Iceland: Reykjavik

 

Blurb

Me and Bev or is it Bev and I? Well we wanted to go to Iceland for quite some time, the allure of the northern lights and blue lagoon is what appealed to us the most. However delving into the sites and what you can see and do in Iceland sounded better and better as I was putting together our itinerary. Iceland is a location of natural beauty and has a small population, so you never feel like it is crowded or busy. However it is an exceptionally expensive place and it reflects this in the food cost and tour costs. Did I enjoy Iceland, a little bit, would I return – yes – because we hadn’t explored all that it had to offer. What did I learn – choose the time when you go to Iceland carefully folks.

Facts and Figures

A lot of my friends actually went to Iceland this year and you can get some great deals. One friend got a return flight from London Luton for £60, I was thinking he must’ve had to stow himself away in his luggage to get a ridiculously good deal like that and another friend got a package consisting of 5 days B&B, northern lights tour, golden circle tour and breakfast included for £500 which I thought was a really good deal.

Initially me and Bev looked at flying locally and the price was £140 but as Bev had to wait for her annual leave to be confirmed, we had to book last minute and the price shot up to £300 so we decided to look for an alternative and found flights for £139, we drove up to Manchester and stayed in her aunties house which was lucky, as she even took us to the airport too. So if you do decide to go to Iceland then see if other nearby city airports offer a better deal.

We then decided against booking a golden circle tour and northern lights tour. Instead we rented a small hatchbatch automatic car as I was feeling brave, Iceland has snow, the UK sometimes has snow; same difference right. Nope. Although roads in Iceland are exceptionally well maintained, the blizzards and snowstorms we encountered made me feel like we were in the Day after tomorrow film – at one point I remember driving down highway 1 and the snowstorm was so bad, I could only see white. I thought this might be the end, me and Bev could die in a tiny shite Suzuki swift.

Now I don’t think renting a car is a bad idea, it is very common for foreigners to drive across the Icelandic roads because they are very flat and straight plus you could save a huge amount by touring yourself. However for some things, you might want to consider booking a tour. We decided to book a tour to Jokulsarlon glacier and ice cave but this was cancelled due to the snow storm – my friend and his partner went to another glacier but had a pick up from Reykjavik, in hindsight, although it was more expensive, you might as well splash out for the experience.

Lastly the room, we decided to go for AirBnb – they should give me a loyalty card! We stayed in a private room in the hosts house, it was cheap and a very pleasant experience. I do think that the hotels are expensive but if you have the cash and want to stay in something more luxurious then go for it.

Sites

  1. Hallgrimskirkja
  2. Sun Voyager
  3. Harpa Concert Hall
  4. Golden Circle (I’ll attach the driving route below – not all sites listed but main ones)
    1. Kerid Crater
    2. Geysir
    3. Gulfoss waterfalls
    4. Selfoss waterfall
    5. Pingvellir National park
  5. Perlan Museum and Observatory
  6. National Museum and House of Culture
  7. Laugavegur street
  8. Day trip Vik
  9. Ice cave – Jokulsarlon – Vatnojokull
  10. Blue Lagoon
    1. Fludir secret lagoon
    2. Laugarvatn lagoon

Perlan Museum – Ut Blain

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Simulated Ice cave

We actually landed and went straight to Perlan, it was good as we landed early afternoon then collected our car rental from SADcars, the actual car provided was not what we had booked but a similar option (we opted for a vw polo but got a Suzuki). The actual car was ok and studded snow tyres are provided, I would be inclined to suggest an alternative company but SADcars was ok.

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Sculpture outside Perlan – or are they frozen people?

Perlan museum closes at 7pm and we had prebooked the observatory and also dinner at Ut blain which was on the top floor – if you have ever had dinner at the Gherkin (30 St Mary in London) then it has a similar vibe and design. I would highly recommend getting an all inclusive ticket for Perlan museum which includes their Ice cave tour and observation deck – for some reason we only booked the observation deck but I think it is silly why they don’t just offer the museum entry + observation deck ticket as their only ticket, but I guess people love choices. The guided tour in the ice cave was good and gave you a taste of what an Ice cave is like but the tour guide said the simulated cave is ten degrees colder than a normal ice cave as they have to keep the ice cool enough to not melt.

