As a travel obsessive, there aren’t many places that I wouldn’t jump at the chance of visiting…. my passport is always on stand by. So when one of my besties suggested we go on a little adventure together and left the destination choice as ‘anywhere,‘ my mind went into overdrive. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, go whale watching and generally visit somewhere that seemed extreme and unusual. Iceland it was! Turns out everyone is packing up their thermals and hitting the land of ice…. but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.
When we arrived at the airport in Iceland, it really looked as if everyone had been summoned there for some kind of expedition. All bundled up in as many layers as one could squeeze under their coats. We visited at the end of January and yes, it is the coldest place I have ever been to in my life. Guzzling plenty of hot chocolate and a ton of thermals will see you through, but if you really can’t handle the cold, visit in the summer months for a less extreme experience. It won’t be as snowy and picturesque, but I’m sure it will still be amazing.
Here’s what I learned in Iceland…..
1.The food is amazing!
When you think of Iceland, the food probably isn’t the first thing that would spring to mind, but they’ve actually got some fantastic restaurants that you’ll need to book ahead to get a table at – especially at the weekend. It’s no surprise that the menus are brimming with seafood options and the sushi is probably the freshest you’ll ever eat. The portions are literally huge and if you do decide to go for a 3 course situation, you’ll need to be rolled home. As we were.
2. You have to hunt the Northern Lights
Call me naive, but I really thought the Northern Lights were just everywhere when it was the right time of year for them. Pre-Iceland, I used to think you could just look up at the sky and get a glimpse of nature’s light show at any point, but sadly it’s not true. In Iceland, you have to book a Northern Lights trip and then the hunt will begin. You’ll be driven to various locations late in the evening and wait to see if the Northen Lights appear – there are never any guarantees and it’s all dependent on the weather. Luckily after a couple of hours of hunting, we spotted them and quickly pulled over to watch in awe (and shiver our tootsies off.) Also, they’re not multi-coloured like you might see in photographs. The lights we saw were truly incredible and danced around in the night sky, but they were more of a vivid green colour. If you’re going I thoroughly recommend you take a good camera and learn how to use it before your trip! My photos don’t even come close to doing it justice.
3. Game of Thrones was filmed in Iceland!
This I did not know until we arrived and OMG I was like the biggest fan-girl EVER. All the scenes beyond ‘the wall’ are filmed here and it’s easy to see why. The landscape is dramatically beautiful, vast and incredibly stark. You could almost feel the white walkers! Everywhere we went I was trying to figure out where ‘the wall’ could have been filmed (basically anywhere) but the people of Iceland didn’t seem as thrilled as we were. I never understood why. If you’re from Iceland… please explain why you aren’t all shouting it from the roof tops!?
4. It’s not great for winter sports
In spite of this incredibly beautiful landscape shots, apparently Iceland isn’t great for things like skiing and snowboarding. You can put that down to the fact that the weather is constantly changing and blustery, snowy conditions don’t make for the best winter sports weather. Still, there’s plenty you can enjoy. Think 4×4 extreme landscape driving, hiking, horse riding over glaciers, lagoon dipping and more! Just google excursions in Iceland and you’ll be flooded with ideas.
5. The whales migrate in winter
Only after we were boarded a 3-hour whale watching tour, did we find out that the majority of the whales that can be found in the surrounding seas, migrate in winter. Yeah, probably should have done a bit of research before booking the tour. Some people have actually seen whales but apparently it’s really unlikely. On our trip, most people got really sea sick and the outside temperature was -15. They do give you a boiler suit to wear (most unflattering) , but it was still literally the coldest cold I’ve ever felt in my life! I did think I may loose a finger or two in the name of photography. Still, the landscape was cool to witness from the sea, but I would give this trip a miss unless you’re going during a season when whales are actually present.
6. The landscape is incredible (but it smells a bit)
There’s no doubt that the scenery in Iceland is probably some of the most beautiful examples of nature you will ever see in your life. Even my humble iPhone managed to make the pictures look un-freakin-believable. The dark volcanic black rock, juxtaposed with stark-white snow, creates some truly magical photos. One thing to warn you about though is it smells an awful lot like farts. Yep, not really romantic. That’ll be thanks to all the sulfur in the water.
7. Reykjavik is pretty tiny
I don’t know why but I really thought that Reykjavik was a big city somewhat like Copenhagen. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s actually a tiny, adorable looking town, with little boutique shops, cafes’ and restaurants. Apparently it’s also got a thriving clubbing scene as well and people get seriously dressed up to bust some moves on Icelandic dance floors. We were good girls and went to bed super early for all our excursions, so I can’t vouch for that!