Posts filed under iceland

Pack Your Bags | Iceland Western Fjords

 

After good stint of doing the Southern Coast in Iceland every September, we felt it was time to shake things up a bit. Why not push ourselves out of our comfort zones and try the Western Fjords in February?


Well, I’ll be honest- if you saw the picture of the #beastfromtheeast in London, you may be able to imagine how that would translate into Iceland winter weather. Our experience in Iceland included a lot of stops for lack of visibility, crazy views of snow covered coastlines and sleepy small towns living life as normal in the midst of some of the coldest weather we had ever experienced!

So the weather was cold and we struggled a bit with the intense snow... but does that mean we wouldn't do it again? No way. And in fact, we are adding this trip to our new trips for the winter. It's too good to miss- so I'm sharing my itinerary with you below if you're looking for something a bit out of the ordinary routine along the Southern Coast for your trip to Iceland.

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Day 1- VENTURING WEST TO BOGARNES & STYKKISHOLMAR:

From Reykjavik you take Highway 1, into a tunnel with an entrance fee of 1,000 krona (as of Feb ‘18 and roughly $10 USD)  that takes you under the Whale Fjord. It’s about an hour drive from Reykjavik to this slightly remote part of Iceland. Drive to the oldest house in Iceland, called the Settlement Center, in the small town of Borghanes on the Sneiflesness Peninsula.

They provide a guided tour through the house that walks you through the early history of Iceland. It is very interesting and the people are very friendly. The house welcomes children, but if I'm honest, little ones probably won't be very captivated in hearing the history of Iceland. The museum is interactive and even had an exhibit where you can get on a moving boat and feel like you’re a viking! From the Settlement House, you can stop for lunch at the famous (in Iceland) gas station “N1”, a place with hot food comparable to a full-service gas station in the United States. Don't think day-old hot dogs rotating along warmers. Thing more along the lines of a burger joint that cooks food- like lamb stew, burgers, salads, etc- to order. 

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Then, head out to the Shark Museum, which is a 20 minute drive out of Stykkisholmur, and if you’re brave, try the fermented shark! Right outside the shark museum they have a bunch of Icelandic horses that they’ll usually let you pet. Remember to be respectful, stay a good distance from the fence (they’re usually electric), and don’t feed them!

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On the drive, look out for Eldborg Crater, the salt column walls, and the lava fields.

If you’re traveling in the January-February, the peak of winter, be sure to check the road for adverse conditions and closings and stay flexible. 

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DAY 2- EXPLORING STYKKISHOLMUR:

Stay at Foss Hotel, a comfortable hotel in the small town of Stykkisholmur, about a 20 minute drive from the Shark Museum. Foss Hotel has amazing dinners every night and breakfast buffets every morning. The population is 1,000, but its as cozy as it gets in Iceland.

You’ll want to spend some time in these smaller, rural towns that embody the aesthetic of every Hallmark movie you’ve ever watched at your grandparents house over Christmas. From the hotel, it’s easiest to walk across the street and up to the church on the hill, where you’ll have a view the entire town and over the water.

From the hotel you can walk down the very picture-esque harbour filled with colourful boats, this is actually where they filmed the part of a Secret Life of Walter Mitty where they said they were in Greenland, that’s some movie magic.

If you walk past the harbour you can hike up a cliff (hike is a strong word given that there are stairs all the way up but sometimes they’ll be covered in snow and that can make it a challenge!) to the small, red lighthouse on the hill.

This is the highest point in the town and you’ll have the best view. Visit the Volcano Museum called Eld Fjalla, it features an original Andy Warhol painting and will give you amazing insiders to the various eruptions all throughout Iceland and even some from Central America!

Eat at an adorable little cafe called Narfeyarstofa, they offer lunch options, hot beverages, and a beautiful view out to the town and over the harbour! If you want to take a quick trip out of Stykkisholmur, you can take a forty minute drive out to Grundarfjordur where they filmed the majority of the Secret life of Walter Mitty.

After you’re done with a day in Stykkisholmur, load back up into your rental car and drive two hours to Husafell for the best chance at seeing the northern lights and to prepare for an adventurous day three.

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DAY 3- HUSAFELL, INTO THE GLACIER & REYKJAVIK:

Wake up fresh at the Hotel Husafell offers breakfast, and it’s worth your time to work it into your schedule! The breakfast is buffet-style with a line of hot foods like scrambled eggs, sausage, etc. and a line for pastries and other bread. It was very fresh and clean, and there was always a waiter or waitress there to help, refill your coffee or replenish the food.

The “Into The Glacier” tour meets right outside the Hotel Husafell at Meeting Point Husafell. Make sure to reserve your tickets beforehand. The tour offers snowsuits and winter gear at the Meeting Point for those who came less-prepared for the bitter cold. The inside of the glacier is cold, but not terrible. At 36 degrees Fahrenheit, our tour guide called it “rather cosy” when wearing an Icelandic wool sweater. The tour guides are a team of men who are very well-equipped for leading you into the glacier, and they make jokes that make you forget what a bumpy ride it is. The ride up to the glacier is intense in the huge super jeep glacier vehicles, especially at the peak of winter, but they’re used to this.

Upon your arrival, they take you into a tunnel which leads into the glacier. It’s an incredible experience that you won’t forget. The views make it feel like another world. It is the largest man-made glacier tunnel in the world and the 2nd largest glacier in Iceland.  On your way back down the mountain, they provide you with chocolate milk and kleiners, two Icelandic specialties. For more information on the Glacier, see post at Into The Glacier. Once back down the mountain, you can stop for lunch at Husafell Bistro right there. It is a buffet-style meal with bread, soups, pizza, and noodles located right next to the entrance of the Meeting Point where you departed.

From there, you can hop onto a bus for a tour through Vidgelmir Cave, the largest cave in Iceland. The bus will take you right to the office of the Cave and they’ll give you hard hats with lights to get you ready for your trek. It is a bit of a hike out to the entrance to the cave. 

The views are amazing, the stalagmites are massive, and the experience incredible overall. You have the option of an hour-long tour which will take you through the parts of the cave that has a path cleared, or a more extensive, four-hour tour that will walk you through all of the cave if you feel equipped and balanced enough to explore without a man-made path. 

