Where did I go: Reykjavik – Iceland
When did I go: January 2014
This is a trip I did last year, before I started the blog.
Iceland, a country of contrasts, the land of fire and ice, where beer is £7.00, hot water is free, one of the most educated populations in the world, but also the highest proportion of people who still believe in Elves.
Recently, Iceland has become a fashionable destination, with everyone from Lord Sugar’s apprentices to Beyoncé taking a break there. It’s been on my list of places to visit for a long time.
Our holiday was booked through Icelandair and included flights, hotel and several excursions.
Thursday: 23rd January
1600: We arrived in Reykjavik after a 3 hr flight from London. Icelandair is a decent carrier, a budget-ish airline. You get seats reserved at no extra cost, a passable inflight entertainment system, but you need to pay for headphones, food and blankets.
As the flight comes to Iceland it goes over a glacier and you get your first experience of fire and ice with the white of the glacier contrasting with the black volcanic earth.
From the airport we hopped on to the skybus which took us to our hotel.
We were staying at the Fosshotel Baron in Reykjavik – it’s decent 3 star hotel with views over the bay.
Hot water from the showers were directly from the hot springs and had a strong smell of sulphur. The cold water on the other hand was from fresh springs and clear and clean as any bottled mineral water.
Friday 24th January
0900: Breakfast at hotel. It’s a decent continental breakfast, with toast, croissants, muffins and cold meats. But in an Icelandic twist, they have pickled fish (no, really) for breakfast. There is also a Nordic selection of rye bread and cheeses.
1100: On our way to the blue lagoon in the coach.
1145: Arrived at the lagoon. There is a bit of a queue to get in, mainly because the reception only had 2 tills open despite the fact that 3 coach loads of tourists had just arrived. Our lagoon packages allowed us bathrobes, a locker and a free drink at the lagoon bar. They also give you an arm band which you can use to buy food and drinks throughout the lagoon and you settle the bill upon leaving.
The blue lagoon – it really is as beautiful as the photos on the brochure. With the outside temperature at Zero degrees, you can see the steam rising from everywhere, as if it were a massive pot of boiling water. Most of the lagoon is a soothing 38 degrees Celsius but the temperature does vary in different parts of the lagoon.
The lagoon is man-made. The geothermal water is from 2000m below the Earth’s surface and is drilled by the nearby Svartsengi power plant. The lagoon holds 6 million litres of water and is renewed every 40 hours. The water contains Silica, Algae and Mineral. The water itself is actually a Milky white colour, but the sun reflecting off the silica gives its unique blue colour.
1515: Heading back to the hotel.
1600: Arrive at the hotel to disappointing news – The weather is not good, so our excursion to look for northern lights has been cancelled.
1900: Having dinner at Frederick V restaurant. There is no set menu here; or rather, it’s a different menu every day. You get a choice between a 3 course, 5 course or 7 course meal. Each course is a surprise and accompanied by a different wine or beer. All the produce is local to Iceland and (with the aid of a map of Iceland) the waiter will tell you where exactly the food is sourced from. The menus are on the expensive side, but worth it.
Saturday – 25th January
1030: Stop 1 is the Thingvellier national park, where you can see the Great Atlantic rift, that is pulling Iceland apart. This is the volcanic rift that runs between the European and American tectonic plates.
Next we set off to the hot springs at Haukadalur. This area is full of little bubbling hot springs and mud pots.
The big Strokkur geyser erupts every 8 minutes and is a sight to behold. It simmers away for 7 to 8 minutes, and then without warning, WHOOSH!
Haukadalur is also home to “The Great Geysir”. The first Geyser to be described in printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. (In fact, the English word “geyser” is derived from Icelandic “Geysir”). The water goes up to 70m when the Great Geysir erupts, but this only happens very rarely now.
Next we head to the Gullfoss (Golden falls) waterfall. The Hvítá river falls in 3 cascades into a crevice creating the beautiful falls.
As you approach one the falls, the crevice is obscured from view, so that it appears that a mighty river simply vanishes into the earth. On this winter day, a large part of the falls is frozen solid and it looks like a vision from a Nordic fairy tale.
After 10 minutes at the falls, a blizzard suddenly comes down, so by the time we have made the 10 minute walk to the car park, we are all covered in snow and look like Yetis.
1700: Back to the hotel.
1900: Dinner in a pizzeria.
Sunday – 26th January
1000: Walk along the waterfront.
1200: Checkout from hotel and head to airport.
1630: Flight back home. Goodbye Iceland. I’ll definitely come back and see you again.
Some facts and thoughts
Some information about Iceland that I gathered during our trip :
- Iceland’s population is about 300,000 – about the same size as Cardiff.
- ~200,000 of Icelanders live in Reykyvik.
- Iceland has a >80% literacy rate.
- Car ownership is 2 cars per person.
- Everyone speaks really good English.
- Things are 20% to 50% more expensive compared to the UK.
- Television has many UK and US channels, including BBC Entertainment.
- Reykjavik airport has positioned itself as a hub airport for travel between North Europe and North America. With cost effective flights and the offer of trips to the blue lagoon during stopovers, I can see it becoming ever more popular.
Have you been to Iceland? What did you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.