On the 30th December 2017, my boyfriend Sam and I went to the land of lava, fermented shark and the blue lagoon… otherwise known as Iceland. We had the most wonderful time, in the most beautifully unspoilt country. I wanted to share how we spent our days, our recommendations and some of our amazing pictures.
We stayed for 4 nights in Reykjavik, in a lovely apartment hotel called ’41 A Townhouse’, which was slap bang in the middle of the main shopping, eating, pretty much everything street called Laugavegur. We couldn’t have wished for a better location after booking pretty last minute and as we all know, if you want to stay somewhere over New Year…. book early. We didn’t, and many of the hotels were full, but luckily this looked gorgeous, and it really was. Complete with the most delightful receptionist who constantly gave us friendly recommendations, it was the ideal place for us. I didn’t know much about Reykjavik before we went as it wasn’t massively on my travel radar, but I can honestly say it is my new favourite city. Completely charming, quirky, trendy (such a Mum word) and unique, it was full of individual shops, restaurants and cafes that we totally soaked up. We didn’t have one bad meal, with some of the most delicious burgers (obvs), soups and breakfasts we’ve had.
So I’ve digressed slightly into a complete love fest for Iceland, but I’ll take you back to the beginning, when we first arrived.
Day 1- 30th Dec
We landed into a dark Reykjavik at about 3pm local time and went to pick up our rental car. The first thing I noticed was that it was FREEZING. Now I wasn’t expecting tropical temperatures, but it really was nippy. After stuffing all of (my) over-packing into the car, we set off for the apartment. Luckily with cars, Sam is like a fish to water, so we were absolutely fine finding our way, and to be honest; the roads weren’t massively complicated anyway. It took us about 40/45 minutes, and when we arrived, we parked on the road outside our apartment. One thing we found in Iceland was that parking is SUPER easy, we were panicking that we wouldn’t get a space but everywhere we went there was plenty of room, which made renting a car that much more of a benefit. We dumped our stuff in the room, and set off to explore Laugavegur and the centre of Reyjavik, making our way towards the famous church, probably the focal point of the city, Hallgrímskirkja (don’t ask me to say it). It was spectacular, and seemed to just appear out of nowhere. Absolutely huge, super high and incredibly beautiful, we walked around there for while and at this point I realised that Reyjavik was somewhere special.
I know I have been pretty detailed up to here, but I just had a moment of ‘Romy people don’t care about your holiday as much as you do…..’ so I’ll be much more brief from now on… thanks for hanging in there.
Day 2- New Years Eve.
After a tasty breakfast at a quaint little café called The Grey Cat, (apparently Bjorn’s favourite breaky- not sure but we’ll go with it), we explored the city fully, shopping, eating and doing everything we do best. One thing I was absolutely amazed by was the vast expanse of sea just on the edge of the city, just the most incredible landscape. From the graffiti covered buildings, to the multi-coloured houses, I was loving Iceland more and more by the minute. One thing we discovered on the first day was how little daylight hours they have in winter. It didn’t get fully light until at least 11 in the morning and started going dark before 3, which restricts you slightly, and you end up feeling sleepy at about 5, but we managed. We went back up to the church, where a quirky waffle van parks every day, and sat watching the sun setting while we stuffed our faces with Belgian waffles smothered in Nutella…. Romantic? Not so much, when you have to eat so fast to avoid your fingers dropping off from being out of your gloves. Cue Nutella chops and HUGE mouthfuls. After freshening up, we set out in search of dinner, and struck gold with a restaurant that had a no-show reservation which meant we had their table- AMAZING! And the food was too. After this, we went back up to the church (sensing a pattern here…) and watched the never-ending firework display done by the whole city, it was PACKED. The streets were completely rammed, and luckily we got there a bit early so we had a really good spot. They were beautiful and it was the perfect way to enter 2018, in the freezing cold with the person who always lets me use his phone to video the fireworks for Snapchat when my phone runs out of battery. No I’m kidding, I promise I didn’t watch the fireworks through my screen, pinky swear.
