I’d spent years dreaming of Iceland. Years of mourning over pictures on Instagram and travel blogs, years of watching pretty little timescapes of the Golden Circle, and years of hoping that one day I get to tick the biggest thing off my bucket list and see the Northern Lights. It’s safe to say I did all of those things in the four days that I spent there, and it was the most surreal experience ever.
Hopefully this will help you plan your trip and give you a little insight on the best places to visit whilst you’re there for a few days. If not, I hope you enjoy the pictures at least, because I took a LOT of pictures.
Day 1 | Arrival
I arrived, tired as hell. But I didn’t care, I was in ICELAND! As the plane landed I was mesmerised by the blank white canvas in front of me and the deep blue sky. Was I on the moon?!
I checked out all of the best options to get from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik before I went and the Flybus was by far the best option. For 2.500 isk (approx. £18.20) it will drop you straight to the BSI (bus terminal), you can pay a bit extra to get dropped off at your hotel or guesthouse, and it has wifi which is pretty ideal. I recommend booking before you go to save any hassle when you get to the other end, you can book yours here. Some people choose to go straight to the blue lagoon from the airport and if that’s the case for you I found this sweet little deal from Travel Republic, it’s quite a steal. They’ll take you to the Blue Lagoon from the airport, pick you up after and drop you to your hotel or vice versa if you choose to go on your last day (Unfortunately I didn’t get chance to visit as they were fully booked! So I definitely recommend booking in advance).
So when we arrived everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was covered in snow. There had been a massive snowstorm a few days before that saw the most snow land that they’d ever had in February, eek. It really was like a winter wonderland.
We decided to stay at the cheapest place possible and one of Reykjavik’s infamous Guesthouses was ideal for that, it’s basically like a hostel with everything you need for self-catering, perfect if you’re on a budget like me! I stayed at the Idglo Guesthouse, it was very close to all of the main attractions and had everything I needed, plus it was a really good place to meet other travellers. I found my accommodation on booking.com, which I definitely recommend using for ease of finding cheap but quality accommodation. You can usually book accommodation with free cancellations too which always comes in handy, especially if you’re as indecisive as me!
After arriving at the guesthouse, we settled in and then set off to find the nearest supermarket to stock up on food for the 4 days as I didn’t plan on eating out much after reading how expensive it was! I went to Bonus (one of Iceland’s “budget” supermarkets), even for a budget store it was still pretty pricey, two frozen pizzas and some salad set me back £20. Nuts. After exploring the nearby parks I decided to get some kip, walking through 20 inches of snow proved to be a mission on 3 hours sleep. Zzzz
Day 2 | Exploring Reykjavik
Now that I had recovered from the lack of sleep I was ready to explore Reykjavik in its full glory. First stop was to the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, I paid 900 Isk (£6.50) to head up the lift to see the best view of Reykjavik and Mount Esja. Top tip: nobody actually looks at your ticket so you can head back up there whenever you want.
Then we walked through the streets of Reykjavik, popping in some cute shops along the way.
We spent a fair amount of time at Lake Tjornin, right next to the City Hall. The lake was completely frozen over and people were walking across it, I wasn’t brave enough so I just hung out with the birds. I could’ve sat there all day, it was so peaceful.
After a full morning of exploring I was feeling a little peckish so I decided to check out Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, a little harbour side hot dog stand I’d heard so much about when researching for my trip. And it didn’t disappoint. As recommended by several other travel bloggers I opted for the dog with everything on it for a mere £3, it was easily the best thing I had eaten there. The crispy onions were amazing. Top tip: You can buy them in Bonus stores to take home with you and make your very own Icelandic hotdogs, fyi they’re called Cronions.
Next up was the very nearby Harpa Concert Hall. And oh my, what a beautiful beautiful building, it certainly runs rings around the O2 arena. We were quite lucky to see it shining away in the sun, I mean, it really gleams. We went inside to warm up and chill out, and I discovered it was actually a really cool place to take some photos of the neighbouring harbour and mountains. Plus, there’s free wifi, so that’s always a bonus.