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Once you get back onto your bus, be sure to make a quick stop about 10 minutes up the road at Lava Falls Waterfall. End your day by driving back to Reykjavik.

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Et voila! There you have 3 really good days spent in the Western Fjords of Iceland. This itinerary is perfect for the repeat visitor to Iceland who is looking for a bit more than the standard Southern coast offerings.


 

FIND ALL OF MY FAVOURITE ICELAND THINGS TO DO & SEE in my Iceland guide

 

Check out MY PINTEREST-FAMOUS "PERFECT ICELAND ITINERARY"

 


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*images to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 2, 2018 and filed under iceland, pack your bags.

My Reykjavík | Barber

Harrison’s hair is perfectly suited for him: gorgeous and, yet, totally crazy. Ha! While we were in Reykjavik, it seemed to hit an all time-low with being constantly in his eyes, so I googled places to get it cut nearby.

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There were options that looked like regular hair salons and then I found the most dapper looking place with some tatted-up men cutting hair and figured that this was the place to go. For no other reason than it seemed fun and I figured it’d probably look about the same irregardless of where I went.

When we arrived, things were running a bit behind. The kind barber offered me a coffee but I declined. As Harrison grew restless, I tried to entertain him. I went with a weird story about a dragon who ate to many fish bones who met a frog with herbal tea... about the time I got to the herbal tea’s secret ingredient (flowers), his eyes shut and he was out for the count. (We just cut out his nap and he’s still adjusting!)

The barber came over, asked me if I was sure I didn’t want some coffee. I looked down at the passed out kid in my arms, decided to go with the moment of calm, and ordered a maccchiato.

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Ahhh. So nice.

Then a few minutes passed and it was time for Harrison to get his hair cut.

Except he was still asleep.

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Like realllly asleep.

Eventually, I whispered the magic words (“Do you want to play with my phone?”) and his eyes opened, he said ”yeah,” and sat straight up.

He is so funny and serious during haircuts. I love it so much and I was giggling at him staring at himself, making faces and watching the man cut his hair. He’s such a champ.

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When it was done, he got to pick some candy from a Darth Vader helmet and it was all done. 

And the best news was... he kinda looked the exact same after it was finished. Just without hair hanging all in his face. Mission accomplished.

Next time, I’m bringing in Tyler because they do men’s hair so well there and the whole experience was just really fun. If you’re looking for the best men’s haircut in Reykjavik, well- Barber may just be it. And with it’s easy location on Laugavegur, it’s definitely one of the more convenient ones!


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Barber | Laugavegur 66, 101 Reykjavík


Find more of my favourite places in Iceland and Reykjavik here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My Reykjavik | Farmers Market

I’m a big fan of buying souvenirs from a place that, well, actually come from that place. And that are hard to get outside of that place. I’m never going to plunk down money for a Louis Vuitton in Paris because I can get that at any luxury department store, you know? If I’m gonna haul something back, I want it to be because it’s truly something special from that place. 

So if I’m in France, I like to buy Monoprix baby clothes, cheap Apilco dishes and loaves of brioche from Aux Mervielleux de Fred.

I’m in in Italy, I want pretty leather bags from the Florence market or olive oil from an olive grove we stay near.

You get the idea.

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Going to Iceland, I always like to find something Icelandic... the only trouble is, since they only have 300,000 people- they have a smaller output of goods to choose from.

But each year, I make it a tradition to buy something made of lambswool... and if you’re going to be real Icelandic lambawool, you should head to Farmers Market to do so.

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Farmers Market is located in Laugavegur and makes the coolest knitwear in the country. That’s not just my opinion. That’s pretty much every Icelanders opinion, too. Other than your grandma knitting you a sweater, Farmers Market makes really nice and cool pieces.

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I bought an oversized cardigan there this year and I love it so much. It is cosy and perfect for my wardrobe... especially when it includes a baby carrier.

The shop has more than just sweaters- it has cool shoes, tights, scarves, and homewares.

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Even if you don’t want anything, you need to at least stop in to see one of Reykjavik’s coolest shops. And if you’re looking to find on of the best wool sweaters in Iceland, we’ll look no further. Farmers Market will be your place! 

And you know what the best news is? After you’ve shopped, you can hop across the street to Sandholt Bakery for some of their killer pastries. Mmmm!


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FARMERS MARKET | Laugavegur 37, 101 Reykjavik


Find all my Iceland favourites on my travel guide page or in my previous posts.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 19, 2017 and filed under iceland, shopping, my reykjavik.

Notes from the Road | Reykjavik

Well, if you're following on Instagram, you'll have seen that we are in Iceland. Yup- back again for our 7th trip. (Isn't that nuts? Time seems like it's just flying these days. For those that have read this blog for a while- doesn't it seem like we just started going on these trips?)

While we are becoming really comfortable in visiting this lovely country, my parents had yet to visit. And seeing as how they love to travel and love to see us (read: our kids), a little trip was planned for the days before our work started here for all of us.

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It's been several easy days here. Lazy mornings around the hotel, a few slumber parties for the kids in my parents hotel room allowing Tyler & me to do dinner with our friends here, and lots of meals and little outings in between.

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While my Iceland Guide is pretty stacked, I have to say- it will be expanding again soon. There are just SO many new places here that it's hard to stop finding good places to add to the list.

But for now, I'll just share some pretty pictures with you and whet your appetite for the fun I've got in store for later.

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Oh, and I found out that "Bless" is an easy way to say "Goodbye" here. You can only imagine how much I enjoy saying that now in my most Southern drawl... complete with a hand in the air and a smirk on my face.

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More to come later from places with harder to pronounce names. 

P.S. Check out my YouTube channel for some fun new videos. Or subscribe to make sure you never miss out!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 7, 2017 and filed under iceland.

A Dummies Guide to Iceland (With Kids)

This spring, I’ve been B U S Y with travel consults. It’s definitely the most chaotic time of the year for me as summer approaches and so many people are getting their trips ready for the months ahead. While the bulk of people come for help with vacations for the UK & France, I have to say- Iceland is quickly becoming a big contender for the most popular destination.

