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The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local – or let’s make it two!

I have to correct myself after the horrible mistake I made; I told you earlier how my photo saldo from our 4-day stopover in Iceland is around 1500, but I was lying. So sorry about that. The truth is, the total number easily exceeds 2000. So I really hope you have set your receptive fields to the frequency of Iceland, as you’ll be reading tons of stories – and seeing tons of those photos – about Iceland over the next few weeks!

For a good while I was considering where to start with the long list of topics I’ve written down, as I’m so excited to tell you about our adventures in the land of fire and ice. Eventually I realized I really should start from.. well, the beginning. I must say I am extremely happy that we took the benefit out of Icelandair’s free Stopover Buddy service, because the best way to explore Iceland is indeed to spend a day with a local.

Daniel and I were even luckier; we got to spend our day with two locals!

Perhaps you remember the preliminary route plan that I published a few weeks prior to our adventure? Well, as you might guess, not even one of the days went as planned! But that’s fine! The main point regarding our first full day remained the same; we spent it with our Stopover Buddy Anna. Anna took along her husband Gretar, a real Icelandic scientist!

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

Anna and Gretar were such great local guides during our Stopover Buddy experience in Iceland. This service is completely free of charge and highly recommended, in case you are travelling to Iceland with a stopover tactic.

What the heck is Stopover Buddy?

This is definitely my best advice for you in case you are planning to travel to Iceland with a ‘stopover tactic’. Stopover Buddy is a completely free service run by Icelandair, valid for travellers crossing the Atlantic with at least one day stopover in Iceland. Your Stopover Buddy is an Icelandair employee, who will spend a day with you in Iceland as your personal local guide. You can decide yourself what you want to do with your Stopover Buddy, but here’s an extra tip for you: listen to your Stopover Buddy what he or she has to suggest. As local Icelanders, they have their reasons to change the plan if necessary!

Our timing couldn’t have been better, as the winter season of the service ended in April. At the moment Stopover Buddies are having a little break, but the airline promises on their website that Stopover Buddies will return on duty again when autumn arrives.

You can choose your own Stopover Buddy from different categories. We happened to pick lifestyle category for one reason, and one reason only: it was the only category with volcanoes mentioned in the description. The magical word. We thought we could go through many different destinations and nature wonders on our own, but volcanoes would be best to investigate with a local guide.

I got to know Anna a little bit already during our flight to Reykjavik, after finding this introduction in Icelandair magazine:

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

Anna and Gretar turned out to be the best possible travel companions for us. Based on our original Stopover Buddy plan we were meant to to drive to Borgarnes and continue all the way to Snæfellsnes, the area that is often referred as ‘the miniature Iceland’, but as mentioned earlier, the locals know when you should change the plan. And you should listen to them.

At least we did, and instead of possible storms and dodgy weather we enjoyed a lovely sunny day in Southern Iceland exploring places that no ordinary tourist can go to. We heard so many stories that no travel guide book can tell you, and these stories I will share with you as we go along and get to know to each amazing road trip destination in detail.

Are you as excited as I am? Let’s continue!

Let’s grab some lunch and hit the road!

So, we met Anna and Gretar in Reykjavik in the morning and hit the road with their four-wheel drive. That means we didn’t need to rent a car for our first full day in Iceland (saving money again, I like it!). Do you like travelling on budget as well? Hear this; Icelandair covers the fuel, so the only costs for your Stopover Buddy day will be the activities, food and drink – a real dream for a budget traveller!

We grabbed some lunch to go from a trusted bakery recommended by our Stopover Buddies and headed for Þingvellir National Park (also known as Thingvellir National Park). Þingvellir is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there’s a good reason for it: this is exactly the place where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia meet – or let’s rather say split – above the sea level.

Also Silfra, the most famous diving spot in the whole of Iceland, is located here. You might wonder why is it so famous? Well, in Silfra you can go diving or snorkeling between these tectonic plates.

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

The spectacular views of Þingvellir National Park made me realize it: omg, we’re finally in Iceland. W-O-W!!!

