Almost as soon as we came back from Texas, we went to Iceland. Felt a bit like that Katy Perry song… “You’re hot then you’re cold!” Iceland has been so heavily advertised these past few years that I was curious to see it for real. We chose to go to Reykjavik and drive around from there.
We picked up the car from the airport, and quickly found out that Iceland is an interesting place to drive in! You can’t exceed 90 (km/h) on the motorway, and most roads are actually gravel or something similar, so you’re at 80. We discovered our car seats were heated, which was lovely considering it was bloody freezing! Because things are very expensive in Iceland, we’d chosen an Air B’n’B in Reykjavik. The flat was very nice, and near a supermarket and a couple of restaurants.
On day one, we decided to drive the Golden circle, one of Iceland’s most popular routes. The first stop is Þingvellir National Park, which looks just like a scene from Lord of the Rings. Indeed, Tolkien was fascinated by Iceland, having read many of the local sagas and tales. He even created a Viking Club at University. There’s snowy peaks, frozen lakes and a whole bunch of Mordor looking areas.
From there we headed to Haukadalur, the area containing two famous geysers: Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir is dormant, but the other one erupts every few minutes and is just as impressive. We hung out at the gift shop for a bit and purchased our usual magnet. Then we also decided to buy a Puffin, as we are big on penguins. There are puffin colonies in Iceland, but they’re not around year-round.
We saw some gorgeous ponies on the way to our next stop, the Gullfoss waterfall, which is HUGE. And so cold. The water sprays up and envelops you into an icy blanket. I’m sure in Summer it’s quite lovely, but in mid-April it’s still unbearable, so we didn’t stay down there very long. Lastly we drove by the Kerið volcanic crater, a bright blue lake in a shiny red, blue and green hole!
After a good night’s rest, we set out for a little Reykjavik tour. The traditional houses are very colourful, even though they are made out of corrugated iron or concrete. Our flat was quite close to the famous Hallgrimskirkja church which looks like a giant organ from the outside. There’s also a statue of Leifur Eiriksson in front of the church. He’s the famous Viking that first sailed to America, eons before Columbus did. There was also some dude dressed as Thor hanging out by it, ready to have his picture taken by tourists.
By the edge of the water, there’s also a statue of a Viking ship, and there’s some really cool graffiti around the city. For lunch we had an Icelandic hot dog which is mostly lamb with some pork and beef. It comes with onions, sweet mustard and remoulade. And it’s really good! I love remoulade, and I wish I could get it in Britain!
In the afternoon we decided to go to a spa. Everyone always talks about the blue lagoon, but that’s outrageously expensive for a pool and there’s plenty of natural hot water sources in Iceland that you don’t have to settle. It was really cool, with lovely views of snowy mountains and super hot water to run into in between walking around in the cold. We tried to go into the sauna, but I don’t like them too much.
That night, we had a Northern Lights Tour planned. They let you know beforehand if the night is going to be good and if lights can be expected to be seen. If you go out and don’t see any, they try to take you out on the next night. We wore everything we brought on top of each other and wrapped up tight to go out. They pick you up by bus and then you go outside of the city to an area where the sky is meant to be clear. We spent the drive trying to warm up, so that when they stop to look, you can go out and try to find lights.
Now April isn’t the best time of year to see them, and we knew that, so it was nice when on the second or third stop we did see some white-ish streaks in the sky. There was also some faint greenish tint, but unfortunately nothing as striking as the photos you see. We kept running in and out of the bus, trying to warm up but also wanting to check as soon as someone yelled “ooooh”.
Dan really wanted to go to the famous black beach near Vik, so we set out with the car after sleeping in a little. The further away we got from the capital, the colder it got, so we had to stop at a supermarket and I bought some tights and a sweater because I wasn’t gonna last long (even though I was already wearing a sweater). We got there around lunchtime and it was soooo windy and cold that we chose to seek refuge in the restaurant first.
After a delightful lunch we headed out in the icy blast and walked up to Reynisfjara beach. GoT fans will know it well, as it features in several scenes. The cliffs at the base of the beach look like an organ too, much like the church, or remind you of KitKat pieces! There’s also a grotto where you can go in and take some good photos. It’s a funky sight for sure, and I can understand why they used it for TV! It’s equally eerie and impressive.
On the way back, we happened to drive past Skógafoss, another famous waterfall. There’s steps on the side so you can climb on top. We decided to attempt the climb, but OMG it was the hardest thing ever. So many steps! So high! So out of breath! But totally worth it.
Dan had wanted to drive to a glacier, but we never made it as the weather started to turn and, on the way back we even got caught in a snow storm, seemingly out of nowhere. Suddenly everything turned white! We found out there was a Taco Bell nearby and Dan just had to go! And if you still don’t believe me that things are expensive, we ate for 35$! But Iceland has very little agriculture, so they even have to import the simplest items like onions.
We’ve already said we’ll come back one day, because there’s plenty more to see on the other side of the island and we’d like to have another try at the Northern Lights!
Pictures: author’s own