To this day, even after visiting so many beautiful countries, Iceland holds a special place in my memory. It was so many things at once: breathtaking, wild, free and most of all, completely unlike anywhere I have been before.
The Golden Circle Route
Ben and I visited Iceland at the end of October and flew into Keflavik airport followed by a short drive to our hotel in Reykjavik for the night. We were up bright and early the following day to tour the Golden Circle Route in our little rented red caddy. The 300km route covers key attractions in southern Iceland and spending a whole day driving across the snowy plains of Iceland is the most remarkable way to do it.
On the tour, we stopped at the Kerid volcanic crater (pictured above) and Gullfoss waterfall (pictured below). The Kerid crater in Selfoss, Iceland is a 3000-year old volcanic crater lake and is surrounded by volcanic slopes and rocks of striking red, gold and brown. Due to the various minerals in the volcanic earth surrounding the crater, the lake is a beautiful bright turquoise shade, particularly when contrasted with the earth framing it.
Gullfoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and is found in the Hvítá river. It was so breathtaking to see such a force of nature and I wish I was wearing waterproof trousers as my jeans got soaked! Further along the Golden Circle Route, we saw the Geysir and other geysers in the Haukadalur Valley. Stokkur (pictured above) is probably Iceland’s most famous hot spring which erupts every ten minutes, and in doing so, releases jets of boiling water into the air up to 40 metres high. I’ve never seen anything quite like it!
That evening, we drove to our little wooden cabin (pictured above) situated just outside Reykjavik, hidden in the wilderness and it was such a perfect accommodation to have and place to return to each night after exploring. Ben and I found it on Airbnb, after I searched for ages to find the perfect thematic “cabin in the woods” for our trip. This place definitely delivered, and it had everything we could want and more. It even had a fireplace which was very much appreciated after tiring, cold and rainy days sightseeing!
Reykjavik and The Blue Lagoon
The following day, we headed into Reykjavik itself and spent a relaxing morning and afternoon seeing the key sights, such as the Hallgrímskirkja, an Evangenical-Lutheran church and national sanctuary standing at 74 metres high, the Harpa concert hall (pictured above) with a beautiful glass facade and home to Iceland’s national opera and symphony, and the Sun Voyager (pictured above), a steel sculpture of a Viking long-ship created by artist Jon Gunnar Arnason and an ode to the sun, symbolising the promise of undiscovered lands, progress, freedom and hope.
After spending most of the day in Reykjavik, Ben and I then travelled to the Blue Lagoon, probably one of Iceland’s most well-known “bucket list” experiences. We had bought tickets at four in the afternoon and once you are in the lagoon you can stay for as long as you like. For most people, this is around two hours, which was perfect for us as we got to see the lagoon and its surroundings transition through sunset into dusk.
In the lagoon, you are given a complimentary drink and silica face mask, although our masks didn’t stay on for too long as it started to hail for a while and we had to take shelter under one of the many bridges! It was such a beautiful and serene experience, one that was on my own bucket list, and I just cherished every moment, taking in the heat and steam from the water, the contrasting cool air and the multi-lingual conversations of other travels just as much in awe of the lagoon as Ben and I were.
Snorkelling the Silfra Fissure and Thingvellir National Park
The next day, we went from relaxed swimming in a misty hot lagoon, to survival snorkelling in two degrees celsius glacial waters between two tectonic plates. We drove to Thingvellir National Park early in the morning to take part in snorkelling the Silfra Fissure (pictured above), a rift formed between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.
We got kitted out in full body dry suits (which allowed us to wear regular clothes underneath for warmth), snorkel equipment, gloves and flippers and spent the morning gliding through the crystal clear glacial waters, with our heads down, looking at the colourful rocks and tectonic boundary below. I was a once in a lifetime experience and highly recommended!
After leaving Silfra, Ben and I then toured around the rest of Thingvellir National Park, taking in more waterfalls, including Oxararfoss (pictured above top), a human-made waterfall, and Thorufoss (pictured above) situated on the Laxá í Kjós river set amongst a raw, colourful, mountainous landscape. The walk to get to see Thorufoss was slippery, icy and steep, but the view at the end was so worth it.
Reynisfjara, Seljalandsfoss, Eimverk Distillery Tour and Fish and Chips
On our final day, we toured the Iceland’s southern coast, and visited Renisfjara Black Sand Beach and the monochrome Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks (pictured above top), and Seljalandsfoss waterfall which has a drop of 60 metres and visitors can walk behind it, getting very wet in the process!
On our final evening in Iceland, we booked a last minute tour of the Eimverk Distillery, Icelands first and only whisky distillery which produces a range of different spirits, from whiskies to gins and its own Brennivin, Iceland’s traditional spirit. Eventhough we had booked the tour at the last minute, it became such a memorable part of our trip, our tour guide was friendly, knowledgable and made the whole experience just perfect.
After the tour, we went for dinner at a fish and chip restaurant which came highly recommended through multiple different platforms and it did not disappoint! Fishermans Fish Shop and Kitchen was a place we had been looking forward to visiting for the length of our trip in Iceland and we were so happy to finally have dinner there on our final night. You choose your fish, side order and sauce and they then prepare and cook it using fresh locally sourced ingredients. I went for the Arctic char, which is known to swim the Silfra fissure, with chips and a garlic parsley sauce and it was so delicious!
Iceland was a once in a lifetime experience, but I am so happy that being in the UK we don’t live too far away! I would love to return and see the eastern and northern coasts, as I am sure there is so much more to see!