So Iceland, what an amazing place! I’ve barely got back and I wanna go again, the main aim of the trip was to go in search of the Northern Lights, although upon a little research I found there was an awful lot more to Iceland. We stayed in the capital Reykjavik and seems we got a fairly good deal at £389 with Iceland Air for return flights, 3 nights in 4* accommodation, transfers and a ‘northern lights tour’…
The first day we spent getting to know the town, walking around, getting lost, buying the token Icelandic knitted hat, all fairly normal stuff but the city was lovely even in the blinding rain/sleet/hail/snow! First call was the famous Bæjarins beztu, an uncannily famous hot dog stand, Bill Clinton himself and various members of Metallica have eaten here don’t ya know (not sure which is the more impressive of those)! But after sampling a hot dog with ‘the works’ I can understand why it was named ‘Best Hot Dog in Europe’ by the Guardian a few years back. I was slightly puzzled by the common comment that the hot dog is Iceland national food, but after my time there I can see why, they are everywhere and proved a cheap and tasty snack every time.
We had been warned so many times about how expensive Reykjavik was so were expecting to spend big and constantly be aware of our small budget, however we found this couldn’t have been less true, due to a crash in the Icelandic Krona not so long ago we found that mostly everything was the same price as England, if not a little cheaper. The only thing we found to be expensive was Alcohol, so we had a token shot of Brennevin and nothing else, it may be the nation’s favourite spirit but to me it tasted like high alcohol content disinfectant! Something I can’t stress enough is to eat your main meal at lunchtime, you can eat the same meal for a fraction of the dinner price. We ate at the Islenski Barinn or Icelandic Bar’s Restaurant (original name I know) and although hot dogs are national icon for Iceland, there is so much more to their food! We had some beautiful langoustine, a reindeer burger and a mink whale steak. Now before you get out your pitch forks, mink whale are overpopulated in this region and a large amount of research is done to ensure there are enough whales to sustain hunting. And it is sooooo worth it, the whale steak was tender and juicy and amazing. There is also regularly Puffin on the menu in Iceland though it is seasonal and we couldn’t get hold of any to try! And the price? The whale steak, which comes with soup of the day to start and fresh bread was £5, I had a sneaky peak and on the dinner menu it was closer to £30. A few other traditional Icelandic snacks include Skyr (thick Icelandic yoghurt), Rye bread, Harðfiskur (Wind dried fish, slightly chewy but very tasty with butter) and Hákarl (fermented shark, I’m not one to shy away from trying any food but I had to give this one a miss the stench is supposed to be horrific).
That evening we set out on our search for the Northern Lights, the coach was warm and comfy and as with every other coach in Reykjavik had free Wi-Fi (Bonus! If you have a phone that isn’t of the retro variety). We drove for about an hour, away from the city lights and out into the dark countryside. The weather conditions were far from perfect but the guide stopped the coach at a point where they think it is likely to see the lights, and we got out and stood in the freezing cold for around an hour but unfortunately saw nothing but some funky coloured cloud. To say we were disappointed is an understatement but we were not all that surprised, the weather conditions have to be perfect and the weather that week was poor! However if you don’t see the lights you can go on the tour again as many nights as you like for free, so we thought we may as well try our luck the next night (learning our lesson from the night before i.e. wear as many items of clothing as you can physically fit on your body) the conditions were even worse, and as we got out of the bus is started to snow, at this point I’m not gonna lie I was thinking bugger this lets go back to the warmth of the hotel. But a clear patch in the sky began to appear and suddenly it was spreading clearing the whole night sky, just moments later we saw them, for the first minute there was cheering and clapping and then silence as everyone stood in awe. It was a truly amazing and magical experience and so worth the time and effort invested. I’d recommend it to anyone!
We also visited the Blue Lagoon, a thermal pool set in a lava field just outside Reykjavik. We could see the steam coming up off the pool from miles away, queued to pay our entrance, donned our bikinis ran outside just as it began to snow and jumped into the hot brilliant blue expanse of water. Definitely an experience!
We didn’t have enough time or budget to do the golden circle or Gulfoss but from what I’ve heard they are both well worth doing, I guess I’ll just have to go back then!