Iceland: First Impressions

 

I’m going to start by saying that Iceland was one of my favourite places I visited last year. It was unusual, it was interesting and above all else it was breathtakingly beautiful. We travelled in March as part of Alex’s 20th birthday celebrations and after researching the weather, prepared ourselves   to be very very cold!

We had pre booked a hire car as we had planned on doing a self drive tour around the many waterfalls that feature in the south west of the country, no more than a few hours drive from Reykjavik where we had booked a hotel as a base. So after landing in Iceland the first thing we had to do was get the keys for the car. Finding the hire company proved to be a bit of a challenge but after 20 mins or so of trekking around in the bitter cold we eventually found a representative who gave us a lift to to our little red Hyundai we would use as our main mode of transport for the next few days. We were given the keys, a paper map, an ice scraper and a shovel, 3 of these items were needed almost immediately. The car, as would be expected, was covered in thick ice that refused to budge and mounds of snow surrounded the car making it impossible to drive off if it wasn’t shovelled.


After a good 20 mins, we finally set off to Reykjavik city center. My first impressions of the country on the drive were average. It was icy and there were a few mountains that I could just about make out in the distance – pretty much as expected. We arrived at the City Centre hotel which I can highly recommend as a great place to stay if you’re on a flying visit to the city. Its location is very central and was the perfect base for our stay. We had arrived in the late afternoon so decided to go for a quick walk around to get our bearings. Before long we found ourselves down by the Solfar (or Sun Voyager as it’s also known), a pretty sculpture which is an ode to the sun.

Sun voyager

However we were much more interested in the spectacular view we had over the Atlantic Ocean and Mount Esja. We stopped for what seemed like hours taking photographs on all our different cameras, trying to capture what we could see but no photograph would do it justice. What a view!

pANORAMIC VIEW

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The next day we set off on the only tour we had pre booked through Reykjavik Excursions (www.re.is), the Golden Circle tour. As the hotel manager told us, no one comes to Iceland and DOESN’T do this tour! We also added on an hour’s worth of snowmobiling on the Langjökull glacier. We jumped on the bus and were given a brief bit of history on Iceland and before we knew it we had arrived at our first stop of the day, Þingvellir National Park. This is an UNESCO world heritage site and it’s not hard to imagine why. It was beautiful and we were encouraged to climb to a high point in the park to take photos. We used our GoPro Hero 3+ (a device I couldn’t possibly live without while travelling now!) to take some great selfies but couldn’t spend too long up there as we had both got brain freeze from the barmy -10c weather!

We were then invited to take a stroll down a gorgeous valley from which you could see a great deal of the National park spreading out in front of you.

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Next we were separated into 2 groups, snowmobilers and non-snowmobilers and we got back on a different coach to take us to the Langjökull glacier. On the way we stopped off at a cafe to refuel and wait for our snowmobile instructors to meet us. However this cafe also sat just yards from the mega Gulfoss waterfall, one of the most famous sites in Iceland. So in the hale and wind that was so cold it felt as if it was cutting your skin, we trudged through the ice to see it. We were not disappointed! It was huge and it was one of those moments that made you feel so tiny and insignificant in the big wide world!

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After a few selfies (trying my best to smile but our faces were frozen stiff!) we headed back to the cafe, suited up in snowsuits and boarded a monster truck to take us to the snowmobiles. The monster truck wheels were almost taller than me but I suppose that’s not a hard feat!

monster truck - use this one

Snowmobiling was so fun and I’m so pleased we did it. We attached the GoPro to the back and so got quite a bit of footage. Alex did most of the driving and that was fine by me. I drove the last leg and can’t tell you how many times I almost flipped it at high speed!

Snowmobile

After an hour’s fun we jumped back on the coach for our last stop of the day, the almighty Geysir, Strokkur. When it erupts every 10 mins or so, it shoots boiling hot water up to 70 metres in the air! As we were running slightly behind schedule we weren’t given a lot of time here and were instructed to get back on the bus as soon as we’d seen it. Alex and I were last off the bus as we were sorting out the various cameras we had and so were seperated from the group. Little did we know that it was a good 10 minute walk from the coach and so we positioned ourselves in the wrong place entirely! We set up our cameras to focus on a hole in the ground that seemed to be steaming  but actually turned out not to be a Geysir of any sort, something we found out after seeing the real Geysir erupt a few hundred yards from where we were standing! We wouldn’t have minded if it had not been pouring with rain and several degrees colder than I care to ever experience again!

geysir

The tour was a whole day but totally worth it if you want to see the most famous sights of Iceland.