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Inside Perlan – Ut Blain

We strolled up to Ut blain afterwards and enjoyed some good food, I believe the bill came to £70 but personally I thought it was one of the best meals we had in Iceland.

Hallgrimskirkja – Sun Voyager – Harpa

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Hallgrimskirkja – that angle though

Hallgrimskirkja is a famous cathedral located in the heart of Reykjavik, the Sun voyager sculpture and Harpa hall are not far and you could easily see all three sites in the morning then either stroll through the city or choose to go somewhere else.

The itinerary had it all planned out but I did not account for the change in weather, so my advice would be – if the weather is looking good and the roads are looking good, head straight out of the city and explore the other areas like Vik or do the Golden circle tour, because if you choose an unlucky day and have poor weather, you may not be able to make it back home if you venture out and the roads start to get closed off. I warned you!

The cathedral itself is named after a clergyman and had a lot of information about his life and also his wifes. It is a beautiful architectural structure and people said that its design was to mimic Icelands mountainous and stone structures. There is an option to go to the top of the tower for 1000 ISK but do not bother, the price and view is not worth it – the actual entrance to the cathedral is free and worth a wander.

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On the way to Sun voyager, we passed the Harpa building, which has an amazing hex glass design. There is a café inside and also you can buy a ticket to watch an interactive video, there is a tourist information office inside and two souvenir shops.

The sun voyager is one of the most beautiful art structures I have seen, especially against the backdrop of the sea and mountains. There is a blurb about the Sun voyager and the artist Jon Gunnar conceptualised the design hoping to create an image of a dreamboat toward hope and light but others have theorised that it was a boat which carried the dead into the afterlife.

Golden Circle

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Kerid Krater – Frozen lake version

We did a shortened tour as we had to cram it due to the change in weather. The drive was quite relaxing as the weather that day was good. We only went to see Kerid crater, Faxi waterfalls, geyser, Gulfoss falls and part of Thingvellir national park. Definitely recommend renting a car as the tours do charge a mint.

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Epic Pano Gulfoss waterfalls
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Faxi Waterfalls
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Geysir

Blue Lagoon

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So we finish our golden circle tour and Bev wanted to grab a bite, we were running tight on time because we had to cram everything together. Unfortunately as things didn’t go to plan due to the weather. Bev said the Blue lagoon was only 14 minutes from Reykjavik on the GPS and I was thinking…is it? I decided to look up the route on my phone when we sat down in Kaffivaginn and it was actually 50 minutes, I was fuming! We had to get our food to go and then I blasted it to Grindavik where the blue lagoon is located and we arrived 50 minutes past our designated time but they were so chilled about it, they just let us in. I would go for the basic package, as there isn’t really anything special about the other packages but if you bring your own robe or rent one, its definitely a good idea. The basic package included entrance and a free mud mask and you get a cool wrist band to lock your locker and also purchase food/drink with and pay at the end of your session.

The lagoon itself is a nice experience but you might want to check out the other lagoons which are not as well known such as the secret lagoon and also laugavatn geothermal spa (also cheaper if you are on a budget).

Unfinished

So due to the weather, we were actually stuck inside for two days and went to the national museum and culture house. The roads were closed off and I was frantically checking road.is to see if the roads would re-open. We decided to go to the city centre and just explore more there as the roads there were being cleared and I had a mishap where I literally broke the ice in a lake and plunged in, I had to walk around the national museum with soggy pants!

Our plan consisted of visiting Vik and going to see the famous black beach and also driving to Jokulsarlon and take part in a guided tour of an ice cave, which was cancelled.

We’ll definitely return to see more of Iceland but I think I would rather return in the Summer when the weather is better.

