Exploring Iceland with a 16 hour layover
Enjoy our creative travel video using “THE CLAW” to take us around Iceland for our layover
WOW AIRLINE AND AN ICELAND LAYOVER
On route to Dublin, Ireland, Villn (my man) and I were blessed with a 16 hour Iceland layover. We decided to make the most of our layover, which included exploring the city of Reykjavik, searching for vegan food and of course the infamous Blue Lagoon.
Wow airline is only 6 years old and it serves 33 destinations across Europe, North America and Asia.
Wow airlines offer round-trip, affordable, nonstop flights to Iceland from many cities. These include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C, Toronto (Canada) and Montreal (Canada). If you are headed to another city in Europe using Wow airlines, you will most likely have an Iceland layover.
CHEAP BUT AT WHAT PRICE?
This airline offers low fare affordable ticket prices but the catch is you can carry only one small personal belonging onto the plane for free (backpack, laptop bag etc.). Any extra carry on and you must pay a fee. Depending on where you are flying from the rates may differ; CLICK HERE for more info on Wow airline baggage fees.
If you plan on taking an extra carry on with the paid fee, make sure your luggage fits the size chart. CLICK HERE for more info. They actually check to make sure it fits into a mock luggage holder before boarding the plane. If it passes the test they will tag your bag, and if not, you have to pay an extra fee to check it in. So remember, size does matter.
NO FREE DRINK OR SNACK
Unless you purchase it, sucks, yea I know.
Another way they get you is on beverages and snacks/food. Unlike some other airlines, there are NO complimentary beverages or snacks. I suggest bringing your own snacks or getting something at the airport prior to your flight.
However, even with all the extra fees I feel it’s still worth it to have a nonstop flight to Iceland.
ARRIVING TO THE LAND OF FIRE AND ICE
We arrived into Keflavik airport at 1:35pm. Everything reminded me of IKEA. The wooden floors, the ambiance, the food, pretty much everything lol.
We wanted to maximize our layover so prior to our trip we reserved a car from rentalcars.com.
I would suggest booking the car in advance especially with the tight schedule, and to double check if the car you selected is manual or automatic. Heads up, automatics are more expensive.
Get full coverage (insurance); you never know what might happen so its better to be safe than sorry. Also, in Europe you need a credit card to rent a car (a debit card does not work).
ROAD TRIP FROM KEFLAVIK TO REYKJAVIK
From Keflavik airport to the main city Reykjavik is about a 40 minute car drive. Our first destination was to grab some food! We were hungry!
Using my Happy Cow app we found a place called Kaffi Vinyl that serves vegan food! Woo hoo! (All smiles)
We parked our car on the side of the street and paid meter parking. We had no idea how much it was because it was in Icelandic, so we just used my debit card and hoped it worked and it did! LOL
FIRST STOP KAFFI VINYL
Kaffi Vinyl was a dope spot! It’s the first vegan kitchen in Reykjavik and has a live DJ and good vibes.
I ended up ordering the lasagna, which came with garlic bread and a side salad.
Villn got the Tama Thai noodles made with peanuts and cashew nuts. SO DELICIOUS!
We also ordered a Macchiato and a latte.
Total bill for this was $55. OMG, Iceland you are so freakin expensive!
NEXT STOP: EXPLORING THE ICELANDIC COAST
After our vegan lunch we decided to take a walk and explore things randomly. The Icelandic coast lured us in.
We came across a sculpture that was along the north coast shore and contemplated on what it was.
Maybe a Viking ship? Or maybe bones of a whale? We had no idea but continued to take pictures with it HAHA.
It wasn’t until I wrote this post that I began to research it and this is what I found…
“Sólfarið, or The Sun Voyager, is an iconic statue along the seaside of Reykjavík unveiled to mark the 200th birthday of the city of Reykjavík on August 18, 1990. Designed by artist Jón Gunnar, the statue is built of stainless steel and is the artist’s interpretation of a dreamboat and ode to the sun. Jón’s intention was to give the city something that inspired dreams and imagination and symbolizes light and hope. It is not, as some think, a Viking ship. “
So it wasn’t a Viking ship or whale bones. Still, pretty cool to check out. The cold Icelandic breeze made my nose numb, totally snuggle weather.
STREET ART OF REYKJAVIK
We had some time to kill before our appointment at the Blue lagoon, so we explored the streets and shops of Reykjavik.
There was street art on almost every wall we passed. Bright and colorful, it really caught our eyes.
We had more fun admiring the street art than checking out the shops lol.
Aren’t these vikings the cutest?
Villn exchanging energy with his spirit animal.
The street art in Iceland is amazing!
The wall art to help distract from the ugly constructions haha.
This building was one of Villn’s favs.
This gorilla was dope since he has googly eyes! Must be an OT thing LOL, it makes everything more alive. Can you spot them?
