The land of the Vikings.
We started our five day Icelandic adventure with a 2am wake up to get to Luton (UK) airport for our 6am Ezy Jet flight, but when you have scenery as beautiful as what we saw when we landed, what does a hideously early start matter!
It is pretty easy to get to Iceland from anywhere in Europe and by flying is relativity cheap too. If you are comfortable with it, hire a car to have the freedom of doing your own thing. Tours can be quite costly for pickup/drop off if you are outside of Reykjavik, so having your own transport from A to B can be very handy – especially if you are wanting to go late night Northern Light Hunting in the snowy darkness.
We drove 50min from airport and about 30min out of Reykjavik to Hotel Laxness, our Icelandic home for 5 days!
Tip (below) 0: Snow angels will leave you with a wet bum (obviously) so if you are wearing jeans, like the Lazz aka Amateur, your butt will be cold!
Iceland was also a meeting point of a dear friend with ours, who was only there for our first night (as she arrived days prior to us). So we went into the city after check in, to do some exploring and catch up with her.
The Solfar (Sun Voyager) is a sculpture along one of the main roads along Reykjavik’s waterfront. It resembles a “dream boat and an ode to the sun. It contains within itself the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.” It is also a really good photo opportunity, especially at sunset. But in our case, we had to make do with whatever view we could, as a snow storm was not far away.
Tip 1: think of the weather in Iceland much like a woman with PMS – beautiful, sunny with opportunity for adventure and in the blink of an eye, can turn on you, dark, dangerous and leave you stranded (and unfortunately you cannot bribe it with chocolate and cheezles).
One of my favorite moments was getting caught in a snow storm and taking shelter in a cafe called Te & Kaffi, with three of my favorite people, laughing over hot cacao and waiting out the snow.
We had a delicious, but far too expensive dinner that night – at a local place with fresh fish called Fish Company (has an Icelandic name, Fiskfelagid) and worth every cent! Eating and drinking out in Iceland can be a little pricey, so make sure you have some extra pennies tucked away for your vino(s)!
Driving on the other side of the road, was not so bad as I had a “NavaKateor” because Kate doesn’t drive, she makes up for it in being really good at navigating and Google mapping.
Day one was a clear night, but since being up from 2am, we were just too tired to do a northern lights hunt. Tip 2: don’t rely on ‘seeing/doing it later’ because the likelihood is that you wont, due to Tip 1.
We did a Grayline Tour for our second day called “South Coast and Waterfalls”. I think due to Tip 1 I was a little disheartened. We had grey skies for most of the day and all the cheezle and chocolate sacrifices did not clear Iceland’s sky (so maybe we ate them on the bus), but it is something that could not have been helped. HOWEVER we ticked a couple of my bucket list items off along the way: Waterfalls, Black Sand Beach, Mountains and Volcanic Rock Formations – probably best if the photos talk for a moment, beginning with our early start…
Eyjafjallajökull: a volcano that had its most recent eruption in 2010, where its second eruption threw ash several hundreds of kilometers into the atmosphere, leading to air travel disruptions in Europe and electrical storms!
Skógafoss: you may recognize this waterfall from the series Vikings (Season 5) or in movies like Thor: The Dark World and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Vic: the black “sand” (actually lots of little black pebbles) is actually lava! Formed by the hot lava cooling off in the ocean.
On this beach you will also find Reynisfjell, a huge triangular shaped mountain and Gardar, the basalt cliff beneath it – also created from volcanic activity. Hálsanefshellir, is the cave pictured below too, used in the movie Noah.
Sólheimajökull: a glacier, between two volcanoes (one we had already met, Eyjafjallajökull), that you can get up close and personal with. There are actually guided hikes over this lil guy!
Seljalandsfoss: a waterfall that is part of the river that originates in the volcano glacier, Eyjafjallajökull. In safer, less slippery, conditions you can actually walk into the cave behind the waterfall.