Day 3- New Year’s Day
Waking up in 2018 with a (reasonably) clear head felt pretty good, and we set off driving around The Golden Circle, a route taking us to several natural phenomena. I won’t describe every single place in detail, as you can literally type ‘The Golden Circle’ into Google and entire websites dedicated to it come up, but I will say, each one was uniquely wonderful in its own way. From the vastness of Pingvellir, to the spectacle of Geysir, we loved road tripping in a different way than ever before, not knowing what each destination would bring. We ended our day at The Blue Lagoon, potentially my favourite moment of the whole trip. We arrived at 4, and discovered that once you check into the Lagoon, you can stay as long as you want, which meant we had a relaxed 3 and a half hours in there! We were given two different masks at the Mud bar, a complimentary drink at the Lagoon bar, and spent the next few hours chatting, swimming and soaking up the peaceful atmosphere of a place that we will never forget. We ate at the Lava Restaurant in the Blue Lagoon, and once again, the food was amazing. Sam and I got very excited for the rest of the meal after the most insane selection of bread came out just after we sat down…. (the best part am I right?). It really was magical, and although we arrived in the dark, we got a different sort of experience of the Blue Lagoon and floating around in the water watching the stars was a truly memorable moment. To top it off, we saw the Northern Lights driving back to the apartment, which was just the best start to 2018 we could have wanted, I mean what more could Iceland give us???!!
Day 4- 2nd January
On our last full day in Iceland, we spent the morning walking around the city, and spent the afternoon Lava Caving. I know, I hadn’t heard of it either, but apparently it’s a MUST DO for Iceland. Before I tell you about it, just another reminder of the BLOODY FREEZING WEATHER. Now I’m ready…. So our lovely tour guide picked us up, and he took into the middle of nowhere (there’s probably a more geographically specific location, but bear with me), and he firstly showed us several different hidden gems, such as the black beaches and a geothermal area that smelt like rotten egg. And we loved every minute! He then took us down into the lava caves, which are lava tubes from volcanoes that have turned into caves which you can explore without getting burnt to a crisp. We didn’t plan on doing any expeditions before we came to Iceland, so unfortunately I was wearing Mom jeans, however I still managed to clamber through some pretty narrow spaces, avoiding the sparkling icicles hanging down from the ceiling. It was an activity completely out of my comfort zone, but I’m so pleased we did it, and we took some pretty amazing pictures, before finishing off with a hot chocolate in the car! We spent our last evening after dinner in our favourite bar near the apartment, drinking mojitos and laughing at each other’s hat hair.
It was the most amazing holiday, I never expected to love Iceland so much and I most definitely would go back, as I realised how much there was left to see. If you’re still here after all of my ramblings, I didn’t quite succeed on making it shorter but thanks so much for reading and I hope it has inspired you to put Iceland on your travel list. Just before you go, here’s my top tips for Iceland.
- If you’re going in the winter, bring a WARM coat, and I mean WARM. I know this seems obvious, but I genuinely thought my coat was snug enough, and it bloody wasn’t.
- If you can, rent a car- we found the freedom and adventure so exciting and it meant we could travel about on our own terms and at our own pace… also driving in Iceland is BEAUTIFUL, the landscape is just breathtaking, so you don’t quite get the same feel on a coach trip. Plus, you can sing as much Pitch Perfect at the top of your lungs as you want.
- Book the Blue Lagoon before you go, and spend as much time there as you can. You won’t want to leave.
- Take a thick moisturiser…. the cold holds no prisoners.
- Order the house white- EVERYTHING is expensive, so if you fancy a tipple, order the cheapest thing- except if you want a mojito…. Then always go for the mojito.
- Be up and out by 9 even though the sun isn’t up, and there’s virtually nowhere open for breakfast. The sunrise is worth it.
Food you HAVE to eat-
- The Grey Cat- the croquet madame was delish.
- Sand- the breakfast there was amazing. We both had Eggs Royale and it came with kale… I know I know, but it was actually delicious, I even surprised myself.
- Sandholt bakery- the sandwiches, just the sandwiches. And the cakes, and pasteries…. You get my drift.
- Snaps Bistro- delicious fried ravioli & mouth-wateringly rich beuf bourguignon.
- Lebowski Bar- we didn’t try the food but fab mojitos and a really lively atmosphere, plus they have this sign on the door…. ‘If you are racist, sexist, homophobic or an asshole… don’t come in!’ I think that sums it up.
Thanks for reading, here are some of our pictures!