Iceland in Less Than 48 Hours? Sure Thing!

You may think less than 48 hours exploring Iceland is not enough. You would be right.

However, since IcelandAir offers #MyStopover airline fares for the same price as connecting flights, we thought we'd give it a try.

So how much of Iceland cans you see in less than 2 days?

Plenty, if you work for it.

Our overnight flight arrived in Reykjavik just as the sun began to rise. If the children and Angie were able to sleep on the plane, things may have gone a little smoother, but as seasoned adventurers we were prepared. We expected quite a bit of jet lag for the first day, so we planned accordingly.

The Blue Lagoon is a massive man-made thermal pool and spa just off the main road from KEF to the capital city, so we booked a 10am arrival for the 5 of us. As it turns out, arriving an hour early meant that we had over 2 hours to kill after collecting our bags, clearing customs, and grabbing the rental SUV. A little exploring was in order.

The 30 minute drive to downtown Reykjavík was very much worth it. We immediately found Hallgrimskirkja (the amazing 244ft tall Lutheran Church), hopped out into the cold, and snapped a few pics. Next we rolled toward a nearby lighthouse but chose not to drag everyone out for the short hike in the cold.

Hallgrímskirkja Iceland Adventure 2018

On the way to said lighthouse, Angie spotted a point of interest on Google Maps. A nice hot spring foot bath was just steps from the road. So while Grandma stayed with the kids, we explored. It's really cool so see so many geothermal uses all over Iceland. Guess what else was cool? The ground after I un-wisely chose to walk back to the car barefoot. Brrrr.

Hot foot bath Iceland Adventure 2018

The traffic around the most northern capital city at this point meant a 45 minute drive to Blue Lagoon, so off we went. Well... off I went. Since I was the only one to get more than 2 hours sleep on the flight, I pulled driving duty on this cold & windy morning. Everyone else passed out along the way.

Some say Blue Lagoon is a "must" if you're visiting Iceland. Others say skip it, as there are many more natural and authentic thermal spas to check out. For a < 2 day trip though, it was a must for us.

Blue Lagoon Iceland Adventure 2018

We booked the premium experience (for the adults, kids are no-charge) since it included a lunch reservation and perhaps more importantly a glass of wine. They also allowed us use of robes and slippers during our stay.

The silica rich water that gave birth to the Blue Lagoon is a bright blue, and contrasts wonderfully against the volcanic rock. The Lagoon itself is absolutely huge, so despite the large number of visitors unloading from tour busses, it was not terribly crowded.

We all enjoyed a nice soak, a mud mask, and playing in the water. All we needed for lunch was a quick towel dry and our robes, so that was a plus. The food and drink were well prepared and delicious, but not inexpensive.

Blue Lagoon Iceland Adventure 2018

After lunch we did another round in the Lagoon and took a few more photos. By the time we left at around 14:00, the locker rooms were packed with people. A good time to head to the house.

Our first stay at an AirBNB property went very well. It was a small 2 bedroom just outside of Reykjavík on an inlet. The first sunset was missed due to massive amounts of sleeping. The second night, however, was simply amazing.

Reykjavík Iceland Adventure 2018

There were many hours of research and discussion on which direction to explore on our one full-day. We ended up deciding to see how far east (and a little south) we could get in a short amount of time. There are wonders to experience in every direction, but for us this was the best option.

With hundreds (thousands really) of amazing waterfalls to explore in Iceland, which one to choose first? The closest to the highway, of course. Unfortunately, it's also one of the many "foss" that tour busses visit. Seljalandsfoss, though, is absolutely magnificent. Surprisingly, some of the Google Reviews are quite negative "It's too wet"...we all had a good laugh at that one.

Seljalandsfoss Iceland Adventure 2018

This is a 66m (216ft) high waterfall that you can walk behind. Yes, you will get wet. Also, Iceland is cold and windy. Mist + wind = chilly even when you ARE prepared. Another interesting note: the trail is OK up to the waterfall, but as you work your way around and head up the hill on the other side…it is NOT a US National Park paved trail. Totally worth exploring, but you must be prepared for less than ideal conditions. We call it fun ;)

Seljalandsfoss trail Iceland Adventure 2018

When you read that Iceland is full of waterfalls, it is not hyperbole. Once you get out of the city and on the main ring road, they start popping up all over. Of course, so do the tourists. For Skógafoss, an amazing 60m (196ft) specimen, we chose to keep our distance and avoid the crowds.

Skógafoss Iceland Adventure 2018

One of the great things about exploring without a specific schedule is the ability take a hard right just about any time. That was the case as we headed down a small road toward Dyrhólaey, a nature reserve that resides on the coast. As we explored the only 2 roads in the reserve, we spotted a nice set of switchbacks headed up to a lookout with a light house. Done.

Dyrhólaey Iceland Adventure 2018

We arrived safely at the parking area after dodging multiple tiny cars with less experienced drivers as we traversed the switchbacks. Angie and I left grandma and the kids safely in the warm vehicle, out of the wind, and headed uphill toward the lighthouse. The structure itself is well maintained, but the real payoff up here is, of course, the view.

Dyrhólaey Iceland Adventure 2018

Hálsanefshellir Cave Iceland Adventure 2018

The lava rock arch jutting out to the ocean is quite a sight. It was definitely worth the 40mph wind and light rain.

Dyrhólaey Iceland Adventure 2018

You're not going to believe this: Iceland is cold. I know, who knew? Ok... We live in Colorado, so cold I can handle. Here's another fun fact: in Icelandic there are over 100 words for "wind". Soft wind, loud wind, strong wind, wet get the picture. I dare say that in our 36 hours on the island we experienced at least half of the winds.

Not far from the lighthouse & great (windy) view, we followed a few dozen little cars down toward the coast. The Reynisfjara Black Beach came in to view.

Black Beach Iceland Adventure 2018

Once again this area is covered with tour busses and the plethora of passengers that arrived in them. Still, it's a gorgeous place. We caught a great view of the rocks jetting out of the North Atlantic just before the sneaker waves showed up.

The roaring surf on this black beach really does sneak up on you. Even when looking right at the waves, you have no idea how far up the bank they will travel. We narrowly avoided getting completely soaked.

Hálsanefshellir Cave On the black beach offers a really cool view, along with very photo worthy rock formations. Just about every one of the 1,000 or so people on the beach had to get a photo on the rocks. A little touristy, but very cool indeed.

Hálsanefshellir Iceland Adventure 2018

Along the Highway 1 route, my better half spotted a very nice small waterfall About 2km away near a few farms. Nothing on the map, no busses or tourists, just a cool little foss. We once again left grandma with the kids and explored this (location unknown) private waterfall. It was a great addition to an amazing day.

Private Waterfall Iceland Adventure 2018

Upon reaching the small village of Vik, it was agreed that we would not be able to venture further and still return before dark. The 6am flight the next day meant that this was where our first Iceland trip would end. Luckily we found more amazing views and... a brew house. Like any well representing American family...we stopped at Smiðjan Brugghús for a bite and a pint.

Vik Iceland Adventure 2018

This sub-48 hour trip to Iceland has only served to stoke our desire to explore. We will definitely be back to the island at some point. Mostly likely with more time, and perhaps a little better equipped for off the highway adventure.

Live to Explore Iceland Adventure 2018