After a long day of exploring in the snow, we decided to call it a day and caught the bus back to our guesthouse. We could’ve walked it, but we were freezing! And the bus driver was kind enough to give us a free ride. What a legend. If you need to catch the bus a bit more in Iceland check out straeto.is (Icelandic bus company) for bus timetables and journey planners and there’s even an app you can download which proves to be really handy (search for Straeto in your app store), the timetables are a little hard to get your head around at first but once you get it, it’s pretty simple. Failing all, just ask a local, people are always willing to help around Reykjavik.
Day 3 | Golden Circle Tour + Northern Lights
I think the Golden Circle was my favourite p art of the trip, we got to see so many amazing things. I booked it through Get Your Guide, which I’d highly recommend, it was the cheapest Golden Circle Tour I could find and they picked us up from the hotel and dropped us back after! (You can book yours here). The whole trip was stunning including the drive to the destinations, we drove past mountains, frozen lakes, Icelandic Ponies, acres of snow, cute little houses. It was like a dream.
Our first stop was Geysir, what a place. The hot spring area is alive with boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur which spouts water 30 metres into the air every couple of minutes.
We watched Strokkur “erupt” at least 5 times and each time was more amazing than the last, and a truly mesmerising sight. We also got some food there, although pricey, it was fairly good. Top tip: It’s a long day without many food stops, so it may be an idea to take some snacks for the trip or a little picnic (I wish I did!)
Oh Gullfoss, nothing can prepare you for how finger-numbingly cold it is standing over watching Iceland’s most popular waterfall, but it’s worth every second. We were very fortunate to see it when it was covered in snow, which I think it added to the majestic feel.
THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK (Þingvellir in Icelandic)
I’m just a little bit obsessed with national parks AND Game of Thrones, so this was a must for me. The unique UNESCO World Heritage Site featured in Game of Thrones as the narrow path leading to the Eyrie, as well as the location of Arya’s and Sandor Clegane’s journey (pretty cool right?!). PLUS the Mid-Atlantic Ridge passes right through the park and separates the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate, which pretty much means that one part of Thingvellir is in America and the other in Europe. Mind blown. As beautiful as it was, I would love to go back and see it when it’s not covered in snow. So there’s definitely a summer trip to Iceland in the pipelines (I’m not complaining).
NORTHERN LIGHTS TOUR
If you don’t feel comfortable driving around Iceland in the snow, I’d recommend booking a tour to go see the Northern Lights. I booked with Expedia, for a mere £35, it was the cheapest deal I could find and a bargain in my opinion – you can book yours here. They picked us up from our hotel and took us out to Gardaskagi Lighthouse in Reykjanes. It was such a beautiful setting to see the magical lights, with the lighthouse in the background and the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks on shore. I didn’t even need a tripod because I could rest my camera against a rock.
Finally I saw them, and they danced for a minute or so but unfortunately they were trapped behind the clouds. But I’m just happy I got to see them. Some people go and see nothing at all. I got some pretty awesome pictures too. Top tip: There are several apps you can get on your phone that let you know when the Aurora activity is high, I used My Aurora Forecast. The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is from September to mid-April when the days are on a clear, dark night, and they’re usually most active between 12 and 3am.
I’ve posted a guide on how to photograph the northern lights for beginners, find it here.
Day 4 Last Day in Reykjavik
We had half a day to finish up in Reykjavik, so we went out for breakfast. Pancakes & bacon at the Laundromat, another place I had heard such good things about. It was a lush place to eat, fairly cheap (for Iceland anyways), and the décor was so cute. After breakfast we hung out in town and did a bit of shopping just like the locals. I picked up the cutest Iceland necklace and tribal keyring in a little souvenir shop. Then, it was time to head back to the airport to return home.
All in all my time in Iceland was amazing and I left with such a sense of serenity. I’ve been wearing my cute little Iceland necklace every day since I left, it truly felt like home, and I can’t wait to go back.
Are you planning a trip to Iceland anytime soon?
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