Monday 2 March 2020

This month I travelled to one of my bucket list destinations, Iceland. I have wanted to go here for at least the last five years, and we very nearly managed to go last year. But I’m glad we waited to go this year as it was the most perfect trip.
We spent the whole of last year planning when the best time to visit Iceland would be, and for us, we knew we wanted to go when it was snowy, when it was quiet and we wanted to spend at least a week there. So in January we decided to book our flights and hotel to Iceland for 10-17 February.
Over the next few weeks we tried to plan any excursions, but it all felt a little overwhelming. There were thousands and thousands of different tours, hosted by hundreds of different companies. We felt like we were a little out of our depth. Thus, writing this blog post became an apparent necessity, and if the responses from my stories on Instagram are anything to go by, you guys want it.

Before The Holiday
As mentioned above, the first thing we decided to book was out flights and hotel. Again, where to start. We knew we wanted to stay in Reykjavik. But where. We ended up using LoveHolidays website, and found a great deal for flights and hotel together. It took all the hard work of looking for them separately out of our hands and made it a little simpler. We were also ATOL protected and I paid for it all with a credit card. 

We also knew that we wanted to drive around and do our own expeditions. My boyfriend does a lot of driving around the UK and Europe so I was confident that he would be ok. He on the other hand, was a little worried, as he’d never driven in that much snow before. So I decided to take it to twitter and ask people for their advice. A lot of people come back to me saying that the roads are really good and that we will be fine. So I convinced him to book a car, with FULL Insurance. And I say that loud and clear. When hiring a car abroad, there is no point in taking any risks, cover yourselves fully. On our second full day, we found our back window smashed in, the people at Sixt told us to come by and swap the car over. No need to pay anything else as we had covered ourselves. So I can’t recommend full insurance enough.
One of the most important things to do in Iceland for me was to visit the Blue Lagoon. We decided to book the standard Comfort tickets, as there really wasn’t that much point in booking the premium tickets. If there was one criticism I could make about the Blue Lagoon the standard should offer bathrobes.

Once we had these main things booked, we sat down and made a list of everything we wanted to visit and researched their locations. We then grouped them in terms of location and which destinations were close to each other. We decided the furthest we were willing to travel was maximum three hours from our hotel as that would mean 6 hours driving, and with daylight from around 9.30- 5.30, that would mean a lot of driving in the dark, in icy snowy conditions and we just didn’t want to do that.

Our flight was at 12pm, but by the time we picked up our car and checked in to our hotel room we were shattered. 

Driving in Iceland is not as hard as we initially thought it would be. The cars you hire come equip with winter tyres, and our car even had studded tyres that help grip better in icy conditions.
They drive on the right side of the road as does the rest of Europe, and the roads are pretty good. There is essentially one road that goes all around Iceland. Most if not all places are located on, or just off of this main road.
We used Google maps throughout our whole time there, with great GPS and 4G; we were never out of range. Even at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere!
My boyfriend done most of the driving, I drove back a few times in the evening from the restaurants, but in order to drive in the snow and ice, you have to be extremely vigilant, more so than everyday driving in the UK.

The systems out there are fantastic. Friday 15th, there was a huge storm, throughout our time in Iceland, from the car rental, to the people at reception, to signs posted at touristic destinations, there were warnings telling people not to drive out of town that day. The night before, as we were driving back, the storm had started and it was difficult enough. Whilst out there check daily the website for weather and driving updates.

When travelling, food really makes or breaks my holiday. We are big foodies, and I was really worried about the cuisine in Iceland as my boyfriend doesn’t eat any fish, and I’m a little fussy with it. But to my surprise, the food was incredible. 
Everyone warned us that Iceland is really expensive and that the food is where most our money would be spent on, so be prepared to spend £40 for two sandwiches and hot drinks. 
Some of the memorable places that we dined were Caruso, we both love Italian food and my boyfriend found this restaurant a 10-minute drive away from our hotel. We loved it so much we went there twice. It’s has a really cosy romantic atmosphere. I highly recommend their prawn starter along with the Portobello mushroom, which was insane. We also really enjoyed the chicken alfredo pasta.

During our days out, we decided to bring snacks with us, but most of the ‘touristic’ places have restaurants located where you’ll be able to get a good hearty meal. One of our favourites was a Skogarfoss Waterfall. They had a great menu and had the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had. Again, we decided to go back here (just because of the hot chocolate) as it was on our way back from the black sand beach.

