A few days in Iceland

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. Unknown

When WOW air1 announced they were doing direct flights from Dublin to Reykjavik I got very excited and couldn t wait to book our Discount Holidays © holiday to Iceland! We decided to go in September for a few reasons; there was a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights and we would be there during the whale watching season. We booked our flights and hotel through e-bookers2, which worked out a lot cheaper than if we had booked separately. The only snag was that WOW air3 do not currently do online check in, which meant getting to the airport earlier than we usually do. The flight time from Dublin to Reykjavik is about 2 hours. It was the first time we used WOW air4 and it was a nice experience.

They are not too strict about the one bag policy , as I was able to get on with my handbag and rucksack. The coffee and food were obviously not the best gastronomical experience, but it was good to see to see them offering Icelandic snacks, such as their own chocolate milk and hangikj t.

A Few Days In Iceland

Chocolatey goodness! I think to judge an airline you have to fly with them on a long haul flight to get a better perspective of their quality of service.

Thursday

We booked a bus from the airport to our hotel using FlyBus+5 with Reykjavik Excursions6. Definitely worth spending a bit extra to have them bring us directly to our hotel instead of dropping us off at the bus station and having to walk. We checked into the Fosshotel Reykjav k7, a newly built hotel with all the facilities you need and their breakfast was substantially good with a lot of variety. We walked along the seafront on our way into town and saw the amazing Sun Voyager sculptor along with a few others. We also saw the impressive Harpa concert hall, which lights up in the evening.

Definitely recommend taking this route into the city centre.

A Few Days In Iceland

Sun Voyager Sculptor

A Few Days In Iceland

Harpa Concert Hall

We were feeling a little peckish so we grabbed a hot dog from B jarins Beztu Pylsur8, roughly translated in English: The Best Hotdogs in Town. When doing research of the best places to eat in Reykjavik this place popped up numerous times and it s popular with the locals. I didn t have many expectations, after all it s just a hotdog, but I have to say it was probably the best I ever had. I loved the combination of crispy fried onions and raw onions. The meat seemed of good quality and it was topped off with mustard, ketchup and remoulade. If you go there just ask for one with everything. Delicious!

We then took advantage of happy hour at Frederiksen Ale House9, where they have a great selection of Icelandic craft beer. Amazingly, there was a ban on beer in Iceland until 1989 and Icelandic breweries have only recently come into their own, such as Einst k10 and Borg11. We were impressed with the standard of their beers and I reckon this is due to the quality of Iceland s water, as their porters in particular were not as heavy as usual. The city of Reykjavik is fairly small and there are not many historic buildings due to the country s volcanic and earthquake activities. The Hallgr mskirkja is a church completed in 1974 and it s a very distinctive building. You can go to the top of Hallgr mskirkja and get a view of Reykjavik, but as it was a cloudy day we gave this a miss.

A Few Days In Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja

A Few Days In Iceland

I found Reykjavik to be quite quirky and hipster. Also an interesting combination of North America and European cultures.

A Few Days In Iceland

Impressive murals, there were quite a few dotted around the city centre.

A Few Days In Iceland

Colourful corrugated steel buildings, iconic of Reykjavik. Before we go on our Discount Holidays © holiday I usually do some research to find reputable restaurants that serve traditional food of the country we are visiting. It was quite tricky to find a traditional Icelandic restaurant that was whale-friendly. Sadly Iceland is one of the three remaining countries, along with Japan and Norway, that still commercially hunt whales. Even though I could have chosen not to eat whale in a restaurant that serves it, I would have felt I would be contributing to the demand just by being there.

Finally I found a lovely whale-friendly seafood restaurant in Reykjavik called MAR. Also, if you present your ticket for Elding Whale Watching13 you get a 15% discount off your meal. For starters I had wild mushroom risotto with langoustines and dried Serrano ham and my boyfriend had Hangikj t, which is dried smoked lamb. For mains we shared a seafood pan, which consisted of prawns, scallops and mussels in a tasty curry sauce. For dessert I had Skyr, a famous Icelandic dairy product. The food and ambience of the restaurant was very good. A definite recommendation.12

Friday

The weather forecast did not look very promising for our stay in Iceland. Luckily, we picked a good day for our whale watching trip with Elding14, as the water was very calm and the sun even came out for a short time. Even though it was calm, there were quite a few people with sick bags in their hands and not looking very well! If you do suffer seasickness, Elding15 do provide free seasickness tablets.

