So this is a post I’ve been meaning to write for almost a year. A year ago I was in Iceland with C having an amazing time, it will definitely be somewhere with a special place in my heart! Last week I shared what I got up to in Copenhagen so this week I thought I’d share Iceland. I love researching places before I go away and Iceland was definitely a well planned holiday (I had a colour coded spreadsheet!) So I thought I’d share our top Iceland excursions/tips and what we loved doing in Reykjavik. We went for a week as we flew from Bristol and they only flew once a week. We are really glad we did the week as we had so much we wanted to do! I wrote a post on eating and drinking and how to save money as everyone says Iceland is expensive. You can find that post here.
A few recommendations if you go in winter like we did. Take thermals and layers it will be cold. UK hats don’t keep you warm enough especially for watching the northern lights, if you’ve got a wooley hat you’ll want one that’s also got a thinsulate type lining. We found our hands got the coldest so really good quality gloves are great! I also swore by my waterproof trousers. They were great for the days spent walking around outside and kept me warm and dry. I’d also recommend walking boots as it makes negotiating the snow easier and your feet are kept warm and dry.
In iceland there are two main operators, Grayline and Reykjavik Excursions. We booked almost all of ours through Reykjavik Excursions. Both were similar prices. With the tours you get picked up from your hotel on a mini bus and taken to the main bus station where you then join the coaches. The streets are small so the big buses can’t easily navigate them. We didn’t have any issues with any we booked.
Golden Circle (link to tours)
There are quite a few different options with this tour and lots of adds ons you can do which is great if you are pushed for time whilst you are there or you can do the shorter version of it which we did where you either go in a morning or afternoon. As we had a lot on we opted for the shorter one. The longer one also takes you to a green house for tomatoes where I believe you get tomato soup.
Is an unusual place due to it’s tectonic plate action. Here the plates are pulling apart on the surface so you can be in a no mans land area. It’s also where the parliament used to be which you can see in the photo below.
These are amazing to see. The power of them is amazing. And look how blue the water is in the one’s that are still. There are quite a few inactive geysirs and one that went up regularly as we were there. Seeing the water bubble as it was preparing was crazy. It’s so strange how hot the water is when it’s freezing surrounding it!
Lastly on the Golden Circle tour is the Gulfoss waterfall. This is amazing. This water fall is absolutely massive and drops in two stages. As you can see it was totally snow covered when we were there but from photos it looks amazing in Summer too!
We did these in combination with the Blue Lagoon trip. With the blue lagoon trip you can add other tours on to it or do it on your way to and from the airport if your short of time ( we did this tour). We absolutely loved these. You get driven out to the centre get kitted out in overalls, gloves, helmets and some waterproofs and jump on a vehicle. We decided to share one but you can pay extra to have your own. You do need a driving licence to drive these as you do go on roads sometimes. You go out with a guide and follow him along lava fields mostly but sometimes you have to cross roads. Theses can really pick up speeds. I terrified C by getting it up to 60km/h and not slowing down particularly well to go around corners!
Now this is a must in my opinion. I was really sceptical to go. I thought it was such a cliche and maybe we should go to a less well know one but C convinced me we should go and I’m so glad he did. We paid extra to upgrade so we got a drink each, towel hire, face masks and some products and I’m really glad we did. The blue lagoon has a great system where you’re given a band and on there you can purchase drinks from the swim up bars and then pay on the way out! The milky blue water is amazing. It’s so toasty in there. It’s totally relaxing and as we went at dusk we got to be in there as it went dark which was great. Top tip for ladies slather your hair in conditioner and try to keep it dry as the water can dry out your hair otherwise!
This was the trip we didn’t do with Reykjavik excursions as they didn’t offer what we wanted. We paired the Lava Tubing with the Snorkelling and did this tour. We knew we wanted a holiday packed with adventure so Lava Tubing sounded great. As iceland is so volcanic there are loads of empty lava tubes to explore (C would probably tell me I’m wrong with that, he’s a geologist but meh!), where we went you did a circle under ground. This was so good. You slid down in to the tubes. They were varying heights, in sections you could stand and other places you were on your stomach going through. We were glad we booked through viator for this as other groups we met in the cave didn’t seem to be as well equipped. We were given head torches so our hands were free where other groups were having to carry them. Small things like that I think make a difference!
