The most mesmerising place I have ever visited, Iceland is utterly breathtaking and indescribable.
This blog post documents mine (and Ryan’s) trip to Iceland – a unique gift for his 21st birthday from his very generous parents!
Day 1 – Sunday
After an early start, we arrived at Manchester Airport excited and raring to go.
It was our first time flying with Icelandair – the staff were incredibly friendly offering free soft drinks on the flight, there was free wifi and entertainment and plenty of leg room for us tall folks. It was impressive to say the least!
It was a short flight being only 2h 10m. Interestingly, all of the Icelandair aircrafts are named after Icelandic sights of nature, making it a personal touch. For instance, our outbound aircraft was called Dyngjufoll after the volcanic highland in Northern Iceland.
Listed as one of the 25 wonders of the world it certainly lived up to its high reputation!
After being confronted with stark naked ladies in the showers (an Icelandic tradition apparently) and the freezing atmosphere, we were more than eager to get into the water.
It was an oasis of relaxation with its free Silica Mud Masks, warm comforting waters and bar serving draft cider. Moreover, there was no time limit which allowed us to soak in the water for as long as our hearts desired.
After soaking for about an hour or so, we decided to make a move to our hotel. We caught the shuttle bus to Reykjavik and finally reached our hotel around 9pm.
We quickly checked in and headed downtown to find somewhere to eat.
We chose Hard Rock Cafe, which wasn’t exactly adventurous, but we were incredibly tired and craved BBQ ribs!
Unfortunately the waitress forgot to take our order (food & drink!) but the free wifi and the free apologetic sundae made up for it.
Once we had demolished our meal, we headed back to the hotel and slept like lions.
Day 2 – Monday
After trying out the hotel shower and sampling the continental breakfast (which was actually decent!) we waited outside our hotel, CenterKlopp, for the shuttle bus to collect us for the Golden Circle tour.
We got onto a larger coach and drove for roughly an hour outside of Reykjavik to our first destination – Geysir hot springs.
Situated at the northern edge of the southern lowlands, it is one of Iceland’s greatest natural attractions and believed to have been around since the end of the 13th century as a result of a series of strong earthquakes and devastating eruption of Mt. Heckla.
Though the Great Geysir is inactive nowadays its surrounding area is geothermically very active with many smaller hot springs.
The main attraction here was Strokkur (The Churn), another geyser which erupts at regular intervals every 10 minutes or so.
The boiling water can reach as high as 30 meters and I was incredibly lucky enough to catch the eruption on camera.
Next we clambered back onto the coach and drove for 10 minutes to the next stop – Gullfoss waterfall.
With cascades of 36 to 76 feet it is a spectacular view of the forces and beauty of untouched nature. But it is more than just a pretty waterfall: it has a story to tell.
In the early 20th century foreign investors wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss to produce electricity. Yet the farmer’s daughter, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, sought to have the rental contract voided. She even threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if the construction began.
Luckily for her, the contract fell through due to lack of rent payments – her struggles to preserve the waterfall illuminated the importance of preserving nature and she is often referred to as Iceland’s first environmentalist.
It is thanks to Sigriður that we can visit this breathtaking waterfall!
Our final stop was Þingvellir, the site of the first Viking parliament (assembled there in 930AD) as well as a designated UNESCO world heritage site for its unique geographical features.
Today Þingvellir is a protected national shrine, and the area shall always be the property of the Icelandic nation, under the preservation of the Alþing.
On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped off to look at some Icelandic Horses.
Once we got back to the hotel we decided to go and explore the city centre and look for somewhere to eat.
We ended up eating at Lebowski Bar, situated on the Laugavegur shopping street. Designed by American architects in the spirit of The Big Lebowski (1998 comedy film) this bowling themed burger joint was incredibly fun and only 2 minutes from our hotel!
Day 3 – Tuesday
Despite another early start, we were incredibly excited for the Game of Thrones filming location tour!
Firstly, we stopped off at a horse riding centre, where we got to meet the famous Icelandic horses (note HORSES, not ponies!). As a horse riding fanatic and having grown up owning a horse, I was in my element, stroking every horse I could.
My favourite was Rick, but I also got to meet Thor, who featured on Game of Thrones.
We then moved on to the first filming location, Porufoss.
Despite looking nothing like the Mediterranean, they filmed the famous Myriad scene here – the one where Daenerys’ dragon sets fire to the goats and carries one off (S4 E6).
Next we went to Þingvellir (a different part!) where they filmed the opening shots to the Eyrie.
This is where they filmed Ayra Stark and The Hound walking towards the Eyrie to discover Lady Arryn was dead (S4E8)/ Sansa Stark and Little Finger walking there (S4E5).
The final stop was Thjorsárdalur valley where they filmed a whole village getting massacred by the Wildlings (S4 E3). The scene took 10 whole days to film only 2 minutes of screen time and the location was stunning!
Overall the tour was AMAZING. We had the coolest tour guide ever – he had been an extra on Game of Thrones and played a night-watchmen, wildling and white walker.
He knew all the inside gossip and made the tour incredible – for instance, he told us how Kit Harington broke his foot the night before filming his saucy cave scene with Ygritte, and how the actress was the loveliest girl ever, giving hugs to all the extras on the last day of filming!
After the tour, we went to Barber Bistro for a quick tea before heading off out on our Northern Lights tour.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see the Northern Lights as it was too cloudy! We got back to our hotel around 1:30am and boy were we exhausted.
Day 4 – Wednesday
As it was our final day, we decided to explore the city.
Reykjavik is not a huge capital city, but it is incredibly clean and friendly, with lots of quirks and charm.
We came across a remarkably friendly Icelandic cat who had no objections to cuddles from strangers and even followed us to the main shopping street.
As food was appallingly expensive, we chose to grab something cheap and quick for lunch. We stopped at Svarta Kaffid and was served the best soup I have ever sampled! Our only regret was that we had not discovered this gem of a bar earlier.
Fuelled and reheated, we then walked around the city some more before heading back to the hotel to pack ready for our departure tomorrow.
Around 6pm, we headed off out to find some tea.
Along the way, we stumbled across a vintage arcade shop and spent 30 minutes there trying out the retro games. My favourite was The Addams Family pinball machine!
Next we searched for somewhere to eat some proper food.
We chose Caruso, a smart Italian restaurant downtown! Ryan had Spaghetti Bolognese whilst I had a King Prawn Risotto.
It was delicious!
Afterwards, we visited a local bar called Tivoli and sampled a few of Iceland’s most popular drinks, such as Mango Tango and Brennivin. The manager was super friendly and hospitable, making us feel right at home.
We had booked onto another Northern Lights tour, but this was unfortunately cancelled due to weather, meaning that we did not get to see the lights whilst we were there!
Day 5 – Thursday
HOMETIME! The day was spent travelling home to the UK and reminiscing about the amazing holiday we had just been on.
Iceland is simply incredible! It has a huge diversity of landscape which changes with every turn in the road as well as a huge diversity of people and cultures. If you get the chance to go, TAKE IT! It is a unique vacation and I cannot wait until I can afford to go back and do some more exploring.