Dan and I went to Iceland exactly one year ago, in February 2020 over Valentine’s Day(!), and despite being kept inside for an entire day due to Storm Dennis, we had a fantastic time. Since our main hobby is eating and drinking, we obviously joined a food tour in Iceland – 2 in fact! One of these was a full day private Golden Circle Gourmet tour with Magical Iceland. This tour is most certainly the most expensive food tour I have ever done (and probably will ever do), but everything in Iceland is expensive and I found it to be worth the hefty price tag. Booking was easy via email correspondence with the owner and main tour guide, Ymir. And, when our original date had to be rebooked due to Storm Dennis, Ymir was quick to reach out to us and reschedule (or refund if we preferred).
As promised in a detailed email, Ymir picked us up at hotel at 7:30 AM. It was still completely dark. Like middle of the night dark. The sun rises late and sets early in Iceland in February. Per Ymir’s email suggestion, we skipped breakfast. Good thing – because Ymir had picked a selection of four of the best smelling pastries, as well as smoked trout and butter, for our drive to the first stop on the tour in Ymir’s luxury SUV. We tried a few of the pastries as we drove to our first destination. I would like to say the drive was pretty, but it remained dark most of the way. The pastries were absolutely delicious in taste and smell, and we had to stop ourselves from eating too much. If you are planning to take this tour, do pace yourself. There is more food that you can imagine throughout the day.
About 1.5 hours later, around 9 AM, we arrived at our first stop – the Secret Lagoon! While you have all heard of the Blue Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon is, clue the name, less well known and way less visited than the Blue Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon is a natural thermal pool in a gorgeous mountain setting. The water in the Secret Lagoon is clear with a brownish tent, and its super warm and totally fabulous (it reminded me of Furnas in the Azores). And, as a plus for Magical Iceland tours, we entered the Secret Lagoon 1 hour before it opened to the public – meaning that we had the entire lagoon entirely to ourselves for an hour! This was amazing and totally luxurious!!
As you can see from the pictures, while we were enjoying the entirety of the Secret Lagoon by ourselves, Ymir cooked breakfast for us to enjoy during our swim. First up was Portuguese sparkling wine from Quinta do Poco do Lobo in Bairrada. This was a delicious sparking and received bonus points from us since it is Portuguese (one of our very favorite places and where we married) and from Bairrada! If you find wine from Bairrada, buy it. You will not regret it.
After pouring our wine, Ymir boiled eggs in one of the small geothermal pools surrounding the Secret Lagoon! He prepared the eggs with a bit of salt and pepper; they were super tasty. The eggs were served with a mini-sandwich of smoked lamb topped with a pea and carrot salad and an adorable Icelandic flag! Not pictured, we were also served smoked ram, Icelandic chocolate paired with a local stout beer, some pesto based delicious “bite” that Ymir’s wife prepared. The only thing that I did not love was the smoked ram, but I am not a huge lover of smoked meats. My favorite thing we ate at the Secret Lagoon was definitely the salad on top of the mini sandwiches and the “bite” prepared by Ymir’s wife. I wish I had taken a picture!
After finishing our food and drinks, we departed the Secret Lagoon around 10:15 AM, shortly after it opened to the public (in our case, two British school groups). Our next stop was a short drive away to a tomato farm named Fridheimar. Fridheimar is a well-known and super popular farm that grows tomatoes year round in greenhouses on the property. Fridheimar also has a restaurant in one of its greenhouses that makes totally amazing tomato based foods. Here, we had a lot, and I mean A LOT, of delicious tastings, starting with a Bloody Mary for me and a Happy Mary (made with Gin) for Dan. We sipped these as we were given a short tour of the greenhouse by one of the guides.
After our short tour, we were seated at a private table and brought some really delicious, homemade bread. OMG. That bread. It was amazing, and it was served with the best olive oil. Once again, you need to pace yourself on this bread. We failed to heed this advice. Shortly after the bread, tomato soup with kebab of cheese were brought to our table. I LOVE a good tomato soup, so this was perfect. Of course, there was also a bowl of just plain cherry tomatoes on the table, too.
The third course, which I didn’t even realize was coming, was a stone baked tortilla with tomato, mozzarella and basil. I topped mine with Fridheimar’s homemade pesto and it tasted so good. Along with the third course is what I would call the fourth course, cheese ravioli with a warm tomato sauce for dipping! I was impressed with the cooking of the pasta here at a restaurant in Iceland; it was perfectly prepared. These dishes were served with Fridheimar’s own tomato beer – a pilsner and a stout. The beer was interesting. Not the best but not bad either. I thought the mimosa style drinks were much better. I was also probably a bit too stuffed for beer at this point in the meal…
Lunch at Fridheimar ended with the most, MOST gorgeous dessert – a flower pot filled with homemade tomato ice cream and red and green tomato sauces. My only regret is that I was not hungrier! On our way out, we stopped by the gift shop to bring some souvenirs home and peeked at the Icelandic ponies on premises! If you visit Fridheimar on your own, I believe they are usually only open for lunch and you moat certainly need to make a reservation.
