My husband Sean, and a group of our friends and myself all travelled to Reykjavik a few years back. Iceland was somewhere Sean and I had always wanted to go to. So in January 2015 we decided to go, as we were really keen to try and see the northern lights, we started booking a few months before and a few of our friends wanted to join us, I think it’s somewhere a lot of people want to go to, as there is so much to see and do and the northern lights are on most people’s bucket lists.
We managed to get some really cheap flights with easyJet, we paid roughly £90 return. I booked an apartment, but there was a few issues with my booking as the apartment I booked was getting renovated it wasn’t going to be ready in time, so the owner messaged me saying they were going to move us to another apartment they had. However a few weeks before there was an issue with the other apartment, so the owner asked if it would be ok if she moved us to their guesthouse and gave us the whole ground floor, as there was 8 of us all together, and she would throw in breakfast and a traditional Icelandic dinner when we arrived, as the guesthouse was their home. I’m pretty laid back when it comes to accommodation so didn’t mind as long as the place is clean, and a central location I’m happy, it also helped that breakfast was getting thrown in and a nice dinner to arrive to.
Once we landed into Reykjavik we headed straight to our guesthouse which was called Eric the Red guesthouse named after a Norwegian Viking. We were warmly welcomed by Edda the owner, she showed us to our rooms and they were amazing better than we imagined, we had the whole of the downstairs with 5 bedrooms in total and 4 bathrooms and a lounge and kitchen area. Once we got settled we then went upstairs into the house, and Edda had prepared us a traditional Icelandic lamb with all the trimmings. It really felt like a home away from home. Edda sat with us for dinner and her husband Runnar joined us to, it was a lovely start to our trip. They were both so warm and welcoming which is a common trait for Icelandic and Scandinavian people. After the delicious meal, Edda then treated us to some traditional Icelandic chocolates and crepes. The guesthouse even had a ginger cat that loved siting in our kitchen and lounge area, we all love animals so was nice to have a fury companion away from home.
We all decided to have an early night as we were getting up early the next day to go on the Golden circle tour which we had pre booked through Viator.
In the morning we got up and got showered. You will notice if you ever visit Reykjavik that when having a shower you will smell an eggy smell from the drains, as all of Reykjavik is run on geothermal energy so sulphur smells come through the drains, and all the streets are heated from underneath to stop Ice and snow build up. Once we were all ready we had breakfast in the guesthouse and Edda laid out a nice spread for breakfast for all the guests with cereals, meats, cheeses, breads, fruit and porridge.
We were picked up from outside the guesthouse by the tour company, it was still pretty dark outside at this point as the sun takes a while to come up. The tour company took us straight to Hellisheidi geothermal power plant which showed us how Reykjavik runs on geothermal energy and the benefits to this. The geothermal plant has tons of exhibitions on sustainability, and you can see all the machinery and how it runs.
We spent sometime there and from the geothermal plant we headed towards Skalholt Cathedral. On the way to the cathedral we had the most scenic views of Icelands countryside. As we went in the depths of winter, all the mountains and meadows were covered in snow and everywhere was white and bleak but it was stunning, there is such a contrast between the snow and the volcanic rocks. We saw tons of wild horses roaming around the countryside, in some areas you couldn’t see anything for miles.
When we arrived at Skalholt Cathedral it isn’t much to look at from the outside, it is the 10th cathedral that has been built on this exact site. Skalholt is one of the most historical sites in Iceland it was a place of pilgrimage in medieval times. There are hidden corridors that lead to an outside wooden building which make it really quirky. It’s a good place to stop off when doing the Golden circle as it breaks up the long drives between the sights.
After the cathedral we then headed to Gullfoss Waterfall which is one of the main attractions in Iceland, and also known as the golden waterfall. It is set in a canyon and is breathtaking, this was definitely one of the highlights on the tour. When we arrived there we got lunch straight away, as we were all starving hungry by this point. The cafe at the Gullfoss is great and had lots of choice although it is pricey like most food and drink in Iceland, and it’s a massive tourist attraction and there is no competition, so it is expensive. Once we had lunch we stood and watched the waterfall for a while, it really is incredible.
Once we spent a while at the Gullfoss Waterfall it was then time to head to Strokkur Geyser. There is one large geyser which shoots up every minute or so, then there are a few smaller ones. The views around this area are brilliant, it’s very picturesque. While we were looking at the geysers, Sean and our friend Flower decided to hike up one of the hills near by to get a good view of the area. The rest of us were lazy, and the thought of climbing up a large snow covered hill didn’t seem quite as appealing.
Once we had finished at Strokkur, it was time to head to Thingvellir National Park, which is known for Icelands oldest parliament from the 10th century, and has old stone ruins and beautiful landscapes and sites. This along with the Gullfoss waterfall were definitely the best parts of the tour, the scenery and landscape is beautiful, and I’d love to go back in Icelands summer to see it’s transformation to lush greenery. The tour guide gave us lots of information while we were there admiring the views and then I slipped over in front of the whole tour group. I’m so clumsy we were all stood in the most beautiful area and then bang I was over, and trying to get back up on slippery ice wasn’t the easiest.
After my embarrassing moment it was time to head back to Reykjavik, we had a northern lights tour booked that night so headed back for a quick freshen up then headed to a restaurant down the road from the guesthouse called Cafe Loki. The restaurant specialised in traditional Icelandic cuisine. The cuisine wasn’t to my taste so I played it safe and had a salad with rye bread, but all the lads decided they were going to have an Icelandic platter each which consisted of dried fish, fermented shark, whale blubber, jellied sheep brain and a selection of rye breads. The girls and I didn’t fancy the platter, all the lads tried to pretend they liked it but then all admitted how horrible it was.
From Cafe Loki we went back to the guesthouse and waited for the tour pick up for the northern lights. We started to see the northern lights when we were stood outside the guesthouse waiting. The northern lights tour took us to the harbour, where we boarded a boat. Once everyone was boarded, the boat took us further away from city for us to try and get a better look at the northern lights without city lights dimming the northern lights. As we went further out we did see the northern lights they were quite faint but we did see them, which we were all happy about.
The next day was another early start as we booked whale watching, so we had breakfast then headed into Reykjavik to have a wonder around before the tour. We also went across the road from the guesthouse to have a look at Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, we also went up to the top to get some great views of the city. At the top of the cathedral there were panoramic views of the city, I must have taken about 50 photos! So many great photo opportunities up there.
We then went on the whale watching tour, unfortunately we went out on the boat for a few hours and didn’t see any whales, it wasn’t the best time of year for it, but we thought we would give a try anyways. If anything it was nice to go out on the boat and see some of the glaciers and views away from the city. While we were on the boat we did see a training exercise for the helicopter coast guard, which was pretty cool, shame about the whales but it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
On the second to last day we decided to have a pretty chilled out day, and just wondered around the city. We also decided to go and check out the Icelandic Phallological Museum for a laugh. It was pretty disgusting as was just a load of penises from various mammals in jars, it was definitely one of the weirdest places I’ve been to.
We also visited the Viking settlement exhibition museum which is really interesting as it is an archeological site and built around a Viking longhouse. There are lots of remains from the settlement and theories to what the settlers life was like. After this museum we headed to the Saga museum which showcases key events in Icelands history with wax figurines, and they provide an audio guide to learn about all the history and events. The wax figurines were a little creepy, however it was still intersting, im not a massive fan of museums normally but both these museums were worth a visit if you have time in Reykjavik.
After visiting the museums we then wandered around Reykjavik abit more and found Reykjaviks only Catholic Church which is called Landakotskirkja, which had lots of character inside.
On our final night we booked a table at Reykjavik fish restaurant which cooks up the most amazing and delicious Icelandic fish and chips. The restaurant is pretty reasonable in price compared to other restaurants in Iceland too. The fish is really fresh and is some of the best fish and chips I have ever had. The restaurant is also quite modern and contemporary inside, so definitely a change to the fish and chip places we have back home in the U.K.
After our dinner at the fish restaurant we headed to a bar for a few drinks, we did plan on maybe doing a bit of a night out in Reykjavik but we had done so much during the day by the time it come to staying out late we were all completely shattered. We had a few drinks in an American themed bar then headed back to the hostel and chilled out in the lounge and kitchen for a bit chatting before heading to bed.
The next day was our time to head home, we got up and had breakfast and settled up our bill which was a bargain, it roughly worked out to £43 per person for the 4 nights. Edda honoured the same rate which we would have paid for her apartment. We were all so happy with the guesthouse and Eddas warm hospitality that we decided to all round our bills up to £50 per person to leave her abit extra she was really moved by it and I don’t think she realises how amazing her little guesthouse and hospitality are, she really was one of the sweetest people we had met, if I ever return back to Iceland I will stay back at Eric the Red guesthouse.
We packed up and said our goodbyes to Edda. I booked us a transfer to the airport which included a stop off at the Blue lagoon. This is a must when in Iceland as it’s such a cool place and a great idea to do when on way home as it’s so relaxing. There are a few different package options, we decided to go for the luxury package which included a ton of extras such as entrance, mud face mask, towel, drink, algae face mask, bathrobe, slippers, spa toiletry set, reservation at Lava restaurant and sparkling wine at the restaurant.
I personally think paying extra is really worth it, the blue lagoon is such a great experience that if your going to do it, you might as well do it with some nice little added extras. We had a drink while sitting in the lagoon with our face masks and must have floated around the lagoon for almost two hours. We then decided to end our trip with a meal in the Lava restaurant. The restaurant is pretty expensive however they do have a two course offer which we decided to have and then shared a desert. The food was really tasty and displayed beautifully and definitely worth it when visiting. After our meal it was time to get ready and head to the airport. I would really recommend visiting the Blue lagoon at the end of your trip before getting to the airport as you feel so refreshed after it.
I’m so glad I have had the chance to visit Iceland, it is one of the most majestic places I have ever visited, it really is one of the most beautiful places in Europe and probably even the world!
Need to Knows;
Currency: Icelandic Krona
Visa Requirement: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/iceland/entry-requirements
Safety & Security: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/iceland/safety-and-security