17 Mar

Iceland – Reykjavik  

17th March 2016 - duration 1 week 

After America, Iceland has always been my most dreamed about place in the world! After briefly learning about Iceland in school in a class called ‘European Study’s’ I became obsessed from the age of about 15. I dreamed I would one day visit this newly formed, and still actively forming volcanic landscape… and today, I finely touched down in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. On this trip there’s Me, Steven, and our two best friends Daryn and Jayne. 

Two main pointers about Iceland as a whole. Firstly it is very beautiful, even during our hours’ drive by coach from the airport to the main city of Reykjavik where our hotel is located, it is clear to see the barren moss covered lava rock fields stretching across the vast plains, it looks somewhat prehistoric. All the cracks, crevasses and caves hidden throughout the land are amazing alone! Secondly is very expensive compared to most other countries. This is largely down to the fact, Icelanders import most of their goods such as food and drink as they don’t have any fertile land for farming. Iceland's currency is called Króna (ISK). Consumers are also hit with a higher rate of tax. So be prepared to pay exceptionally high prices for everything.

One our first day in Iceland we tried to buy alcohol from the local supermarket and soon realised we had an issue, there was no alcohol, franticly running through the streets of Reykjavik we find ourselves in a hat shop, yes, a hat shop where a lovely local lady calls us a taxi and sends us to a local liquor store 10 minutes away, where we can purchase alcohol from. Panic over, we have alcohol for our pre-night out party. Just a note, were in our 20's and from Newcastle. We head out for our night out around 8pm which is normal for us. Not a lot of people at the bars at that time, turns out the locals don’t come out until about midnight because they know the prices of drinks. We paid about £5 a beer during 'happy hour' and £7 per pint of beer after that, and we didn’t just have the one, but it was nice. The main bar we spent our evening in was called ‘Kiki’s’ address; Laugavegur 22, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Believe me when I say you will see if from a mile away! I personally recommend this bar, it really does cater for everyone, a really fun night with a dance floor too. If I remember correctly its open until 4:30am on Fridays and Saturdays, that’s a good night! 

I must say at this point, we are already discovering the locals of Iceland are very friendly people. In fact, they are voted one of the happiest country’s in the world. 

The next day, I wake to peal the pillow from my face and vividly remember trying an Icelandic Kebab in the early hours… must have been a great night…. Now let’s go explore this magnificent country! 

Hallgrímskirkja, The church on the hill. Located Hallgrímstorg 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland. I believe this to be one of the most recognisable churches I’ve seen. Hallgrímskirkja is 73m in height. Entry into the church is free but you do need to pay about £6.50pp to go up if you wish to experience the 360 degree view of Reykjavik from the top. Hallgrímskirkja took 41 years to build, with construction starting in 1945 and finishing in 1986.

Hallgrímskirkja - The Church in Reykjavik

The Golden Circle tour consists of three stops, and we did these with our tour guide on a coach. ‘Golden Circle Tour’ - The Great Geyser Strokkur, is a geyser in southwestern Iceland. I’m sure you will know the one I’m talking of… the one that shoots huge amounts of boiling water up to 130 feet high into the sky every 5 – 10 minutes. Iceland is one of the few places we can get a look into the raw inner workings of this planet that we all live on, yet some are so keen to destroy. This is an extremely geothermal area with many pools of boiling hot water just bubbling away, if you were to poke your hand in, you’d be sure to lose your flesh. Geysir, another great Geyser is located at this sight, although eruptions are a lot less frequent, when it does go off, it can reach up to 230 feet.

One of the many Geysers

Gullfoss waterfall is the next stop of the ‘Golden Circle Tour’, Iceland’s largest waterfall, not in height but in vast span, and shear force. Being March, everything is covered in snow, so this is a beautiful site to see. A vast stretch of water cascading with immense force over snow covered lava rock. The descend down this treacherous path would be steep at the best of times but add a layer of snow and ice then you have something real fun. All adds to this incredible experience I guess.

Gullfoss waterfall 

Another stop on the ‘Golden Circle Tour’ is Þingvellir National Park. We disembark our coach to admire the views and have a short walk around. So much to take in, a vast wilderness covered by, a yellowish-brown grass, not much snow down here. I must say Iceland is lacking in the snow department... Turns out, Greenland’s the one with the snow, Iceland’s the one with the grass, bit odd.