While it definitely appeals to the young traveler- it is equally as popular with young families. And, as someone who has brought her own small children with her for the past five years on repeat trips there, I can easily vouch for why it is a fantastic spot to travel with children.

For anyone that is planning to come to Iceland, I thought I’d give you a few basic facts that either are asked often by clients or that I have learned from being there year after year. I figured there would be endless resources online for families planning a trip to Iceland echoing these same thoughts, but when I actually checked- everything was several years old… and now wrong! With the increase in tourism over the past few years, things have changed and I figured I would give some updated and specific pointers that really can change how you plan your family trip to Iceland.


1. CHILDREN UNDER TWO ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED IN THE BLUE LAGOON

I hate to charge in straight away with this bummer, but I have yet to talk to a person going to Iceland who doesn’t plan to visit the legendary Blue Lagoon. This is a real bummer, as I’ve always brought my babies in the lagoon with me. However, with the growing popularity and increase in visitors, there is now a VERY strict rule that children under two aren’t allowed in. You can swap off on who has the baby, but the lifeguards will (basically) yell at you if you bring a little baby in the lagoon that is under the age limit. 

If you’re still looking for a similar experience, you can always try another lagoon in Iceland. There is the “Secret Lagoon,” also known as Gamla Laugin, that (as of 2016) allows little ones. Or you can head to any of Iceland’s local pools where kids are not only welcome, but will have amenities to really entertain them…. for about $3 per person. Not only will you be with 100% real Icelanders, but you’ll get a great view at the (admittedly, quirky) fact of culture of life in Iceland: they are obsessed with swimming and go to their local pools frequently throughout the week!

 

2. YOU CAN RENT CAR SEATS FROM RENTAL CAR AGENCIES AT THE AIRPORT

Many people seem to feel restricted by the thought of checking car seats and having to schlep their own car seats all the way from the US. I feel that. It’s a hassle. The good news is, you can rent one with your rental car and skip having the hassle of bringing your own. Just check in advance, but there is typically a giant rack of them ready to distribute when you get your keys.

If you aren’t renting your own car, I’d recommend bringing your own car seats. Taxis WON’T drive your children unless they are in a car seat. While countries like the UK & France have loopholes to allow for children to ride in their parents’ laps in taxis, Iceland has strict laws that prohibit driving children without a carseat. (I’ve learned this the hard way!)

3. ICELAND IS VERY KID FRIENDLY

The good news is: Iceland has been kid friendly and, from all we have seen on our recent visits, continues to be so as the country booms in popularity. Sure, now there are some chic restaurants that wouldn’t be the best place to bring your toddler, but for the most part- the country is geared for little ones. Hotels are happy to put baby beds in room, when they have been requested in advance. Rental car companies can provide car seats, again when they have been requested in advance. While some countries feel a bit stuffier to the notion of bringing along a baby with you, Iceland is a great place to take the kids for their first trip abroad as the culture is still unique… but with enough personal space and freedom to give young families flexibility without a scornful eye.

 

4. PACK A SNACK

I know this sounds silly, but if you have room to bring some snacks for your kids- you’ll save yourself some serious cash by avoiding stuff in the gas stations and grocery stores. As you’ll most likely know or have heard, Iceland is EXPENSIVE. With the high value of the krona combined with the unceasing demand of tourists, the Iceland people are raking in the cash. They have no incentive to keep their food at normal prices when tourists will keep shovelling money their way. Save your money for good meals out, and don’t fond yourself tearing up over the absence cost of granola bars and bottled water. (PS. All tap water in Iceland is 100% perfect. Just bring refillable bottles and save yourself the unnecessary expense… and having the locals giggle at you for paying for bottled water when you can get the same out of the tap.)

5. ICELANDAIR IS GREAT WITH KIDS

While most people coming from the US will have to connect at some point in their journey to Iceland’s main airport in Keflavik, it’s worth considering flying with Iceland’s own airline, IcelandAir. Especially if you’re traveling with kids. While most airlines operate under the policy that all ticketed passengers pay the same fare (after all, a seat is a seat), IcelandAir has reduced fares for kids. Not only is the economic value a plus, but they are just, well, really nice to families. When kids board, they hand them a little box of food, headphones and colouring books. All seats come with personal entertainment systems, and there are plenty of options for kids. 

The other perk that IcelandAir famously offers passengers is the ability to do up to 7 days of a “lay-over” in Iceland (where all of their US-Europe flights connect anyway) for no additional fee. It was originally a marketing aim to get people to explore the country, but even now that Iceland is one of the top travel destinations- it’s still an offer to their passengers. This makes it a great stopover for families on their way to Europe, as it can help pace out the craziness of jet lag between the drastic time changes. Basically, a couple of days in Iceland doubles the fun… and halves the jet lag.

6. KIDS ARE FREE MOST PLACES

The truth is, most of the sites won’t actually charge you anyway. With the main attractions being beautiful outdoor sites, you’ll be able to walk up to most of them and enjoy them without paying a dime. However, for some of the paid outings- small children are free, too. For example, Into the Glacier is an amazing experience that we have taken my children to several times. While the site doesn’t say it, I’ve written to verify that small children are free. The company does need to know that they will be coming, so they recommend buying tickets for the adults and then writing to say that lap children (think toddlers & babies, not your 8 year old. Sorry!) will be coming, too. While they don’t need a ticket, they do need to be accounted for in the giant trucks that transfer people onto the glacier. If you’re planning for any paid excursions, its best to check with the provider. My guess is you’ll either be relieved to hear that they can join for free…. Or are too young to come with the group outing. Either way, it’s best to check in advance to avoid a busted day of travel.


Find all my travel posts for Iceland here or check out my travel guide to Iceland here.

Still want more? Book a travel consult for one-on-one with a session to help plan out your trip. 



 

*Images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on May 17, 2017 and filed under iceland, travel, traveling with kids.

My Reykjavik | BurgerJoint


I've mentioned it elsewhere- but Iceland has changed SO much in the past five years. The amount of people in every locations is exponentially more than when we first started going... and I would say more than doubled since even last year.