RESERVATIONS FOR BLUE LAGOON
Helpful Hint: Pre-booking is required if you plan on visiting the Blue Lagoon. CLICK HERE for the Blue Lagoon website.
Four different packages are available, from Standard to Luxury. Villn and I got the most basic one which is Standard and includes entrance fee and Silica mud mask. Price for one adult is 6100 ISK or $58. Towels are not included in this price.
Our scheduled time was 10 pm, which was nice because visiting the Blue Lagoon later in the day = less people. Due to the overcast and midnight sun (during summer time the sun doesn’t set) it didn’t start getting dark until well after 11pm. Maybe without the overcast we’d be able to see the sun.
Upon arrival they give you a bracelet that locks and unlocks your locker. Men and women are in separate locker rooms.
You must take off your shoes before entering the locker room and leave it amidst all the other piles of shoes (don’t forget to pick your shoes back up when you leave, I totally forgot HAHA).
Before entering the lagoon you must shower completely naked (this is the same for all other geothermal pools in Iceland), there are private stalls with shampoo and conditioner. They also suggest putting conditioner in your hair to keep it from getting super salty from the lagoon.
BLUE LAGOON TIME!!
AHHHH!! I couldn’t believe we were here! The contrast in temperature from the outside air makes you want to just scurry to the lagoon and jump right in.
The difference in temperature was pretty drastic considering it was “summer”. This was a perfect example of Ice (the air) and fire (the lagoon).
SIGHTS, SOUNDS & SCENTS
I could see the steam rising above the still lagoon water and into the air that created a dream-like atmosphere. I watched as other visitors took selfie’s with their group and even enjoyed a drink.
From the looks on everyone’s faces I could tell they were just as happy to be at the Blue Lagoon as I was.
The light chatter of personal conversations filled the air.
There was a sense of light-heartedness, the energy was both of excitement and relaxation.
The sulphur smell wasn’t bad at all; I’ve smelled worse lol. I would describe the smell as a mixture of fart and eggs but on the tamer side HAHA. The surrounding area of the Blue Lagoon smelled way worse than actually being in the lagoon.
The warm blue green healing water kissed my skin as I found a comfy spot along the rocks to sit and soak in. My muscles relaxed as did my mind. It was as if all the travel planning curveballs I’ve experienced prior to this trip just didn’t matter anymore.
The faint memory of all the stress and anxiety melted away just like that. The serene water was healing my mind and body instantly; so grateful to experience this moment.
OUR LOVE FOR HOT WATER
Villn and I LOVE LOVE LOVE hot springs, jacuzzi’s, hot hot showers and geothermal pools, so we were basically in hot heaven. Nature’s jacuzzi’s are thee best. (Having Blue Lagoon withdrawals as I typed this right now).
The lagoon was a lot bigger than I originally thought. There were areas that led to smaller private areas and areas that opened up after walking under a bridge.
Some spots were cooler and others hotter. As soon as we felt the hotter water touch our legs we gravitated toward it. We coined the hot spots as our favorite spots.
HINT: The hot areas are around these wooden boxes (I think they help pump out the hot water).
ICELANDIC DRINKING WATER
The fountain under a bridge offered fresh Icelandic drinking water, which was cold, crisp and refreshing!
SILICA MUD MASK
The silica mud mask was surprisingly white. The benefits of this mask is said to have curative and skin healing properties.
Apparently, when the geothermal seawater cools, it becomes supersaturated with silicon and long chains of silicon molecules are formed that eventually precipitates out of the water and form the white mud.
We lathered it all over our face, made scary faces at each other and kept it on for about 10 minutes. We chilled in the lagoon looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost, then washed it off.
It did make my skin feel soft right after rinsing it off, but then the salty lagoon water began to make my skin feel dry. I guess that’s why they recommend getting the algae facemask as well which is an extra cost. (No thanks, I’ll save that for my food =P)
We enjoyed the lagoon until closing time, which was 12:30am. The lockers close at 1 am.
I got to shower and use the Icelandic shampoo and conditioner, which was awesome considering they sell that stuff in their store. Then I got to head back to the airport so fresh and squeaky clean.
Overall, this layover is by far the most eventful, relaxing and memorable layover I have ever had. Having the opportunity to explore a bit of the city of Reykjavik, get a taste of their vegan food and soak in the Blue Lagoon was definitely a teaser!
I will be back for you one day, Iceland, and when I do I will explore your beautiful waterfalls, icebergs, geysers and landscapes in a camper!
Thank you for reading and please comment below with any comments or questions – VAL PAL
A Day Trip to Nara – Nara, Japan
Did you know there are freely roaming sacred deer in Japan that you can feed?! Once I found out that such a thing existed I was sure to add that to my Japan itinerary.
Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, bordering Kyoto Prefecture.
HOW TO GET TO NARA FROM KYOTO
It is an easy one-day trip if you are coming from Kyoto or other nearby cities in Japan.
