No Filter Needed (Iceland)

Going on this trip is the ultimate dream come true, really.

Having a honeymoon is a dream come true.

To places you’ve always wanted to go to is a dream come true.

And going there with the one is a dream come true.

What more could a girl ask for?


Just a few things to take note of when you skim through this post:

All the photos posted here are unedited. What you’re about to see is Iceland’s raw and natural beauty. Real beauty doesn’t need filters. 🙂

I didn’t use any professional camera as well. I used a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and a GoPro Hero5.


So off we go to on our 17-hour flight!

We left Singapore at 11pm

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had a 2-hour layover in Helsinki

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and arrived Iceland 9am the following day.

We didn’t rent a car to go around (though it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) so we had to arrange transfers.

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We got to Reykjavik and omg. I fell in love with the city right away.

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It took a while for it to sink in that this is the heart of the city, where it’s supposedly the busiest.

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The town is so laid back.

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And cozy.

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Living in country like Singapore where tall buildings are surrounding you from every angle,

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this is exactly the kind of neighbourhood I am looking forward to staying at for the next few days.

We stayed at Luna Apartments which is conveniently located at the heart of Reykjavik. Such a cheesy way of describing a location, but it really is. When you step out of the building, there are restaurants across and beside it, a grocery store is just a 2-minute walk, and the tourist centres are nearby as well.

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One thing we both dreaded was how expensive the food is.

Food plays a huge role in travel. Not tasting local delicacies is missing half the experience. While this is true, we both know Iceland is not exactly the cheapest place.

So here’s a tip: splurge for a meal or two, ideally the first and last meal of the trip, then cook your own food or buy pre-cooked meals for the rest of the trip. The cheapest and biggest supermarket in Iceland is Bonus.

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Even just walking around town will allow you to see interesting sights

Hallgrímskirkja

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and the prettiest strays!

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Let’s play a little game. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Iceland’?

Northern lights?

Yup.

Exactly.

So there was no way we’d miss out on that. Apparently, it’s not as easy as you looking up the sky and there it is. Nope. Definitely not.

Here’s what you gotta do and take note of:

  • If the aurora forecast states the activity is low (there are websites and apps to check for this), you have to drive out of the Reykjavik, away from the city lights, to see it. And that means
  • You have to chase it. Literally. When you drive out to a spot and nothing happens chances are you gotta move to a different location where there are no clouds and light pollution.
  • There are northern light tours you can book either online or at the tourist centres. Make sure you get the one that allows you to have unlimited tries in case you won’t be able to see it on the first try.
  • There’s a certain time frame. In the two attempts we had, we were out from 10pm until around 1am.
  • DRESS WARM. During that time of the night, it’s not just cold. It can be windy as well.
  • If you have a DSLR or a camera other than your mobile phones, better. Not all mobile phones are capable of capturing the lights.
  • If you don’t have those cameras, research on how you can configure your phone’s camera to the settings that would allow you to capture the lights or download a different camera app.

 

We did our research. You should too before you get out there.

So did we get to see it?

Nope, we didn’t. After two attempts, we decided to give up on it. It was too exhausting to stay up that late every night. So I hate to break it to you, you won’t be seeing any photos of the pretty lights on this post.

I do hope you get to see it when you go there though!

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Though we didn’t get to get a glimpse of the northern lights, there are still a lot to see in Iceland.

We booked a couple of tours for the next few days

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and we were able to see the wonders of Iceland.

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It’s plain, natural beauty everywhere you look.

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Carrying the name ICELAND, you’d think the country is covered in ice.

Apparently not.

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The weather is piercing cold, yes. But it’s not snowing all year round.

And with that, we were able to see all sorts of picturesque landscapes.

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First on the list:

Skógafoss

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We weren’t able to have our winter wonderland experience so we decided to on a glacier hike.

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Remember to wear the proper attire and shoes, but don’t worry. You can rent.

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We had our glacier hike at

Sólheimajökull

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The place was breathtaking.

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Seeing it just makes me realise all the more how brilliant of a creator God is.

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How ice can co-exist with volcanic rocks, and volcanoes themselves.

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It’s just sad to know that the glacier is slowly diminishing before our eyes.

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Our guide told us that though she hikes the glacier two times every day, every visit is different ’cause of the effects of global warming.

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That makes me extra grateful that I was able to still see it in its current state.

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’cause it’s definitely one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen.

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Also, walking on ice is not as easy as it looks!

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But you do what you gotta do to snap a photo!

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Especially that every spot is photo worthy.

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Quite tiring.

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But to see all that?

Worth it.

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More than being gifted with numerous wonders, Iceland also has a rich culture. One that is quite unique and interesting especially for an Asian like me.

Few fun facts about Iceland that we found out from our tour guide:

  • Icelanders don’t have family/last names. They have a first name + “the son/daughter of (father’s name)”. So for example me, in english my name would translate to Samantha, daughter of Toch.
  • Iceland is home to around 130 volcanoes, 30 of which are active.
  • Hekla, one of Iceland’s volcanoes was believed to be the gate of hell years ago.
  • There are more Icelandic horses in Germany than in Iceland.
  • When the first settlers of Iceland got there, there was only one mammal living on the island: the arctic fox.
  • Iceland is rich in land, but not all of it is habitable because of the cold weather.
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One of the tours we booked was the Golden Circle. The tour includes:

Gullfoss

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Despite the absence of snow, it was freezing cold there!

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But again, its beauty is just… WOW.

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It’s like staring at a postcard.

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And we got to be in it!

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The next one was

Geysir

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It sprouts water from the ground every 7-10 minutes.

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Get the perfect timing and you’ll have an amazing instagram-worthy photo!

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Last one for the Golden Circle tour was

Þingvellir

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It is probably Iceland’s most historic spot. Its name Þingvellir directly translates to “the fields of parliament” for it was the sight of parliament during the Viking commonwealth.

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It is where you stand and walk between two continents.

There, you will see the rift valley, where the split of the Eurasian plate and North American tectonic plates are.

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There are so many things to love about Iceland, and I’m sure there’s a lot more I’ve yet to discover.

It’s one of those places that is not just a one-time visit.

I would definitely go back.

If you haven’t been there, I recommend you book your tickets now and tick off that item on your bucket list.

Feel free to comment for questions. I’d do my best to answer them.

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So that was part 1 of our honeymoon!

Click here to watch highlights of the trip.

 

© SAMANTHA ARELLANO 
PLEASE ASK PERMISSION IF YOU WISH TO COPY / SAVE THE PHOTOS AND USE FOR PERSONAL USE.
ALL THE PHOTOS ARE TAKEN BY ME AND EDWIN. FOR THOSE WITH US IN IT, WE’VE ASKED LOCALS OR FELLOW TOURISTS TO TAKE THE PHOTOS FOR US.
CAMERAS USED: SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 8, GOPRO HERO5

Travelogues

Samantha View All →

Writer | Solo Traveler

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