Luckily I do not have this problem, but I would recommend sitting outside and focusing on the horizon. Elding16 also provide overalls to keep you warm for the much colder days. Funnily enough our guide was Irish! He was very knowledgable about the local sea-life and was quick to spot and identify the wildlife. During the three hour tour we saw Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoises, Puffins and even a few Gannets. Sadly, we didn t get any photos of the wildlife as it was quite difficult to predict when and where they would pop up. Also I think that seeing wildlife through your own eyes, and not through a camera lens, is a more incredible experience.

A Few Days In Iceland

Looking out for the whales.

Reykjavik Excursions17 proved useful once again, as we were picked up outside the Elding18 ticket office and transported to the Blue Lagoon19. We wanted to treat ourselves, so we opted for the premium booking for the Blue Lagoon20. This will get you:

  • Entrance to Blue Lagoon
  • A bathrobe
  • A Towel
  • Free drink at the bar
  • Skin Care Pack
  • Flip Flops
  • Reserved table and a drink of sparkling wine at LAVA Restaurant

Lunch at the LAVA Restaurant21 was incredible and the portion sizes were more than generous. I had the set three course Icelandic gourmet menu and my boyfriend had the seafood menu.

A Few Days In Iceland

Artic Char

A Few Days In Iceland

Rack of lamb

A Few Days In Iceland

Chocolate mousse

After the big lunch, we got changed into our swimsuits and made our way to the Blue Lagoon22. For those who are body conscious, you do have to shower naked before getting into the water. I think there are private cubicles but I couldn t be bothered to find one, so I just stripped off and showered quickly! I honestly thought we would stay in the Blue Lagoon23 for about an hour, but we stayed a lot longer! The water is kept at a perfect temperature, 37 -39 ; each time I got out I just wanted to get back in again as it was a chilly outside.

Around the perimeter there are buckets full of clay, which you can apply to your skin and it certainly made mine feel more invigorated. Walking in the lagoon also did wonders for my feet; the ground was quite rough, so it exfoliated the soles of my feet and made them a lot smoother. I was surprised that you were allowed to have drinks in the Blue Lagoon24. They have a little bar that you swim up to, so there s no need to get out at all. I didn t have to worry about carrying cash either; they give you a bracelet at the entrance which records what you buy at the bar, and you settle up when you leave. I felt very pampered drinking my beer, whilst wearing a clay face mask. A very relaxing afternoon.

The volcanic rocks surrounding the Blue Lagoon25 made it feel like I was on different planet or on the set of Star Trek, it felt quite surreal. Incredible surroundings.

A Few Days In Iceland

Beer and a geothermal spa is a good combination.

A Few Days In Iceland

Pure relaxation

A Few Days In Iceland

It s life Jim, but not as we know it. Later that evening we had our supper in Icelandic Fish & Chips26, which is also whale-friendly. Since I was still stuffed from lunch, I just had the soup and my boyfriend had battered fish and potatoes with a Skyr tartare sauce. My soup was simple, yet tasty and the fish was equally good. Surprisingly, relaxing in the Blue Lagoon27 can make you feel very tired, so we headed back to our hotel for an early night s sleep.

Saturday

The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route which takes in a number of Iceland s famous sites. We chose to do the Classic Golden Circle Tour with Viator.28 We have used Viator29 on a couple of occasions and usually been impressed with their services. Along the way our Icelandic guide Brandon, whose real name was too difficult to pronounce, gave interesting insights to Iceland s history and culture. Sadly, the weather was abysmal and this hindered the view in some of the places. We visited ingvellir, the oldest Parliament in the world, which also happens to be situated where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Although this was interesting, I was by far more impressed by Gullfoss waterfall. This is biggest waterfall I have seen so far and thought it looked incredible. We had our lunch nearby, Icelandic Meat Soup, which was very nice after being out in the cold and rain.

