Here goes… my first blog post and it’s a hefty one as i’m diving in at the deep end with my favourite trip to date.
In November 2017, myself and a few friends stayed in Reykjavik for a long weekend to celebrate my 21st birthday. Having never visited before, I had high expectations of this trip but it somehow managed to exceed every one of them and will now forever hold a special place in my heart (after all, not many people can say the Northern Lights appeared to them as the clock struck midnight on their 21st birthday!) For full disclosure, if you’re looking for an un-biased review of what this destination has to offer, you’re in the wrong place (i’ll try my best to be more level headed in future posts, promise!)
I found something about Reykjavik really charming and welcoming from the get-go. Maybe it was down to the rows of colourful buildings dusted with fresh snow or because the local people were some of the friendliest i’ve come across. The cheerful guitar-playing viking we met within our first few hours of exploring may also have played a part! Thankfully it was never too busy or hectic either, considering it’s the countries largest city and we visited in peak tourism time.
We stayed in an apartment just down the road from Hallgrímskirkja, the church and landmark central to Reykjavik – from it’s tower you can see views for miles over the city.
Being a student, I usually do my best to make the most of my money. Iceland is generally quite expensive and while I’m sure it’s possible to do it on a budget, for us this trip was unavoidably pricey. We cut costs on food by having breakfast in the apartment and packing lunches to take with us but we wanted to see the best scenery Iceland had to offer and the easiest way for us to do that was on excursions. We went on two, a Northern Lights tour and a South Coast & Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon tour, which weren’t cheap but in my opinion worth every penny – they were the highlights of the trip and experiences you just couldn’t have anywhere else.
| Tip – One thing I would say is that planning is essential when visiting Iceland, and that’s coming from a real procrastinator! Along with preparing yourself for the weather with snow boots, thermals and disposable heat pads, I really would advise researching and booking excursions well in advance to get the most from your time (We used Gray Line Tours – which I can’t recommend highly enough!) |
Our first tour and my absolute favourite part of the trip was the Northern Lights. Although a sighting can never be guaranteed, our guide went above and beyond to give us the best experience possible, taking us to several sights, checking his radio for sightings at every opportunity and keeping us continually entertained when it seemed unlikely we would see them. If you’re ever looking for a Northern Lights tour (there are lots out there) I would definitely recommend this one! We also stopped for some soup in a little village restaurant on route which was such a nice touch. At around midnight, having been out for almost 4 hours with no sign of the lights, we were about to begin heading back to Reykjavik when they finally began to show. The Northern Lights had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and seeing the greens and pinks dance across the sky just as I turned twenty-one was magical. To top it off we actually ended up seeing them several more times over the next 24 hours (if i didn’t believe in birthday wishes before, I do now!)
The South Coast & Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon tour was also incredible. A whopping 14 hour round trip, it took some convincing for my friends to agree to go but by the end we were all in agreement that it was worth it for the most stunning views of the world’s natural wonders; Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls (photos above), Europe’s largest ice cap, black sand beaches and my personal favourite, the glacier lagoon (photos below). I can only describe the lagoon as genuinely breathtaking and we even managed to spot some seals swimming in it! As well as making for some great photo-ops, the endless blues of the ice and water were quite calming after the stressful walk down to the water (I never was a fan of ice skating!)
One up-side of our busy days and Iceland’s extremely short daylight hours during the winter was being able to see the sun rise and set on some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, something I doubt I would ever have seen if our busy schedule hadn’t forced me out of bed at the crack of dawn! The changing lighting also made for some really nice shots.
Our last stop before home was the Blue Lagoon, a relaxing pit stop on route to the airport. Steamy warm waters, a floating drinks bar and another bar just for mud masks – what more could you want?
| Tip – condition condition condition your hair. Or don’t get it wet at all. As much as I loved relaxing in the warm silicone infused waters of the Blue Lagoon, my hair did not. I’d definitely recommend drenching your hair in conditioner before entering|
Although it was a non-stop few days and we were completely shattered by the end of it, I really came away feeling like we’d made the most of it and had the trip of a lifetime. My birthday was no doubt one to remember and in case you hadn’t already gathered, I would 100% recommend Iceland to anyone considering a trip!