Happy weekend! I’m currently sitting at the airport, a cup of hot chocolate in hand as I try my best to keep warm. Reykjavik’s outside temperature is still coursing through my body and I’m more than ready to be back in a slightly warmer London. I shouldn’t complain though, I chose this destination for it’s winter wonders and even though the last four days have been unbelievably cold and unbelievably expensive, they have also been unbelievably breathtaking.
Day One… arrival
Prior to my trip, I heard three things about Iceland. Firstly, tap water is safe to drink and extremely fresh. Secondly, tipping is not a thing so no need to do it and thirdly, Iceland is one of those places that will suck your bank account dry. Ha.
Keeping the third point in mind, I tried my best to save money wherever I could. I wasn’t planning on hiring a car so I booked myself accommodation right in the heart of Reykjavik. The place was a hostel of sorts, I had a private room with a shared bathroom and a fully functioning shared kitchen. This was perfect, as I saved a lot of money cooking the majority of my meals.
Wanting to make the most of my first day, I checked in and then took to exploring the town. It’s easily done by foot as it’s a pretty small town and one of the safest I’ve visited as a solo traveller.
As I wondered the streets, I saw everything from Hallgrimskirkja and the Sun Voyager, to the unique architecture of Harpa Concert Hall and the various artworks painted throughout the town.
Day Two… Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon Tour
The first stop on the tour was to Gullfoss Waterfall. I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls over the years, but nothing compared to the epic beauty that was Gullfoss. I’ve never seen anything like it and although the stop was a quick one, it was worth every second. Also, my photos do not do this place justice.
The second stop was a bonus stop to see the Icelandic Ponies. This wasn’t on the schedule but our driver thought it would be nice surprise. The ponies are cute, although not the friendliest if you don’t have food. As soon as I approached them empty handed, one tried to eat my coat!
After the ponies, we ventured on to Strokkur Geysir. Erupting every 6-10 minutes, this particular Geysir can reach heights of up to 65 feet.
The fourth and final stop on the tour was to a secret lagoon and the perfect way to end the day in my opinion. It’s a shock to the system getting into the lagoon from the change rooms because the outside temperature is ridiculously freezing, but once you’re in the there it’s well worth it.
One thing to note with the lagoon, is that prior to entering you are required to shower naked to remove any oils from your skin that might upset the balance of the water, so just an FYI, you can’t be afraid of nudity around complete strangers.
Day Three… South Coast and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Driving along the south coast, this tour is a long one. Almost sixteen hours in total. I was lucky to get a window seat, so for me, I didn’t mind the journey.
First up on the schedule was Skogafoss Waterfall. If you’re there at the right time of year, you can actually walk behind the waterfall, getting a unique perspective. For me, it was too wet when I visited, but the view from the front was more than enough to keep me happy.
After the falls, we set off to Diamond Beach. Upon arrival, I made my way down, only to encounter gale force winds. I’m not exaggerating when I say the winds were so strong, not only was it pushing me sideways but I lost my hat, my backpack rain cover and my camera case within seconds. Not wanting to lose anything else, I took a quick picture then headed into a nearby tourist shop until the tour bus was ready to depart.
Back on the bus, we headed to our last stop of the day, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This particular attraction was the whole reason I booked this tour and it did not disappoint! To see nature like this, was a truly remarkable experience and the highlight of my entire trip.
Day Four… northern lights and the blue lagoon
From the day I arrived up until the day I left, I tried to see the northern lights. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on my side. You see, when you book a tour, if the company believe on the evening that it’s not ideal viewing weather, they’ll cancel the tour. Every night my tour was cancelled. As a result, my advice would be, visit Iceland without the intention of seeing them. Then if you do, it’s a bonus.
With the lights a no go, I was off to the Blue Lagoon. I booked the 10am session and it was already super busy, so if you’re after a less crowded experience, I’d recommend the sunrise session.
For me, the lagoon wasn’t anything special. It was quite touristy and commercialised compared the lagoon experience I had on the Golden Circle tour. You do get a free drink at the lagoon bar and a mud mask as part of your entry, but with the price you pay for the entry ticket, I didn’t feel it made it worthwhile.
Day Five… cafe’s and departure
I had most of this morning free, so I spent it eating some yummy Icelandic pastries. First stop was Braud & Co where I opted for a delicious custard pastry. Made fresh on location, you can see the bakers busy at work, through the stores glass windows.
Grabbing my pastry to go, I then headed to Sandholt for some dine in deliciousness. I’d never had a Swiss mocha before, so I order one alongside a toasted sandwich and a white chocolate, raspberry passionfruit cake. My verdict? I have never tasted anything so good! After that first bite, I didn’t care what the price was, I was more than happy to pay.
Overall my trip to Iceland was a huge success. I packed a lot into five days and yet I din’t feel rushed. I relaxed in the evenings and now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to get back to my daily life in London.