At the beginning of the year, I set myself the challenge of travelling somewhere, anywhere, every month of 2017 and for the month of February I chose to visit the very cold, but very beautiful Iceland.
Seeing the Northern Lights has always been on my bucket list, so when Wow Air announced, last year, that it would be offering direct flights from Dublin to Reykjavík, I booked a trip almost immediately after.
Before I go anywhere, I try to find out as much about that place as possible, but information isn’t always that easy to come by, especially if you’re looking for specific details. So, with that in mind, I put together this blog post, so you can get all the information you need about Iceland.
I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I did writing it, and I hope you at least pick up one good tip to help you on your travels.
Tip 1: 3 or 4 nights is plenty time for you to see all of the sights and do all of the main tours in Iceland.
The flight from Dublin Airport to Keflavik Airport in Reykjavík was just over 2 hours long. Wow’s airplanes are brand new and the air hostesses are so friendly. They even let my husband and I move into the exit rows so we could stretch our legs (tall life). I had arranged airport transfers in advance with our Groupon package deal (see below) and it took about 40 minutes for us to get from the airport to our apartment in the centre of Reykjavík.
Tip 2: Our flights were approximately €250 each however, when we were on the flight another passenger told us he got his seat for €99 in a sale, so definitely keep your eye out for that!
We stayed at the Luna Apartments on Amtmannstígur 5 (the reason why I’m pointing out the name of the street is because there a multiple Luna Apartments in Reykjavík, so be mindful of this) and our apartment was absolutely gorgeous.
It was a 2 bedroom apartment (there were 4 of us in total) and it cost just under €1000. It was spotless clean, fully equipped with a kitchen, fridge, washing machine and anything else you could think of. I’d definitely recommend it and the best part is, it’s right in the heart of Reykjavik. If I had to pick one flaw, it’d be that the floorboards were quite thin and let’s just say, the people staying above us weren’t very light on their feet!
Tip 3: Considering how expensive it is in Iceland (I’ll get to that part later), I strongly advise that you stay in an apartment rather than a hotel. That way you can do a grocery shop and cook your own meals, as opposed to eating out all of the time.
We visited Iceland in the second week of February, in the middle of their winter and there wasn’t a moment that went by where I wasn’t freezing, but in fairness, I’m always freezing! In saying that, I thought it was going to be a lot colder. I was literally buying ski gear at one stage, but Darren told me I was overreacting, and that it’s more or less the same as Ireland. Lo and behold, he was right. It was just as cold as it is here however, the difference was that there was a really strong wind which absolutely nearly cut me in half when we visited the Blue Lagoon (more on that below). However, the weather was quite mild in comparison to other years according to the locals. We were told that the place is usually covered in snow at that time of year. There was no snow to be seen until we went outside of Reykjavík, into the countryside and up the mountains. It did snow on the day that we visited the Golden Circle which created an amazing setting.
Tip 4: You do not need ski trousers and goggles going to Iceland in February, the weather was grand! You do need warm clothes though including hats, scarves and gloves.
I am extremely picky when it comes to food, especially when I’m away from home. Due to this, and the cost of eating out over there, (we had a look at some of the menus whilst walking around Reykjavík and you’d be lucky to get a meal for less than €100 p/p), we did a grocery shop every second day and cooked our meals ourselves. Disclaimer: I did not cook a single thing because, I can’t.
Tip 5: One of the air hostesses told us that BONUS was the cheapest place to shop, so that’s where we went. There are loads around and there was one right around the corner from our apartment. It sells everything (like our supermarkets here in Ireland) and the fruit and vegetables were always fresh.
Considering Iceland is factually the 4th most expensive country in the world to live in right now (see here), the following shouldn’t be a surprise. I had heard that it was very expensive and let me tell you, it is extortionate.
To give you a couple of examples, it is normal to pay €6 for a small coffee (an Americano, not even a fancy one!). For a croissant and a coffee it cost €13 and Darren paid over €9 for a pint of Guinness (it was his one and only!).
Tip 6: We had booked our trips beforehand and cooked for ourselves every day, so we actually didn’t spend a whole lot of money over the 4 days! I’d advise you to do the same.
Things to Do in Iceland
As I said above, I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights, so we were always booking that tour. The Kardashian’s trip to Iceland also brought the Blue Lagoon to my attention, so I needed to see that and since I absolutely love nature, I knew that the Golden Circle tour would be right up my street.
Luckily for me, Groupon had an offer, which worked out at €345 for 2 people, that covered all of these tours (as well as airport transfers). This offer is gone now but you can book directly with Reykjavik Excursions. They were brilliant to deal with and were so quick to respond to calls and emails throughout the trip.
The Groupon ticket only covered transfers to the Blue Lagoon, the only way you can book tickets for that is through the official website (link below).
Tip 7: Keep your eyes peeled for Groupon deals, you could save yourself a bundle.
The Blue Lagoon
The highlight of the trip for me was the Blue Lagoon. You know the way sometimes you see a photograph of a place and when you get there it’s not quite as pretty? Let me tell you, no photograph I’ve seen of the Blue Lagoon has captured how beautiful it really is. I was in awe of it and I’m not one bit surprised that it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and a research facility looking to find cures for skin ailments using the mineral rich water. The silica and sulphur is supposed to be amazing for your skin and is reputed for relieving people with skin conditions such as psoriasis.
