Louise and Jason have explored many an exotic destination with me over the years, usually requiring temperatures of 30 plus degrees rather than the bone-chilling minus 15 which they experienced in Reykjavik in January. Brrrr...
The successful viewing of the Aurora Borealis and the discovery that most bars offer nightly happy hours proved to be ample compensation!
Jason and I were discussing going to London for a few drinks for my birthday with our friends Seamus and Faye. I’m not quite sure how, but somehow, we randomly progressed to deciding the four of us should go to Iceland instead!
Trips are always made so much easier with Jo at the helm to organise everything but with Iceland being a favourite destination of hers, she was full of invaluable tips to make the most of a four-night January adventure.
We flew with British Airways who were great as always apart from their absolute failure on the food front, which they really do need to address.
Shortly after arrival, we purchased our duty-free booze, as wisely instructed by Jo, before going to the luggage carousel to find that someone had taken Jason’s suitcase and left their identical one!
After the necessary from filling and having to catch a later bus than hoped, we were a little concerned as we headed to the hotel without his luggage that Jason’s trainers, jeans, and a light jacket may hamper the planned Northern Lights trip that evening in the -20-degree winds.
However, within 45 mins of arriving at the Hotel Alda, the bag impressively arrived in a taxi from the airport. Phew!
The hotel was lovely, clean and nicely decorated, and although the rooms were small with the amount of stuff we had, it wasn’t a problem as we only planned to sleep there, and each morning’s breakfast was worth the stay alone. Fresh salmon, Skyr yoghurt with oats and berries and a selection of cooked food was all very good but hats off to the Icelandic people, who make the best bread I’ve ever tasted!
The hotel is positioned in the centre of the high street with lots of bars and restaurants nearby and a short walk to the strange church, the harbour, and shops.
The best place we ate at was the Old Icelandic on our first night, a few doors down from the hotel and probably one of the best meals we’ve ever had - it was superb.
That first evening, after being up since 4am, we were shattered and were struggling to be bothered to make the Northern Lights excursion especially with the freezing temperature and a lengthy coach journey, but we made ourselves go - and thank God we did!
Literally ten minutes after arriving at our first scheduled stop, the Northern Lights dramatically lit the sky. We were there for a while just taking it all in but could go back on to the coach to warm up whenever needed. There didn’t seem a need to go to the second stop after being so spoiled. It was very special.
For my birthday, the following day, we went to Blue Lagoon and all I can say is OMG! What an amazing experience, definitely my favourite part of the trip - and the face masks were excellent. I spent a fortune buying all the products and have been using them since returning - excellent stuff.
We had lunch at the superb Lava Restaurant, where Jo had arranged for the best table in the house, overlooking the spa. The food was excellent, as was the wine, and it even started to snow - a truly memorable birthday.
On Sunday we experienced the Golden Circle in blizzard conditions. The drive was a little terrifying, but our guide was fantastic.
We went to Þingvellir National Park, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet (or rather move away from each other) and had a lovely walk to the bottom in the snow, before having lunch at the Tomato Farm. This is a 'must do' experience, totally unique, although we did feel a bit tomatoed out afterwards - it was probably unwise having a Bloody Mary and tomato soup - but we felt it was necessary to sample!
Only the pictures can describe Gullfoss Waterfall. What an amazing view, one that we thought made Niagara Falls look ordinary.
Monday was disappointing as our whale watching trip was unfortunately cancelled, so we decided to explore and commiserate with a bar crawl. With the expense of alcohol, it is a very useful exercise to hit bars during their respective happy hours, details of which are listed on their doors. They tend to offer these at different times of the day, so arriving at the right bars at the right times means reasonably priced drinks.
A fine way to end a fabulous trip. Rating: 5 star as usual 😊 – thank you, Jo.