I started taking solo vacation about 19 years ago while going through a painful divorce, it was my way of “attempting” to move on to the next chapter of what would be my new life. I felt the best time was going to be my birthday. Since my birthday is in July, and the best time to vacation (not the cheapest for sure) I would make this a yearly treat to myself and would do it SOLO. In these last nineteen years I have only missed two of these annual retreats due to illness and hospitalization. In 2016 I decided one vacation was not enough and took two. Last year was Aruba for me and Toronto for me and two friends to experience Caribana. Not to be outdone from 2016, this year I did Cuba for the July 4th Holiday, and for my birthday Cabo San Lucas Mexico and one week later Reykjavik Iceland. Here’s my take:
Los Cabos aka CABO
In Cabo I stay at the Breathless Resorts and Spa. This Adult-Only/All-Inclusive resort was absolutely amazing. If you’re looking for an adult atmosphere, but like to let the inner child come out occasionally, this my friends is your place. Poolside activities all day long, drink and food service at the pool is included. A rooftop club with themed parties in the evening, and room service. How could I forget the amazing view of the Marina on one side of the resort or the El Arco (famous Arch of Cabo rock formation) on the other. I walked on morning for 30 minutes on the beach in my shell-top Adidas (not smart but I burned calories), to get the best 90 minute, full body massage for $20 USD. Breathless charges $300 for 50 minutes… WINNING. Because me and these Run DMC Sneakers were not up for the walk back, I caught the water taxi to see the Arch for $15, and they liked me so much they dropped me off at my resort…FAVOR. I even found some young kids who saw me struggling with my impromptu Selfie Stick Photoshoot, yes you have to learn tricks when you travel solo, and they offered to take my picture and helped me back down off the rocks I climbed.
Aside from the resort, I met many amazing people both staff and vacationers. I think what resonated the most was I was the newbie to Cabo. Many of the people I met had been to Cabo before, I see now why they return. The gentleman on the plane next to me comes annually for a Guys Golfing Trip. I enjoyed the nightlife, authentic Mexican food (which I have always loved and I am by far the pickiest eater you will EVER meet J ) grown folks, shopping and the much-needed R&R. I had a ball solo, but I can’t wait to return for a Girls Trip!! Shout out to the two new friends I made and hope to plan a future trip with Ayanna and Letisha. You ladies made me your third wheel and we rolled hard. Thanks My Sisters XOXO
Then there was Iceland. You may ask, what in the world possessed me to go to Iceland? Well I have always thought outside the box, and I loved seeing pictures of the Blue Lagoon. Iceland is NOT I repeat NOT cheap, so planning is essential. Many do this as a layover trip to save money on their way to Europe.
I booked my flight, hotel and transportation through Delta Vacation. My flight out of Atlanta was delayed 4 hours causing 5 of us to miss our connecting flight out of Minneapolis. This is when having status with Delta paid off. There is only one flight that leaves Minneapolis to Reykjavik daily. When we landed they handed us a pillow and toiletry kit and said we would have to sleep in the airport. No Ma’am No Sir…. I called Delta, spoke in my 7 voice (not quite 10 but they knew I wasn’t about the malarkey…LOL) and 20 minutes later my trip was rebooked to make up for the lost day and I was escorted to the Crown Plaza for a good nights sleep. I worked from the hotel that morning, had the hotel hold my luggage and take me to the Mall of America in the afternoon, and spent two hours in the Delta Sky Club prior to our 10:30 PM flight. Not bad for a girl with a plan and a gift to jab. My biggest splurge is I opt for First Class Seats, because although 5’7” I have long legs…let me stop playing I’m a Bougie Traveler J. This is a 6 hour flight from Minneapolis and New York and they are 4 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
The weather was in the low fifties when we landed the next morning and trust I did my homework. I packed layer type clothes as you truly can experience all four seasons in one day. I stay at the Radisson Blu which was not to my standard, and the Hilton was already sold out. But I made the best of the subpar accommodations. Food in Reykjavik is very expensive so I packed snacks and the Radisson did provide a full breakfast included with the package. I ate a HUGE breakfast and took fruit with me every morning for my excursions. I also packed my American Snacks and my insolated water thermal that kept my water ice cold all day. The water in Iceland is some of the BEST and safest water you will ever taste, they sell bottled water but frown upon it.
I have to admit this was the first trip I took that involved climbing, walking, and everyday physical tours. I promise you between eating on a budget (Dinner there on average is $70/person) and all the excursions I came home 10 pounds lighter.
I booked my tours/excursions through Viator a Trip Advisor Company and not Delta who was almost twice the amount. You can also rent a car, but a car rental for 5 days was $600 and yeah, ummm, no I was cool with the English Speaking Escorted tours, with free Wi-Fi and plenty of laughs. Unlike Cuba, credit cards including American Express were the preferred payment method, so I never did any foreign exchange to ISK currency.
My tours were the popular Golder Circle, Blue Lagoon, and Southern Iceland Tour, Black Sand Beaches and Kerid. Because I went in July there is about 22 hours of daylight so the Northern Lights was not visible. Most hotels have the black backing curtains, because you will never know when to go to bed with only 2 hours of darkness in the Summer.
I am hoping the pictures tell a better story, as I am really enjoying photography the more I play around with my camera. I am glad that I did not plan any activities on the date of arrival, but with my flight delayed I had to jump right into my tours. First was the Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon and Kerid.