Whenever we saw friends or colleagues, they all asked us what we thought of it. The boom of tourism is changing the lives of all 330,000 people that live there. Every block in town and small village along the (only) highway is full of cranes and new business popping up in response to the hoards of tourstics flocking to Iceland.

While there are so many new (great!) places opening, I still feel drawn back to Burgerjoint (or "Bullan," as the locals call it) on days around lazy days when we are near the marina in Reykjavik..

This tiny shop tucked right on the marina makes fresh burgers. They're one of the most affordable meals in town, and they're pretty stinking good. No visit there is complete with a basket full of fries- generously sprinkled from the shaker of seasoning salt- and a coffee milkshake.

The BBQ bacon cheeseburger is a crowd-pleaser, but with huge sides (the large fries could easily feed 5 people), a small cheeseburger does the trick for me.

Find Burgerjoint at Geirsgata 1, Reykjavik 101, Iceland. (Right by the IcelandAir Marina Hotel)



 

*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on September 23, 2016 and filed under eat, iceland, travel, my reykjavik.

iPhone (un)Operating System

Half-way through our trip to Italy, my phone stopped working. It wouldn't read the touch sensor for a day or so at a time- making it impossible to get into. I put up with it for a few more weeks (because I didn't have time to send it in to get repaired), and now I'm a month into a phoneless life and I have to say.... it is so nice.

While I wait, I have a £5 mobile phone. The tiny screen has a call log, contacts book, settings and game (singular- just one pathetic little game). It's so basic, and it has been a welcome detox from mindlessly scrolling social media and updating my inbox.

 

And all those helpful little apps? Whadday know- I can still login to my bank on my laptop and get everything done that I need as well as all the various functions that I spend clicking away at on my phone.

The only downside is that I never have a camera with me without my iPhone. I missed Viola's first day of school. I look at Harry's golden curls in the afternoon sunlight and realize that I only have my memories from sitting on the couch together, rather than a photo burst of them. So you know... pros and cons.

 

It's a real struggle to stay present- especially in the presence with my kids. In those quiet moments of sitting around the kitchen table or as they tinker with toys, I find myself constantly flicking back and forth between them and my phone.

I have the new iPhone 7 headed my way by the end of the month, and I'm already cringing at the bad habits that I'll fall back into.

How do you keep a safe distance from your phone usesage? My friend recommend the MOMENT app, which was a embarrassing yet needed look at how much I'm on my phone each day. (Or you could always go cold turkey and swap out for a basic cell phone. It's like a crash diet, and I have a feeling you may totally love it, too.)

 



 

*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on September 19, 2016 and filed under kids, iceland, travel, everyday living.

Pack Your Bags | Iceland's Golden Circle

If you haven't seen by now on Instagram, we are in Iceland. We've been here for a week now and have a little under a week left. We've been exploring non-stop. My head is buzzing with so many thoughts: logistical (do we have the food allowance sorted? i need to tell the students what time we leave in the morning!), parental (i need to buy more snacks for the bus. remember to get Harrison's shoe out from under the seat.), tourist (whoa - Iceland is exploding with people. things change quick when there is a tourist boom!) and personal (I realllllly want to buy a new wool sweater. and some OmNom chocolate).

In the midst of such chaos, I thought it might be good if I jotted down a classic day-trip from Reyjkavik for you. This is really THE day-trip that most people make. It's called the "Golden Circle" and features three main sites: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir & Gulfoss. Expect to spend about 4.5-5 hours in the car of driving plus the time you're going to spend visiting each of the sites. Plan to give this outing a full day of your time in Iceland, and you'll definitely want to have your own car to get you from place to place as there is no public transport.

While those are the three main anchors of the Golden Circle with a few "tier two" options you can add-in, I'm adding in a few extras of my own that I think really make the day all the better.

 


ICELAND'S GOLDEN CIRCLE DAY TRIP

 

THINGVELLIR

 

This is the first stop you'll make on the Golden Circle is at Thingvellir National Park. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is worth visiting for a few reasons.

1. It is the meeting plate of the North American and Europe/Asia tectonic plates. In between the two plates there is an enormous rift valley that offers a stunning view of how these two pieces of the world fit together.

2. It is the site of the first parliament in Iceland was held here, which earns it a place as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 930AD, Althingi was held here at Thingvellir. There

3. You can scuba dive between the two plates in a fissure. Not only does this just sound amazingly cool- a dive between two tectonic plates!- but also, the water is stunningly clear. Don't expect to see loads of fish and sea life, but a chilly dip down into a gorgeous piece of the world.

 

SKAHOLT

In between Thingvellir and lunch, we had an hour of time to kill. We headed to Skaholt- a tiny stop that was about 20 minutes away from lunch. There we visited the tiny country church of Skaholt. A modern-ish church that is bright and airy inside. While the church is quaint and sweet to see, the visit is made more worthwhile to a visit downstairs where you can see the sarcophogas of a Bishop from the 1500's. Also, outside the church is a replica of an older Icelandic church- complete with grass and flowers growing on the roof.

 

FRIDHEIMAR

When the idea of stopping in a greenhouse for lunch was suggested, I was a bit.... ho hum at the thought. However, I'm glad I was convinced to go because we had such a great time. When you visit Fridheimar, you can get an introduction to how this small family-run greenhouse manages to sustain year-round growth of such high-quality tomatoes. But the fun doesn't stop there.... eat lunch at the restaurant for the full experience! For the basic version (what we did), eat the homemade tomato soup and fresh baked bread. Eat as much as you like of both- alongside fresh butter, creme fraiche and cucumber salsa.... oh, and fresh basil you can clip right off the potted plant at your table. (Book a table in advance so you don't have to wait!)

If you have time to visit their stables, it is also really fun. They did a show for us where they showed us all the five gaits of the Icelandic horse and then had tea & coffee for us in the stables afterwards. We drank coffee in the sunny September light and met the stars of the shows in their stables. It was casual and perfect.

Find out about booking a table, a horse show and all the rest on their site here.