It’s worth noting straight away that you must book your tickets here in advance for the Blue Lagoon. I didn’t know this which meant we only got ours the week before. I’m saying ‘only’ because nearly every day we were there, it was fully booked out. We were lucky; we got a 2 hour slot, from 7pm to 9pm, which for me was enough. However, you can get an early morning slot and stay there until the night. If that’s your plan, you need to book as far ahead in advance as you can.
You get a band on your wrist when you go in; this is what you use to pay for things at the bar. Yes, there’s a bar in the Lagoon and, using your wrist band, you pay for whatever you drank when you’re leaving. As well as a bar that serves drinks, there’s also a mask bar. Depending on whether you have a standard or premium ticket, you will get one or two masks. The first one is the silica mask which you leave on for 10 minutes, wash it off, and then go back for the algae mask. We had a standard ticket, with which you’re only supposed to get the silica mask, but he gave us the algae mask too (I’m not sure if they usually do). Both the silica and algae are taken from the water in the Lagoon!
The night that we went, it was freezing cold and I mean the cold actually hurt. You have to have a shower (naked… but nobody checks, obviously) so you’re wet too when you first step outside. When we went outside in our swimsuits, I had never felt cold like that in my life. Then you get into the water, which is on average 38 degrees Celsius, and the warmth is so comforting. I just floated on top of the water for ages. The water beneath me was so warm and the wind above me was so cold, the combination of the two was so relaxing. I was so content the whole time that I was there, which is unusual for me because I get bored very easily.
My GoPro wouldn’t work that night for some reason (it’s fine now) and to be honest, I explained this on my Instagram, that was a blessing in disguise because I was entirely present in the moment, completely mindful of the experience and not partially focused on trying to get photographs. Darren got a couple on my Canon camera so at least we have some. Although I don’t need photographs to remind me of how amazing the experience was. It was very memorable to say the least.
Tip 8: You will be told to put conditioner in your hair beforehand. Listen. The algae and silica, that are so amazing for your skin, dry out your hair. This makes washing and drying it afterwards, for the next couple of days, a real nightmare.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a marketing term given to 3 very popular tourist destinations in Iceland: Geysir, Gulffoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. The trip was 8 hours long in total and it flew through.
On the way to Geysir, we stopped at Friðheimar which is effectively a greenhouse full of tomatoes! This makes it sound boring but it was very interesting. The lady who greeted us, and told us the history of the greenhouse, was very charismatic and enthusiastic; she set a nice atmosphere and buzz around the place. Before we left, we had some tomato soup and coffee. This was a lovely little surprise. I had seen Roz Purcell visit here and I knew I’d like it so I’m delighted we got to tick that off the list too.
A Geysir is a hot spring, created by earthquake activity, which occasionally erupts (as high as 70 metres into the air). When I say ‘hot’, I mean boiling as the water can be as hot as 100 degrees Celsius. Eruptions can be infrequent and, in the past, they have even stopped for years! So we were lucky that we got to see one and even more lucky that I was able to live stream the eruption on my Facebook page! One of the most impressive things about Iceland is that the whole country is run on geothermal energy.
Tip 9: Bring a packed lunch.
Gullfoss Waterfall is the most famous one in Iceland and one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. It is breathtaking, so majestic and the noise of the water gushing is so therapeutic. There’s not much else to write on this but as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words.
Tip: There is an upper and lower viewing deck and each gives you a unique view of the waterfall so definitely go to both if you’re visiting.
The Northern Lights Tour
I think it’s important that people realise that you’re not guaranteed to see the Northern Lights because I thought it was a given. You will already know this if you followed my trip on Snapchat (livelavishlycom) but this is the part where I tell you that I (it kills me to type this) didn’t get to see the Northern Lights and I was absolutely heart broken. Unfortunately, the cloud cover was too bad and Mother Nature was not up for performing on the night that we went searching.
I was so excited. The bus left at 9pm and brought us up the mountains. It was pitch black and so it would have been amazing if they appeared but, they didn’t. The deal was (and it is this way for all tour operators), if we didn’t get to see them, we could go back out the next night, and the next, and so on. But every night thereafter (and I booked it very early on in the trip for that reason), they cancelled the tour because there was just no chance of seeing them due to the weather. Anyway, I didn’t dwell on it, it just means that we’ll have to visit somewhere else to see them. There’s always a bright side.
Tip: Wrap up well. It is freezing cold at that hour and do not get your hopes up!
Thingvellir National Park
This place is home to some of the most beautiful scenery (a Lord of the Rings kind of look) that I’ve ever seen. However, overall I was disappointed with this part of the tour. That’s because it was only afterwards that I found out this was the place where you can see the European and USA tectonic plates meet above ground, which I wanted to see!
Tip: Ask somebody to bring you to where the plates meet because otherwise you’ll leave without seeing them!
On the one day that we didn’t have anything booked, we hired a car. We didn’t have a plan, we just wanted to make the most out of our time there so we wanted to go exploring. The car cost about €60 for the whole day and once we got it, Darren just Googled places to see in Iceland and the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall came up, so we got on the road.
It was about an hour and a half to reach the Waterfall from Reykjavík and it was worth every single minute. The main Waterfall (there were loads of tiny ones around it) is huge and so beautiful. There are steps all the way up to it and they bring you right underneath! That was an incredible experience. I even broadcasted via Facebook Live when I was underneath it because pictures just can’t capture some moments. The best part is that it’s free.
Tip: Bring a raincoat because you will get absolutely soaked!
Iceland is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I think the whole country should be classed as a wonder of the world. I was so impressed with it and, if you love nature as much as I do, I really think you should add it to your bucket list. It is expensive but trust me, it is so very worth it.