Now this may seem like a strange one! Snorkelling in Iceland. You get to snorkel over the Mid Atlantic Ridge. It’s an amazing experience as you snorkel through glacial water which is crystal clear with perfect vision I believe about 40m deep. Obviously it’s not warm as you can see from my suit being frozen but you are put in a basically duvet onsie (over your clothes!) then in a dry suit. Your hands, feet and face get cold as they are in wetsuit type material but it’s not too bad! It’s worth it for the views. We have a underwater camera but we were worried about dropping it so we left it behind.
Our third and final adventure tour was the Glacier Hike. This is the one I really appreciated my waterproof trousers on and the one that scared me the most! We did the Glacier Hike as part of this tour but if you’re short of time it’s another one which can be combined. This one involves a bit of a drive and we were glad we packed lunch as there wasn’t many options. You do stop at a garage/ restaurant type place where you can buy stuff before but we were glad we took stuff.
This was the trip that gave me an adrenaline rush and kinda scared me. I’m clumsy it’s really slippery and parts of it are up and down hill to climb (not to steep but when it’s on ice!). Before you head on the glacier you’re given crampons, ice picks and harnesses. It takes some getting used to using the crampons efficiently to stamp your feet to get a good grip but it was really good up there and our tour guide was great!
This is a natural path that has been eroded in the glacier. It was interesting to see the different formations. The grey you see is ash from volcano explosions!
We saw these waterfalls on the way back from the glacier hike but they can be found in other excursions. I had really wanted to see these when we were planning. Skogafoss is amazing. We were lucky and were treated to a rainbow across it as well!
This was the waterfall I wanted to see the most. Some times through the year you can walk behind it but it was too icy whilst we were there! It’s still pretty impressive to see!
Our final tour was to see the Northern Lights.We chose to do the normal Nothern lights tour (this one), we did this because if you pair it with other options you don’t get another chance to see them. If you book on this tour if you don’t see them you can rebook on it for free as many times as you like until you see them. Our first night we didn’t get to see them so messed around with the cameras and long exposures. This trip you’ll get cold on. You basically spend 2-3 hours outside waiting to see if they appear. It’s bloody cold! The guys keep checking forecasts and find the best location for the best chance to see them and keep in contact with other buses out searching so they can move to another location if needed.
The second time we went out we went to Thingvellir to try to see them. We waited around 3 hours here as a guide could see what looked to us like a cloud in the sky but he was sure it was them. As our time on the tour was up we still hadn’t see anything. As we drove back to Reykjavik the tour guide regularly stopped the bus to see if it was developing.
As we got about 5 miles from Reykjavik we took a short stop and we got to see them. They developed into what you can see below. It’s honestly such an amazing experience. I can’t put into words how special it is too see them. This is the tour I’d most recommend as I’m sure you could see them yourself but the knowledge of the tour guides definitely increases your chances of seeing them!
Things to See in Reykjavik
Reykajavik is pretty small but great to walk around. It has a main shopping street and a few streets off that. It’s really easy to get around and great to explore. We loved the vibe of the city. It felt clean, safe and fun.
The Hallgrimskirkja Church is somewhere you have to see. It’s such an amazing structure from the outside and gorgeous inside. The design is relatively modern and is apparently based on the basalt lava flows.
You can go up to the top of the church and it opens up so you can get views all over Reykjavik. It really is amazing up there. I love how colourful and non uniform all the buildings are there.
How amazing is the Organ!!
Harpa Iceland Opera House
The opera house/ concert hall is not far from the main shopping street. It’s got amazing architecture and is built out of glass hexagonal columns. It gives off amazing light patterns inside if the sun is shining through.
|iceland opera house|
|Iceland opera house|
The Sun Voyager Sculpture
This is alongside the harbour and cool to see. Around this area there are also a few museums we went into but I’ve forgotten the names now!
|The sun voyager sculpture|
Shot of Brenivin
This is the national drink of Iceland. Although C’s face doesn’t show it he actually enjoyed it. So much so we bought it in the airport! It’s made from potatoes and cumin I believe! One to warm you up after a cold day!
|Shot of brennivin|
Shop with slide
Now this is a random one but there is an outdoor clothing shop on the main street that has a slide in! We are probably easily pleased but loved this. More shops should have it. There are also stairs if you aren’t big kids like us. The shop also had a moat like fish pond downstairs, how cool!!
|Shop with a slide!!|
So there is my whistle-stop tour of Iceland! Have you been? Is it on your list? Any questions just ask?