Reykjavik has always been a place that a) I've struggled to spell and b) I've wanted to go. Last May, I remember seeing a picture of the the Lego-like houses on Lonely Planet and the next thing, telling Ed I'd booked our flights. We went for 4 days over August Bank Holiday weekend and loved it. Iceland is an amazing country, that's really in the middle of nowhere. The landscape is stunning, the country's main attractions are its natural phenomenons, and Reykjavik itself is a completely whimsical place—tiny but charming. Instead of going through a blow-by-blow account of what we did, I thought I'd highlight some of the things we learnt from the trip (those being mainly the things we didn't read up on before we went...) and share some of my recommendations. Here goes...
A) Iceland is cold.
Take note of the name ICE-land. We underestimated the climate and took shorts and tees. The average summer temperature is 10 degrees. And it's windy. Pack thermals
B) Don't miss Reykjavik's surroundings.
We hadn't planned to do more than Reykjavik city and the Blue Lagoon but when we got there we realised firstly, Reykjavik is very small, and secondly everyone was asking us about the Golden Circle. Don't miss the Golden Circle -basically a round trip of Mother Nature's awesomeness in Iceland. You can fit it into a day trip (I recommend a hire car) but expect to be blown away by erupting geysers, mammoth waterfalls and volcanic crater lakes. So impressive
c) Iceland is EXPENSIVE.
So, so expensive. It didn't help that we lost our passports on the way home and had to fork out £300 for new ones to be turned around before our next trip, but still, it's expensive. Beer: £6. Wine: more. Cocktails: Bankrupt. Stick to Reykjavik's happy hours and you'll come back with change, and make the most of the breakfast buffets!
D) Iceland runs on seafood!
It makes sense given it's an island surrounded by nothing but Ocean, but yeah, Iceland is a seafood-haven. We enjoyed two impeccable dinners at both Kopar
(an intimate, rustic little place overlooking the harbour) and MAR
(a more contemporary eatery in Downtown), and would recommend them to everyone.
As soon as we arrived, we hired a car, and I would strongly recommend anyone to do the same. Iceland's countryside is so rugged and barren, it needs to be explored. You'll be kicking yourself if you don't get out of Reykjavik centre and later learn what you've missed!
We stayed at Reykjavik Natura Hotel
. It's an Icelandair hotel, about 15 minutes walk out of the centre of town. It overlooks the runway of Reykjavik Airport (you'll probably fly into Keflavik, the international airport) so you can have fun watching the mini-planes take off! As mentioned, we ate wonderful
seafood. We also drank copious White Russians. Lebowski Bar
is a charming dive bar just off the main strip where, foremost, you can watch the football on a huge screen (the premise for many pit-stops on our travels), and secondly, serve great versions of Lebowski's favourite drink.
Half of our trip was spent in naturally warm water. The Blue Lagoon was, though touristy, amazing. Spending 2 hours in a giant natural bath with a glass of Prosecco in your hand, then a full body in-water massage is heaven, I tell you. On our Golden Circle day trip, we also stopped at Laugarvatn Fontana, another natural hot spring. Far less blue (in fact not blue at all), it's a smaller version with multiple pools of differing temperature. If you don't like crowds, this is a better option. It also does a great lunch buffet, full of local dishes. The Skyr and coconut pudding was prime!