Iceland is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited. The air envelops you with a calming embrace, meanwhile, the scenery induces oohs and ahhs. It’s been over six years since I set foot on the island that caused travel chaos around the world, and I’ve not been able to shake it from my mind since.
Over two trips, I’ve spent a total of eight days visiting, I’ve only seen the South West pocket of the country. However, I’ve waxed lyrical about its beauty and encouraged many friends to visit.
So. What makes Iceland so special? It’s otherworldly. An isolated place, with incredible history, culture and open people. The moon-like, Volcanic terrain and unpredictable geysers stop you in your tracks, visually. The epic landscape has featured in Game of Thrones, and thus increased the country’s popularity amongst tourists.
If you have a limited time, I’d recommend hiring a car. We took the Golden Circle tour with Reykjavik Excursions and while it was really interesting (the tour guide gave us a brief history of Iceland), the freedom to move about more and travel further afield would have been good. Gulfoss, the Geysir field, and the stunning Pingvellir Lake were included in the round trip. We visited the Blue Lagoon (obvs) and it was a relaxing experience if a little pricey. There are many alternatives – less touristy hot springs you can visit – the Blue Lagoon gets a lot of flak, but I liked it.
My friend is a whale fanatic, so we donned full body cozy overalls and ventured out on a whale watching excursion. The whales weren’t playing ball and we only saw them briefly, but it was a pretty special experience. If you’d like to see Reykjavik from the sea, experience some of the coast and drink the best hot chocolate, book yourself on. It’s around 3 hours and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Post whale watching, we had lunch in the harbour. I had fish soup and it was a euphoric experience. Hofnin is a smart restaurant overlooking the small boat harbour, quaintly decorated, serving traditional and fusion dishes. The fish soup was a rich, glossy, brown broth with tender langoustines and shavings of fennel. The bread… Crispy sourdough with smoked salt butter. Six years on and I can still taste the first spoonful.
When we returned a couple of years later, I was saddened to see that the restaurant wasn’t open for lunch, so I ventured round the corner to the Sægreifinn round the corner where I ate another delicious, if less refined, bowl of fish soup. Low and behold, when I left, Hofnin was opening up. That was the day of two lunches and I don’t regret a single moment of it.
Other things of note in Reykjavik… The church, Hallgrimskirkja is quite imposing on the outside, but warm on the inside. Take a trip up the tower to see a spectacular view of the city. The Opera house (Harpa) is amazing for a wander, even round the atrium.
- Download the ‘Appy Hour’ app, it shows which bars are hosting happy hour and at what time.
- You can only buy alcohol (stronger than 2% ABV) from the Government run alcohol store Vinbudin.
- The Blue Lagoon is near the airport, so tie in a trip when you’re arriving or departing.
- Bonus supermarkets are cheaper than 7/11 stores.