 

Geysir

From Thingvellir, you'll want to continue on to Geysir. This is where we, in English, get the term geyser. It's a hot spring that, for years, was spitting out water ever few minutes. The classic Great Geysir has slowed down in recent years, but fortunately for the investors who built a massive and luxe visitor's center- the neighbor Strokkur Geysir is still going strong.  Go by and watch it blow hot water into the air, and then duck into the visitor's center for some coffee and a kleiner (homemade Icelandic donut). The gift shop is massive and full of great things, but notoriously more expensive than the same shop's offerings in Reykjavik- consider it a tourist tax?

 

GULFOSS

This waterfall, which translates from "Golden Falls" for the way the sunlight hits it in the summer evenings, is a great stop if you can only make it out of town for one waterfall. It's massive and easily accesible, and the various spots to view the enormous waterfalls are varied around the park, so you can migrate from far-off vantage points all the way up to the side of it where water will mist you will cold drops.

 

The scene is stunning- complete with rainbows scattered throughout the area from the constant mist and, with full admission, a considerable amount of fellow tourists. (But for good reason, you'll have a great time!)

 

HESTHEIMAR

After you've finished with the main attractions, head to Hestheimar for an evening ride on an Icelandic Horse. This small, family-run stable offers gorgeous trail rides throughout the day. (Fortunately for people like me, they work with people of all skill levels!)

 

We always spend the night out there and get dinner before the ride. It's always served in their cozy kitchen and is homemade and hearty. Think: homemade lasagna or roasted meats served hot bread from the oven and followed by warm apple cake and mugs of coffee. There are cabins available for rent, if you really want the full experience. (And by full, I of course mean, a misty morning in the Icelandic country and a hot breakfast of eggs and homemade pancakes covered in Nutella and powdered sugar.

 

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Looking for more tips and guides for Iceland? Check out my Iceland travel guide for all our favorite tops or my popular "Perfect Iceland Itinerary."



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

My Reykjavik | Salt Eldhus Cooking Classes

This year when planning our trip to Iceland, I was really wanting to add something that added a bit of exposure to the urban culture of Reykjavik. Since most of Iceland is being outdoors and in nature, it seemed a bit one-sided. I wanted to know more of the Iceland story- something that spoke told a narrative that couldn't be seen from wandering through natural parks or floating by icebergs. I wanted to get cozy with Icelanders.

So since I'm unaware of a service that allows for spending the evening in a home of an Icelandic family over their home cooked dinner, we opted for a cooking class with Audur at Salt Eldhus. The typical class cooks a multi-course meal focused on Icelandic specialties.

For our group, I asked to do a traditional Icelandic dessert/cake + coffee class during an afternoon. It was a new request, but Audur came back with a "Yes!" Thank goodness she did, because cooking traditional crepes and eating them over big mugs of hot coffee ended up being the perfect way to spend our last afternoon in Iceland.

 

The class was so nice- we had great instructions on everything we did and funny personal stories of sneaking rhubarb from neighbors as children and the love of crepes in Iceland (wives are expected to learn this skill in a big way!). We also got interesting background on the ingredients we used like Skyr (basically, the yogurt in Iceland that is extremely unique and delicious) and rhubarb.

 

A Few Things To Know For Your Trip...

 

1. The class is in an tall building down by the water. (You'll probably want to take a taxi, as it can be a bit tricky to find for a tourist.) The interior is adorable, and the views of the city around you are great.

 

2. They'll take care of everything. Show up and be ready to be taken care of.

 

3. the food is really good. I can't speak for anything other than crepes, skyr and rhubarb compote... but man, it was delicious. I have a feeling whatever you end up cooking will be amazing with that team.


Really, I don't have much to say other than GO. It's a fun addition to your Iceland trip that will give you an added perspective to your time in Iceland. I love connecting with people/cultures through food, and this is one the best ways to do it in Reykjavik!

 

Salt EldhusÞórunnartún 2  (Skúlatún House) 6th floor.

+354 551- 0171 or info@salteldhus.is

 



Interested in doing a cooking class in Europe? Here are some that I've loved:

Cotswolds (Daylesford Organic) | Paris (Le Cuisine Paris) | London (Jamie Oliver's Recipease)




 

*images by ashel parsons

 

Posted on December 3, 2015 and filed under iceland, travel, eat, my reykjavik.

Pack Your Bags | Iceland Into the Glacier

We have an awesome group that we work with to create our annual Iceland trip. They are amazing at getting the details sorted for us so that we can arrive and just... go. This year, though, I was looking for something new. I had been seeing photos that made me want to add a bit more of an adventurous element to the trip. (I know... as if glacial lagoons and superjeeping up snowy summits wasn't enough!) 

We decided we need to add an ice cave to the itinerary. Oh man. Great choice. We went to INTO THE GLACIER, a man made ice cave that is dug straight into a glacier. It's one of the most stunning things I have have ever done. The endless maze of tunnels is lit with colorful LED lights, and the experience is one you'll never forget.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

The glacier is located about an hour and half from Reykjavik, to the North.

You'll be driven up on the glacier to the entrance on the biggest machine you'll have ever seen. It's shocking, and it will carry you up to the start from the base of the site.

You'll be given clamps to wear on your feet to give traction to you throughout the caves.

The tunnels are a bit drippy.... wear waterproof shoes to keep your feet dry.

There's a chapel inside the tunnels- and it is awaiting its first wedding. (Can it please be someone who reads this?)

 

FIND ALL OF OUR FAVORITE ICELAND THINGS TO DO & SEE HERE

 





*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy


Posted on November 12, 2015 and filed under iceland, travel, pack your bags.

My Reykjavik | Reykjavik Roasters

The week before we went to Iceland, Tyler had some work projects that came up. The result of said work projects was that he couldn't come with us anymore. Luckily, my sister swooped in and rescued us by taking Tyler's space and helping with the kids. (You may find it hard to believe, but it's hard to focus on 23 other humans when you have two babies with you. Sarcasm heavily noted.)

Anyway, sister arrived. Day was saved. Iceland carried on as normal. Students had a fantastic trip. All was good. While the trip was wonderful, I will say: I missed Tyler! I missed seeing Iceland with him. So many of the sites there are special to us. We have memories together when I was pregnant with the girls and when Viola was so so tiny. The sites and restaurants that we love are special to us... but I was also excited to find a few new places that I could bring him next year.

