Circumnavigating Iceland from the Sea

Iceland is a landscape of rocky volcanoes, magical waterfalls, majestic horses, and fields of purple lupine. Along with its stunning nature, Iceland features an interesting history and fun culture. Onboard a Hurtigruten ship, I circumnavigated the island over a two week period. Circumnavigating Iceland from the sea was a great way to experience a wide variety of the landscapes Iceland has to offer. In the future, I look forward to renting a car and reaching some of the inner-island destinations. Here are a few of the places I visited…

Photographs by tala parker and camille seaman

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Reykjavik

  • Blue Lagoon Spa

    The Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous places in Iceland. I visited and thought it was really fun & relaxing. It was a cool photo op, though a pricey one (tickets start at about $90). I’d recommend going in morning when it’s less crowded. I bought “comfort” which included a free drink (I got a great skyr smoothie), a mud face mask, and a towel). Make sure to have your swimsuit with you and not in your suitcase! I also bought a $40 bus pass to and from lagoon which saves a lot of money (taxis are apparently crazy expensive in Iceland) and I’d highly recommend to do the same unless you’re renting a car at the airport. The ride to lagoon is about half an hour and the ride to Reykjavik is about 45 minutes.

  • Shops and Restaurants (Laugavegur)

    There are tons of really cool trendy shops across Reykjavik, but especially around Laugavegur. They sell pricey stuff, but I really enjoyed window shopping!

  • Sun Voyager sculpture

    The Sun Voyager is a sculpture located by the water and which is famous across Iceland. That being said, I didn’t find it particularly remarkable.

  • Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral

    The famous cathedral in Reykjavik features a beautifully modern design which emulates rock formations found in Iceland. When I visited, an organist was playing the the most beautiful organ I have every seen. The music was the most amazing I had ever heard coming from an organ. It was a great experience.

  • The National Gallery of Iceland

    The National Gallery is small, but in that way depicts Iceland. It features several Icelandic artists who have different art practices. I enjoyed visiting the gallery because I felt I left with a deeper sense of who and what Iceland is.

  • Landnámssýningin/The Settlement Exhibition

    The Settlement Exhibition is in the heart of Reykjavik and educates visitors on the Viking settlement of the area. It was quite interesting and made good use of the small space surrounding the excavation.

Stykkishólmur

  • Snæfellsnes National Park and Vatnshellir cave tour

    I had a nice hike in the national park before heading underground for a cave tour. It was particularly interesting because the caves were formed with lava.

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Patreksfjördur

  • Látrabjarg bird watching

    I accidentally got on a bus tour to a puffin (I think) cliff, when I really thought I was going to see a huge waterfall. It was beautiful, but not really my thing. I ended up practicing my new founded knitting skills.

Ísafjörður

  • Vigur Island (arctic tern island)

    Vigur Island produces a large amount of the warmest down in the world. It’s collected from the eider duck which has a mutualistic relationship with humans. In exchange for protection, the eider duck lays its eggs near the humans. The females line the nests by pulling some of the down out from their chests which keep the eggs nice and warm until the chicks hatch. Afterwards, when the ducks leave, the humans collect the down and painstakingly separate it from any organic debris. Vigur Island is also home to many nesting Arctic terns who fly the equivalent of going to the moon and back (or more) in their lifetime. They summer in Iceland where they lay their eggs and raise their chicks and winter in the Antarctic. Because of this, they are some of my favorite birds. They are extremely fearsome when protecting their chicks and regularly dive bomb people who get to close to their nests. They scream like a pterodactyl which is incredibly alarming, but it only makes them cooler.

The Westfjords

  • Reykjafjörður Island

    Onboard ship, we were fortunate enough to visit the family owned island of Reykjafjörður. The surrounding mountains were breathtaking and the hot spring pool was very relaxing.

Hrísey

  • Hikes!

    Hrísey had wonderful trails which I was extremely grateful for after being stuck on ship. They were easy enough that I was able to take in the view but challenging enough that I felt like I got a workout in afterwards.

Akureyri

  • Goðafoss waterfall

    Breathtakingly beautiful, massive waterfall.

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Húsavík

  • Hljóðaklettar National Park

    Stunning geological formations that left me feeling like I was in Jurassic Park. Great hikes too! I wish I had more time to explore this area!

Seyðisfjörður

  • Waterfall hike and rainbow walk

    Beautiful fjord surrounded by mountains covered in waterfalls. A great place to hike. Also home to some cute shops, as well as an award winning Icelandic sushi restaurant.

Bakkagerði

  • Puffin colonies, 9 hr hike, “Elf City” Álfaborg rocky hill walk

    Bakkagerði is a great spot for watching puffins and hiking. One thing I love about Iceland is that almost wherever you go there will be signs for hiking paths. I attempted to go on a short hike but then realized that my intended route would take me over nine hours.

Djúpivogur

  • Egg sculptures, jeep tour, lupin field, and bone museum & shop
    Near Djúpivogur there is some amazing examples of Iceland’s natural beauty. There are cliff sides with unimaginable colors spread across them as well as beautiful rocky gorges. In addition, near the port where our ship was docked, there was an interesting bone museum and shop run by a nice old man and his sweet old dog.

Heimaey

  • Eldfell volcano & hike, Eldheimar Museum, and Stafkirkjan stave church

    Heimaey is a volcanic island just off of the coast from Iceland. In the 1970’s there was a large volcanic eruption on the island which resulted in the evacuation of the entire island. The eruption and resulting lava and ash deposited changed the shape of the island and left much of the town buried. Heimaey is a great location to hike and learn about recent volcanic activity.

I can’t wait to go back to iceland!

Post note: Before you go to iceland, I’d recommend you watch the secret life of waler mitty. Not only is it just a good, funny, inspiring movie (which my mom was not impressed by because it’s “basically the story of her life”), but most of it is filmed in iceland (even the greenland bit) and/or takes place in iceland.

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