ROGUE ONE SPARKED THIS TRAVEL POST

misty iceland

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Moments after reading these words on the big screen at the local AMC theater, I was struck with a flashback that took me back to feeling a way that there are literally no words to describe.

The first scene of Star Wars: Rogue One took place on planet Eadu, which was filmed in Reynisfjara, Iceland ~ a black sand beach just outside of Vik in the South. This misty, otherworldly landscape is where I spent an unforgettable 10 days of my life this past summer. I marveled at countless bubbling + gurgling + exploding crevices in the Earth, soaked in wild hot springs, stood on the edge of majestic waterfalls, drank Icelandic snow melt straight from the source, explored underground caves and butchered every single word I tried to pronounce.

When I try to explain my road-trip experience around the country, I always find myself at a total loss of words … I can muster up descriptors like magical, otherworldly, life-changing, deeply nourishing … but those seem so wimpy. It was way more than that.

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Where else can you totally immerse yourself into untouched nature and find countless hot springs, volcanos, glaciers, geysers, steam vents and waterfalls? Iceland is literally the only place ~ it is out.of.this.world. To prove my point…

  • NASA had their astronauts take geological field trips to Iceland to practice landing on the Moon to prepare for the alien landscapes + geological formations they might encounter!
  • Interstellar‘s ice planet was filmed on the country’s largest glacier Svinafellsjokull ~ see sexy Matthew McConaughey in the mystical icy landscape here.
  • Watch Ben Stiller talk about the energy of Icelandwhere he was on set for the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty!
  • Game of Thrones has filmed in over 6 amaaazing locations in Iceland too! The photo below is me in Grjótagjá, the SAME cave that John Snow broke a Knight’s Watch vow in with Wildling Ygritte. ; )

Grjótagjá cave iceland

Rather than struggling to find BIG enough words to describe my experience and give it justice … I invite you to discover the place for yourself! To help plan your trip, here are a few of my faaaavorite places that I totally recommend penciling into your travel itinerary.

lotusweh taylor iceland hot spring

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN NATURE + DISCOVER…

We spent 10 days on the road and still didn’t see everything that was on each of our wish-lists. And we covered A LOT! Of the hot springs, waterfalls + attractions we got to experience, here’s a distilled list of my top favorites.

Reykjadalur

Reykjadalur means Steam Valley, which perfect describes what you’d be getting into! The hike into the valley is about 3 miles. On the hike, you’ll walk past gurgling pots of bluish-grey mud, steaming earth, cascading waterfalls and sheep – lotsa lotsa sheep. It’s really important to stay on the trial here, because one wrong step could end with your leg in a boiling hot hole in the Earth! At the bottom of the valley, you’ll find a HOT RIVER. Yes. Literally a gorgeous stream of steaming hot water to soak in. My heart is starting to beat super hard just thinking about it.

Check out this iPhone video I shot of Katie + Lisa blissing out in the water.

taylor blue lagoon

Blue Lagoon

As much as I LOVED the wild hot springs in the middle of nowhere, the luxurious experience at the Blue Lagoon is well worth it. While you’re soaking in the nourishing minerals of the hot spring, you can swim up to the ‘mineral mask‘ bar and scoop up a silica or algae mask to rub into your face OR make your way over to the drink bar and grab a fresh juice or a Skyr smoothie ~ yuuum!

You’ll also be checking one of the 25 wonders of the world off your bucket list!

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Seljavallalaug

Of all the places that we were all stoked to finally make it to … this was it. The oldest hot spring in Iceland, this pool is nestled into the mountain side, along a river, in a misty green valley with cascading waterfalls in the distance … and probably the most photographed hot spring in Iceland. We had the idea that it was totally secret and going to be completely abandoned ~ as most of the photos show. But even though it was considered “abandoned” {they only clean it once a year}, it was probably the most crowded of the wild hot springs we made our way to. Instead of getting in, we kept hiking past the pool and found what felt like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I won’t tell you what you’ll find, but trust me when I say it was one of the most magical experiences of the trip. I even had freaking flowers in my hair the entire time. #whatdreamsaremadeof

Hverir

This place reeeeeks of sulfur. I had my face in my scarf the entire time … BUT you will totally feel like you are on another planet. Seriously. There are fumaroles (def :: an opening in or near a volcano, through which hot sulfurous gases emergeEVERYWHERE! There is a huge steam vent that presses out so much steam you can walk into the warm smelly cloud and totally disappear. 