The place that is on the top of that list is Reykjavik Roasters. If you're looking for a hip, understated Scandinavian coffee shop- this one ticks all the boxes. 

Not only does Reykjavik Roasters have a great vibe and a mean cup of coffee... but they also have delicious eats, too. Croissants, Sarah Bernhardt cookies (the dessert of my dreams) and Omnon Chocolate (coincidentally, the chocolate of my dreams). 

We had a great time there. We ate too many sweets and got overly jazzed on caffeine. But as good of a time as we had this time, I can't wait to be back there with Tyler next time.

 

REYKJAVIK ROASTERS | Karastigur 1, Reykjavik 

 

 

Find more of my favorite Iceland spots in my ICELAND TRAVEL GUIDE or read my Iceland posts here

 



 

*images by Ashel Parsons

 

 

Posted on October 15, 2015 and filed under eat, iceland, travel, my reykjavik.

My Reykjavik | Sandholt Bakery

 

I'm starting a mini-series of a few of my (new!) favorite places to eat in Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik. The city has changed SO much since we first started traveling there four years ago. The rising economy and the boom in tourism is changing this city quickly. I'll sprinkle these out over the weeks to come. Be on the lookout if you're planning a trip to Iceland! 


The first place that I want to share with you is Sandholt Bakery. Shocker that I picked a bakery, no? But this place is the place to go when you are looking for something beyond the typically Scandinavian savory spread for breakfast. This is the place to find a perfectly baked croissant, a giant slice of cake... or some traditional pastries done just right. I don't know another place in Iceland that even competes with the level of baking that Sandholt does.

 

Because I do have access to great croissants in London, I asked the girls working what were the "most Icelandic" things that I could try. If these are the best bakers in Iceland- I want to try the best of the best! They pointed me in the direction of a kleiner, snudar and vanilla danish. They added that the danish was more "Scandinavian" than specifically Icelandic... but not to be missed.

 

Let me give you a little Icelandic-pastry-play-by-play....

First up, the kleiner. The kleiner is Iceland's answer to a donut. It's always in the traditional twisted diamond and is unfrosted. You can buy them in bakeries or in grocery stores in bags of ten. To be honest, they're not my favorite. I prefer a glazed, softer donut... but maybe, someday, they'll grown on me.

The next up on our trial list was the snudar- a sweet bun. You'll see these covered in caramel or chocolate. I opted for the chocolate, at the recommendation of the sweet girl working behind the counter. Again... I have to say, it wasn't my cup of tea. A bit too dry, but I could see how people could grow up and love these.

Yet don't worry... our visit was not fruitless. Last, and not least, was the vanilla and almond danish By far, it was the best treat I have had in a while. Oh my. GET THE DANISH.

The next day, my sweet friend, Ashel, went and bought me one for breakfast. I felt so spoiled to have a second chance with one of these lovely treats.

Make a stop by Sandholt when you're in Reykjavik. Whether you have time to sit down and enjoy sweets in their cafe- or just grab some goods for the go. (Plus, it's hard to beat the shopping around it on the hip street it is located on, Laugavegar.)


Sandholt Bakery. Laudavegar 36, Reykjavik Iceland  | +354 551 3524

 Open every day, 06:30am to 8:00/9:00pm

 



 

 

*images by Ashel Parsons

 

 

Posted on September 30, 2015 and filed under eat, iceland, travel, my reykjavik.

Jumps and Leaps... and Life in Between.

 

This the first blog entry that I have written in a month. A month! At first, I was too busy to care. Then I was stressed because I hadn't blogged, but didn't have time with finishing my dissertation and starting my fall semester for work. After that, I forgot that I hadn't blogged and got addicted to Snapchat (@aspiringkennedy). And then I got to a moment of rest, I started to wonder if I actually wanted to just walk away from blogging completely. I had lived an entire month without it and... and? Well, life was the same.

But here I am. Back! Tyler says that starting a blog is like asking for a puppy for Christmas. You think it's all fun and cute... but eventually the newness wears off and the day-to-day responsibility sets in. Ha! But it is kind of true. I have been blogging for five years. While my life is not really tied to my blogging identity (promise!), it does have a lot of big moments of my life recorded here. And it's introduced me to you guys, too.

I can live without blogging, but there are some big values that I see that come from it. Tucking my memories away somewhere other than my brain. Articulating what is good and bad and sweet and hard about the stages of life you are in at the moment. Connecting with other people that can weigh in and cheer you on or give you new perspective or, in small doses, critique you when you may need it.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is.... Blogging is still something I want to invest my time in for now.

While I may not be going anywhere, I have been LOTS OF PLACES over the past four weeks. Life has been full. Every night I lay in bed and feel like I somehow did it. I got my booty kicked all day from start to finish trying to juggle it all... but it happened. 

Jet lag from the US. Upper respiratory infections. Twice. Iceland sans Tyler, but with the help of my sister, Brooke. Finishing my dissertation while traveling in Iceland. Returning to London to teach/direct my semester. 

Which is where I'm at now. Working most days. Being with the kids the moments in between classes and museums. It's all good. It's busy, but it's life. So many of us are feeling something similar- aren't we? It may not be the constant hustle between different locations like me, but your roles in life tear you into a squillion places and pieces, too.

So cheers to us, people. We are doing it. Keeping up with the hustle. Doing good. Pouring ourselves out for something bigger than us. While not always be glamorous (please- don't be fooled by IG. I cleaned toddler poop off my favorite duvet tonight. Gagging/weeping all in the same breath.), the things that we're investing in are worth the endless drain of our time and attention.

Keep up the good work. Get distracted by the busy times in life and forget about the online games... just you know, remember to come back to us when you can. ;)

 



 

 

 

*photography by Ashel Parsons... who is just as kind and sweet as she is talented.

 

Posted on September 23, 2015 and filed under iceland, kids, everyday living, work life.

A Casual Day Out... in Iceland

When we were buying tickets to fly to the States this summer, the prices were terrible. We could only find flights that were around $1700+ that required a layover in the most absurd places with terrible times. Each night, we would flick open our laptops and scroll through Sky Scanner with scowls on our faces as we looked at terrible option after terrible option.