This was the first of five stops. This National Park is the nearest and dearest to Icelanders. Great for hiking, picturesque views, and by far one of the most popular landmarks for tourist. It is said that the first Christian based Church started here as well and in 1928 a law was passed that Þingvellir will remain a protected area and shall always be the property of the Icelandic nation. Three guys in their early 20’s almost got left from our tour group, but once we got them in check, they were the first one’s back on the bus for the remainder of the tour
Second was Gulfoss also known as the “Golden Falls”. It is said to be THE most popular, and I must say with the great weather and sun we had that day, it was the most beautiful. There was more downhill walking than up, and our tour bus dropped us off at the top and met us at the bottom so we wouldn’t have to walk back up the hill.
Less than 10 minutes from Gulfoss, the locals pronounce it GAY-SER. Here is where we had lunch and you come to see the hot springs. The largest of them erupts as high as 230 feet every 10-15 minutes. You must be careful as the water is very hot, not to mentioned the not so sweet smell of sulfur may make your nose hairs singe. I order 5 hot wings here and a Coca Cola (they love water and Coke in Iceland) which cost me 1850 ISK~ which is $17USD. See what I was talking about.
Kerid Volcanic Crater
This is a newly added attraction to the Golden Circle Tour. It can be found in the Western Volcanic Zone of Iceland. I guess the part that was interesting was parts of this huge crater appear to have volcanic components while the low water level at the bottom and observable vegetation brings argument that it was not a Volcano. An amazing place to hike and take pictures. We were pulled over by the Icelandic Police to see if all tourist had on their seatbelts and that there were no ashes in the ashtray of the tour bus.
Although touristy, it was on my bucket list, and my MAIN reason for wanting to visit Iceland. If you didn’t know, The Blue Lagoon was built in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plant. Many years later, people would come to bathe in the unique water and apply the silica mud to their skin and noticing an unbelievable improvement when they removed it. The water is over 100 degrees and feels so go when the outside temperature was in the 40’s. It is the MOST visited place in Reykjavik. I would strongly urge you purchase your tickets in advance, and know they will try and nickel and dime you for everything. I purchased the cheapest ticket, brought my own slippers, robe and towel (which you can). You can rent if you want, just know summer entrance for the pool was $80USD, so forgive a sista for penny pinching after that. I purchased a Slurpee like frozen non-alcoholic drink that cost me $5 USD. Some tours will purchase your ticket for you but I found that they paid the same thing I did. Oh BTW if you are a shy person, you may want to work on that, you are required to bathe WITHOUT your bathing suit prior to getting in the pool, and you are waiting in line naked with all shapes and sizes. There are lockers and attendants to assist. It is very busy, and the line to shower can be about 15-20 minutes so the last thing folks are worried about is how much cellulite is on your thighs LOL
After the Shower, 11 full hours of tours and the ride back I was ready for bed!!
Southern Iceland Glaciers Waterfalls & Beaches Tour
Same morning routine. I ate a HUGE breakfast, took some fruit with me, packed my thermal water bottle, and layers of clothes, it rained on and off but you will get wet at these waterfalls regardless because they are all massive.
So we bypassed Seljalandsfoss because there were too many buses there and went straight to Skógafoss. This waterfall is about 200 feet high and was pretty to look at. Normally you can get an incredible picture of you, the waterfall and a rainbow, but the clouds this day would NOT allow ME to be GREAT so it didn’t happen, but still remarkable.
Sólheimajökull & Mýrdalsjökull Glacier Walk
Here is where me and GOD had a great conversation. Here I was the only black person on this tour and probably within 100 miles, and I was glacier walking. Not just walking but climbing. I was scared, insecure as I saw others do it with ease, and downright uncomfortable. I got emotional when I made it to the top and saw others turn around or could not finish. I got even more emotional because when I got to the top and looked back, I saw how far I got and it became Spiritual for me. I didn’t give up, I was tired, afraid, and cold, but I made it. I didn’t look like the others and got stares occasionally while in Iceland, and even more on this tour, but I finished the task at hand. I could hear previous trainers in my head like Reco and Patrick saying “I know you not crying”, and “I know you not going to quit”, it all made sense when I got to the top. Thank You Jesus for ALWAYS pushing me to GO GET IT
Here is where we stopped for lunch and I was able to see my first black sand beach. I ate my fruit on the beach and remained in awl of what I seen thus far. I took my shoes off and walked in the black sand. Also there was a large out store Vikurprjon Wool Factory if you wanted to purchase souvenirs. Again Iceland was expensive but this Factory had the most reasonable prices on wool, hiking boots and apparel.
Vik Black Beaches
Vikurprjon or Vik for short was the most beautiful of the beaches. Interesting fact, all the beaches have black sand in Southern Iceland so you can’t say meet me at the Black Sand Beach, they will easily say, which one? Everyone flocks to climb the rocks and take pictures. On this day the Puffins were out. They are a strange bird in watching them fly. They they look clumsy and flap awkwardly and they are colorful like Kellogg’s Toucan Sam. They also fly in clusters getting in each other’s way.
Finally we made it the main attraction. Seljalandsfoss has a 197 foot drop and you can even go behind it. It was raining so hard for this one, that I stayed on the bus, but here is the one picture I took. I hate we rode past this one because it was too crowed in the morning, so we saved it for last. It is the highlight of the Southern Iceland Tour.