Touching down in Iceland to the sounds of Sigur Ros was pretty special. We travelled with the Wallace Travel Group who arranged our flights, transfers and accommodation for the four nights. The airport was pretty much deserted and the 45-minute coach trip from Keflavik to Reykjavik was enough for me to fall for this special country. We stayed in the Reykjavik Natura Hotel about 20 minutes outside the city centre.
That night we had the blue lagoon and northern lights tour. We were picked up from our hotel at 6pm. The blue lagoon at night was something very magical considering we couldn’t see more than 2 feet in front of us. We changed into our swimsuits and had to go through the showering naked experience before entering the lagoon. It was worth it when you get into the steaming hot water. At times it was a bit like the walking dead with white zombie-like people floating around. There is a bar and the silica mud is dotted around the sides. My skin definitely felt better after the experience. All in all a magical evening. The northern lights didn’t appear that night which was a little disappointing but she is an unpredictable lady!
We had an early start at 08.45am for the Golden Circle tour. We visited the beautiful national park Pingvellir which as well as being the seat of Iceland’s first national assembly also has the largest lake on the island and a beautiful canyon, the meeting point of two of the earth’s tectonic plates. We also visited the impressive waterfall Gullfoss (the Golden Waterfall) followed by the geysirs and hot springs where we saw the Strokker blow its top. We stopped off for lunch of Icelandic meat soup and chocolate cake. The scenery throughout is truly breath-taking.
That night was decided to re-try seeing the northern lights with Reykjavik Excursions. They offer going as many times as you need to for free in order to see the northern lights. Thankfully the second night the northern lights complied and came out to play. It started first of all like an arc of green light across the horizon. We drove on for a while before stopping off for a second time and seeing the green again appear like heavenly curtains. I also got to see a shooting star so it was worth standing in the pitch black freezing our butts off! Just be warned they are nothing as impressive as the photos we all see but lovely none the less.
Saturday was our first free day and a welcome lie-in followed by our first trip into the city centre of Reykjavik. The hotel offers guests a free bus pass which is an excellent idea. We stopped off at the viewpoint before heading for the Harpa, the new visually-stunning concert hall by the harbour. We visited the Lutheran church, Hallgrímskirkja, where we took the lift up to the top for the best vantage point. It is a quirky city with funky cafes and bars and easy to walk around as it is quite small. We stopped off at the lovely Sandholt bakery for tea and a bun before heading back. Our hotel was located just opposite the Perlan so we took the short walk up the hill to view the city by night. We headed back into town to 73 Restaurant famous for its epic burgers.
Sunday we decided to go on the South Adventure Tour and booked it through Rekjavik Excursions. This was a trip to remember complete with stunning scenery and some hair-raising incidents to make it all the more memorable. The drive along the south coast is particularly stunning even prettier than the golden circle tour. We stopped off at the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, scene of the troublesome volcano eruption of 2010 where the ash cloud interrupted air travel for six weeks. We stopped off at the stunning Mýrdalsjökull glacier where a bus got stuck turning to turn and blocked the exit. We eventually got moving again after about an hour thanks to our intrepid bus driver and some helpful souls who moved rocks so we could get around the obstacle.
We stopped off for lunch in Vik, the most southernly coastal village in Iceland overlooking the impressive Reynisdrangar rock formations. Afterwards we visited the nearby beach with its black volcanic sand and huge waves. Apparently it was declared one of the 10 most beautiful island beaches of the world by the Iceland Magazine and it is easy to see why. We visited the Skógar folk museum, to get a taste of how Icelanders lived in centuries past. We met the 94-year-old man who put together the collection and he showed us how to spin wool and played us a tune on the organ. They have built a replica village outdoors complete with its own consecrated church, schoolroom and some farmhouses. There is even a little village for the hidden people, part of Icelandic folklore. Along the way back we stopped at the majestic and much-photographed Skógafoss waterfall, with its 60m drop and the gorgeous Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which is unique in that you can walk behind it and through to the other side. The stunning sunset on the way home was impressive. By that stage, driving back through the snowy mountains the temperatures dropped and the roads were very icy so much so a jeep overtaking us skidded and flipped over ending up in a ditch facing the other direction. Thankfully the icelandic couple inside were both ok but it showed how treacherous the road conditions can be.
We flew home on Monday afternoon and I would throughly recommend a visit to this unique and impressive country.
Bless bless Iceland….until we meet again.
Things I learnt from my trip to Iceland:
– You don’t need to panic and book your tours in advance and if you do, check out Reykjavik Excursions for better rates.
– The food in Iceland is not to my taste. If you aren’t adventurous, you may find it hard to find nice restaurants. If you are, there is puffin, reindeer, whale and shark a-plenty.
– There is absolutely no need to bring any cash. They accept credit cards everywhere even for the little things.
– Don’t fear the weather. It is cold but not Baltic. Bring plenty of layers and you will be fine. Having said that on your northern lights tour wear all your thermals and layers you have – it is unbelievably cold out there.
– The blue lagoon is as magical as they say and the showers aren’t as bad as you imagine. Some even have doors!!!
– If you like to shop, be sure to check out the local designers and the little galleries. The jewellery is unusual and some of the artwork is pretty but on the whole it is not a shoppers paradise and by jove is it expensive.
– Food and drink is expensive everywhere so just get used to it. It is worth it though for the stunning landscape you will experience everywhere. Iceland is indeed a photographers paradise.