And then one night, we found fares on IcelandAir that were $850 per person. Yes! Like (all? most?) of IcelandAir flights, transatlantic journeys require a stop in Iceland before continuing on with the second leg. We figured this was a much better option, as it was actually on the way for where we were going... rather than a weird jaunt in an another direction, like some of the other options we had like Barcelona or Rome. And to be honest, while typically I would do almost anything to avoid a non-direct flight with babies, it seemed kind of nice to split the journey up into to shorter flights with some breathing room in between them.

Plus, we know Iceland pretty well now and it made spending 18 hours less intimidating and more exciting. The airport in Iceland is actually in Keflavik- about 45 minutes drive from the capital, Reykjavik. While we may have felt the need to book a hotel in Reykjavik when we first started traveling to Iceland, we know now that staying in Keflavik was the right option for this leg. It's a small, cute town along the coast with enough to do/eat/see to entertain us for the day without exhausting us. It is also where the famous Blue Lagoon is located, in case you plan to stop over in Iceland. (Side note: If you stop over in Iceland with babies/toddlers- you MUST have a car seat for them in taxis. It's the law.)

This time, we tried a new hotel and stayed at Hotel Keflavik: located in the heart of Keflavik, decent rooms, free ride to the airport, super kind staff, but most importantly- amazing homemade breakfast overflowing with pastries, skyr yogurt, sandwiches, fruits, meats, juices and coffee. YUM!

We spent the day lounging in the cozy duvets, walking around town, playing along the sea, hiking up the hill along the coast, and taking power naps before we rolled out with our bags for the airport that evening. 

Iceland showing off in a big way with some fabulous summer weather- which was a new perspective for us, since we typically come in September/October. That 55 degree temperature was nearly tropical. ;)

It was a great little teaser for our annual trip there next month. Bring on the wool jumpers and the hats. I can't wait!

Thanks for the cozy stop, Iceland. We can't wait to see you again soon!

 


 

PS. I love IcelandAir so much: 2 bags free on transatlantic flights, boxes of headphones and activities for the kids to play with, amazing movie selections, cozy pillows and blankets... and just that cool Scandinavian aesthetic that is really awesome. Plus, the airline is rumored to be subsidized by the Icelandic government as a way to increase tourism... so our fares have always been very reasonable!

 

Interested in Iceland? Find the rest of my posts from Iceland here!

 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 6, 2015 and filed under iceland, travel.

Pack Your Bags | The Perfect Iceland Itinerary


I'll be honest: When we first added Iceland as a trip in our semester, I was really overwhelmed at the idea. Basically, because I had NO previous knowledge about the country. Nor could I even begin to guess how I to pronounce them either. (So many letters. So few vowels!)  Luckily, my boss hooked us up with an amazing company to do the thinking for us, Iceland Private Tours. They created us an amazing itinerary for our time there and took all the thinking out of the equation for us.

Their work is my gain. And now yours, too, because I'm taking our three trips and merging them into an itinerary for five solid days in Iceland. 

 

DAY ONE | ARRIVAL 

Welcome to Iceland! Grab your bags and pick up your rent car to get this adventure started. Your trip to Iceland begins with a journey to the famous Golden Circle. First stop is Thingvellir National Park- the site of the first Icelandic parliament in 930 AD and where the North American + Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Don't forget to stare into the gorgeously clear pools at the end of the park. They're amazing. Next, you're off to Geysir, where you'll see loads of geysirs and where we get our word English. Wander around the large site for a chance to watch Geysir spurt frequently, and grab lunch at the cafeteria inside. (It's decent food, promise!) From here, head on to Hestheimar Horse Farm for your first night in Iceland. Plan to get a sunset ride on their horses before dinner at the farm. They cook great food, and you'll never feel so homey. It's the perfect place to rest your jet-lagged body.

Recommended Hotel: Hestheimar Horse Farm (tiny cabins, horses, Free wifi, Endless homemade bread, and a great breakfast!) 


DAY TWO | THE SOUTH SHORE (SKOGAFOSS + GLACIER)

If you're going to head out to Iceland, you'll need to see some waterfalls. It's a mandatory stop, and Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are two of my favorites. Both give you the chance to hike up and around to get some great views of the cascading falls. Afterwards, head to the Dryholaey peninsula for stunning views of the coast. (Not to miss!) After that, grab lunch at the little gas station in Vik and stop at the wool mill next door to pick up some souvenirs. When you've had your fill, head out to the amazing black sand beaches of Reynisdrangar, just outside of town. Famous for it's amazing colors, huge waves, basalt rock formations and huge lava formations in the surrounding water- it's not a stop to skip. You can also get some pictures in front of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, that famously erupted in 2010. They also have a small museum with a video that, if you have the time to spare, is nice to watch. 

Recommended hotel: Islandia Nupar Hotel (Restaurant on-site, free wifi, and a good spot for seeing the Northern Lights.)

icelandic_sheep_aspiringkennedy.jpeg



DAY THREE | THE SOUTH SHORE (SKAFTAFELL + JOKULSARLON)

Start out the day with a cruise around a Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon- full of icebergs that have broken off from the large glacier above. You'll take some of the most unreal photos of your life, and maybe even spot a seal or two swimming alongside you. (Boat rides should be booked in advance.) Afterwards, head to the gorgeous national park, Skaftafell, for an afternoon of hiking to some of the most photogenic spots in the country. Discover the hidden waterfall, Svartifoss, who's waters cascade down a backdrop of a black cliff.

Recommended hotel: Islandia Nupar Hotel (Restaurant on-site, free wifi, and a good spot for seeing the Northern Lights.)


 

DAY FOUR | REKYJAVIK 

After breakfast, make your way back to the capital city of Iceland, Reyjkavik. With two-thirds of the country living in this city, you'll notice that it's considerably more populated than all of the other places you have been. Drop off your goodies at the hotel, and head out for the day. Since the city isn't huge, you'll have plenty of time to see lots of the sites. If you're staying at Hotel Odinsve, you can start at the Hallgrimskirkja and work your way down the main street to the harbor. Check out my more extensive guide to Reykjavik for more ideas on how to spend your day. Have your hotel book you a table at Sjavargrilld ("Seafood Grill") for a special night to end your trip. It's so, so good. Fresh fish and amazingly cooked. It's a great date spot.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Odinsve (Located in Downtown Reykjavik near loads of good restaurants, free wifi, breakfast at the hotel or across the street at my favorite cafe- C is For Cookie.)


