Iceland had been high up on my hit list for a very long time and the Northern Lights have always been my Bucket List front runners, so to say I was excited about this trip is a complete understatement! In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a trip as much as I was this one. Even packing the many, many, many extra layers and new winter coat to brace the chilly climes didn’t dampen my spirits. Today’s post is a photo diary from our 5 day visit, which will shortly be followed by a more detailed guide covering my recommendations for things to do, what to see and where to eat in the land of ice and fire.
Oh Reykjavik. A little controversial maybe but I found Reykjavik to be more of a grower than a shower – in the sense that it didn’t immediately knock my socks off. On first sight during the journey from the airport, the metal buildings didn’t provide much in the way of curb appeal but after only a morning spent exploring, the City’s charm quickly began to shine through. There are cute nods to Scandinavian architecture and the metal clad buildings have an almost flat pack, toy town feel to them. Very quaint like.
And shall we talk about the colour for a minute? A rainbow of colour flows throughout the streets in the form of brightly painted houses and street art on pretty much every corner. Just look at these…
And then there’s the views. Oh Iceland you beautiful son of a gun.
We started our first full day off with a bang, heading straight to the Blue Lagoon. Out of all of the things we did during our trip, this just has to be my fave. For those of you that haven’t heard of it, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, located in a huge, secluded lava field. The water temperature is a rather wonderful 37°c but as we moved around we found hotter and cooler areas too. There’s indoor saunas, natural algae face masks and wait for it, in pool bar (oooh yes). The face masks are oh so incredible. The Tom Hardy of skin care if you will. They left my face feeling silky soft and super hydrated. What I loved most of all though, was the way the water seamlessly melted away into the steam. So dreamy. After applying our facemasks and grabbing a prosecco from the bar, we found a little nook and kicked back for a good three hours or so. It was sheer bliss and the sun shining over the snowy mountain backdrop made it all the more magical indeed.
Fun fact time: to see the Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis) you need 3 things: darkness (little to no light pollution); clear skies; and most importantly, a whole lotta patience. September to March is the best time to see them, these are the months with full dark nights.
I tried not to build my hopes up as a few of my friends had been left disappointed after not managing to see them. I checked the weather forecast (about 200,000 times) prior to the trip, and knew the second night was our best chance to see them. We booked all of our excursions with a great little company (IGTours) – I would highly recommend them as they’re much more personal than the bigger company’s that take coach loads out at a time.
The mini bus arrived around 9pm and after picking up a couple of other people, we headed out in search of the Northern Lights. Our lovely guide Freja was really knowledgeable and filled us with bags of info about the lights and Iceland itself. The tour took a slightly chaotic turn when the mini bus got stuck in the snow whilst Freja attempted to turn around on a mountain trail. Luckily we were stranded in an bloody awesome spot and after an hour of waiting (and freezing our butt’s off) something started to appear. Admittedly, at first I was convinced that what Freja pointed out as ‘slight activity,’ was actually just a cloud but Lady Luck was most definitely on our side and it wasn’t long before the sky exploded. Translucent green rays were dancing around above us and it was even more magical than I’d imagined it to be. A totally surreal experience. Freja kindly brought along hot chocolate for everyone to sip on and bring some life back to our hands, whilst enjoying the incredible light display.
If I can give you one piece of advice if you’re heading out to see the NL, it would layer up. Layer like you’ve never layered before! Being out in the Icelandic snowy mountains, in the middle of the night is a whole new level of cold.
The beaut view from our apartment window at sunset. Lake Tjörnin sits in the centre of Reykjavik and during winter, is completely frozen, apart from the area that locals de-ice for the ducks! We had such a blast skating around this beautiful little spot although some areas of the ice did make me slightly nervy!
Not going to lie, I was definitely hearing Circle of Life… everything the light touches?
Our final day was spent on the Grand Circle Tour that loops around Southern Iceland. We started the day off at a geothermal area in Haukadalur to see the Geysir explosion. Pretty impressive, huh? This wasn’t the highest explosion we saw either.
Next on the agenda was the Gullfoss waterfall and I’ll start by saying that this picture doesn’t even begin to capture just how incredible this was. I’d never seen anything of this this size or power before, and beyond that, with the icy blue water, snowy mountain and sun kissed rainbow, it was oh so beautiful.
The last stop was Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park. There’s a different landscape from every angle, it encapsulates all that is wonderful about Iceland. Game of Thrones fans may also recognise The Wall from scenes in The North.
Iceland has a population of 300,000 people (most of which live in or around Reykjavik). We drove for 7 hours on the Golden Circle Tour, passing very few other cars and the occasional empty Icelandic holiday home. But rather than feeling isolated, there’s an overwhelming stillness within these undisturbed areas. I can’t quite put into words how amazing it was – a peacefulness like no other.
Last but not least, was a quick trip to the Perlan dome in Reykjavik. We moseyed around the panoramic viewing deck, taking in these beautiful scenes that stretch right the way across the city from every angle. Such a great way to end our trip!
This trip was unbelievable. It’s one of my all time favourites and one I will remember forever. We only scratched the surface of all that there is to do, I would love to go back at some point to follow the ring road and see more of the amazing landscapes. Let me know if you have any questions or if you’re planning a trip, I’d love to hear about it.