Bring shoes that you can easily wash off … it’s really muddy (and will probably be raining), but you’ll want to keep creeping deeper and deeper into the sulphur belching field of lunar-weirdness.

Plus it is right next the the Myvatn Nature Bath Hot Spring {think Blue Lagoon, but smaller and not as many people}!

waterfalls

Godafoss + Aldeyjarfoss

My two favorite waterfalls.

Godafoss {pictured above at about 2 a.m. in the morning} is powerfully moving … physically + energetically. There will be lots of tour buses is you go during the day, but at this time of night, you will be the only people there. Total magic. I felt nothing but gratitude, connection + appreciation for life atop that protruding rock. It’s like the misty water on my face was saying … you are alive + I support you.

Aldeyjarfoss was a totally different experience. We had to hike several kilometers to get to the top of the waterfall. It was of course impressive {duh}, but it was the adventure there and back and all around it that I loved. We went off trail and climbed down to the base of the waterfall and were in awe of the color combinations ~ bright pink flowers, orange berries, aqua blue water, and every shade of green against stark black sand. 

It started raining pretty hard on our way back to the car. Trying to play smart with the landscape … we tried hopping back onto the trail from a different direction than we came. So, naturally, we got lost. The kind of lost that makes you giggle uncontrollably from the combination of uncertainty + spontaneous adrenaline. We tried taking a short cut and it lead us to a this …

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A green wonderland where gnomes could have come out of the caves and it would have been completely normal. Where Icelandic mermaids could have emerged from the cold waters and we would have waved.

FILL YOUR TUMMIES + INDULGE…

On our road trip, we survived mainly on Skyr (Icelandic yogurt), bricks of cheese, apples, nuts, Arctic char, and rice cakes. Why you ask? Well, 1) we are rarely ever in the vicinity people, so no restaurants, and 2) since we never adjusted to the time change (it was daylight 20+ hours of the day, so it was hard to get on their schedule), when we were hungry for a real meal, most places weren’t even open! But when we did manage to find a place, we were very pleased! Here’s a list of a few of favorite places for traditional food, coffee, pastries + treats!

iceland coffee shopReykjavik Roasters Coffee Shop

Hands down, one of my favorite coffee shops in the world! Located on a friendly neighborhood corner, you instantly feel at home when you walk inside. You’re greeted with comfy mismatch furniture, moody natural lighting and a local album spinning on the record player. And guess who was there at the same time we were?! Justin of Justins Peanut Butter! 😛

***My order :: Eitt Sett {1 shot of espresso + a macchiato with oat milk} with chia porridge + homemade jam … there is something about ordering porridge that made me way excited. Maybe because I grew up with the story of Goldilocks + the 3 bears.

Friðheimar

This place is fucking cool. It’s a huge tomato greenhouse + restaurant that serves everything, you guessed it – TOMATO. This place totally gets my A+++ for experience, yumminess + concept!

***Tomato goodies I tried :: Healthy Mary {green tomatoes, lime, honey and ginger + sparkling water}, tomato soup with fresh basil picked from the plant on our table + home-made tomato ice cream à la Friðheimar {which was served in a little terracotta pot}! My water was even slightly flavored with baby tomatoes! 😍

Kjöt and Kúnst

Here you’ll get to indulge + experience Icelandic traditional cuisine and unique earth cooking, in which they use geothermal power from the Earth to cook your food … something that is not being done anywhere else in the world.

***Tip: If you want to join the chef outside and see your food being cooked by geothermal power,  ask your waiter if you can “follow your food”!

Erpsstadir Dairy Farm

Several months before going to Iceland, I cut out dairy from my diet. This personal health preference went completely out the window on this trip. But, since the milk was so fresh, you didn’t feel the heavy, yuckiness that you normally feel when you drink/eat dairy here in the states … it was waaaay different!

***My favorite flavor of ice cream :: Blueberry! Flavored by freshly hand-picked Icelandic blueberries!

***BONUS :: They also have a trampoline ~ it was the perfect way stretch our legs after being in the car and helped us work off the ice cream and cheese we housed!

P.S. This trip would still be a dream if it wasn’t for Katie Hess, founder of LOTUSWEI. She invited me on this trip to document the magic, help hunt for flowers + study the landscape for future retreat locations. Katie, this was a trip of a lifetime. I will never be able to thank you enough! 

– Naturally inspired. Locally aware. Universally beautiful. With love, Tay.

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