Travel Guide: Iceland

Going to Iceland has always been on my bucket list so I was so thankful when I finally organised and booked a weekend away there with one of my besties in November.

When is the best time to go to Iceland?
To be honest, there isn’t a wrong or right time to go as this depends on what you want to do, see and experience.

During spring/summer time (April – August) the weather is warmer and much brighter atmosphere. There is also basically no such thing as night time during some months as daylight can reach its peak covering 24 hours (so no chance of seeing the northern lights). Which is great if you still want to carry on sight seeing through all hours of the day without worrying about the lighting to take pictures. The downside to this is that there are a lot more tourists around so you can expect large crowds and hotels to be more expensive / booked up quickly.

During the Autumn/Winter months (September – March) the weather starts to get a lot colder and the days get a lot shorter – can be as little as three hours of daylight a day. Great time if you want to go and witness the northern lights but means you won’t get a lot done during some days. As the months go on this then brings in snow and ice making it harder to drive around (unless you’re used to it).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed at Hlemmur Square Hotel  as I found a great deal on Ebookers. The hotel is in central Reykjavik so it was very easy to walk around. After checking into the hotel we then decided to walk around the city centre and explore the local sights:

Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral

Epal Harpa Hall

The Sun Voyager

 

EAT: KOL RESTAURANT
On our first night we decided to eat at a lovely local restaurant that we found during our walk around Reykjavik. Be prepared to spend big bucks in Reykjavik as food is not cheap! At least it’s good food though so I don’t mind spending the money when I’m enjoying it!

While we were deciding on what to eat, the waiter gave us some bread and butter and washed it down with some delicious cocktails!

After much deliberation we decided on their three course meal which consisted of:

Starters: ICELANDIC SCALLOPS
Sautéed scallops, almond praline, dill mayo, pickled shallots, katafi for starters.

I rarely order or even eat scallops but as the fish here is so fresh, this starter was really delicious and I’m so glad I chose it.

Mains: TENDERLOIN OF BEEF
Tarragon potato mousse, sweet potato and black garlic purée, truffle foam, leek crisp for mains.

This had the potential to be really tasty but I hadn’t realised that the beef was going to be so rare so I couldn’t finish it all – which was a shame as the presentation was so nice and the flavour was definitely there as well.

Dessert: WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE
Passion and coconut sorbet, roasted coconut, italian meringue, passion fruit for dessert.

I have such a sweet tooth so this was a good way to finish the meal. If you stumble across this restaurant then I would recommend this restaurant for a lovely meal.

The price for the three course meal was  IK8490, which converts to approx £54 (Yes, quite pricey for a three course meal but I had expected these prices before I arrived as I done a lot of research – this is due to labour being expensive in Reykjavík).
For an extra cost you can also have wine pairing with each course.

 

SEE: THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
One of the main reasons why we wanted to visit Iceland was to visit the Northern Lights. I have seen a glimpse of them when flying but could never get a picture that could do it justice. On our first night in Iceland we had pre-booked a tour to pick us up from our hotel that evening to chase the northern Lights. As they are a natural occurrence they aren’t always guaranteed to be seen so it took a couple hours of driving and persistence before they came out in full force. Thankfully the guide had hot chocolate and snacks for everyone to keep us all warm and keep us going. Again, my camera couldn’t do it justice but below are a few pictures that I managed to capture of the night and throughout my stay in Iceland.

So what are the northern lights? Well, its another name for Aurora borealis which are a natural light display which is the result of collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere which then creates the “dancing” light effects that you see in the sky. They are only commonly seen in the northern destinations as they happen near the magnetic poles (There are also Southern Lights ‘Aurora australis’ which can be seen in the Southern Pole).

 

DO: THE BLUE LAGOON
Other than the northern lights, the Blue Lagoon is another popular attraction that comes to mind when talking about Iceland. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located next to a geothermal power supply which supplies the water.
Some people think that the lagoon is overpriced and overrated and to be honest this may be the case but it’s a once in a lifetime experience which I will probably never do again and I’m glad I did do it.

The water of the lagoon ranges with water temperature around 37-40°C or 98-104°F so you will be kept nice and warm while the temperature outside is freezing.


FUN FACT: Even though it’s called the Blue Lagoon and the water looks blue, it is in fact white. If you were to pour some of the water into a cup you will see that it is of a milky-white colour and it is the sun that makes it appear blue!

COST: There are a few options to choose from when visiting the Blue Lagoon. There is the Comfort Package from ISK 6990 (approx £44), Premium Package from ISK 9900 (approx £62) and the Luxury Spa Package from ISK 79000 (approx £502). More information on what their packages include can be found on their website.

Transport to/from your accommodation and/or the airport can be provided at an extra cost when booking your ticket (which I would recommend booking in advance as tickets to the Blue Lagoon can sell out quickly, depending on the time of year that you are visiting.

