7 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND

By Where’s Jason

I am one lucky guy who was able to live and study in Iceland from May to October 2015. My classmates and I went to several excursions throughout the course. On weekdays, we studied hard, researched, and did our paper works. On weekends, we traveled harder, explored, and did our IG works. LOL!

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What to do when at the top of Gulfoss? An IG selfie with friends, that’s right!

We saw several waterfalls, bathed in a lot of hot springs, hiked a number of mountains, drank a gazillion glasses of beers (whoops), and ate a million Icelandic hotdogs. It was an unforgettable experience and it was the best part of my life.

It was so freakin’ cool that I even went back to celebrate the New Year ’s Eve that same year. I booked the most expensive ticket I’ve ever paid for and it was worth it. Iceland became my favorite country. And I’d be more than happy to share this blog post to my friend, Dean, creator of The Quick Escape. (ed – next time share an Iceland ticket, bes Jason hahaha)

Check out the list below for 7 awesome things to do in this wonderful, wonderful country:

  1. GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR

The most common and popular tour in Iceland is the Golden Circle tour. You can book a tour or rent a car to explore this route. It’s common because it’s the most reachable tour from Reykjavik, the capital city. You can visit up to four tourist hot spots this way.

I did this thrice by doing a field trip with classmates, renting a car, and booking a tour. For flexibility and to have control of your own time, of course, renting a car would be the most obvious choice. But if you want to relax, just sit on the bus, get off to see the guided attractions with limited time, then go ahead, and book a tour. This depends on your travel style.

The first stop would be Thingvellir, followed by the Geyser, the Gulfoss, and then Kerid. This is the usual sequence when taking a tour.

  • Thingvellir is a historic site and a national park. It’s known for its rocky cliffs and fissures. Take a look around and absorb the greenish, mountainous scenery. A scene from the TV series Games of Thrones was even taken here. DCIM108GOPROGOPR0073.
  • The Geyser is a hot spring that erupts every now and then. Wait for a few minutes and watch as it shoots up water and steam. It’s fascinating just to watch this natural phenomenon. DCIM106GOPRO
  • The Gulfoss is a big-ass waterfall. It’s not as big as the Niagara Falls in Canada but it’s still an amazing site to see, especially if there’s a rainbow above the waterfall.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Kerid is one of the prettiest volcanic craters I ever saw. It’s like Christmas sparkled on nature – a mix of green grass and red ash rocks. DCIM106GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Book your tour at www.grayline.is

  1. SOUTH ICELAND TOUR

After the Golden Circle Tour, the South Iceland Tour is the next big thing you ought to do. I did this twice, both by road tripping with a friend’s car and a rented one. You can either start very early in the morning to finish it in one whole day or spend a night somewhere for a two-day trip.

OPTION A: DAY TOUR – Start very early around 2 to 3 AM and drive from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon. It is a 5 to 6 hour drive. From Jokulsarlon, head back to the city while stopping for the hot spots.

OPTION B: OVERNIGHT TOUR – Start at 8 AM and stop at the selected attractions. Spend the night at Hofn by booking a hotel or Jokulsarlon by camping. We opted to park at Jokulsarlon and sleep inside our car. We were like the guardians of the glaciers – an extremely cold act I would not advise you to do the same!

ATTRACTIONS ALONG SOUTH ICELAND:

  • Seljalandsfoss is one of my favorite waterfalls because you can go behind the falls to experience its misty vibe. DCIM107GOPRO
  • Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Drink beers while you bathe  against nature’s backdrop. Skinny dipping, perhaps? DCIM106GOPRO
  • Skogafoss is a waterfall where you can climb up for that spectacular panoramic view.DCIM107GOPRO
  • Vik is unique because of its black beach. (ed – I think this was where Daenery’s set foot in the season premiere of GOT Season 7? One thing’s for sure, Gendry was spotted here!)DCIM107GOPRO
  • Fjadrargljufur is a magical hiking trail featured on Justin Bieber’s “I’ll show you.” Yes, I’ll show you the right angle in taking that perfect shot. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Svartifoss is another awesome waterfall known for its columnar structure. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Fjallsarlon is an odd place like Mars with ice and brownish landscape. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Jokulsarlon is a glacial lagoon filled with bluish ice bergs. DCIM107GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Rent your car www.citycarrental.is

  1. DIAMOND CIRCLE TOUR

If you have one week in Iceland, consider going to the North to do the Diamond Circle Tour. You need to have at least three whole days to do this.