DAY FIVE | BLUE LAGOON + DEPARTURE

You can't come to Iceland and miss out on the famous Blue Lagoon. End your trip to Iceland with a relaxed morning, coffee and cake from C is For Cookie, and lounging in the healing waters of this geothermal wonder. It's amazingly. warm. Give yourself a couple of hours. (I'd max out at three, personally.) If you are up for a real treat, try to get a in-water relaxing massage. It won't have deep-tissue work, but it will be, without a doubt, one of the most relaxing things you've ever done. Booking in advance is mandatory. After that, you're only about 15 minutes from the airport. Take your car back, make sure you have all tax-free receipts over 5000ISK stamped by customs BEFORE going through security, and head on up to fly out. Safe travels!

blue_lagoon_iceland_aspiringkennedy.jpeg
bringing_babies_to_the_blue_lagoon.jpeg

Looking for a itinerary for Iceland that is crafted just for you? I recommend working with Iceland Explore. They've done great things for us, and I have no doubt they'll get you set up with a dream vacation to Iceland, too! Also, I am happy to help with my (less-than-local, but still pretty good) knowledge. Contact lauren@aspiringkennedy.com for travel consult information.

 

Still want more? Tyler & I tried to make it easy on you but tagging all of our trip photos on Instagram with the same hashtag, #icelandknights. You'll find all our favorite sites geotagged there!

 

 

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Souvenir Style | Iceland

 

We got to have dinner the other night at our friends' house in Reykjavik. He was a classmate of Tyler's while at Oxford. He was also a bit of legend, as his wife stayed back in Iceland for the entire program watching their four boys and baby girl. Or maybe I should say, SHE was the legend. She made a traditional Icelandic dinner for us, and we sat around the table for hours chatting with them and laughing with their kids. They're a really great family, and we loved getting to spend the evening with them. 

Beyond being a really sweet and well-behaved family, they are also very traveled. Funny enough, they lived in Iowa for four years, too. They talk about the Midwest like I talk about Southern France. (It's funny how where you're from changes what sound "exotic" to you, isn't it?)

Haraldur, our friend, was waxing poetic about Midwesterners and how similar they were to Icelanders. He felt a kindred connection to the people there because they share a love of large families, open space, and they typically mind their own business.... "but we don't share our fashion."

I laughed. No. No, they don't. Iceland has a very slick, Scandinavian look that merges well with functionality for being in the outdoors. I actually have really started looking forward to packing my suitcase for when we come. I'm not sure I've completely got it down, but I'm improving each year. Bring on the Fair Isle, chunky boots and leather. 

   ONE    |    TWO    |    THREE    |    FOUR    |    FIVE    |    SIX    |    SEVEN    |    EIGHT

ONE  |  TWO  |  THREE  |  FOUR  |  FIVE  |  SIX  |  SEVEN  |  EIGHT

 

 

 

all artwork original to Aspiring Kennedy.

affiliate links are used in this post. opinions are my own.

Posted on September 10, 2014 and filed under fashion, iceland, travel, shopping.

Notes from the Road | Iceland's Golden Circle

I've got about 12 minutes before dinner, so in the midst of Tyler & Viola taking a quick catnap on the bed by me... I thought I'd jot down a few notes about today. I guess in a way to store them up so that on a less happy day, I can come back and remember them because it was a really nice day.

After a long day out on the Golden Circle, we've seen Skogafoss (this waterfall), Seljanadafoss (this waterfall), Dyrholaey (this amazing overlook of the coast) and Reynisdrangar (this black sand beach), we have finally wrapped up for the day. We got in our rooms at the hotel (Fosshotel Nupar) for the evening about thirty minutes ago and are decompressing before dinner. One of my favorite times of the day when traveling is that quiet hour between a long day of being out and dinner.

It's not just the sites that make these trips good. Who you're with while you travel has a big impact on the experience you have in that place. I'm lucky to be traveling with great people this trip to Iceland- eager faculty & students, an ideal guide, and a husband + baby who happily tag along on these crazy trips.

One of the most memorable things about Iceland (beyond the absurdly high cost of everything) is the sky.  It seems like there are always clouds, and they illuminate the sky in the most outstanding way. Our hotel room has big windows that over looks lava fields outside. The combination of the weird terrain and crazy sky makes me feel like we are on some other planet. Iceland, you're a weird little island.... but I like you. It's good to be back.

Anyway, dinner calls. (Thank goodness, I'm really hungry.) Tomorrow should be just as great- we hit up two of my favorite places: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Skaftafell National Park.


*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 6, 2014 and filed under travel, viola, iceland.

Pack Your Bags: Icelandic Super Jeeps

We are back in Reykjavic

after several days out on the road.

Literally, we slept out in a hut last night

after spending the past two days crawling around

the mountains of Iceland in these bad boys.

Icelandic SuperJeeps

are the biggest cars you have ever seen.

Like monster trucks, but bigger, and practical.

(Not just for rolling over other cars? Why is that?)

Though you spend most of your time

going up the steepest inclines you've never imagined

on snowy volcanos and summits,

you also get to go to some rugged non-snow destinations, too.

Like Haifoss- which means the "high waterfall."

My breath was taken away

when I walked around the edge

to reveal the canyon below.

Literally, I got so excited

I started yelling at Tyler

and running around the edge

like a yellow lab upon finding

a squirrel sneaking under the fence.

If you come to Iceland,

check out getting a super jeep.

We take one up

Hekla

(the snoozing volcano)

and out to

Landmannalaugar

for a night at the hut.

We use

Iceland Explorer

s

 to book our trips

and they do an amazing job!

*Note: You can drive many places by yourself in Iceland,

however- to reach some places (Landmannalaugur & Thorsmock), 

you'll need professional drivers

on professional vehicles!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 9, 2013 and filed under "iceland", "travel tips", "travel", iceland, travel.