Amazing views everywhere you look

 At the end of our tour we visit an Iceland horse show, which basically involved a talk on the native Iceland horse. Followed by some dressage and cantering around the arena, much to the small crowd’s delight. A word of warning, upon entering the dark stadium watch were your walking… I wasn’t looking and ended up walking off the end of the raised path way, down a 3-foot drop, much to my friend’s entertainment… Tore the leg off my trousers, had to walk around the rest of the day with my knee out…. Oooh memories!

Did you know that the Icelandic horses were originally brought to Iceland on Viking ships. Since then Icelandic law prevents any other breed of horse being imported into the country. Over 1000 years of no cross breeding means that the Icelandic Horse is the purest breed of horse in the world. You will see these petite, wild horses all over Iceland running against volcanic backdrops, the father you get away from the city or Reykjavik the better. You really won’t get this anywhere else in the world. 

The reason why most people know Iceland exists…. They’ve all seen those pictures on social media at some point of the Blue Lagoon, can it really be so blue and perfect… Well, yes, and better! Relax your tired soul in water that’s naturally heated straight from the earth’s core! Booom, yes please! Apply a natural face mask from the mask bar, grab yourself a drink from the in-water bar, cleanse in the sauna & steam room or bath yourself under the hot waterfall…. That’s it, I’m never coming home! Make sure you pre-book day/time to avoid disappointment. Prices will depend on the day/time you choose to come. You will be looking to pay around the £60 - £80 pp mark depending on the package you want. Check out the official Blue Lagoon website for entry prices https://www.bluelagoon.com/day-visit. There is a Lava restaurant which offer a fine dining experience. Lots of tour companies offer deals such as ‘Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon Trip’ These are great as you get to see lots in a day and get to the Blue Lagoon however be sure to check what’s included as this usually doesn’t include entry to the Blue Lagoon. Only a transfer to and from which is great if you need transport and don’t have a hire car, just bare this in mind when making your booking. There are other lagoons and pools available to visit around Iceland that are far less expensive than the, obviously main ‘Blue Lagoon’.

Blue Lagoon 

When in Reykjavik we paid a visit to one of the Local pools, Vesturbæjarlaug, located Hofsvallagata 107, 107 Reykjavík, Iceland. £6.50 per adult to use the fertility’s. Which include outdoor geothermal swimming pools, steam room, sauna and variable temperature hot tubs including one that is a refreshing 0 degree Celsius! This is a locals swimming pool about a 25-minute walk from Reykjavik’s harbour. Not a beautiful lagoon, but something different and relaxing all the same. You pass some great shops, ponds, and houses along the way.

The Sun Voyager - a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, it is a dream boat and an ode to the sun. The sculpture is located on Sæbraut road in Reykjavík. This is a fantastic sculpture for any art fan or selfie lover! 

Whale Watching, to do or not to do….. DO! Whales are my absolute favourite creatures on this planet so it was a no brainer to opt in for this tour. Pick up and drop off service available with most operators. We used a tour company called special tours, and our boat was called, Andrea. Here is a link to their site https://specialtours.is/. We paid around £85 per adult for the tour with the assurance that if we didn’t see any action in the water we could reuse our ticket another day. We were on the water for a good three hours. We were very luck to see a vast array of Mink and Humpback Whales, however this was mainly just their pectoral fins ant tails before they took their final deep breath before that deep dive and stayed under the water for up to 30 minutes. Non-decided to do that free willy style jump unfortunately. We did get a spectacularly energetic display from about 30+ bottle noised dolphins to which even the crew where even surprised. They were skimming alongside our boat with immense speed and agility, in and out the water, truly something worth witnessing with your own eyes.

