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10 really cool things to see in Iceland

10 really cool things to see in Iceland

10 really cool things to see in Iceland

There are so many amazing things to see in Iceland.

We visited Iceland back in August of 2015 and we still get questions every now and then about where we went, what we did and what our favorite things were! Why not write a blog post 3 years later?!

There are COUNTLESS things you can do and see while in Iceland. Really, the only disappointment you’ll encounter is not having enough time to see and do everything! That being said, we recommend spending at least a week if you’re able to take the time to go.

We spent the first 4 days of our trip on a backpacking trek of the Laugavegur Trail. We can’t recommend this enough. This trip alone deserves its own post, so I’ll be writing one in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Without further adieu, here are the 10 really amazing things to see in Iceland.

1. Geothermal Springs

Iceland is a hotbed for geothermal activity (no pun intended!). We knew we needed to check out the hot springs while visiting. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to hit up the Blue Lagoon, which is a very popular hot springs destination close to Reykjavik. However, we enjoyed the natural hot springs in Landmannalaugar (at the start of our backpacking trek) and the in Myvatn Nature Baths on the way to Akureyri.

2. Eldhraun Lava Fields

First of all, moss covered lava is freaking cool as shit (pardon my French). If taking the Ring Road counterclockwise, you’ll drive through moss covered lava fields in just a few hours of leaving Reykjavik! Try to take paths that are marked that way you’re not damaging the moss by walking directly on it.

3. Waterfalls

I may have lost count of how many waterfalls we saw in Iceland. Some of the waterfalls we saw included Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Goðafoss. Our favorite waterfall (which name I couldn’t find) you could literally walk into and was a short walk from Seljalandsfoss (to the left). You head away from the more touristy area, find a path that heads into the rock and trek through some slippery rocks. If you don’t mind getting wet, it’s worth the short trek!

4. Icelandic Horses

If traveling the ring road you’ll see plenty of Icelandic Horses. They are the only breed of horse in Iceland and no other breeds are allowed in. We think they’re quite majestic but they’re also pretty friendly and curious too!  If you can safely pull off the road, we’d recommend stopping for a meet + greet!

5. Landmannalaugar

Try saying that 5 times fast! Landmannalaugar is the name for the beautiful mountains of the Icelandic Highlands. These mountains here are pretty unique. The stark landscape and beautiful colors mixed with snow/ice are one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. As I mentioned before, this was the start of our backpacking trek and we took a very burly tour bus to get there. You can book a hiking passport (a bus ticket that takes you to the trailhead) by visiting this bus website.

They say to reserve in advance, though if I remember correctly we just went straight to the station the evening before and were able to book tickets for the next day.

6. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at Jökulsárlón. Simply breathtaking. At the far edge of the lagoon is a glacier that calves and fills the lagoon with beautiful icebergs of all shapes and sizes. The icebergs are slowly (over many years) making their way to the shortest river in Iceland and out to the Atlantic.

BONUS: Cross the Ring Road (Rt 1) and head to the black sand beach across the road to check out the ice that’s been washed up on shore. If you’re cool like us, you’ll drink Icelandic vodka with glacial ice in your camp mug!

7. The tiny town of Seydisfijordur

Seydisfijordur is a small, quaint little fishing village nestled in one of the East Fjords. The town was great but the best part was was the windy roads down to the village where there were dozens of cascades flowing down and lush green scenery surrounded you. Oh and sheep too. Many, many sheep.

8. Mudpots of Mývatn

Seriously, if I could image what Mordor would be like… this is it! You’re surrounded by smoke rising from the earth and giant pots of boiling mud. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the first explorer to stumble upon this in the night!

9. Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We heard a lot of great things about the West Fjords, but due to lack of time, we decided to check out the Snæfellsnes Peninsula instead. We were not disappointed! Quaint little towns, waterfalls and ocean views. Plus, this just meant we needed to make a trip back to Iceland in the future to check out everything we couldn’t see the first time.

10. The Vibrant City of Reykjavik

We do wish we had a little more time to explore Reykjavik. They have so many amazing restaurants, bars, shops, and museums. Plus the music scene is great too! If you’re looking for cheap lodging, the backpacker’s hostel/bar on the main Laugavegur Street came highly recommended. We stayed in an Airbnb a few nights at the beginning of our trip and spent one night at the end of our trip at this campground right in Reykjavik which was awesome! Hot showers, wifi and a nice community of fellow campers/trekkers.  Plus, you’re only 3km from the center of town!

Our Iceland Trip 2015

Here’s a map we created via Snazzy Maps that corresponds to the “10 cool places to see in Iceland” based on our trip in 2015. As we mentioned, we were there in August. We’d love to return to Iceland sometime during the winter to see the aurora borealis.

We’d love to hear if this post was helpful to you or if you have any questions at all – give us a shout in the comments below.

All photos in this post are subject to copyright and are original images by Jay Rogan. If you’d like to use them, please reach out!

Half a world away

Half a world away

I’m not really sure what this post will be about or why I feel like I need to write it. I wrote down a goal earlier this month “write a blog post about Korea this month”. So here I am, on the 31st, buckling down and hoping it will make sense.