I don’t think I told you guys that I have never been anywhere snowy, like Iceland, before, so it was a real Wonderland feel for me the entire time. Something I found very interesting was how quickly exposure can kick in. At times, not long after getting off of the bus (and not walking very far), I had mini moments of dizziness if I turned my head too fast – sometimes even mildly fatigued! Tip 3: keep snacks close by to refuel. Our bodies use up a lot of energy in the cold, so make sure you save some of those sacrificial cheezles for later!
On our way home from day 2, we drove through a blizzard on our way back over the mountain (classic Iceland #Tip1) which was really scary; you couldn’t even see road! I was so happy I wasn’t driving through that bad boy. Being near on dinner time, we got dropped off at Dominoes up the road, from where we braved the blizzard back to the hotel! If that isn’t pizza commitment, I don’t know what is!
Food is a funny thing over in Iceland. Firstly, one of their national foods is a Hot Dog! Yup, you read that right! Easily accessible at the five star gourmet restaurants know as gas stations haha. Also, you will find at-least one KFC, Dominoes or Subway at any turn. Needless to say, we naturally had to “try” these delicacies 😉 As I mentioned above, eating out can be pricey so Tip 4, going hand in hand with Tip 3, is to pre pack your lunch, if you can! We had a typical Scandinavian breakfast every morning: cut meats, fish paste and a waffle machine for good measure; and we always made sure to pack a little sandwich for later.
After my first run in with an icy slide on the road, on Day 3 we took an hour & half drive in the other direction, North to Gullfoss Falls & The Great Geysir. Tip 5: if you are on the cusp of winter and wanting to self drive, pay the extra to have the security of a 4×4 vehicle. We were there in early November and while our little VW Golf was OK, (freaking scary somedays, but OK!) had it been even a week later, I think I would have struggled.
Gullfoss Falls, a part of the Golden Circle, is one of the most popular waterfalls to visit in Iceland. The only thing I would suggest here, is to wrap up warm – she’s a bit chilly up here!
This Geysir can erupt its boiling water about 70 meters in the air! You can do a little walk through to see a few Geysirs, like Little Geysir pictured below, waiting patiently for the big blow!
Day 4 saw us take a drive about and hour & 1/2 south, where we went DOG SLEDDING with https://dogsledding.is/
I have one word – YES!
Typical Iceland, we braved all the seasons in one day starting with sun and ending in snow. However, the team had hot cocoa and biscuits waiting for us when we got back from the sledding. Our musher Clara, was wonderful. She gave us fun facts about the each of our dogs and the landscapes as we went past. We were right by a glacial and salmon river so it was very chilly but, the sights never stop to disappoint!
On our final day, we headed back into the city for our last ever packed sandwich, before returning our little VW Golf and flying back to London. By this point our wallets were well and truly empty, so ventured out in search of free things to see and do – Blue Lagoon, high on my bucket list, was at this point out of the question.
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church in Reykjavik. It is the largest church in Iceland, said to resemble Iceland’s landscapes and is actually named after a poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson.
The Einar Jónsson Museum, across the road from this church, is a museum showcasing the work of Iceland’s first sculptor. This museum does cost to get in, however, the sculpture garden out the back, does not…
Ahhh Iceland, what can I say? I missed the Northern Lights and Blue Lagoon, but I can’t say that I am disappointed. What a truly beautiful country. As small as it is vast, driving through completely desolate spaces of land can make you feel so agoraphobic yet free. When we were right out of the noise pollution, in search of the Northern Lights, the silence and darkness was so loud. I cannot really describe this place in many more words.
- Weather in Iceland = Woman with PMS
- Don’t rely on “seeing it later”
- Bring Snacks for engery
- Pack lunches to save money
- If in doubt or a nervous driver, rent a 4×4
and, if you make a snow angel, you will have a cold butt!
I realise this is one of my poorest blogs ever written, but I think, when you go to Iceland, your memories will speak more than any photos or words you will ever see. Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom.