A guide to Iceland
My husband and I visited Iceland in February 2016 after discussing our bucket lists and realising we both wanted to see the Northern Lights. They did not disappoint!
I can’t take any credit for planning nor booking the trip as my keen husband took care of that and what an amazing trip he booked! He was like a tour guide throughout! When we arrived home from our trip we sat together to make notes on a guide to Iceland in order to save others masses of time researching and planning their trip like my husband had done.
I have adapted our notes to write this blog today!
We hired a 4 wheel drive from ‘Blue car hire’, it was reasonably priced and had a build in sat nav, which was a life saver! Most car hire companies suggest you hire a car that you’re used to driving, however, if you’re going to be driving in snow and you’re a confident driver there is no reason you can’t have a 4 wheel drive.
I personally wouldn’t hire anything else, we felt very safe and could get to places we wouldn’t have been able to in a normal car. To find blue car hire you come out of the airport and walk across the car park and you will see it, very straight forward and they were a good company to deal with, no problems. The roads are generally quite clear, what we would deem drivable in the UK, however, the odd road will be snow filled but cars still drive on it, we managed all roads in our 4 wheel drive.
We stayed at Hotel Laxnes in Mosfellbaer which was about an hour away from the airport and 15 minutes from Reykjavik, it was a simple hotel with a continental breakfast. The rooms are a good size, there is a bar with football etc on after 6pm, a free pool table and recreational area. If you request early enough in the day they can also heat up the outdoor hot tub for you between 7pm and 10.30pm. We stayed here to be nearer to the attractions, if we were to stay near to the airport it is quite a distance to travel before you get to anything, except for the blue lagoon, which we will come to later!
We moved hotel to be nearer the airport the day before we came home as we were on an early flight. This hotel was called Hotel Keflavik and was a little more luxurious than the previous hotel but again, if you were to stay here for the whole time you are quite a way out from any attractions. It is near the blue lagoon though!
There are lots of lovely restaurants around in Reykjavik but we were always on the go during the day so we ate breakfast in the hotel, had a quick snack or sandwich from somewhere for lunch then generally booked a nice meal somewhere in the evening. Restaurants can be of your own preferences though, lots of them are on trip advisor, it depends where you are that day really but everywhere we ate was good. Be aware that no-where is particularly cheap though.
Things to see and do
The golden circle. (if you Google the golden circle you will get lots of information about the attractions to see on this very long road that goes round in a circle – funnily enough!) We only did half of the circle and came back the same way as it was better for us based on the hotel we stayed in. If you complete the whole circle you end up near Reykjavik. Below are a list of things we saw the day we drove round the golden circle.
The National Park
We drove to the National park from the hotel, it took around 40mins -1 hour. There are many fantastic photo opportunities and lots of walking if you fancy it, you could easily spend half a day here but we wanted to see the main parts and move on as we had lots to see that particular day. There is an opportunity to scuba dive in VERY cold water here, perhaps Google to get more information on this though! There are toilets here, a gift shop and there is a little café.
Moving on from the national park and driving around the golden circle for another 40mins – 1hour you will arrive at Geysir. This is where there are lots of hot springs. One in particular erupts every 5 minutes or so, it’s amazing to watch. There are toilets here, a gift shop and a café here too.
Europe’s largest waterfall
After leaving Geysir it should only take you about 10-15minutes to arrive at the waterfall, it’s a good idea to do all 3 things in the same day if you can. The waterfall is beautiful, again there are toilets, a gift shop and a café here too.
Other attractions to see and do in Iceland
The Northern Lights
We would highly recommend the company ‘super jeep’ as there was no messing about, we got into a jeep and stopped off at many places to see the Northern Lights, the jeeps are more like monster trucks and can travel through really deep snow to get to the highest places for the best viewing. You can book cheaper tours on minibuses etc but they cannot get to the places the super jeep company can. It was about £110 each for the tour, they pick you up from your hotel at 8pm and have you back for about 11.45pm. You have hot chocolate and vodka when you can see the lights too. They will cancel the tour if it is cloudy but will give you plenty of notice for this and you will go on the next evening for no extra cost. They recommend you book for your first night then if it’s cancelled you can go the day after or after etc.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee there will be a good show. We believe February is meant to be a good time to see them but Google this for more information. When we saw them they were amazing, the drivers actually said it was the best night of the year so far and my husband still claims that this was the ‘best day/night of his life’ … clearly he forgot about our wedding day… and the birth of our perfect son! Haha, in fairness, it sure was a breath taking experience!
Gunnuhver hot springs
Fabulous to see. Nothing else to do here though so maybe visit them on the way to the Blue Lagoon.
The blue lagoon was amazing! Make sure you book online before you go. There are a few different packages to buy, we went for the comfort package and had a towel, free drink and a mud mask included. It’s quite pricey in general, about £40 each to get in but it’s well worth it!
You go into the changing rooms, get changed and leave your stuff in the cool lockers (you will see what we mean!) if you want to take photos we suggest using a go pro like we did or a waterproof case for your phone. Then you leave your towel in a bay, have a quick shower and put lots of conditioner on your hair and enter the inside blue lagoon pool, when you’re nice and warm you can venture outside via the ‘exit.’
There is quite a bit to do out there, you can get a drink from the bar, one drink is free on the comfort package and any extras you can put on your wristband and pay for when you exit. Then there are the mud masks, places to sit and relax, a steam room, sauna etc. You can easily spend an hour or 1.5 hours in there, maybe longer.
We also had a meal in the restaurant there, it was expensive but was a lovely treat for us, this was something we had to pre-book too. If you don’t fancy the restaurant there is a café with sandwiches etc.
There are lots of other things to do in a range of locations across Iceland, such as dog sledging, horse riding, whale watching. We didn’t do these so we couldn’t offer much advice but if you check trip advisor before you go there will be lots of information and guidance on these.
Overall, it is a beautiful country and is well worth a visit! It is certainly one of favourite holidays and we can’t wait to take our child (or potentially children!) one day!