Is an amazing country, with landscapes like those I’ve never come across before. Visiting in early December meant that the country was dusted with a layer of snow, but not entirely covered in all places so you could still see the land peeking through. It also meant that it was very, very cold, and horrendously windy this weekend – the windchill was nearly unbearable so we spent a lot of time indoors and in the car. Daylight was roughly 11am – 4pm, which is another thing to factor in if you are visiting in the winter months, as you will have limited time to see the sights.
The Golden Circle.
I’d highly recommend hiring a car and driving this route. In places you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere and the landscape is breathtaking. We hired a car from here for the weekend, which came with much-neede Garmin GPS system – life would have been very difficult without it. I found this blog incredibly helpful when planning our route, and we visited all the sites outlined here – I’m not going to recount what is already written very well here, so take a look. Note also that entry to all these sites (including the National Park) is free. The landscape was vastly different for us though, which was very suprising – the landscape, loneliness and barren nature was amazing. I don’t think we saw a single tree throughout our stay. Some snaps of the Golden Circle attractions, in winter:
Is a picturesque, but sleepy little town. Be aware that opening hours of a lot of places here are limited (well, in winter at least). Given Iceland as a whole only has a population of 300,000, it’s no surprise that their capital city isn’t huge. Have a wander up and down the streets (and admire the Christmas lights, if it’s the right time of year). Visit the church, which is perhaps the most significant attraction in the town. We had a brilliant meal at Tapas, which I would thoroughly recommend if you are visiting – book ahead! You can get a 6 course Icelandic tasting menu (including Puffin and Whale) for approximately 60,000kr, and if that’s not quite your style (it wasn’t mine) then they do a variety of other a la carte meals, tapas, and have fantastic vegetarian options (seriously, I was VERY impressed with the vegetarian tapas tasting menu for approximately 50,000kr). The place is cozy and the staff are lovely. Can’t recommend this enough. Dont try and go out for breakfast though – Iceland doesnt do breakfasts in a big way, and after a walk around town one morning we just ended up back at the hotel eating the breakfast there…
Another must on a visit to Iceland. Located about 45 minutes from Reykjavik, and perhaps a little pricey, sitting in the baby blue geothermal baths with the steam rising up around you is fairly surreal. There is a sauna, steam room and swim up bar also, as well as buckets of mud full of cleaning properties for you to give yourself a scrub with. I’d suggest taking your own towel, and opting for the cheapest package as it’s all you need. You can purchase drinks, snacks and sandwiches at the cafe, but it’s nothing fancy.
In order to see the Northern Lights, you need to have had high activity from the sun that day, coupled with a clear night and no cloud cover. You also need to be right out of the city in darkness. We went for a long drive at night into complete darkness in the countryside, but unfortunately conditions weren’t in our favour and there was a lot of cloud cover – so we didn’t see the lights on this trip.
Don’t bother withdrawing any Icelandic Kronas if you visit – everywhere takes card, even for the smallest amounts. Be aware that food and drink are pricey here too. Our trip was made so much easier by hiring a car, and the fact we had someone who was willing to drive all weekend – if you can do that, do. The landscape is vastly different in summer and winter – I’d like to go back in summer and see what it’s like then too (when it would be far more pleasant to spend time outdoors).
1. Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men
2. Sunny Road – Emiliana Torrini
3. Anything by Sigur Ros