There is concern that the water can leave your hair feeling dry and ‘crispy’ but the lagoon offers conditioner to coat your hair before you enter the water if you are concerned about your hair however I find the water to have a lot of healing properties.

EAT: THE LAVA RESTAURANT
As we booked the premium package at the Blue Lagoon, this also came with a reservation made at the Lava restaurant and a glass of sparkling wine with your meal (meals not included). The Lava restaurant is located right next to the Blue Lagoon so you get to enjoy the views of the lagoon and its surroundings while having your meal.

There are lots of options to choose from in the restaurant such as the set menu because if you plan on having more than one course then this will work in your favour cost wise. For the two courses it cost ISK 6600 (approx £41) and for three courses ISK 7600 (approx £48). If you do not like what they have to offer on the set menu then you are able to order off the A la carte menu as normal.

You can find more details of what’s for offer on their menu on their website here.

For starters we had the Langoustine soup – Garlic marinated langoustine, dulse.

For the main course we had Lamb fillet and shoulder of lamb – Rutabaga, carrots, spring onion, mustard

Both dishes were amazing so I made the right choice! I even asked for my meat to be cooked all the way through as I learnt my lesson from the Kol restaurant.

 

SEE: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
The golden circle is a well known tourist route that visit three different natural attractions in Iceland. You can rent a car to experience the route on your own or book to go with a tour. We booked ours as part of a tour and a night in the bubble hotel deal (which you will read about further down).

We got picked up early in the morning and ventured off to our first stop:

Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park
This is the largest attraction of the Golden Circle and the first stop. It is well known for the Icelandic parliament being founded here. It is located in a rift valley directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This makes it one of the few places in the world where you can walk between the continents, in the Mid-Atlantic Rift!

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Geysir Geothermal Area
This attraction is a hot spring area which is home to a famous Geyser Strokkur that every five to ten minutes blasts up a column of boiling water to extreme heights up to 40m. In the surrounding areas there are other active and inactive geysirs, hot spring and pits. With so much activity going on, the smell of sulphur is in full force in the air.

If the cold gets too much for you, further along the road is a gift shop and restaurant where you can warm up and get something to eat and drink before moving on to your next stop.

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Gullfoss Waterfall
The waterfall is just a ten-minute drive from Geysir and is the furthest point on the Golden Circle tour from Reykjavík. The daughter of the farmer that owns the land and waterfall fought hard to stop developers from sourcing energy from this amazing waterfall. This act has now made all Icelandic waterfall protected from foreign investors!

As we had come during the winter, majority of the waterfall had frozen over but it was still an incredible sight to see. There are different lookout points along the top so you can see the waterfall from all different angles.

Secret Lagoon Hot Spring
I’m honestly not sure why it’s called the secret lagoon when everyone seems to know where it is…

So to end our Golden Circle tour were taken to the Secret Lagoon which is the oldest natural swimming pool in Iceland. The water stays at 38-40 Celsius all year round and there are little Geysirs which erupts every 5 minutes, showing off for the guests relaxing in the hot spring (although I must have missed these as I was too busy soaking in the warmth).

Just before we retreated to our hotel we stopped off at a local restaurant for some dinner with the rest of our tour group.

DO: THE 5 MILLION STAR HOTEL
Also known by the brand name Buubble (not a typo – that’s how it’s spelt) or the Bubble Hotel. The bubbles are located about an hours drive from Reykjavik so you can easily make your way their if you have rented a car or book it as one whole package like we did with a tour. More details can be found on their website.

There are six plastic bubbles are scattered around a forest and are minutes away from the service house which has the facilities like toilet/shower and kitchenette. Each bubble does not have any en-suite facilities so if you do need the toilet in the middle of the night then you will have to visit the service house!

The area where the bubbles are located are filled with tall trees that provide the feeling of privacy and seclusion despite the bubble being made of clear plastic. You are not able to see anyone else in their bubbles because of the vegetation and trees around.

Sleeping in a clear bubble in the dead of night is a fantastic and surreal experience. If you’re lucky enough you can even witness the northern lights here as there is no light pollution (after you turn of your bedside lamp).

If you are doing the bubble hotel as part of a tour – you are told to pack light. As you can see from the pictures, there isn’t a great deal of space so you will want to utilise it properly. Also you share the tour car with other guests, so everyone needs to be able to get their bags inside. A small cabin bag or backpack should do you for the night as I don’t imagine you would be staying any longer than that.

Overall, my experience in Iceland was amazing and I’m so glad I got to experience it. If you are deciding whether to go, save up the money and go and do it.

Thanks for reading! If you found this mini travel guide useful then let me know and I will release some more or if you would like to know any more information about this trip then send me a message!

Check out the vlog on this trip here.

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