In Love with Iceland

In October 2016, I organized a 10-day Iceland trip for my women’s hockey team. The first half of the trip was a road trip around southern Iceland, from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón, and back. We spent the remainder of our time exploring Reykjavik and playing in a tournament. 

In an earlier post, I described my top 5 trips (to date). I’d started writing that long before I went to Iceland, so decided to just go with it. However, my trip to Iceland blew all of those other trips away in the sheer magnitude, intensity, and sustained level of its awesomeness.

It was so amazing, in fact, that I can’t capture every facet of the trip in one post, so I’m breaking it into five, sharing one a day for the rest of this week (check out Part 2: Iceland Favorites: Þórsmörk and JökulsárlónPart 3: Iceland Travel TipsPart 4: Skal! Sampling Iceland’s Craft Beer, and Part 5: Wandering Reykjavik).

Magical Iceland

Iceland is a hot destination right now, so hot that I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. As one of my friends lamented, “Everyone I know is going to Iceland.” This is usually my cue to avoid a place. However, when my friends and I found out we could play ice hockey there, the decision became a no-brainer.

Life hasn’t felt the same since.

The thing is, you can replicate our itinerary exactly (I’ll even share it with you). You can go at the same time of year and retrace our steps, but you will never have the experience we had. Maybe your experience will blow your mind and make Iceland your favorite trip ever, too. Maybe you’ll just end up saying “Meh, that was nice.”  But this Iceland trip and its combination of location, timing, people, activities, weather, and the gods-know-what other variables can never be replicated.

That, my friends, is the beauty of travel and sharing experiences with others.

The descriptions below just begin to scratch the surface of what made this trip so amazing for me and my friends. Come back every day this week to dig deeper with us.

I hope this will encourage you to visit Iceland and experience the magic for yourself.  

When you share something so beautiful, you can’t help but feel closer to your companions.

Icebergs at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Iceland

The landscape

Iceland itself deserves much of the credit for the fun we had. Around every turn was a breathtaking vista, an alien landscape, a fairyland. We wandered across fields of volcanic ash at the foot of a glacier, explored hidden ravines and climbed behind waterfalls, hiked through hills and valleys full of vibrant fall colors, and crawled among ice “diamonds” washed up on black sand beaches.

Each sight was more magnificent than the last, some of it eerily familiar and others like nothing we could have ever imagined.

When I was planning the trip, I was afraid that, at some point, we might lose a bit of enthusiasm: “Oh, look, another waterfall.” I shouldn’t have worried. Each sight was more magnificent than the last, some eerily familiar and others like nothing we could have ever imagined.

Landscape of volcanic ash at the foot of Gígjökull, an outlet of the glacier Eyjafjallajökull

In addition to the stunning scenery, the people were friendly and welcoming; the hotels were clean and comfortable; and the food and drinks were all all high quality and quite tasty (though pricey). Everything about Iceland contributed to the magic of the experience.

The people

The people, both the locals and the members of our group, played an essential role in making the experience so unforgettable. My traveling companions were really what made this trip for me. They came with an adventurous spirit and trusted me to put together a trip that everyone would enjoy.


The whole group at Geysir (photo credit: Mary Bonifield)

While Iceland is a great place for solo travelers, and we all enjoyed our moments alone, sharing such an intensely beautiful place made it that much more magical. It was like we fell more in love with each other and the world around us, the deeper into Iceland we went. We were continuously sharing wide-eyed looks of amazement and awestruck exclamations “Holy f*** that’s beautiful!” (We’re hockey players, ok?) We couldn’t believe such a place was real. Somehow Iceland brought my team closer together in emotions we still struggle to articulate but continue to feel.

I guess that’s the real magic of this place. When you share something so beautiful, you can’t help but feel closer to your companions.

The road trip

Before settling down in Reykjavik for the hockey tournament, my teammates and I embarked on a 5-day road trip around southern Iceland. Though we were a big group (14 people, 4 cars), having our own vehicles gave us more flexibility than a bus tour would have, and traveling together prior to the tournament was the ultimate experience in team bonding.

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road in Iceland

Though we were limited somewhat by schedule, daylight, weather, and availability of activities in October, it’s amazing how much we saw and did, without feeling rushed. In brief, we started off with the classics: the Blue Lagoon, a stop in Reykjavik, and the Golden Circle. Then we left the ring road for a SuperJeep excursion through Þórsmörk and headed on to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. Along our way, we made stops at the Secret Lagoon, Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, Svartifoss waterfall, and Ölvisholt Brewery, to name a few (in the next post, I’ll highlight some of our favorite experiences).

This itinerary worked just about perfectly for the time and number of people we had. I had some help from a booking service, which set us up with a baseline self-drive itinerary and helped me modify it to meet our group’s needs. I also booked several activities for the group on my own. The pacing and types of activities made the most of the short days (we had about 8 hours of full daylight in mid-to-late-October), kept us active, and left us some flexibility for optional activities and spontaneous detours.

The hockey

And finally, the hockey…

Ice hockey vies with travel as one of my greatest loves, so combining the two is a truly transcendent experience. My teammates, women from all over the US and Canada, assembled because they love the game and have adventurous souls. Though it was just one part of the trip, hockey was literally the reason we were all there.

Post-game handshake, X-Factor and Björninn

We played in a tournament called the Iceland Invitational, which is organized through a joint effort The Women of Winter, Travel and Play, and the Bjorninn Hockey Club. Teams from the US, Canada, and, of course, Iceland came together for a friendly competition organized by people who have made it their mission to increase women’s opportunities to play the sport. My team, Chicago X-Factor, lost the championship game in a shootout to SA Ásynjur, from Akureyri in Northern Iceland, but with such tight competition and great sportsmanship, the sting of the loss wasn’t quite as hard to take.

We’ll be back, Iceland.

Stay tuned

The rest of this week, I’ll be posting more details and information about my trip to Iceland. I’ll also make an overview of the itinerary we followed available as a download.

Share any questions or magical Iceland experiences you’ve had in the comments below or via my direct contact form.

If you are inspired to travel and want your own personalized  itinerary, check out what it’s like to work with me

If you liked this post, be sure to check out Part 2: Iceland Favorites: Þórsmörk and JökulsárlónPart 3: Iceland Travel TipsPart 4: Skal! Sampling Iceland’s Craft Beer, and Part 5: Wandering Reykjavik

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