Another of our favourites was Svarta Kaffid. Come here for delicious soup in a bread bowl. They have a small restaurant in the city centre of Reykjavik, where you have to queue to get into, and the extremely small menu changes daily. We were lucky to have the creamed mushroom soup in brown bread, and it’s so worth the wait!

The last place I recommend visiting it Hlemmur-Matholl. We went here on our first and last day, just because there are so many different cuisines under one roof. It’s a little like Dinnerama, or street food markets, just not on the street. There’s something for everyone from pizza, tacos, Vietnamese vegetable spring rolls, a Michelin star Icelandic fish restaurant and many more. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re after a quick bite to eat and not sure what you fancy.

Where to even start! There is so much to see. Our 7 days in Iceland were the perfect amount to see the east and south east of the country, but there is still so much more to see. It’s a lot bigger than we initially thought. Some of the ice caves that we wanted to visit would have been a four-five hour journey each way, and we just didn’t want to be spending that much time doing it, so another time, we would probably stay in a different area.
But if you’re looking to do the usual Iceland tour, then Reykjavik is the place to be. If you haven’t hired a car, there are so many tours to do. Book anyone and they are usually very similar, so don’t be overwhelmed.

Golden Circle
If you have a car though, it’s a lot easier. We done the Golden Circle which is starts with the Thingvellir National Park, then you move on to the Geysirs, Gullfloss waterfall and the crater (we had to do this last one on a different day as it we took our time enjoying the other sites). All of them were incredible, but I think Gullfloss was our wow moment. We just stood there for 15 minutes getting soaked from the water splashes admiring the beauty and general vastness of it. All of the touristic attractions have great trails where you can walk around looking at the waterfalls from different locations and I highly recommend doing this. Don’t just go get the photo and move on. Iceland is the sort of place you stop and take a real good look at because it is all just so incredible.

Blue Lagoon
If you want a truly relaxing experience then make sure you head to the Blue Lagoon. I’ve already stated above what I recommend booking, but the entire experience is so wonderful. We happened to hear that a guy named Alexander was giving a talk about the Blue lagoon and 2pm, and I think he does these talks daily, definitely go and have a listen. He’s extremely charming and funny, and gives you a deep understanding about Iceland, Icelandic people and The Blue Lagoon.

Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Vik and Black Sand Beach are another tour you can do in the same day. These waterfalls were extremely beautiful, and the beach was just wow. Although it was extremely windy and we had sand hitting our faces at 40mph, it was still so beautiful. A lot of places were also used in the filming of Game of Thrones, so it's always worth having a little look to see. There's also a Plane Wreck on the Black Sand Beach that's worth a visit as it's so fascinating.

Porufoss is another waterfall we found by simply searing maps and looking for waterfalls, again, this was just off of the main road that goes around Iceland so was so easy to go to.
I highly recommend sitting down with a printed map and circling all the things you want to do to be able to visualise your trip. We also sat with our phones and worked out the distance between everything and were able to find more locations nearby. Your phone will be your best friend on your trip, alongside this blog post!
Most of these trips can be done by either group tours, or driving. If you have hired a car however, there is no point in doing these particular tours as you can just drive yourselves.

Northern Lights
Now we didn’t have a great experience. Not that we didn’t see them because we were fortunate enough to have seen them, we were just a little disappointed. It wasn’t the dancing magical lights show we expected. Instead, it was a slightly greener sky that come and went in about 15 minutes. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t try to look for them again, but I just want everyone’s reality to be adjusted, as it’s not always going to be as magical as the pictures.

Iceland is expensive, so be prepared to spend money, we spent the majority of our money on food
Local Currency- Icelandic Króna- We changed up cash, but most places accept card. Most car parks only accept card. If we realised this, we would have changed up a lot less cash and just used my Monzo card. 
Transport: Car. I would recommend driving if you can, but, Iceland is so organised, they have great shuttle services for excursions, and hotels and restaurants can book cabs for you. 
Fact: Viking's built set up their homes near the edge of the country as this is where most of the hot springs are located. They used to bathe in hot springs to keep themselves warm, thus, bathing in the Blue Lagoon is one of the most touristic things you will do, yet it is the most traditional Icelandic thing too.
How I booked: We booked flights and hotels through LoveHolidays. We booked everything else ourselves.

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