DAY 1: Drive from Reyjavik to Akureyri

DAY 2: Diamond Circle Tour

DAY 3: Drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik

ATTRACTIONS ALONG NORTH ICELAND:

  • Akureyri is a laid-back town up north known as the capital of North Iceland. Sounds like my kind of town to just chill, literally. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Godafoss is an elegant yet dramatic waterfall, which was used as a film location for the movie “Prometheus.” Jon Snow, where you at? (dunno your name in the film ha)DCIM104GOPRO
  • Lake Myvatn is the quieter version of the Blue Lagoon. Do some rock balancing while you’re at it.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Hverir by Mt. Namafjall is a land of geothermal hot springs and mud pools. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Viti is a crater near Krafla Volacano. Safest spot to take a groupfie! #NoPun DCIM104GOPRO
  • Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. #PowerDCIM104GOPRO
  • Asbrygi is a gigantic horseshoe-shaped canyon. DCIM104GOPRO
  1. WESTFJORD TOUR

We covered the Northern and Southern parts of Iceland. Now, I’ll take you to the West. This can be accomplished on a weekend or a 2-day trip. Drive from Reykjavik to the West and sleep at Flateyri. In my opinion, it’s best to go here during the winter season. Just be mindful that you may need a 4by4 vehicle to get pass through the thick layers of snow.

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  1. HIKE MT. ESJA

To get the best panoramic view of the city, trek atop Mt Esja. I hiked this beauty three times – the first one with Filipino friends, the second with classmates, and the third one for a concert. A concert was held on top of a mountain?! You bet!!!

MtEsja

  1. DIVE SILFRA FISSURE

This is my best dive to date. This dive site is located within the Thingvellir national park. It’s open all-year round. Get a chance to dive or snorkel between the Eurasian and North American plates which drift apart for about 2 cm per year. The water is crystal clear and refreshing; you can actually take a sip. Take note that temperature does go down to 1°C.

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It’s definitely a unique and rewarding experience. Get ready to experience the best brain breeze of your life! (ed – I wouldn’t mind getting brain freeze if I can be at two continents at once!!!)

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your dive tour at www.dive.is

  1. BATH IN THE BLUE LAGOON

The most relaxing thing to do in a cold country like Iceland is to bath in its geothermal waters. And the most popular geothermal spa in this country is the Blue Lagoon, which was formed by accident. The water is blue because it contains Silica, which is a by-product of the nearby geothermal power plant.

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I recommend you try this right after arriving at the airport. It will calm your nerves and your body. It’s soothing. Drink a beer while dipping your body in this geothermal wonder.

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your airport transfer plus blue lagoon admission at https://grayline.is/tours/blue-lagoon/

In sum, these are just 7 out of the tons of awesome activities you can do in Iceland. These are just the ones that pop up first in my head. Don’t think for a second I forgot about Aurora Borealis. Here you go folks – a bonus attraction that everyone has to see or at least if the skies allow you to – The Northern Lights! Those dazzling lights will definitely blow your mind.

Northernlights

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Jason Gotuato is the guy behind www.wheresjason.com. He writes technical reports during the day and travel stories at night – an engineer by profession and a traveler by heart. He has done a lot of crazy stuff from diving between the North American and Eurasian plates, to jumping out of a plane. Hats off to you bro!!!

His quest is to conquer this world and bring out the adventurer in all of us. Take a peek into his adventures @wheresjasong on Facebook and @wheresjason_ig on Instagram. Follow him as he lives his life, one adrenaline rush at a time.

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Quickies, out!

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El Nido or Coron?

This is my take on the Palawan dilemma our country is currently facing. Yes, I know this is serious and should be featured on the nightly news.

Yesterday, I underwent odontectomy where my wisdom tooth #48 (lower right molar) was surgically removed. Now, I have pretty much ample time to dwell on some serious matters. One of which is the ever bugging question I received from friends, which is really is which… El Nido or Coron?

El Nido, 2012 (Snake Island)

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Coron, 2014 (Mt. Tapyas View Deck)

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My answer would always be – depends on what you’re after. The two places offer exquisite experience for nature lovers. If you’re into a quieter, more serene, soul searching vibe – I would suggest El Nido. Otherwise, go to Coron.

The much better option would be why not go and see both, right?

I did.

And boy, those trips were forever etched in my adventure seeking heart.

I ‘ll give a rundown of my travels – first up would be El Nido then Coron. So quickies, shall we?


Use El Nido in a sentence: Go for it! El Nido to go for it! (okay it sucked but believe when I tell you to go and fly here!)

