Here’s my first (of many) Iceland blogs this is a rough day-by-day, about our adventures and what we got up to, I will go into the days in more detail, and do a top tips in later posts.
Day 1 – London – Keflavik. We took a leisurely mid-afternoon flight (I HATE early flights) from Heathrow on British Airways, we attempted to use our pass to get into the Aspire lounge but it was too busy so promptly found a trusty Pret for some lunch!
After a comfortable flight we landed in Keflavik in the midst of a snow storm which was magical, picked up our car and drove to Reykjavik to our first guest house, which is about 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre. We had basic cooking facilities so we ventured out to the nearest supermarket to pick up some bits for dinner, it was interesting trying to figure out what everything was, when they are all in Icelandic.
Day 2 – Reykjavik. Today our Icelandic adventure really kicked in! After breakfast we went into the city centre for some exploring, our first stop was the City Hall where they had a (free) photography exhibition, then we wandered up to the Hallgrímskirkja church and took the lift up to the top of the tower for some amazing panoramic views of the city, unfortunately when we got down the inside of the church had been closed for a christening, but it really is a stunning church. Then taking our time to wander down the pretty streets of Reykjavik, pausing to look into the many shops, we grabbed our first Icelandic hot dog and sat soaking up the sunshine.
At 2pm it was time for our free city tour, a fantastic way to experience the city through the eyes of a local, our guide Sara, was a local school teacher and historian and really brought the city to life, the tour lasts for two hours and you tip at the end whatever you think the tour was worth. You can find out more and book onto the tour here. Later on we headed down to the beautiful Harpa building, a building with really interesting architecture which looks out across the bay, before heading for a coffee and walking along the harbour. After a recommendation from someone staying at our guest house we had dinner at Sea Baron an unassuming but bustling restaurant by the harbour, where we had a deliciously warming bowl of lobster soup and fish skewers for dinner. That evening we went to the Grotta lighthouse to watch the sunset and staring at the sky with a hope of a glimpse of the northern lights, it’s amazing how quickly time passes when looking skywards.
Day 3 – Golden Circle. Today was an epic day of sightseeing so after an early start we went to Thillvellir national park, sitting in a Rift Valley here you can see people snorkelling through tectonic plates which looked amazing – through perhaps a bit cold for me! We then went on to ‘geysir’ which is an amazing field of geothermal activity you can see the steam coming from the site along the road towards it, en route we stopped off to see some really cute ponies! We then made our way to Gullfoss, an awe-inspiring waterfall fringed with icicles, here we had a late lunch (Tip: the lamb soup from the cafe is very tasty, re-fillable and warming!) we also went to visit Faxifoss, a waterfall which is off the beaten track but still very beautiful and great for photos. Tonight we were staying Fludir so we visited the Secret Lagoon, a wonderful experience in a natural geothermal bath, it was fairly quiet and laid back and the perfect place to relax after a busy day.
Day 4 – Fludir-Vik. Today we journeyed from Fludir to Vik pausing at some stunning sights including Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall where you can walk behind and further along the cliff there is Skogafoss, another waterfall where you can have a hike up to the top for some beautiful pictures. Along the same round we stopped off to hike to the crashed DC-3 plane wreckage, a plane which crashed 50 years ago into the beach, everyone survived but the plane is still there on the beach. A great place for some pictures, and to see the awesome black sand beaches, make sure you go down to the shoreline and see the impressive waves coming in from the Atlantic. After our long walk we went to our guest house which was a nicely decorated modern converted farmhouse, about 10 minutes outside of Vik with fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, after a few days in shared bathrooms we treated ourselves and had our own private bathroom which was bliss!
That night the Aurora forecast was good so after our gorgeous dinner at this restaurant in Vik we went for a drive to see if we could spot them and we were so lucky to find a shimmer of green dancing in the nights sky.
Day 5 – Vik-Glacier Lagoon. Another sunny but bitterly cold day, and you could really feel it at Dyrhólaey, our first visit. After a hair rising drive up to the top of the hill with ice and snow all around (thank god we hired a 4×4!) we had some amazing view points from the clifftops over the black sand beaches and huge sea arches cut into the cliffs. We continued along road 1 to Vik black sand beaches (officially known as Reynisfjara beach), where once again you can admire the crashing waves and some really interesting geological sights. Our next stop was Skaftefell National Park where we went for a hike in the mountains to some waterfalls, including one framed by columnar basalt which looks like giant piano keys on the side of the cliff. Our final stop was the iconic Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, a must visit for anybody in the region and particularly if you like photography, it is a really surreal but beautiful landscape, it was amazing to see the giant chunks of ice floating out to sea as the annual thaw had just begun.
That evening we stayed in the nicest (but most expensive) hotel on our trip, the Foss Hotel Glacier Lagoon, it looked like a James Bond villain lair but we had an incredible room, complete with window seat to admire the views.
Day 6 – Glacier Lagoon-Hella. Today the weather was not in our favour and it rained consistently all day, however this didn’t really effect us as we had a lazy morning in the hotel planned, we were very tired after our previous full on days! In the afternoon we commenced the long drive back towards Reykjavik. Our hotel this evening was the Stracta Hotel Hella, which was an ‘interesting’ set up as we were staying in kind of portacabins. The sauna and Jacuzzi at the hotel were very welcoming though! That evening we had a lovely meal at Restaurant Strönd a friendly restaurant with good, reasonably priced food.
Day 7 – Hella-Grindavik. We started our day by heading over to Kerid Crater (400ISK entry fee) a huge inactive volcano crater with a lake in middle, which apparently people can ice skate on in the middle of winter. After this, we ventured onto the Reykjadalur valley a river which is geothermally heated to perfect bathing temperature, the hike (About 4km) is a challenging one at this time of year (March) with snow and ice covering the trail, we got changed on arrival (there are no changing facilities). When hopping into your geothermal bath be careful to choose your spot wisely, as some bits are much hotter than others so you need to pick your spots. It was great to lie there and relax, however the drying off afterwards was a bit of a shock to the system, given the temperature was hovering around 0! We timed our decent really well as it started to sleet which continued most of the afternoon.
Day 8 – Grindavik-London. Today we followed the typical tourist trail and went to the Blue Lagoon, and I was left to feel, well, a little underwhelmed, it was very expensive to get in (we paid nearly £130 for both of us for a basic package) and it was busy, the changing facilities weren’t that great and the water was not as hot as it could be. I much preferred the Secret Lagoon, or the thermal river which we went to on previous days, but it’s something we felt obliged to do when in Iceland! Then we went for lunch back in Grindavik (here) a coffee shop famous for its lobster soup, it was great and very warming (a bonus was that it was refillable!). We then went on to do a short drive in the car to see the lighthouse at Grindavik, passing many shipwrecks on the way, before heading to the airport for our flight back to the UK.
Wow that ended up being a mammoth post, but we just did so much in a relatively short place of time we would love to go back to explore the wild, less touristy north.