I just spent an AMAZING five days in Iceland.
It was the first European country I’ve ever visited, and I have to say, it set the bar pretty damn high.
I’m on my flight to London right now (at the time of writing this), and although I’m excited to experience somewhere new, I’m still reeling from my Iceland experience.
The best part about Iceland is that majority of it’s main attractions are natural – and therefore free to explore.
The only downside to Iceland is that everything else is ridiculously expensive (food, gas, lodging, etc.). But if you can rally a small group together like I did, then it gets much more affordable.
Below is my experience and tips on staying active and eating healthy while traveling around Iceland.
Staying Active in Iceland
Even during the winter, it’s easy to stay active in Iceland!
There’s so much to discover and see, and most attractions are outdoor natural wonders that require at least a little bit of trekking to explore.
Even lounging at the Blue Lagoon was a healthy way to spend the first day. The silica and algae masks are great for your skin, the steam rooms detoxify your system, and the Lagoon itself is just an overall very relaxing experience.
After 9 hours of flying and suffering from some serious jet-lag, it was the perfect way to rejuvenate and give my body time to adjust and destress.
On the second day, I road tripped around the Golden Circle, which involved a lot of stops to waterfalls, geysers, and lookout points. I easily hit my 10,000 step goal that is programmed on my Fitbit activity tracker watch.
After the Golden Circle, I checked out a couple more waterfalls (which also required a bit of trekking), and the DC-3 Plane Wreckage on one of Iceland’s many black sand beaches – which was an 8km trek roundtrip. So by the end of that one day I ended up hitting about 25k steps.
The next day, I went exploring glaciers and iceberg lagoons. That ended up being about a 15k step day, and we upgraded to a more spacious guest house so I squeezed in a little workout in my room as well.
The workout was quick and simple, I just did 3 sets of 15 pushups, 15 tricep dips, 15 squats, 10 lunges on each side, and 50 Russian Twists.
On Saturday (day 4), I had a long 5-hour road trip back to Reykjavík, so I didn’t think I’d get much exercise that day. But that’s the night I hit the town with my friends. So after 9 hours of wandering around the city bar hopping and dancing, I easily blew past my 10k step goal again.
And on my last day, even though I was ridiculously tired from the almost-all-nighter, I still managed to get out for a little cave exploring.
All this to say that Iceland is one of the EASIEST places to stay active and healthy in because majority of it’s attractions are natural wonders that require trekking, climbing, and/or physical exploring of some kind. And Reykjavík is very walkable, so even just exploring the city will keep you active and moving.
I could have easily done a LOT more hiking, but was a bit pressed for time and didn’t really have the proper attire/footwear for winter hiking.
Joining tours is another way to be more active and explore Iceland a bit more in depth (like an ice caves tour or glacier walk). I decided not to do a tour to save time and money, but it’s a good option to look into – especially if traveling solo.
If you’re renting a car (which I highly recommend), don’t be afraid to get a little lost! Iceland is small and easily navigable, so if you see something off in the distance you want to go check out, just pull off and drive towards it. It will be easy to find your way back to the main road. That’s how we found some of the best hidden gems.
Eating Healthy in Iceland
The plus side to Iceland being so expensive is that it makes it more enticing not to spend your money on alcohol or eating out at restaurants for every meal.
I ate at a couple restaurants during the road trip, then decided to go grocery shopping for my last two days in Reykjavík. It cost just as much for one meal out at a restaurant as it did for 6 meals worth of food from the grocery store.
Cooking your own meals also gives you much more control over the health-factor.
I bought ingredients for salads and vegan burgers (with no bun) for lunches and dinners, and yogurt with granola and fresh fruit for breakfast.
Iceland’s veggie patties are amazing. I ordered one out for my first dinner, which came with blueberry jam and sautéed mushrooms, which was a strange combo but surprisingly delicious.
Then I bought some from the grocery store and they were also really good. Bonus (their cheap grocery story) had a pretty good selection for vegan protein options in the frozen section.
I wasn’t very impressed with Iceland’s fruit selection though. It was mostly just apples, bananas, melons, and blood oranges. But that’s understandable given their climate, isolation, and low population.
The avocados were MASSIVE. I didn’t try one because it was like $9 USD for one avocado and I’m cheap, but it probably would have lasted me like 3 days!
As a vegetarian, I was concerned that there wouldn’t be any meal options for me out in the more rural areas of Iceland, but I was wrong!
Most of the gas stations and convenience stores had at least one vegetarian sandwich available, plus plenty of healthy snacks to load up on like nuts, dried fruit, yogurt, or protein bars.
And the restaurants out in the countryside (which were all attached to guest houses) had vegetarian options as well. I had a delicious zucchini pasta with olive oil and basil at the Skógafoss Waterfall restaurant for dinner one night, and a vegetable curry soup at the Gerði Guesthouse in Sudursveit (about 7km east of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon) the other night.
The airbnb I was staying at in Reykjavík had a nice kitchen, so I cooked the rest of my meals. I checked out a lot of menus while wandering around town though, and basically the pubs didn’t have any vegetarian or healthy food options, but there were plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby that did.
Drinking the Water in Iceland
The tap water in Iceland is the most amazing, fresh water I’ve ever tasted. BUT you have to be careful and always smell it first, because it was kind of hit and miss which places had fresh water and which had sulfur water.
Trust me, it’s easy to tell. The second you turn on the sink it will either reek of eggs, or it won’t.
If the smell doesn’t immediately make you gag, then it’s safe to drink! I only bought one bottle of water the whole time I was there, and just refilled it at refill stations or whenever I found somewhere with fresh smelling water.
All bars and restaurants had self-serve water cups and dispensers, which was convenient during nights out on the town.
I don’t like to be empty-handed when I’m out at the bars, and since I don’t drink alcohol anymore it was nice to be able to keep my water glass full throughout the night.
On my second-to-last night, my friends and I got all dolled up and decided to go check out the Reykjavík night life.
We stayed out until 5am (which I’ve only done like 3 times in my life and have NEVER done sober), and it was quite the magical feeling to wake up EXTRA hydrated from drinking water all night instead of super dehydrated and hungover.
Even though I was sleep deprived after a measly 3 hours of shut-eye, I was fully functional after a late night of “partying”. What a treat that was!
Iceland nightlife was quite the experience though.
Things don’t start poppin’ until about 1-2am, and the party goes until the wee hours of the morning.
We did a fair bit of bar hopping – including an Icelandic rap festival (yes, it was all in Icelandic and we had no idea what the F they were saying), an Irish pub, a reggae bar, and a gay night club…among others. All of which offered very different music, very different crowds of people, and very different vibes.
When we left the club at about 4:30am there was still a line out the door of people waiting to get in, and the streets were filled with drunk people, food trucks, and empty alcohol containers.
People were literally laying unconscious in the streets with paramedics trying to wake them up, and being held up or dragged out of bars by police, and generally just falling all over the place. I got full-on tackled by a guy in the bar who was so drunk he couldn’t stay on his feet. Luckily he got kicked out after we lifted him off of me, but I’ve got a couple bruises to show for it!
I still haven’t caught up on sleep from that night, but it was definitely worth experiencing once.
Enjoy some more pictures from my Iceland trip below!
If you’ve been to Iceland and have anything else to add, leave it in the comments below!
Staying Healthy While Traveling Doesn’t Have to be Hard
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