Iceland has been on my bucket list for a while.
Snowy mountains, stunning views and ice cold temperatures – a stones throw away from home, but it feels like another planet entirely.
When I was pitched the idea of visiting Reykjavik at Christmas time, I was eager to go. A chance to sample the Icelandic culture during the Winter and in the festive season – yes please. Mulled wine is great in Bath, but it’s bound to be amazing with a Amaretti hot chocolate in Iceland too right?
Our last holiday was to Cuba in August – so something different was needed and something different is 100% what we got.
We landed at Keflavik Airport nearing the early hours of the morning after a bad turn of luck with a delayed flight, but with Pret à Manger to tide us over, none of us were complaining too much. Our transfer bus ride to the hotel was pleasant, free Wifi kept me occupied for the hour journey into the capital. We woke the following morning at around 8am, already loving the fact they were on the BST timezone [dancing lady emoji]. Yay for no jet lag!
I flung open the curtains to the window, and was immediately slapped in the face by darkness. Pitch black night-time skyline. You see – Winter in Iceland means very little daylight. Only 4 hours of it in fact! It wasn’t due to get light until 11:30am, and even then sunset was at 3pm.
The first day was a mammoth day of activity and sightseeing. We didn’t stop to breathe – not that we had to pack everything in into a short space of time, just because there was so much to see and the adrenaline fuelled our want and need to keep seeing more of this beautiful country.
We took advice from family and friends who said hiring a car was our best bet, and boy were they right. What better way to see a country than to just drive. And drive for miles on end was just what we did. Armed with GPS, snacks and warm clothing we set off.
Our first stop was the stunning Golden Circle – a popular tourist route in southern Iceland. A generous 45 minute drive away from the capital but oh so worth it. Acres of untouched natural beauty was there to behold. Bathed in the sunrise glow we weaved between the rocks and caverns of the Þingvellir National Park. Every view was a postcard worthy site. Utterly stunning.
Trekking isn’t my ‘thing’ but everyone can appreciate a good view, especially ones of the Icelandic scenery. The walking wasn’t so bad, alas I had to give the heels a miss, but trainers & flat boots did the job. We crossed metre after metre of glorious beauty.
Our next stop in the Park, which I can perhaps liken to the size of Dartmoor or Exmoor, was the infamous geothermal area in Haukadalur, which held the geysers Geysir and Strokkur.
To be honest, I hadn’t even realised we’d arrived at the erupting Stokkur until I saw crowds of people gathered around what appeared to me to be just a huge pool of steaming mud & rock. They all had their phones out, just silently recording video of this static boiling bath. And then suddenly – eruption – a giant spitting explosion launching up to 40 metres in the air. It was quickly followed by an ‘Oooooooohhhh’ from the onlooking crowds. Satisfied videographers had caught the moment of the natural geothermal eruption.
The Gullfoss waterfall was the next place to go on our whistle stop tour of the Park – it’s the same holiday routine. Arrive, hat & gloves on, walk around the site, cup of coffee to warm your cockles, take a few snaps and back in the car for the next location. Gullfloss is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. We made this our last daylight stop, it was 3pm – half an hour of daylight remaining, rainy, cloudy and cold but oh what an extraordinary sight to see. I was blown away by the sheer scale of the waterfall. It reminded me of both the Grand Canyon in Las Vegas and Niagara Falls.
That evening, as if we hadn’t exhausted ourselves enough. We decided to do the Blue Lagoon – by night. As darkness fell over Iceland and the temperature dropped to below freezing. We set off in our hired red VW Polo armed with towels and a spare pair of clothing as the lagoon awaited. I was told this was the one of the sights any tourist had to see.
It certainly didn’t disappoint. It was utterly stunning. The lagoon was hidden in a backdrop of black mountains, the steaming water glistened in the midnight starry sky. It was almost like something out of a film – so picturesque, and nothing that an iPhone 6 camera could do justice to.
The lagoon was 36 – 38 degrees, the perfect temperature for a lazy swim or paddle. At 8pm in the evening, it was only full of a few people who had the same idea as us, to see it by night. Dipping into the warmth was blissful after a day in the cold, all the muscles and tension in your body is whipped away by the silica and sulphur mud bath. We were invited to slap on the mineral mask onto our faces, nobody cared what you looked like – it was all part of the Blue Lagoon experience!
Iceland was a true epic adventure for the adrenaline fuelled junkies, the road-trippers and the causal tourist. I would recommend it to any traveller. Only 3 and a half hours away from home but miles apart in difference. Beauty around every corner. The snowy mountains are enough to get anyone in the giddy Christmas spirit!