When we got back to the hotel we were warned of a huge storm that was set to batter Iceland the next day, not great as we had planned to set off in the car to see Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, some beautiful waterfalls we had found in the guide book. They were not wrong about the storm. In our hotel room we had a glass balcony which the storm completely detached from the hotel building and to our complete horror, we watched as it smashed on the ground below our window! However, just as quickly as the storm came in it passed and the sun came out at around 11am. After speaking with hotel staff and checking the Met Office we were told it was safe to set off. It was a very long drive but as usual, Alex handled it brilliantly, even navigating icy roads and snow storms throughout the day as we drove further into the mountains. This was my favourite day of the trip and seeing the waterfalls is without a doubt still one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced.

Seljalandsfoss

The moment we arrived we were in absolute awe of Mother Nature! We exited the car and for quite a while were the only people there. It was beautiful (even if we did get attacked by hail that was so painful I thought it had cut my face)! You had the opportunity to walk behind this waterfall, something I’m so pleased we did as you had a completely different view of it. We took a few selfies from behind the waterfall and got absolutely soaked as the wind got up. The sound of the water was thunderous and being positioned in a cave behind the waterfall was one of the best experiences so would definitely recommend to  anyone to give it a go. Be warned there is no marked footpath and it was extremely icy so I wouldn’t recommend doing it on your own as it would be very easy to fall right into the waterfall itself (something that very nearly happened to us on a few occasions!)

Skogafoss

We then drove on to Skogafoss which wasn’t too far at all and as we got there the sun appeared, creating a breathtaking view of a rainbow hovering over the waterfall. It was a fantastic sight and even now when I show people pictures they ask me why I’ve photoshopped a rainbow into the photo! It’s completely real and I haven’t even used a filter on it. I can now say I’ve seen the end of a rainbow – sadly no pot of gold was found (even though I promise, we searched that waterfall pretty extensively)!

skogafossskogafoss kiss

On the way back from our waterfall adventure we stopped off at Vik Beach. Vik Beach is one of the most serene places I’ve ever visited. We had the beach to ourselves for a good hour while we took photos and took in some fresh sea air. Vik Beach has black sand and so that was strange to see but somehow made the beach even more beautiful as it contrasted against the blue waves that rolled in and out. The gorgeous photos below were taken using Alex’s DSLR camera – a Nikon D3200.

vik beach 2vik beach 3vik beach selfie 2vik beachvik beack selfie

One of the last things we did in Iceland was visit the Blue Lagoon. After three days in the Icelandic winter, I was yearning for some warmth and relaxation. We pre-booked a package which included entrance to the lagoon, robe, slippers and dinner at the Lava Restaurant. The restaurant overlooks the Lagoon itself and boasts a menu of fresh fish and ingredients sourced locally from all over Iceland. We enjoyed a lovely meal of Cod and fresh veg as well as a glass of wine each. Leaving the warmth of the changing rooms to enter the lagoon in just a bikini and a robe was, as you can imagine, horrifyingly cold but after taking a few breaths I threw it off and practically jumped into the 38’c geothermal waters where Alex was already swimming around. It was HEAVEN. Along with a plastic cup of wine for me and a beer for Alex, we were also given a mud face mask each which we lathered onto each other’s faces, keen to benefit from the natural healing qualities we had been told about. After I washed it off ,my face felt rejuvenated and healthy, just what I needed after having the cold elements batter it for a few days! After an hour of relaxation we drove  back to Reykjavik feeling very tranquil.

blue lagoon
The only thing we were very unlucky with on our trip was the northern lights. We booked a trip as soon as we arrived that was postponed every night due to heavy cloud cover and eventually we got a refund as it was time to leave. The night after we left, people in Iceland and the surrounding countries were treated to the best and longest display of the lights in over 20 years! We were absolutely gutted but it makes me even more determined to visit Iceland again one day, as if I needed another excuse anyway!!

Take a look at the short video we’ve put together over on our YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvtFC3ffc48

M x

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2 thoughts on “Iceland: First Impressions

  1. I was unlucky with the Northern Lights last year too – I went the month before you. But I did go in 2014 at the same time and saw some INCREDIBLE ones, so it really is luck. Do try another trip back! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you! 🙂
    Iceland is my favourite country ever x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah I fell in love with Iceland too! We’re definitely planning s trip back – maybe this year. I’m quite tempted to try and visit in the summer as well just to see it without all the snow. Have you ever been in the summer? x

      Like

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