My orgmates fresh outta college decided to pay a visit to Lisa’s hometown – El Nido. Who am I not to join, especially when most of our expenses will be shouldered by her. I have such great friends, right? This trip didn’t just bring me to one of the best destinations in the Philippines; or perhaps, in the world but awakened my traveling feet. 3 years later, I’ve been to major hot spots in the country and now starting a travel blog.

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Itinerary & expenses of my PPS x El Nido trip

Day 1 Puerto Princesa (PPS)

Dinner at Ka Lui – 8 to 10:00 PM (200-300php/pax)

Firefly watching – 10:30 PM (didn’t push through due to weather)

Day 2 PPS to El Nido

ETD from Lisa’s house (PPS proper) to Sabang (drop off going to Underground river) – 7:00 AM

Underground river tour – approx. 9 to 11:00 AM (Free c/o my generous friend Lisa)

Lunch – Sabang (Buffet at 200php)

ETD Sabang to El Nido: 1:00 PM

ETA El Nido: 6 to 7:00 PM

>walk by the beach, explore town, dinner and walwal!  (Expenses depend on your preference)

Oh my hello El Nido!!!

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Day 3 El Nido

> Whole day island hopping – (Package B 800php/pax)

Day 4 El Nido to PPS

> If you guys have tour packages then good for you. For those who are backpacking, you have to rent a van that will take you to PPS. Well that’s the case back then, I don’t know now if they have established public vehicles now. Feel free to comment. As for our case, thanks again to Lisa for providing the van and just had us chip in for gas which cost me a staggering 100php for a 6 hr ride.

> Lunch at PPS ( approx.150-200php)

> Rushed city tour and souvenir shopping before the flight (1000php)

Expenses:

Air Fare: Php 2600

Day 1: Php 400 (Dinner at Ka Lui)

Day 2: Php 400 (100 for breakfast and 200 for lunch at Sabang)

Day 3: Php 1800 (800 for Package B and 1000 for food & lodging during my entire El Nido stay)

Day 4: Php 1300 (gas x lunch x pasalubong expenses)

Total: Php 6,500 (including air fare)

Notes: Careful planning is the key in visiting El Nido as you will need a transportation time of about 12 hours (round trip via land). Travel and tour packages definitely make traveling easier. But hey, I’m a backpacker and a big fan of DIY trips. So if you insist of backpacking El Nido and saving money in the process, by all means 🙂

Yey we’re complete here! Let’s set another one, out of the country maybe?

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Let’s get it on, Coron!

I dare you, yes you reader, go book a weekend flight to Coron/Busuanga (preferably this coming weekend and a seat sale) and never come back. Kidding! Just a weekend trip, no plans, no ifs, no buts. I guarantee you, you won’t regret it. Well, you might. You might regret staying for just a couple of days. That’s the good thing in Coron (aside from stable commercial flights – as opposed to El Nido), you can definitely find a place to stay even after you land! And go with whatever you wanna do in the island while you’re at it.

Top View (photo taken a Mt. Tapyas View Deck)

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Yeah, you get to see that after climbing a flight of stairs, 700++ steps to be clear.

Itinerary x Expenses

Day 1

Mt. Tapyas hike (Php 100 – 3 bottled water)

Maquinit Hotspring (Php 150 entrance)

Day 2

Whole day island hopping part 1( approx. Php 1000)

It’s underwater madness down there, I am urchin everyone not to step on anything! Oops!

Dinner at local restaurant (Php 300)

Social drinks at No Name Bar (Php 300)

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Day 3

Island hopping part 2 (approx Php 850)

Ship wrecks, fish feeding, picturesque views, Kayangan lake’s brackish water.. Coron got it all!

Pasalubong hunting (Php 200)

Tipid dinner in the city (Php 100)

3 night stay at Kimberly’s (Php 3600 good for 3 pax)

  • Php 1200 per pax

Miscellaneous (transportation, bottled water, some toiletries, etc) Php 300

Air fare: Php 1200

Total: Php 5,700 (including air fare)

I got to experience Coron for 4 days in less than Php 6,000 (~$130)

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And I was dancing Nae nae long before its hype.

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See you again, Palawan! My family and I will be flying back to El Nido by mid next year. I will make sure to provide you guys with an intensive blog post by then. I realized I was there in El Nido for just more than a day. Next year, I’ll stay there for the entire week (hoping)

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Credits to Lisa, Anjo, Migs (who almost died reaching the Mt. Tapyas’ 400th step) and Poli for some of the photos posted here.

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