Winter Wanders – Iceland

If you hadn’t of happened to see my previous post about this or visit my Twitter page then you might be oblivious to the fact that I’ve been so stupidly excited about visiting Iceland, and now I have finally been!!

More precisely I went to Reykjavík and it was, in a word, incredible. This trip was had by myself and CLB plus my bestie and her other half who live in Australia and are in Europe for Christmas – good times all round 😀

The Travel

We are fortunate enough to live less than an hour from Gatwick by public transport so after a hop, skip and jump we were at the airport ready to board our Iceland Air flight to Keflavik, which is about 45mins outside of Reykjavík.

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I have to say that Iceland Air may now be my favourite short haul airline to date, not only are the planes extremely well maintained, the staff friendly, the leg room sufficient and a 23kg case is included in your booking, but also each passenger has an in-flight entertainment system as standard, even in Economy Class.

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Ahead of time we’d booked a package with Iceland Travel which included airport transfers locally which meant a quick visit the Gray Line (they are the on the ground supplier of Iceland Travel) desk at KEF and we were onboard a coach to the capital.

The Hotel

CLB and I booked our flights and hotel as a package via Expedia as we managed to find a pretty good deal when we booked way back in May. Our friends were traveling separately from another airport, and then they were heading to Germany straight from Iceland so our bookings were done separately, so with this in mind we wanted to find a hotel that was a good deal as part of a package but also by itself. We came across Storm Hotel by Kea Hotels which seemed to be a good fit – well priced and located plus the reviews were pretty good.

Storm very much, along with many places in Reykjavík, has a Scandinavian feel which is personally a hit with me. Check in was extremely quick, the hotel very clean and the staff friendly. We’d booked a Double Room with Balcony, this was compact but had everything we needed including a large shower, clothes storage space, dressing gowns and slippers, and a large comfortable bed.

A continental breakfast was included in the rate and the selection was pretty good and the food tasty.

The hotel is located just on the outskirts of the downtown area so approx. a 5-7min walk and you hit the restaurants, bar and and shops on Laugavegur which is the main shopping street in the city.

The Excursions

Blue Lagoon was out first port of call the day after our arrival, where we’d pre-booked the Comfort Package, as its a very popular attraction so wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out. The Comfort Package includes:

  • Entrance to Blue Lagoon
  • Silica Mud Mask
  • Use of Towel
  • 1st Drink of your choice
  • Algae Mask

Bearing all this in mind, on entry we decided to head straight to the in-water bar 😀 My drink of choice you ask…why Prosecco of course! Who wouldn’t want to be sat in 40˚c water, looking out of the mountains, drinking bubbly? Incredible.

Next up after some wading and exploring we hit the mask bar, first up was the Silica Mud Mask, then a little while after the Algae Mask. After this we went back to the bar for another beverage, before making a move back to our hotel. What an experience, I’m so so glad we chose do this trip, (and that the skies cleared for it).

Post Blue Lagoon we had the Northern Lights Mystery tour booked which went ahead (very unusual the past couple of weeks as the weather has been rubbish) and so we did go hunting for them; the sky cleared, and the moon came out but the Lights just weren’t playing ball. As we left our guide spotted a green mist just starting to form behind a mountain but it would have taken about another 3 or 4 hours (it was already the early hours of the morning) for it to form properly and to start dancing, and as it was a guided tour we ran out of time and everyone had to head back to the hotels 😦 Just ANOTHER excuse to go back to Iceland though!

The Golden Circle Classic is an all day tour which takes you to three different amazing natural attractions, all of which were as spectacular as each other:

  1. Geysir geothermal area full of hot bubbling springs, where one of them, Strokkur, shoots water out of the ground up into the sky every few minutes
  2. Gullfoss Waterfall is an extremely powerful two tiered waterfall which drops down into a canyon below
  3. Thingvellir National Park where you can walk a canyon which lies in between two tectonic plates – North American and Eurasian.

The weather was pretty wet, windy and cold so I think I’d like to return again to see it in better light (at this time of year there is only 4hrs of daylight per day!) and in better conditions.

Exploring Reykjavíc was in itself great fun also, there isn’t loads to see but its definitely worth a wander around so you can come across:

The Solfar (Sun Voyager) Sculpture down by the ocean. This is a sculpture of a viking boat complete with oars and viking helmets.

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The Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre is a great big modern building which hosts a variety of event all year around. We popped in and took a look around the pretty Christmas shop!

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Hallgrímskirkja is the church you see in all of the guide books for Reykjavík and is most definitely worth a visit. We aimed to get there for sunrise but as we’d picked a Sunday to visit there was already a service on the go by the time we’d go our butts out of bed, so we were a bit delayed, but still, the views are incredible what ever time of day you visit.

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The Food & Drink

There were many bars and pubs in Reykjavík and they get pretty busy fairly early on as so many of them offer happy hour deals. I’d advise, if you know your schedule, booking restaurants for dinner especially on a weekend as EVERYWHERE is busy and walk in slots usually not available until 10pm or later.

On the first night of our stay we were starving after hours traveling so when we landed so dumped our bags, freshened up and then met up with our friends and headed to Boston for a couple drinks and some stodgy food – just what you need when you’ve been on the go for most the day.

The famous Svarta Kaffid is the place ALL the guide books tell you about, the place where you get soup in a loaf of bread – what a genius idea. I went for the asparagus but the others had reindeer soup (poor Rudolph!).

Harry’s played host to our final meal in the city, and it was a fine one at that coupled with some nice beverages.

The Verdict

What do you think, think I’ll be returning? Hell yes! I’m already started planning the next trip in my head. Definitely think we’ll head over there when theres more daylight and hopefully less rain! There are so many more excursions to try out and obviously we need to try see the Northern Lights again.

Iceland, thank you and see you soon 🙂

 

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Stockholm to London says:

    Iceland sounds amazing! I’ve always wanted to go!

    Like

  2. Iceland is such an amazin country… I really hope to get back there soon

    Like

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