Of all the capital cities I’ve visited, Reykjavík is my favorite. Not only is it highly walkable and visually stunning, I’m 99% sure that it’s impossible to get a bad meal or sub-par cup of coffee in that little city! I spent 3 days there but now I wish I planned for more time! The country was so breathtaking and I am itching to go back and explore in future. It’s true that Iceland is very expensive but definitely worth every penny.
Grand Golden Circle tour
I wish I had thought about Iceland’s South Coast & Volcanoes Tour to see famous volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers and black sand beaches. Unfortunately we had a budget for 3 tours and only 3 days to explore the city, so it was a bit tricky. I will bear it in mind for my next visit!
The Grand Golden Circle tour was fantastic despite facing snow, hail, rain and wind all in one day! The stops were well scheduled and we always had enough time. The tour was on a small bus (15 people) which was ideal as it had a more personal touch instead of a ‘coach trip’ feel.
Chasing the northern lights – Stokkyaoke east south
I was told the best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is from September to mid-April. I would recommend checking the aurora and weather forecast online yourself and then booking if it looks promising.
We booked this tour in advance for the first night of our trip; we knew that seeing the lights is a matter of luck and we would have time to rebook for the next few nights in case we missed it the first time. The tour company emailed us at around 6pm to let us know the tour was cancelled due to bad weather conditions (luckily we had WiFi access) and we booked onto the tour for the next day.
It was such a relief to get the go ahead for the second night. Right after our return from the Golden Circle tour, we geared up and made sure we wore thick layers.
From 10pm to 1am, we were so exhausted and at 1 degrees celsius it was bloody freezing! We saw a green haze and not the dancing dazzling display we were hoping for. After an hour and 15 minutes of watching the sky we returned to the coach to have free hot chocolate and donuts- a really nice touch! After 2 stops, the tour guide stopped the bus so we could all get out, we saw an incredible green sky which is impossible to describe but was as good as many of the postcard images you often see.
The Blue Lagoon Experience
After 5 hours there including the journey, I felt so relaxed and fell asleep in my bedroom as soon as I arrived back at the hotel! (or perhaps i had been too excited!)
Read the guide! – I researched a little before going but after the experience, I wish I had looked at the information thoroughly as I had major issues with my hair feeling extremely rough and strawlike. This was because I hadn’t tied my hair up before going into the lagoon. You’ll receive good-to-know tips plus a short guide video before you visit Blue Lagoon.
Use hair conditioner – The Blue Lagoon water has high levels of silica. Silica is not harmful to hair. However, if you get your hair wet from the water, it can become stiff and difficult to manage. I highly recommend you apply conditioner to your hair and leave it in while you bathe or even if you condition your hair, don’t let it touch the water. Complimentary conditioner is provided in the shower area. Use a lot of conditioner, your hair will deffo be a bit dry, you will survive, your hair will survive, just have a good time, that’s what it’s all about!
This reminded me of a spa i went to Bath Spa,London though that wasn’t especially good. The land in the Blue Lagoon is natural, as you can feel the lava that shapes the pool under; I was surprised the water is actually the result of run off from the geothermal plant next door that you can see in the distance.
Being the kind of girl who loves extreme heat, I thought the water wouldn’t be hot enough for me, but it turns out it was super-hot! When I was on bus, I can see the steam is coming out and I knew it was the Blue Lagoon!
Spoilt for choice – There is a sauna and steam room, as well as an exclusive section. Spa treatments, including a massage on a float right in the lagoon! Ooh and there are 3 stations stocked with a silica mask you can put on your face for 10 minutes and then wash away. There are cocktails / smoothie at the swim-up bar. (The wristbands are brilliant — you put all your purchases on them. This also prevents people from buying more than three alcoholic drinks.) I also notice people wearing their wool hat!
Sadly it was too late when i reached the church as it closes at 5pm so I could not go to the top, but the view outside of its structure is amazing. I could have just stayed standing there to stare at the building’s exterior.
Svarta Kaffi Cafe
Thanks to friend’s recommend, just what i needed on a chilly day. This is a cozy bar upstairs that serves soup in a bread bowl. Amazing! The soup was hot, thick and filling and the bread was fresh and accompanied the soup perfectly. There were two soups to choose from, one meaty and one veggie. This makes for a very tasty and filling meal that doesn’t hurt your budget in a city where eating out can be quite expensive. Definitely recommended!
Boglárka kindly shared this extra information with me about Iceland, I added some interesting facts below:
- There is 1 high security prison with 150 inmates – strangely, there’s a 3 month waiting list for it. There’s also 2 low risk prisons, 25 people each and one for the ladies – 25 people as well. 60% of crime is committed by foreigners. There’s no military on the island but they have backup from NATO if needed. I found this interesting article – http://grapevine.is/mag/articles/2011/09/27/doingtimeiniceland/
- Two big earthquakes recently – 2000 and 2008. People pay a little extra tax to pay for the houses damaged in quakes. Iceland lies on two tectonic plates – the American one and the European one. They move about in different directions, hence the number of earthquakes. The two plates move apart about 2 cms a year, but because of the constant volcanic eruptions, there’s no “rip” in the ground.
- There’re 85000 horses on the island, people eat them too. Also sheep, goats, chicken, the Arctic Fox, reindeer and mice as well as lots of migrating birds. Here’s another article if you’re interested – http://landlopers.com/2012/10/10/food-iceland
- They used to be Catholic but changed to Lutheran a while back. It’s not a very religious nation though, they hardly go to church.
- Main industries are fishing (4.5% of people) which is very high tech. The rest of the people work in the service/travel industry. Crops and veg are only produced for the domestic market. There is quite a high income tax – up to 45%. Only 4% unemployment rate.
- Not many trees, only 3% are native. 33% of Iceland is classed as desert, the rest is lakes and towns, vegetation etc.
- There are two ski resorts in Iceland and cross country skiing, football, basketball, netball and golf are the favourite sports. Kids learn to swim from the age of 6 years old and people use swimming pools as a place to socialise.
- More interesting facts: http://www.kids-world-travel-guide.com/iceland-facts.html
Thank you for reading my blog, hope it inspires you to jump on a plane and head over to Iceland 🙂