Food

This holiday was more of a food tour this time round, we tried a lot of the recommended eateries and Bev chose some really pricey restaurants but she did love the food. I’m more about substance and she is more about style and taste.

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Our first meal was at Ut Blain, we got the salmon to share then I had cod and Bev had shellfish soup. Really really tasty and overall meal came to about £70 including a pint of Gull.

We also visited a “cheap eat” which was reykjavik chips, simple idea. Order small, medium or large chips with a range of sauces. Medium chips were £8 and I thought meh, they’re just chips but they were actually really tasty and super crispy. Definite great place to chill out and have a snack.

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We also went to Icelandic street food, we had one lamb soup and one shellfish soup – both really tasty and there was a catch – free refills – I mean that is mental, however I would recommend get a fishermans fav and one soup and then you can refill the soup and try both styles.

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Fancy meal at Forrettabarinn, bill came to about £100 and was a tasting menu, not my favourite meal as the food lacked some flavour but was nicely presented.

Vegetable soup, curried lamb shank and sea trout

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Hot dogs at Baejarins Beztu, really famous hot dog stand in central reykjavik. The hot dogs are cheap, £2-3 a pop. The beauty lies in the hot dogs which are made from lamb meat and the sauce it comes with. I really enjoyed this as a snack but if you are on a budget, grab a hot dog and a reykjavik chips – budget meal.

Golden Circle Driving Route

  1. The Geothermal Energy Exhibition, Hellisheiðarvirkjun, Iceland
    1. 24 minute drive from Reykjavik
    2. Open 9-5pm
    3. Geothermal museum and experience
    4. 1450 ISK basic tour
  2. Crater Kerid
    1. 32 minutes from geothermal exhibition on route 35
    2. 800 ISK for 2 people
    3. Volcanic crater filled with water
  3. Pjorsardalur Valley or Faxi Waterfall
    1. Pjorsardalur 50 minute drive from Kerid
    2. Faxi waterfall 30 minute drive from Kerid
    3. Pjorsardalur to faxi 40 minute drive
    4. Pjorsardalur is an area of valleys and natural waterfalls. Beautiful scenery and vast
  4. Gullfoss Falls
    1. 20 minute drive from Faxi on route 35
    2. Free
    3. Iconic waterfall
  5. Geysir
    1. 10 minute drive from Gullfoss
    2. Free
    3. Erupting and dormant hot springs
  6. Laugarvatn Geothermal bath
    1. 20 minute drive from Geysir
    2. Geothermal bath available – the Fontana
    3. £26 entry fee
  7. Pingvellir National Park
    1. 40 minute drive from Laugarvatn
    2. Free but car parking fee of 500ISK
    3. National beauty
  8. Home

 

Top tips

  1. Think about which season you want to travel to Iceland in and check general weather for the month you are going – towards the end of Summer may be better and Bev suggested September
  2. Rent a car with 4WD – spend a bit more and you wont spend ages trying to get the back end of the car out. It will also save you costs if you drive round yourself
  3. Ice cave tour- get one with transport included, spend the extra money and save yourself the hassle, it really isn’t worth saving £40 extra pounds
  4. Look at the weather carefully when you are going and when you are there. Vedur and road.is were really useful in helping us look at the weather forecasts, it is really important as it can have a huge effect on your trip and you can even plan around it, and still finish your itinerary
  5. Take a credit card and minimal cash. I actually only took £120 and had cash leftover, Iceland is very developed and everywhere takes card, it’ll save you worrying about exchanging money and have leftover
  6. Have the right clothes- waterproof jacket, fleeces and walking boots are essential due to the terrain and weather. Invest in good brands, especially if you are a keen holiday goer or trekker as they will last.
  7. If you are on a budget, I would recommend taking snack foods for lunch; bars/nuts and bread. We took cup noodles and had this for lunch, which helped keep cost down. There are some cheap eats listed above.

 

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Can you see the hole I made

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