Iceland is quite honestly a world of wonders and is such a great trip especially if you have a handful of days holiday. We planned our trip over 5 days and 4 nights, this allowed us to visit the West and South part of the country. I wished we had planned for a week, as we would have liked to have driven further across to the East and North of Iceland too. We were restricted by finances, as Iceland is quite pricey, so we decided to plan for South-West visit this time and plan for a North-East next time.
Wednesday- Arrived in the evening into a snowstorm which Ernie had to drive through to get to our apartment in Reykjavik
Thursday- Drove out to the waterfalls Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Vik beach with the black sand which is surreal! We then went to see the glacier Jokalon in the late afternoon and drove back towards Reykjavik chasing the Northern lights on our way!
Friday- We took a city day and visited the sites around Reykjavik including the frozen pond, Hallgrimskirkja church, Harpa concert hall, the Sun voyager sculpture, Pufa mound as well as the penis museum! The city itself is colourful and quirky to walk around with loads of sculptures and wall art to snap some photos of. We were lucky to see a lovely layer of snow around the city which looked awesome with the harbour backdrop. The city has many cosy soup and cafe places as well as vegetarian restaurants which was perfect for us.
Saturday- This day we did the Golden Circle, visiting the tectonic plates in Thingvellir national park then heading to Geysir and Gullfoss Falls, driving round and down to the Kerid crater and finishing off the daytime at the geothermal museum. In the evening we went to the Blue lagoon and had a lovely meal at Glo Vegan resturant in Reykjavik.
Sunday- We flew home on this day but managed to fit in a visit to the Perlan Observatory and spent a couple of hours in cafe Babou, which is a must visit!
Day 1– Snowstorms and Car Rentals
We hired a car from Avis and collected it when we landed at Reykjavik airport. The guy who took Ernie’s passport noticed it was Lithuanian and he himself was from Lithuania and so they conversed in their home language. When it got the the part of explaining the functions of the car Ernie said ‘ it’s probably best to speak in English now so that I fully understand how to use the car!’ We drove through a snow storm to get to our apartment hired through Air B n B, I thought we might die but the road between the airport and the city was well gritted and well lit. Choosing a car had been a challenge, when we researched this many people suggested that we’d need a Range Rover or some other big 4×4 to be able to drive some of the roads. However, for the Golden Circle and for the South road a car is fine and the roads are suitable even throughout the colder months
DAY 2 – Southern Route
Left – Skógafoss- Many of the waterfall droplets refract light making rainbows around them.
Middle – Chasing the Northern Lights. We stayed outside Selfoss after tracking the lights on an aurora hunter: https://www.aurorahunter.com/northern-lights-forecast.html . After tracking online we knew we only had this night where the sky would be clear enough and the aurora would be strong enough to observe. On this night we stayed out late camping in the car for a couple of hours and after seeing little lights Ernie woke me up to say he thought he could see something green. The green light became stronger and then started to move in a snake like manner, changing shape and pattern. It was just fantastic! In Iceland I found out what makes these lights appear. The sun releases particles that are electrically charged and these particles race their way past the planets in our solar system, by solar winds, until they read us (around 18 hrs, that’s how fast the particles are moving!) When they get to our atmosphere they collide with gases which in turn makes the aurora. The reason why it is only seen in the North and South poles is because the Earths magnetic field is weaker at these points. In other parts of the Earth the electrically charged particles are deflected by the Earths magnetic field. I also found out that some other planets in our solar system have their own auroras too; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune all have their own uniquely coloured auroras. Pretty interesting right?!
Right – Whilst driving between each sight there are plenty of places to pull off and take in the scenery
Left – Seljalandsfoss, you see so many waterfalls as you drive around Iceland and we managed to stop off at a few on our journey.
Middle – Jökulsárlón Glacier, as you approach the glacier for a good 30 minutes you can see part of the glacier on your left, you can also spot some waterfalls along the edges of the cliffs as you drive this road towards Jökulsárlón.
Right – Vik beach on the South coast of Iceland. The beach has black sand because of the minerals in the volcano and from lava fragments. It is formed by the rapid cooling of lava when it has come in tact with the sea.
Day 3 – Exploring Reykjavik
There is so much to explore in Reykjavik, unfortunately not all of it can be marked on the map above but what is great about this city is it being walk-able. From our apartment, which was located to the right of the city, we were able to walk to all of the places we wanted to visit in 1 day. This included a walk around the Akranes harbour that you can see in the North of Reykjavik.
There’s a cool mound around near the harbour which is called Pufa, you can climb this giving you great views of the snow topped mountains as the backdrop to the sea. The Sun Voyager sculpture, Hallgrimskirkja church and Harpa concert hall are definite sights not to miss. Scenery from the church viewing platform is wonderful. There are endless cafes a restaurants, I’ve heard that some of the best fish dishes can be found here, although being veggie we did not find it tricky to find suitable vegetarian restaurants and would highly recommend Glo.
Day 4 – Golden Circle
Most people’s highlight of Iceland is the Blue Lagoon and this is also number 93 in lonely planets ultimate travel list, however I found the lagoon overpriced, very busy and a little commercialised. I much preferred exploring the waterfalls and craters. That’s not to say it isn’t a place I wouldn’t recommend going to, I think you’d feel a bit bad if you visited Iceland and didn’t go to visit the Blue Lagoon. The best part of this day exploring for me was seeing the geothermal area with hot springs, active geysers & bubbling mud pits. Geysir and Strokkur are the two geysers to spot, you only have to wait for 5-8 minutes to see the 30 meter Strokkur geyser erupt.
The Kerid crater was so big, the pictures don’t really show how big it was. The water at the bottom of the crater had frozen over and people had managed to climb down and walk over the ice. We saw photos of the crater in the summer time, it looks much more colourful and made me want to visit Iceland in the summer months. Another great reason for visiting the crater is that not as many tour buses come here so there were less people. Gulfoss was the widest waterfall we saw on our visit and there were quite a few people around, lots of coaches coming in from the city, it was also quite windy here so we didn’t stay too long. The tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park are definitively worth a visit, it’s a lovely walk around the national park and there are a handful of bridges and narrow paths to adventure around.
Day 5 – Learning and Relaxing
This was our last day in Iceland and we had a late afternoon flight back to London. We visited Perlan which is a museum as well as a architectural structure that shouldn’t be missed. It was well worth paying for each of the exhibits within. When we visited the exhibits included an ice cave and an aurora planetarium show.
We then spent the rest of the afternoon in Cafe Babou which is the quirkiest cafe of collectibles I’ve ever been to, well worth a visit and make sure you view the upstairs nooks as well as the downstairs.