Whale Watching 

The Group splits and Daryn and I decide to do deep underground, Lava Tube Caving. Cost was about £70pp and included hotel pick up. We drove for around an hour from Reykjavik, climbing up to the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a slight mountainous region. We stop the Land Rover at the side of the road on this flat Lava Rock field and get out. Armed with a helmet and head torch we make our way over to the cave entrance which is highlighted by some rope that we follow from the road. The wind is howling and the rain and sleet is burning our fragile faces at this point… get me to the cave for shelter! After a 2 minute walk, we’re at the cave system, and start our decent. Unlike any cave system I’ve been in before, a lava cave is well, dried molten lava. You can see on the ceiling the drip pattern, the swirly black and red swirls on the walls where the lava has cooled and set to rock, it is truly something out of this world, or should I say, under this world! I would recommend anyone going to Iceland, pay a visit to where earth as we know it began! Iceland really is a geologist’s wet dream! 

Whilst we were several meters underground protected from the harsh elements, Steven and Jayne are out horse Riding, for those Americans reading, horseback riding. Experiencing the rocky and rugged terrain Iceland has to offer on a horse the size of a loaf of bread. Passing scenery seen in the series ‘Game of Thrones’ you can see why this ancient land was selected for such a show. They tell me they had basically been left to their own devices on two semi wild horses, which I find hilarious. Nothing like a small group tour. 

The evening comes and we all regroup. We go for our evening meal, nothing to fancy, one of the restaurants in downtown Reykjavik. With an average two course meal you will be expecting to be paying about £20pp without drinks. Add a bottle of wine and you will be paying easily an extra £20. Iceland is well known for its pure drinking water so don’t waste your money on bottled water. Just ask for tap water at a restaurant as its as fresh as you can get. If you’re going out for the day, just buy a reusable bottle and fill up as you go.

 Walked into a hotel bar and there, on the bar sat a sign with the words ’Fomented Shark and Shot’ we asked the barman about this odd offer and after a bit of presaging from our friends, Daryn and I decided to dive right in. Out comes the tub of fermented shark or hákarl in Icelandic, diced into small cubes and a shot of…. something extremely alcoholic. Upon placing the cube of rotten shark flesh in my mouth I could taste this putrid fishy odour that almost knocked me out… I had to stand up, from my stool to try and chew it. I almost retched. Looking at Daryn and seeing his red race with what looked like tears falling from his face wasn’t helping my situation, he was obviously also in an unconformable place. Finally swallowing it and downing the shot. Most discussing thing ever! When I asked the barman why they eat fomented shark, the barman replied that they don’t. It’s really just something for the tourists. The vile taste is partly down to the high levels of ammonia found in urine which sharks excrete through their skin. Mmmm tasty. 

Moving onto something wonderful… did you know that Icelanders believe in Fairy’s and Elves? I have heard many story’s but none like this one. Icelanders believe these magical creatures live under rocks all over the country. They’re not dismissed as nonsense ether, over half of Icelanders believe in them in some form I am told. A protest to stop a new main road being built for fear it would disrupt the Fairies homes, ended up being diverted around the Huldufolk - the hidden peoples, ‘village’. Our tour guide himself confessed that he himself was a believer.

Did you know Iceland offers over 10.000 Waterfalls for you to go and hunt out and enjoy.

Iceland has about 130 volcanoes with 30 of them still being active today! You may remember back in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull began to erupt, propelling colossal amounts of ash into our atmosphere causing havoc within European airspace. 

The Great Geyser Strokkur

Before leaving the UK, we went to GO Outdoors, the walking and camping store and stocked up on thermal everything. Walking pants, tops, fleeces, jumper’s, waterproofs, gloves and hats. Spent a fortune before we even left. The lad who worked in the shop even had input saying ooo Iceland, you’ll need xyz, when we asked him where he went in Iceland, he said he hadn’t even been. After our whole week in Iceland, we didn’t need anything we bought from that shop. The temperature in Iceland was just as warm as back home in Newcastle, England. Bar-one day… -2 to 4 degrees Celsius.

When you’re here in Iceland, I would recommend that you stock up in the likes of a Bonus Super Market and try avoid a 10-11 convenience store as you will be left penniless. Try to book all of your tours well in advance to get yourself the best deals. Here in Iceland be prepared to spend a lot of money, but don’t be put off, I would up roots and move over hear in a heartbeat, this truly is the most beautiful heart-warming country! 

Thank You for reading my blog on Iceland and I hope this has inspired you to visit this breath-taking country. 


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