Though the Northern Lights are popular, Iceland isn’t much of a tourist destination. I know this because every time I told someone I was going there, I was met with the one-word response: “WHY?” To be totally honest, I decided to go on a bit of a whim; my friend and I had the idea and it was booked an hour later with not much of an idea of what to expect. But I was more than pleasantly surprised, and I hope by the end of this blog post I’ll have persuaded a few of you to go there yourselves…
I’ll jump straight in with the bad news – we literally missed the Northern Lights by 6 hours. We arrived very early in the morning and it turned out there had been an incredible display overnight; Connie and I ended up walking around in the rain and cold on our first night determined to see them. Alas, our efforts were in vain as it’s pretty rare for them to be so vivid in the city itself, so I’ve decided to do a dedicated trip to Lapland sometime soon (hopefully late this year).
We went for 4 nights and stayed in the centre of Reykjavic, which I’d recommend because there’s plenty to do there but there’s also a bus station with buses to every major attraction on the western side of Iceland. We actually stayed in a beautiful Air BnB which you should check out if you’re a small group, especially if you like to have your own rooms.
On a girls’ trip, how could we not start with the penis museum? No, I’m not kidding – it’s probably the most famous thing to do in the city of Reykjavic. It’s kinda pricey but worth it for a bit of a laugh and actually pretty interesting too. Plus, you can buy miniature wind-up jumping penises, and who would argue with that?
If you do decide to go there, have a wander up that same street to find a couple of cool vintage/second-hand shops. There’s a myriad of clothing to make your way through, so we spent a while trying on clothes, film-like-montage style. There’s also a lovely cafe along that street called Kaffi Vinyl, which turns into a club in the evening. If you’re vegan, head there for sure.
On our first full day we headed to Hveragerdi for the Reykjadalur Geothermal river and hot springs. There’s about a 3km hike to get to the actual river, but it’s one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve done. You’re surrounded by boiling, bubbling pools of water and little bridges to cross streams. Beware of the steam though, it smells like rotten eggs! We spent several hours at the river, it’s such a surreal feeling taking off your clothes when it’s 0 degrees, but stepping into the jacuzzi-like water was total bliss (I did burn my bum on the rocks, though).
The next day we’d booked ourselves onto a Golden Circle tour. There’s an abundance of these and, to be honest, if you’re happy to hire a car you could easily do it yourself. The one we did included Pingvellir National Park (half of which is technically on the continent of North America), the famous Geysirs, Gullfoss Waterfall and The Secret Lagoon. If you’re not going to Blue Lagoon (and I seriously suggest that you do), The Secret Lagoon is probably the closest you’ll get and is actually 100% spring water whereas Blue Lagoon is 50%.
The next day was for exploring the city a bit more and checking out some food spots. We started out going to Hallgrimskirkja church, which you can climb (*ahem* or get the lift up…) to see a fantastic 360 view of the city and its famous rainbow rooftops. We then got some insane vegan ice cream which is made right in front of you using nitrogen oxide machines and topped with whatever you like. The day ended at Pablo Discobar where we went for a couple of drinks before heading back to the apartment and having Poppy’s last dinner of the holiday.
On our last day, Connie and I decided to go to Blue Lagoon which felt like the perfect way to sum up our time in Iceland. We arrived at about 11am and stayed until sunset – I’d really recommend booking the earliest time slot you can because you can stay as long as you like. You get a silicone mud mask for free (you can upgrade to a different one if you like but honestly, it didn’t look like there was much of a difference). It really is just as incredible as it looks in photos – I’d go back there in a heartbeat.