We then visited the Geysir Geothermal area, where we saw the Strokkur erupt. A word of warning, be careful where you stand when you want to get a picture of this happening, as we nearly got soaked! It was a very cool spectacle to see, nature at its best. Afterwards we popped into a nice little church, which has pretty stained glass windows, in Laugarvatn. I did agree with our atheist guide s point of view; it wouldn t be an essential place to visit, but it was nice all the same even for a heathen like myself. Our last stop was the Hellishei i Power Station, which converts geothermal energy into electricity. The entrance fee was roughly 400 Kr nas; this also got us a 10 minute talk from one of the factory guides, which gave us a better insight into how everything all works. What is great about the Hellishei i Power Station is that it is 100% eco-friendly and hopefully other countries with geothermal areas will follow suit.

A Few Days In Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall

A Few Days In Iceland

Damn nature, you crazy!

A Few Days In Iceland

Hellishei i Power Station

Whilst driving through the countryside, the landscape reminded me of Dartmoor and parts of Ireland, but the billowing vapour coming out of the various geothermal spots and the surrounding mountains made it seem other worldly. Very beautiful even in the horrible rain. There was hardly traffic on the roads and even in Reykjavik city centre there was not many people; unusual for a capital city. As Iceland s most famous export Bjork sang It s oh so quiet .

A Few Days In Iceland

Check out that 4X4! Probably very useful for off-roading and the winter months.

After our Golden Circle Tour, we chilled out in the Beer Garden of our hotel, where I had a satisfying burger washed down with some refreshing Icelandic beer; even better as it was happy hour!

Sunday

We were up very early to catch our 6.20am flight, 3am to be precise! We were picked up from our hotel by Flybus+30, then we changed buses at the terminal and we made our way to the airport. As previously stated, WOW air31 do not currently do online check ins, but they did have a check in desk for hand luggage only in Keflavik airport; so we were able to avoid the usual long queues. Even though we didn t see the Northern Lights, we had a great time in Iceland. It s a lovely place to visit for a long weekend and you can easily see the main attractions in that time.

If you are selective and savvy of where and when you eat or drink, you won t spend an absolute fortune.

I would love to go back to discover more of Iceland s natural wonders.

National Beer: Egils, Einst k and Borg

Currency: Kr na

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References

  1. ^ WOW air (wowair.co.uk)
  2. ^ e-bookers (www.ebookers.ie)
  3. ^ WOW air (wowair.co.uk)
  4. ^ WOW air (wowair.co.uk)
  5. ^ FlyBus+ (www.re.is)
  6. ^ Reykjavik Excursions (www.re.is)
  7. ^ Fosshotel Reykjav k (www.fosshotel.is)
  8. ^ B jarins Beztu Pylsur (www.bbp.is)
  9. ^ Frederiksen Ale House (www.frederiksen.is)
  10. ^ Einst k (einstokbeer.com)
  11. ^ Borg (www.borgbrugghus.is)
  12. ^ MAR. (www.marrestaurant.com)
  13. ^ Elding Whale Watching (elding.is)
  14. ^ Elding (elding.is)
  15. ^ Elding (elding.is)
  16. ^ Elding (elding.is)
  17. ^ Reykjavik Excursions (www.re.is)
  18. ^ Elding (elding.is)
  19. ^ Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com)
  20. ^ Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com)
  21. ^ LAVA Restaurant (www.bluelagoon.com)
  22. ^ Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com)
  23. ^ Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com)
  24. ^ Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com)
  25. ^ Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com)
  26. ^ Icelandic Fish & Chips (www.fishandchips.is)
  27. ^ Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com)
  28. ^ Classic Golden Circle Tour with Viator. (www.viator.com)
  29. ^ Viator (www.viator.com)
  30. ^ Flybus+ (www.re.is)
  31. ^ WOW air (wowair.co.uk)

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