Reykjavik has got to be one of the ultimate winter destinations, whilst most places are wrapping things up for winter and going into hibernation mode, Iceland is only just warming up… (despite being very very cold)
I’ll kick off this ultra long post by saying the breathtaking views start almost immediately as you approach Iceland before landing, the birds eye view was breathtaking. Also a heads up… this post does not include Northern Lights.. but instead includes an experience which is totally unique to Iceland so continue reading if you want to know more!!!
|| Day 1 ||
The key to mini breaks and any holidays which involve cramming in as much as you possibly can need loads of prep before you actually arrive, this was one of those times.
To get the most out of the time we had here we booked a couple of things in advance… ie restaurant and of course the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon isn’t within central Reykjavik but is actually a short detour whilst on route from the airport to the centre so we decided to do this straight away (hence why I still have my travel wallet in hand).
This place exceeded all my expectations and was the perfect way to unwind and relax, it was freezing outside but once step into the Blue Lagoon you do not want to leave. You can easily spend a few hours here, lathering on the face masks (these are part of the package) and sipping the drinks from the swim up bars, even those who are not fans of spa days will enjoy this! We were particularly lucky as the sky was crystal clear and made the water look so blue!
Towels and robes were provided… you’ll need the robe if you plan on stepping out for longer than about 3 seconds.
Lockers are also provided so run out take some pics (it’s a must) and then dash back and store them away!
From here we headed into the centre, luckily most of the transport is provided on big coaches so there is plenty of space to leave your luggage whilst you go off and explore like we did to save going to the apartment before hand.
Next up was to find our accommodation, we booked through Air BnB as this was a last minute trip and hotels were surprisingly expensive here. We found the sweetest studio apartment in a perfect location in amongst where all the locals live as opposed to the outskirts which is where you find a lot of the hotels.
It was the ideal size for two people and felt incredibly homely. That was one thing we noticed about Reykjavik, the hotels did not look fancy at all..and some not even hotel like, so if you can afford it I would recommend going for the hotel apartments, there are a few around and they look so much nicer!
We were hoping to head out and see the Northern Lights on our first night, but it was cloudy and clouds had been forecast throughout our whole time there, but don’t let this put you off there are plenty of other things to do and see, and Iceland isn’t the only country you can see them in.. although it’s a nice excuse to go back.
So instead we headed out and found an amazing restaurant just around the corner from where we were staying called Ostabudin.
*Side note on restaurants and Icelandic interior in general – they are so stylish you walk in and just wish your house looked exactly like them*
The fish is just phenomenal where ever you go so I ate it almost every night.
|| Day 2 ||
It was an early start and straight to the coach station to do a full day of the Golden Circle Tour. Again, we booked in advance through Grey Line.
The first stop was Thingvellir (spelt and pronounced differently in Icelandic) National Park. This national park is of great importance as it lies in a rift valley marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, of course, your guide will be able to give you a much better insight than I can!
From here we continued on to Gullfoss (Golden Falls), which were incredible, although the temperature drops a couple of degrees when you stand by it, so be sure to wrap up extra warm!
There is an amazing story behind the ownership of these falls and the preservation of it, which is worth listening out for!
The third stop along the way was Strokkur Geyser and of course due to the heat of the water there was not much snow to be found here. These were mesmerising to watch, there were loads around but only one actually erupts at the moment, something to do with blockages but again I’ll leave that to the experts to explain properly.
I wasn’t able to capture any pictures of the geyser erupting but above is a shot of the largest geyser, this one did not erupt but I can only imagine the explosion, even the smaller one that erupted maybe jump if you weren’t expecting it.
From here we drove to Skalholt Cathedral, this was used as the first ever school in Iceland.
There is also a traditional Icelandic cabin built next to the cathedral which you can walk through.
The last stop of the day was unexpected, I thought we were heading back after the cathedral but was pleasantly surprised when we pulled up to Fakasel Horse Park. Here we were able to warm up and grab a homemade brownie and hot drink and then sit back and enjoy the short performance that was put on here.
Icelandic horses are different to any other breed of horse as they have an extra gait, The Tolt. In very basic terms it is like the horses are running, so looks a bit like a trot on fast forward but is extra comfortable and it is known thing that you can drink of a pint of beer while riding and not spill a drop!
After a long but amazing day we headed back to Reykjavik and were hoping we might be able to head out on the Northern Lights tour as it would have been our last night chance due to dinner reservation the next evening, but it was not meant to be,so instead we strolled up and saw the famous Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, the most modern one I have ever come across. It was great to see it at night when it was lit up.
*the couple you see in the bottom left hand corner had literally just got engaged as I took this shot…so so sweet to see and we took their first photo for them as fiance’s*
There are loads of restaurants and cuisines to choose from along the main street, but we wanted to have authentic Icelandic Cuisine so we chose a restaurant called Laekjarbrekka.
I chose the Skagenrora for starter, which was brioche, shrimp and roe, which I have to admit I haven’t made sound very appetising but it was so tasty! I then had Arctic Char for mains, which is a type of fish similar to salmon in its appearance and taste but even better.. it would definitely be my choice of fish if we got it here in the UK.
|| Day 3 ||
We had budgeted in advance to do the Northern Lights tour (as Iceland is not cheap so you definitely need to be wise with how much money you take and spend) so we had an extra chunk left and also some time to fill. So we decided that as there was only one thing in Iceland you could do that couldn’t be done else where we would do it… HORSE RIDING!
I was mega excited excited as I have a pony at home but knew this was going to be totally different. So we booked it up and off we went to Laxnes Horse Farm. The owner was so lovely and actually came and picked us all up in a mini van to save us having to book a taxi.
The horses were beautiful, and it was honestly one of the best experiences I have had, I could have ridden them all day, you get to see the beautiful landscape, walk through streams and experience the Tolt, even for people who don’t ride, you would be more than capable of riding these horses because they are so different and feel more balanced than other breeds.
As you can see the outfits are super sexy too!
My horse was called Baileys, he was the sweetest if I may say so myself.
We did the riding in the morning, leaving the rest of the day to explore Reykjavik. We headed to the harbour and strolled about, then had to dive into a cafe and grab a coffee to warm up.
We strolled back up the main road and then stoppped for a crepe… if you can’t feast in winter when can you?!
As the Cathedral was open we paid to go to the top, which was worth it for the panoramic views across Reykjavik.
On our final evening we had booked a restaurant that was recommended to us called Grillmarkadurinn.
We had a feast…again! Bread, fish, steak… the steak was incredible! It was a perfect way to end trip!
Here’s just a couple of snaps on the reluctant drive back to the airport. Iceland was amazing and I would definitely not hesitate in going back, if it isn’t already put it on your bucket list!