

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja is a striking architecture with 73 meter high tower, inspired by Icelandic traditions. But unfortunately, they were preparing for a concert and the church was closed to the public when we were there. The tower was open and visitors can climb it for a fee (although we didn’t do it). This is an iconic landmark of Iceland for its artistic and modern edifice.

5. AUSTURVOLLUR SQUARE/ICELAND PARLIAMENT/THE CATHEDRAL of REYKJAVIK: This is a tiny square in the heart of Reykjavik. Both the parliament and the national cathedral stand by Austorvollur square. 

Austorvollur square and the Icelandic Parliament in Reykjavik, Iceland

Austorvollur square and the Icelandic Parliament in Reykjavik, Iceland

The Icelandic Parliament is a classical 19th century structure built in 1881. Don’t let the size fool you…it is one of the important buildings in Reykjavik. Opposite of the parliament near Austurvollur is the Cathedral of Reykjavik. This is the seat of the Bishop of Iceland. Recent renovation reflect its original 18th century design. 

Cathedral of Reykjavik in Iceland

Cathedral of Reykjavik in Iceland

6. TRJONIN LAKE and TOWN HALL: This is a small but a prominent lake in central Reykjavik with the City Hall on one side. We passed along its shore and spent a few minutes. Few museums are close to this lake. There is also an outdoor restaurant right by it. 

Trjonin Lake and the Town Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland

Trjonin Lake and the Town Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland

 

7. OLD HARBOR and PUFFIN EXPRESS TOUR: This trip was put on our itinerary specifically for my 9-years old daughter. She loves animals and birds…and this was a perfect opportunity to get some real life education. We learned a lot about puffins and their history in Iceland. The short boat ride to the puffin island was enjoyable too. 

Old Harbor in Reykjavik, Iceland

Old Harbor in Reykjavik, Iceland

It was $57 per person for one hour boat ride to a nearby island where puffins live. It departs from the old harbor There are other places in Iceland where you can go puffin watching but this was something closer to Reykjavik that we could do. 

The Old Harbor is a starting point for most (if not all) of the water cruises/excursions to nearby sites. Few restaurants and cafes are here with different tour companies. 

From the Puffin Express Boat in Reykjavik, Iceland

From the Puffin Express Boat in Reykjavik, Iceland

IF I VISIT ICELAND AGAIN: If I come to Iceland again, which I probably will, I would stay in the same Sif Apartment for its location. I would also like to rent a car or a camper van to go around the Ring Road and visit some secret lagoons, beaches, hot springs, small villages, and especially some ice caves. I still regret not buying a woolen sweater or a wintry jacket from Icewear or 66 North. Finally, I wouldn’t miss eating more of their fresh fish. I do want to see the northern lights too, but I’m not sure if I can take the freezing temperature here…let’s see. 

 

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