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Iceland–relaxation or adventure?

I love planning my future travel. I start far in advance and research everything--where to stay, what to see, best restaurants, local customs and currency, etc. One of the best parts of this research is the type of adventure opportunities a new place offers. Over the years I’ve found that many of these adventures give travelers a unique perspective on the new place and likely separate you from the throngs of tourists. Is there a hike to a secluded waterfall, a glacier walk complete with crampons, or maybe an opportunity to zipline through a rainforest? I’m always looking for at least one really unique adventure. And since these often come with a high price tag, then one adventure usually suffices.

On the other hand, by the time I have planned the trip, made arrangements to get away from work, arranged for the dog’s care while traveling, paid all the bills, and run all the last minute errands, I’m tired and ready for some relaxation. Its at moments like this--right before we head to the airport-- that I wonder why I didn’t book us a two week stay at an all inclusive resort. The image of laying poolside with a drink in one hand and a book in the other is really tempting. Why did I think I needed an adventure?

So while planning our recent trip to Iceland, it was readily apparent that the opportunities for adventure were endless. From glacier treks, hiking in volcano tubes and ice caves, snorkeling or diving silfra, and hikes to any number of secluded locales. All of this in weather that rarely exceeds 60 degrees. This country invented adventure. (Read more about our travels in Iceland here.)

But this is also a country that appreciates its relaxation. Icelanders have made peace with the constantly chilly weather through the wide availability of hot springs. For the most part, these are naturally occurring geothermal features which have been converted for human use. Prices range from budget to luxury. Some are quite rustic while others are are fancy. No matter which you choose, a trip to Iceland must include a trip to a hot spring.

Can't visit Iceland in the summer? Consider an October trip instead!

Wendy and Jason at the entrance of the Blue Lagoon

Relaxing at Blue Lagoon

So how did I decide to balance my competing need for adventure and relaxation? Well, after landing at Keflavik airport and retrieving our rental car, we drove straight to the Blue Lagoon. Granted, this is the priciest and most touristy hot spring option, but we loved it. After a hectic day of getting ready for our travels followed by a long flight with little sleep, nothing could have felt better than 98 degree water. Add to the mix a silica mask, followed by an algae mask, followed by a cold beer, and I clearly was in relaxation mode. At this point I stopped worrying about work and all the things that were left undone at home, and instead I just enjoyed the moment with my husband and son. It was a defining moment, separating the rush and chaos of hitting the road from the mind-clearing opportunity to enjoy Iceland.

If you opt for Blue Lagoon, advanced reservations are strongly encouraged.  We selected the premium package which includes a towel, robe, slippers and a drink and is currently priced at $118 per person.  Because its so close to the Keflavik airport, many visitors opt to visit on the day they arrive in Iceland or the day they leave.

Silfra fissure in Iceland
Thingvellir National Park

Snorkeling Silfra

And what did we select for our adventure? Now that I was relaxed and ready to explore Iceland, we opted for a snorkeling tour of Silfra with Arctic Adventures. Located in Thingvellir National Park, the Silfra fissure is a narrow, deep blue channel filled with glacial waters. With water temperatures around 36 degrees, this was the opposite of Blue Lagoon.

It took almost an hour to suit up properly in a dry suit and receive our safety briefing. After being told that my face would go numb, I began to question my selection of adventure. Again I found myself wondering why I never book the all-inclusive resorts where nothing is expected of me. Would that be so wrong?

Suited up for snorkeling in extremely cold water

But ultimately, we were all delighted that we chose to snorkel at Silfra. The dry suit acts like a raft and makes it easy to float through the water enjoying the view, both above and below. After 30-40 minutes we were asked to exit and I found myself stalling. The scene was so beautiful, and ironically, so relaxing. This moment is exactly why I spend so much time seeking a unique adventure opportunity when we travel to a new location.

While thousands of people enjoy viewing Silfra from above each day, just a few hundred will have the chance to see it from below. You can only participate with approved tour companies who must follow strict safety and environmental guidelines. The total time for this tour is about two hours and ends with well-deserved hot chocolate and cookies.

This cost of this tour was $128 per person. Advanced reservations are highly recommended since a limited number of divers and snorkelers are allowed in Silfra each day. I defintely recommend this tour for teenagers since it was much enjoyed by my 19 year old son, Ryan, and another teenage boy in our group.

The benefits of relaxation and adventure

Don’t get me wrong, I have happily booked all-inclusive vacations for my family in wonderful places like Jamaica and Mexico. And I’m quite confident that in the future I’ll do it again. Being a wife, mom, and full-time employee is demanding, and sometimes you just need time to do as little as possible. But for this trip, I was pleased to find a way to balance the relaxation needed so we could be ready for such a unique, Icelandic adventure. This is a country full of great adventure opportunities, so I hope when you have a chance to visit, you’ll find one you’ll enjoy.

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Travel to Iceland for Relaxation and Adventure
Travel to Iceland for Relaxation and Adventure

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