I’ve known Rachael and Bec since my school days and we share a passion for travel, music and great food. Optimistic that they were going to find Björk browsing the shops in downtown Reykjavik whilst the Northern Lights danced mysteriously above them, volcanos erupting (safely) in the distance and snow falling prettily, off they set on their intrepid adventure with a couple of additional guests in tow...
I wanted to bestow the birthday gift of travel upon my dear cousin Bec and so hit up the world’s best travel agent for a short but perfectly formed four-night Iceland itinerary.
Jo and her husband Steve joined us on our outbound flight from London Heathrow into Reykjavik and after three short hours and a worryingly sideways landing due to heavy winds, we found our hire car and set off for Reykjavik, a 45-minute drive from the airport.
A little soggy and tired, we were pleased to arrive at the centrally located Hotel Alda, just steps from everything that we needed to be close to for a three-night stay in a lovely superior room.
The hotel is boutique in style and has a gym, outdoor hot tub and sauna, along with its own restaurant, which served the most amazing breakfast buffet with super helpful staff.
There are a ton of great places to visit and eat in Reykjavik, although not cheap. Our meal choices included a bowl of ramen noodles at Momo Ramen down by the harbour, and the famous ‘soup in a bread roll’ restaurant Svarta Kaffid but my favourite restaurant was Rok Restaurant up by the cathedral. Delicious food.
The sights, sounds and shops in the capital made for delightful strolls too.
There is so much to do and explore around Reykjavik too and Jo made sure that we packed them all in during our short stay.
We did a full-day South Iceland tour that included a hike on a glacier into an ice cave, a visit to the black beach and several spectacular waterfalls in that region.
A huge thanks to Katlatrack Adventure Tours, a family-run, local company, who picked us up and saved us from a cancelled trip. The tour guide for the day was excellent and helped us feel safe on the glacier. They have all the wet weather equipment you need to hire - and yes, you will probably need it.
They also have a nice hub containing a great restaurant called the Black Pizza Company. No, they aren’t burnt, the crusts are actually black! The food was lovely, and we had a well-deserved chocolate brownie and beer after our hike.
The following day was an early start for the famous Golden Circle tour. We visited the mighty Gullfoss, one of Iceland's most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found in the Hvítá river canyon, the magnificent geysers, and many interesting geographic phenomena including the shifting American and Eurasian tectonic plates and the ‘secret lagoon’, an alternative to the busier Blue Lagoon, where we ended the day with a relaxing hot spring dip.
Our tour guide also happened to be friends with a local farmer, so we took a quick and fun detour to meet some Icelandic sheep and horses. This tour is a must-see to get to experience the country’s unique landscapes.
On our penultimate day, we reunited with the Shaylers and went to check out the very latest attraction called FlyOver Iceland. No spoilers, but this absolutely blew our minds and is a must for anyone visiting the city. It’s particularly great if you have a bad weather day as you get to see the entire island in 35 minutes!
Jo and Steve were keen to give us a short tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula, it being their favourite location to stay when visiting. This area is bubbling with geothermal activity and is where you’ll find the natural pools of the infamous Blue Lagoon, the Bridge Between the continents and of course, the recently active Volcano Fagradalsfjall, up which we bravely hiked.
There are several quirky boutique hotels in the area, and we spent the night at the Hotel Berg in Keflavik, just 10 minutes from the airport. This hotel is located on the harbour and boasts a naturally heated rooftop pool which made for some great stargazing.
Had the clouds and solar activity allowed, it would make a great spot for Aurora watching as there is very little light pollution in the area.
On our final night, we feasted on lobster soup, baked potatoes and locally caught fish at the wonderful Kaffi Duus, a restaurant that came highly recommended by Jo.
As a committed sun worshiper with a demanding job and a limited holiday allowance, I was in two minds as to whether I should use my precious vacation to travel to colder climes, but I’m so glad that I did and I can definitely see a re-match on the cards at some point. Those Northern Lights can’t hide from me forever!
Massive thanks to Jo and her travel-agenting skills. Where to next?