From Kyoto you would use your JR rail pass and take the JR line. It is 45 minutes by express (Kaisoku) or 70 minutes by local (Futsu) and departs from JR Kyoto Station in Kyoto and arrives at JR Nara Station in Nara.
If you don’t have a JR rail pass the Kintetsu is the fastest and most comfortable way to get there. Just be sure to take a direct express (Tokkyu).
CLICK HERE for more in-depth info on how to get to Nara.
ARRVING TO NARA PARK
Staircase at Nara Station
Once you arrive at the Nara station, take a bus to Nara Park. There are signs and you can ask people for directions in case you are confused.
We didn’t know which stop to get off at but once you are headed to Nara Park you will begin to see deer in the surrounding park. So we got off when it felt right HAHA.
Our intuition was right; there were food vendors nearby and people selling deer biscuits in the park.
The deer biscuits are 150 yen ($1.20) per pack.
Food vendors at Nara Park (Photo by: Perry)
HISTORY OF THE SCARED DEER OF NARA
The Sika deer in Nara are considered sacred because of their significance in the Shinto religion. Legend has it that the Gods of the grand shrine have been sending messengers to watch over the city in the form of Sika deer ever since.
These deer are highly protected under law and flourish due to the tourists buying “deer biscuits” and feeding them.
Bambi waiting for her treat (Photo by Perry)
EARLY BIRD FEEDS THE DEER!
I highly suggest you arrive early, which may work out in your favor. My reason for this is because when it gets closer to the evening all the deer are so full from all the people feeding them lol! So get there when the deer are hungry.
I tried feeding the deer again later in the day after exploring Todaji temple and they just turned their head away totally uninterested. So funny!
Feeding the hungry deer
FEEDING THE DEER
It was such a cool experience to see all the deer freely roaming around the park in harmony with humans. None of them were chained up or in an enclosed cage or anything, just totally free.
Villn and I walked around and observed people feeding the deer first. Some would swarm a person once the deer knew they had food.
There were deer that were much more aggressive and would try to steal the food right out of your hand. Other deer would try to nibble and yank at your clothes telling you, “Hurry up! I’m hungry!”
Be aware of your goodies
So we devised a plan, to buy the biscuits and hide them in our pockets and fed them one at a time. Well, that didn’t really work.
There was a moment when I was watching Villn feed a deer and another deer straight up went behind Villn, put his head under his backpack and rammed him in the butt LOL! Hilarious!
We found that most of the deer have learned to bow to you before giving them a treat. Super cute to watch these deer bow!
Also, when you are “all done” with your biscuits, you shake both hands in front of the deer, so they clearly see you have no more food and they will move on.
Some were friendly enough to pet
We met up with our friend Perry from college who was in Japan the same time we were. I witnessed him feed a deer while holding the biscuit in his mouth and attempted this later.
Perry showing off his skills
Too bad all the deer were too full by the time I built up the courage to try.
HOT SAKE IN THE PARK
After feeding the deer we took a sake break. We ordered hot sake in a glass cup where they peel open the aluminum top and heat it up for you. It was the first time I sipped on sake as if it was hot tea while roaming the park.
I clearly remember enjoying the hot sake going down my throat while being in the chilly park all bundled up. The sake was warm and so smooth! We chilled near a stream, shot some footage for our creative travel video and watched the deer nearby.
Hot Sake in the park, best idea ever!
The Todaji temple was built in the year 743 and has the world’s largest gilded bronze Buddha at 49 feet high. It is housed in an all-wood building, which is 157 feet high, making it the largest wooden building in the world.
Biggest wooden temple in the world!
Drinkable blessed water was available as you entered the temple area. The blessed water was ery cold and refreshing.
Taking a sip of the drinkable blessing water
The temple had a large pillar with a hole in it. Based on cultural belief if you can crawl through the hole, which is supposed to be equivalent in size as the Buddha’s nostril, then you will blessed with health and happiness.
Buddha looked way bigger in person
I was able to slide through the hole, while my friend Perry who is taller than Villn, almost got stuck! It was so funny! I was about to help pull him out!
When we thought all hope was lost, Perry finally, somehow managed to get through. It was as if we were witnessing him being born again, as he pushed and wiggled his way out of the hole HAHA. He definitely worked for his blessing!
DEER COEXISTING WITH HUMANS
Our day trip to Nara was interactive, memorable and overall a fun experience! I will never forget feeding and watching the deer roam around the park. They are beautiful creatures that I feel everyone visiting Japan should experience. Being able to live in harmony with other creatures is so beautiful to witness.
Deer in the crowds (Photo by Perry)
There was also a lesson to be learned while we were there. Nara proved that it is possible to coexist with other creatures without harming them or caging them up. So go bow to and feed the deer in Nara, I’m sure they’d be happy you came
-Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my creative travel video Japan Edition! – Val Pal
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