Iceland: Unlike Anywhere I’ve Been

Ever since completing the trip I’ve been giddy and nervous to write this blog post. One the one hand, I’m excited to share all the beauty that is Iceland but on the other, it signifies my final trip outside of Spain before school ends. Before I can get into talking about our trip I need to first give some important details about Iceland.

  1. ICELAND IS EXPENSIVE (The cheapest food we found was hot dogs, one hot dog and one coke equalled 13 euros)
  2. Only around 350,000 people live in Iceland, with a majority of them living in Reykjavik
  3. Iceland is so safe that the police force doesn’t carry guns
  4. Iceland is ranked one of the happiest countries in the world
  5. At a given point in the summer, Iceland has 24 hours of sunlight
  6. In the winter Iceland only has 3 hours of sunlight
  7. Iceland has the most gender equal country in the world
  8. Beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989
  9. It would take a little over 15 hours to drive around the island
  10. There are no forests in Iceland

It’s not the easiest to get from Palma to Iceland, but once arriving in Iceland I learned that it is now extremely accessible from many major US cities. The amount of US tourists we saw in Iceland were more than any other country. We flew through Manchester on the way to Iceland and after a 4 hour layover were finally on the flight to Iceland. I was pretty surprised how empty the flight was on the way but happy it allowed me to sit in the window. As we began our final descent I noticed something interesting. Usually when landing in other cities you can see the outskirts of the city or neighboring towns. This time all I saw was dirt, just plain dirt.


We took a bus from Keflavik Airport and it was just continuous amounts of dirt on the way until we finally reached the outskirts of Reykjavik. For a few moments I started to think to myself, “Why do people bother coming here? It’s just dirt!” Boy was my thought soon changed. Having been pretty tired from a 10 hour travel day we decided to grab dinner at the local grocery store and rest in the hostel for our long tour the following day. The prices were OUTRAGEOUS at the grocery store, it was hard to find anything under 10 euros unless it was snack food. This was when I finally believed what everyone warned me about, Iceland is EXPENSIVE. We walked over to Subway after to purchase some sandwiches to take with us on our tour the next day, 15 euros for a footlong later we were ready to head to bed and forget how much money we had already spent.

The next day we had a pre-booked tour to see some local attractions. Unfortunately with our short time in Iceland we were only able to see a small portion of the island. Our tour started out in Þingvellir which is one of Iceland’s many national parks. The park actually sits on 2 tectonic pates which causes it to have a more rift look to it. The only downside to a tour is the time limit, as much as I wanted to keep exploring this park we had to go back to the bus and onto our next stop, Gullfoss Falls. The falls were extraordinary, for a land that had so much dirt, it also had so many different rivers, lakes and waterfalls! I was finally realizing why Iceland is such a geologists dream.

After Gullfoss, our tour took us to Geysir. I’m sure that word looks farmiliar to you because it’s where our English word Geyser came from! It reminded me of the Geyser’s in Yellowstone National Park back in the States. Every 4-7 minutes you would begin to see a small bubble in the center of the Geyser and then BAM! It exploded and left everyone standing around in awe. After watching it erupt a few times it was time for our tour to head to the last place, The Secret Lagoon. It’s a geothermal oasis where Icelanders and tourists alike sit in the warm waters. I’m sure you’re wondering, “Well what about the Blue Lagoon?” I was advised against going by a few Icelandic friends due to it’s overly-pricey tag and immense amount of tourists. I was glad though to have gone to the Secret Lagoon! It was surrounded by so much of Iceland’s beauty and we were even blessed to see the sun.

After our tour completed our goal was to go find some of the highly-talked about Icelandic hot dogs. With our tummies full and our eyes tired we decided it was time to call it a night.

The next day we woke up to a very cold, rainy and windy day. While we were walking around in knit caps, jackets and mittens it seemed like all the locals just had on jeans and a sweatshirt. This was our day to see Reykjavik and get a better idea of what makes all these people so darn happy!

We started out walking with a quest for food and ended up at a great food cart with fish & chips. After devouring some delicious cod you could tell was caught that morning we headed for downtown. With no great plan we just simply wandered around Reykjavik and saw Hallgrimskirkja which is a famous church with incredible architecture. We saw the Harpa Music Hall and wandered through the streets and parks.

While walking around you could feel how safe the town was and everyone we encountered seemed pretty happy. It was an incredible experience that I never thought I would get to have while in Spain. Now that I know it’s easily accessible from the States, I sure do plan on going back!

Portugal: Porto

With just a quick hour and a half flight Portugal is extremely accessible from almost any part in Spain. Although locals say that Portugal resembles nothing to Spain I found the two quite comparable.

We set off on our journey arriving late at night on Saturday. The airport is about an hour from the city by metro and our hostel just 15 minutes from the metro. Upon arriving at our hostel I soon realized this was by far the best hostel I have stayed at in Europe. It had everything a hostel should, a rooftop terrace, a free breakfast, comfy beds, attentive staff and was even centrally located! I would highly recommend Tattva Design Hostel!

After a GREAT sleep in the hostel bed (honestly every hostel should have a full curtain over the bed and a comforter instead of blankets) we went to the free breakfast. When Kim and I travel, we have the ability to plan absolutely nothing so our first activity was to go find wine and sit in a park in a hammock. Knowing that we would soon be embarking on an expensive trip to Iceland we tried to do Portugal under 100 euros. After purchasing some local wine, cheese and cold cuts we walked to the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal. It was a beautiful park with lots of locals sitting around and enjoying the not-too-hot day.


After having a little too much Portuguese wine we decided it was time to go eat. WORD TO THE WISE* (places in Europe are very commonly closed on Sunday) so it was a little difficult to find authentic Portuguese food the first night. We settled on some pasta instead. Then we went back to the hostel to engage with other tourists traveling in Porto.

The best way to travel is to allow yourself to get completely lost in a place and see what cool things you happen to come upon. In our case, without even realizing we saw the Clerigos Church, the six bridges of Porto, the Duoro River, Cais de Riberia and many local restaurants specializing in Porto wine.

The most difficult thing about Porto was you felt like you were still in Spain. We were advised though that locals are very proud of their Portuguese language so it not usually appropriate to speak in Spanish. Everyone we encountered though was extremely friendly and always happy to help out tourists.

The second day we explored the river and ate some more local cheese and walked around the various little streets. We watched a great performer play on a violin and ate gelato. It was a beautiful 75 degree day so we tried to enjoy the sun as much as we could. We decided into doing a boat cruise through the river to allow us to see what Porto is famous four, their 6 bridges.

Later in the evening we stumbled upon a cute little restaurant in a side street. Our goal was to find some sort of seafood considering we were in a town near the beach. After looking at a few places we found a nice little restaurant (I swear I need to get better at remembering names) and had some great shrimp and a sort of cod/potato/ cheese dish.

Now let me tell you, Porto is essentially built into a mountain because every time you’re walking around you are walking at a 90 degree angle. My apple watch though was quite happy with our step count! I would recommend Porto to any traveler that’s looking to sit back, relax and just enjoy their time walking around!