Totally and completely full, our next stop was a non-food related at Gullfoss waterfall, and we were really happy to have a brief respite from food. Gullfoss waterfall is a quite well-known stop on the Golden Circle and most visitors to Iceland will make a stop here. You probably only need about 20 minutes to view the Gullfoss waterfall, but it was quite the sight and a very cool thing to see.
Back in our car after viewing Gullfoss waterfall, there was a box of treats waiting for us. Still stuffed from lunch, we both tried the chocolate and licorice candy bar – a super popular flavor combination in Iceland. There were also beers in the trunk (which according to Ymir you can dink in the car if you’re not driving), but we skipped those in favor of more food.
Our next stop was a very short drive away at the Gyser Hot Spring Area. For the second time on this tour, this reminded me a lot of Furnas, Azores. We got really lucky and saw the Gyser erupt three (yes, 3) times in a row, and the first eruption was super crazy tall. According to our guide, this is incredibly rare and was really cool to watch. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get a good photograph and my phone died, so I only have the scenery pre-eruption.
And after seeing those cool sites, it was back to eating and drinking. This time, at a family run dairy farm called Efstidalur II. Efstidalur II is actually a farm, restaurant, hotel, horse rental business, and ice cream cafe, but it started as a farm and branched out into other industries as tourism boomed in Iceland. We stopped at Efstidalur II for what I guess would be called second lunch or dinner (who knows at this point). We were seated in the barn-style restaurant, which has pretty views from the windows and a view of live cows in the back (kind of weird to look at the cows as you are eating beef…but I digress).
Our “lunch” began with rare, thinly sliced steak served with Hollandaise sauce and topped with a bit of Icelandic salt. This was an awesome dish and was prepared super rare (at our request), just like we like it! Our meal was paired with another delicious Portuguese wine, this one a red from the Douro Valley – another of our FAVORITE places. Highly recommend the Douro if you have not been, for wine as well as relaxing and sightseeing.
Our next course was Efstidalur II’s famous burger. Now, I am not a burger fan at all, but these were pretty damn tasty and were prepared on buttery buns with bacon, lettuce, onion, and a Big-Mac style sauce. The burgers were paired with delicious french fries.
The meal ended with Efstidalur II’s famous ice cream. We tried the Mango, Sea Salt Caramel, Blueberry, and one other that I can’t remember. Oddly, the Mango, a flavor I wouldn’t normally choose, was my favorite!
Totally stuffed from lunch, our final stop was at Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir National Park is a gorgeous and huge park not too far from Reykjavik that lies in a rift between the North American and European tectonic plates. Þingvellir is also home to Alþing (Althing), the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries and more interesting to me, the walk leading to the Vale in Game of Thrones (I swear we don’t just go around to GoT filming sites…).
We arrived back in Reykjavik in the early evening and did our final tasting – a shot of Brennivin alcohol straight from the bottle cap. There was also the option to try dried shark with it but since we had already tasted that, we skipped it.
All in all, this was a fantastic tour. We had amazing food and saw some amazing Golden Circle sites, all perfectly organized by our expert guide, Ymir. As mentioned, this tour was very expensive, but it was all inclusive and everything in Iceland is insanely expensive. Email Ymir early if you’re looking to take this tour, especially in the summer, as it does book up!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Magical Iceland Tours: Contact Yvir for tours through this website for information and to book tours. All of his tours are upscale and catered specifically to your party.
The Secret Lagoon: Hvammsvegur, 845 Flúðir. Open daily 10:00 – 20:00 during summer, shorter hours off season. 3000 ISK per adult, 2200 ISK for seniors and free for children. Bathing suit and towel rentals also available.
Fridheimar: Reykholti, Bláskógabyggð, IS-806, Selfoss. Open daily 12 – 16h. Reservations essential via the directions on the website.
Gulfoss: Open 24 hours. Free Good website for all sorts of information.
The Gyser: Open 24 hours. Free. English website.
Efstidalur II: Bláskógabyggð, 801 Laugarvatn, Iceland. Restaurant open 8:00 – 20:00. Reservations recommended. Information on the farm’s other website on the website.
Þingvellir National Park: Always open. Review the linked informative website for the most up-to-date information.