Growing up, people would ask where I was from and I’d reply, “I was made in Korea, born in the USA”. I would say it with just enough pause in the middle that I would usually get a few laughs. But it was no joke that my mom flew to the US eight months pregnant, leaving behind her entire family, to be with my father who was from a small town in Central Pennsylvania. They met while he was in the Army and stationed in Korea. That first flight (in the womb) marked the first of many.

Over the course of my childhood, my mother and I traveled to Korea every couple years. My family would be waiting at the airport for us to come out of the doors – Many hugs and smiles were exchanged. It always felt as if no time had passed. This last time was no different.

I love being with my Korean family even though I can’t really understand what they’re saying. Aside from my mom, only my youngest uncle can speak English.

I always wished I learned Hangul (Korean) as a child. My mom and dad didn’t speak Korean at home – simply because my dad wasn’t Korean and my mom was in the process of learning English so she could go to college and get a good job.

Despite the language barrier, I find joy in being around my family and trying to converse with them using the little Korean I know and lots of hand signals (luckily, Google Translate + apps like Drops/Duo Lingo have helped quite a bit in recent years).

When I was little, my older cousins would entertain me by taking me to the movies and teaching me how to fold origami. It’s funny, being 30 now, they still found ways to entertain me. Coffee, shopping, and, most importantly, feeding! No one ever leaves a Korean household hungry.

This is my eldest uncle who I spent a lot of time with as a kid. He would bring me on hikes with him on the mountain behind his home. In fact, I got to see my first long-eared Korean squirrel on one of those hikes.

There are so many things I wish I could say or ask my family members. I won’t always be able to depend on my mom to be around to translate for me and one can only go so far with a translation app. This notion hit me during this particular trip. It made me incredibly sad to think that someday my kids might be further removed from this experience. I vowed to try my best to finally learn Korean, so that this fear doesn’t become a reality. That or Google needs to hurry up and create those cool voice translator doo-dads (as seen in Black Mirror, Men Against Fire, Season 3 Episode 5 ).

I look forward to the day we can bring our children to Korea. To see them experience an entirely different culture. To see them play with my cousin’s kids, learn how to fold origami and use chopsticks for the first time. To hike the steep mountains and walk through the colorful fish markets. I want them to know about this part of me and see that it’s also a part of them too.

Me see dong one day, or how I’m learning to read Korean

Me see dong one day, or how I’m learning to read Korean

Dong. There it is again. I keep looking for it and seeing it. Dong here, dong there. Dongs are everywhere. I’m referring to the Korean syllable “dong”…it looks like this.

It’s the first symbol I actually learned to recoginize since I’ve been here in Korea. Though, I feel like I might have a breakthrough and learn a few more in the next day or so. For now, I scan the Hangul characters whenever I see them, and I try to pick out the dongs. It’s become this bizarre Where’s Waldo style search that keeps me entertained during car rides, sitting in restaraunts, and riding the subway.

Finding this one symbol may seem a very minor accomplishment, but I consider it a breakthrough. Prior to this, these characters made absolutely no sense to me. They were just some lines and circles. I couldn’t grasp how one might be different from the next, how many of them there could be, and how one could ever remember all of them. But now I have a relationship with this one symbol, and I understand what makes it “dong”. Finding it requires me to make a judgement on all of the other symbols around it. It’s a very simple judgement: “Not dong. Not dong. Not dong. Nope, not dong. Not dong. Dong!”

Here is another example of it.

I consider this progress. Weeding out what is not important is a necessary part of learning. Spotting dongs out of what once was a bunch of random lines to me is something I’m proud of. I point them out to others and say, “dong”, and wait for their approval. I’ve even done this to a few Koreans. They don’t seem to mind. They simply nod and sometimes grin. This is the same response I get when I point at things that fall into my limited vocabulary and say them in Korean. There is a bike…”jajeongo”. That’s a knife…”naipu”. While I find this kind of human connection warm and friendly, I’m not sure how I am perceived by the locals. Being a white man pointing at a knife, pronouncing it poorly, all the while grinning like a lunatic might come off a little frightening. But no one has run away yet, so I’ll continue to do it in my quest to get better at Korean.

See if you can find any dongs in the following images.

There’s a first time for everything – traveling to Ecuador

There’s a first time for everything – traveling to Ecuador

When presented with the opportunity to travel to Ecuador, I didn’t think twice. In my mind, I was already there.

Jay can attest to the fact that I’m a tad more impulsive when it comes to decision-making. However, this felt more like destiny than a decision.  Which fine, I’ll admit it, many of my travel decisions fall under this category.

This particular opportunity was made possible by a woman, whom I admire dearly.


Meet Keeley. She is a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She travels to Ecuador each field season to study stream invertebrates and that’s the main reason I’m here. I will be Keeley’s field assistant over the course of the next 2 weeks. How and why this opportunity came about was really just an evolution of conversations that we had throughout this past year.

Needless to say, I have ZERO field research experience (or scientific background for that matter) but I’m here to learn, document and help in any way that I can. Plus, Keeley seems to think I’d be good at it so that’s reassuring.

Plus, I get a sweet name badge with a sweet title. That’s right folks, I’m an Excretion Expert!

I’m excited to see what the next few weeks bring and look forward to experiencing Ecuadorian culture and food of course 🙂