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

This is how you push North America out of Iceland. Or at least pretend to do so.

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

Only in Iceland: Be careful, there might be divers on the road!

A little sneak peek under the surface!

95 % of the households in Reykjavik are using geothermal energy, which is tamed and distributed in geothermal power stations. The company of Gretar the scientist opened doors to one of these power plants. Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station is the 2nd biggest one in Iceland, and it’s been working for over 25 years. It produces approximately 120 megawatts in a year, and as this number means absolutely nothing to me when presented like this, I don’t expect it to mean anything to you either. So let’s just say that 1 megawatt is enough for a thousand households in Reykjavik, and even if my math skills are super crappy, even I can tell this plant has some real energy!

What else should you know about this geothermal wonder? Well, the highest temperature measured in the welds around it is 380 celsius degrees, which is pretty damn hot. And once you go near one, remember to hold your nose; geothermal energy smells A LOT like rotten eggs. Really rotten eggs!

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

A little sneak peek inside the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station.

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

How does a volcanic crater look like? Well, this is one example!

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

We also visited a crater lake called Kerið. I will write more about our crater adventures later on, so remember to come back!

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

Seltún is a geothermal field located in the Reykjanes reserve. More rotten-egg-smelling stories will follow!

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

Kleifarvatn is the largest lake in the Reykjanes area, and there are many stories in relation to it (monsters will be mentioned!). Volcanic ash has coloured the beached black.

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

No day in Iceland without Icelandic horses resting on the side of the road. They love bread, by the way!

So… why to have a local guide?

Thanks to our local guides we got to visit places we wouldn’t have been able to go without. Our local guides told us many many stories, that you can not find on travel guide books. And they told us many many tips what we should see along the road when we start driving by ourselves – places we had no idea of without their advice. Some of them we might have had heard of, but we most probably would have driven pass without a local guide; Raufarhólshellir lava cave is a perfect example of such a place.

So obscure when on the ground, so marvelous when underground. And as you already might have guessed, we will dive in to this cave later on!

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

I can’t believe how much we got to see and experience with our local guides in only one day! After a day of driving, we still had enough time to have a guided tour in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

The best way to explore Iceland: A day with a local | Live now – dream later travel blog

Me and my new friend, lovely Anna, with whom we still keep in contact after the trip.

So, is there anything else we gained from our Stopover Buddies than great tips and awesome experiences?

Yes, there was.

First of all, Anna gave us a road map that turned out to be priceless after we hit the road on our own. Anna also lent us a guide book that provided us with amazing tips of spots along the road we should stop at. Such places we didn’t know of before. But most importantly, we gained two good friends that we still keep in contact with after returning back home.

Thank you Anna and Gretar for making our first full day in Iceland unforgettable! <3

Here’s some more to read for you:

I feel so alive, SO alive! It’s easy to smile when the flights are booked!

This is how we planned our four-day stopover in Iceland

Oh dear travel plans! Confessions of a last-minute traveller.

I left my heart in Iceland, my mind and legs in New York

Read all my stories about Iceland here!


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Saana

The girl behind the blog is a Finnish travel and outdoor enthusiastic with a huge passion for writing and fulfilling dreams. When I’m not abroad, I’m showing you the best of beautiful Finland. My heart lies in the archipelago of Satakunta and Rauma area in the South-West of Finland.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. What a fantastic idea for the airline to introduce a buddy. Very ingenious! What about clothing? I noticed that you looked tightly packed lol! Would you say ski-clothing would be best, or something completely different?

    1. Thanks for your comment and sharing my posts on Twitter as well, Victoria! Yes, in Iceland you have to prepare for everything. One minute might be sunny and warm, the next minute windy as hell and soon snowing, especially at spring. I will write more about the weather we experienced once I get into that. I have so many posts queueing about both destinations, Iceland and New York! 🙂 Anyway, clothing depends a lot on the timing, whether you’re travelling in spring or summer. Windproof and waterproof clothing and lots of layers to add if needed, and you’ll be fine! 🙂 Better to pack too much than too little.

Make me happy; let's get chatty! :)

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