Our magical trip to Iceland!

We got back from our trip to Reykjavik in Iceland last Thursday and it really was the most incredible experience!

So many people have been messaging myself and Gav about it looking for advice and feedback so I’m going to do a really thorough review now…

We had iPhone 7’s and the Go Pro Hero Session with us so we really got to capture everything. We love the Go Pro – I’m going to do a review on it soon but I want to wait until I’ve a bit more experience using it first 📷 We used the Capture app on iPhone to download all our photos and videos to our phones which was so handy. It’s brilliant because it’s waterproof and you can use the 3-way tripod accessory to use it as a selfie stick.

We both really wanted to go to Reykjavik because we’d heard so many great things about it and also we kept seeing the amazing videos of the Blue Lagoon on Facebook. We both love to travel so we were easily convinced! We decided to book the trip for 13th-16th February to celebrate Valentines Day and my birthday. I originally saw a deal on Groupon for Reykjavik and enquired about it but when we did our own research we realised we could get direct flights, better accommodation and our tours for a better price than the deal was offering. If you are looking at a deal my advice would be to do your own research too. We booked our flights with Wow Air, an Icelandic airline that has recently started flying out of Dublin. Previously you would have had to get a flight with a stopover to get to Reykjavik so this makes it sooo much easier to get there. Keep in mind that this airline only fly out of Dublin at 11am and the return flight from Keflavik airport to Dublin is at 6am (meaning you have to be up at about 3am to get your bus to the airport in time – this almost killed us because we were out late chasing the Northern Lights the night before!!!) I loved travelling with Wow Air.

We didn’t have any issues at all and their marketing is very fun and quirky.

 

The only negative thing I could say about flying with them is that you can bring a personal item (e.g. small bag – check the measurements here) but you have to pay €17 for a carry on suitcase.

Also another tip is to book way in advance of the dates you want to travel – you’ll get flights cheaper but the main reason is that Iceland is extremely expensive and you need time to save. In most restaurants in Reykjavik a starter is about €15-€25 and a main course is about €40-€60, depending on what you order. We knew it would be expensive but it’s still shocking to see these prices everywhere – there really isn’t a cheap option. I will say that the food is delicious – I’ll recommend some restaurants later on in this post. Drinks are also very pricey – I paid about 2450 Icelandic Krona for a small cocktail which is the equivalent of about €21. It even sounds so outrageous as I type this! Thankfully we knew that the drink was going to be expensive so we bought a bottle of Prosecco and a bottle of Jameson’s in Dublin airport. This saved us a bomb. We had both saved a load of money going over and we just accepted that it was going to be expensive but we wanted to enjoy ourselves. Gav really got a rough deal seeing as it was Valentines Day and my birthday when we were over there so he treated me to dinner and pressies both days! 💗

We stayed at a hotel called Hotel Fron, which was right in the middle of Downtown Reykjavik. The location was ideal. We got a really good deal on bed and breakfast and the rooms were so spacious. All the reception staff were so helpful. I’d highly recommend it. The only thing to note is that we booked a standard room which meant we had a twin room as against a double (we didn’t realise this until we got there). We would have liked a double bed but if you’re not as fussy as us you won’t mind that so much!

Another thing you should know before going is that Iceland does not have preheated water – all of the water in the taps and showers in the hotel bathrooms is coming from naturally heated springs and geysers which unfortunately means there can be an unusual smell from the water. I blamed Gav for stinking up the bathroom one night and then when we realised he wasn’t at fault I complained to reception only to be told it’s a natural smell from the sulphur in the hot water! When we went to the Blue Lagoon and the geysers we got the same smell so it all made sense. The smell wasn’t at all strong at the Blue Lagoon though – don’t let that put you off.

The Icelandic diet is very healthy – they have the second highest life expectancy in the world after Japan. The average life expectancy is 85! This was very apparent – there were juice bars at every corner and lots of seafood restaurants.

If you like fish you’ll love it here because all of the fish is so fresh. The shops seem to sell more high protein yoghurts and fruit as snacks, rather than chocolate, crisps, etc. We were delighted to be grabbing juices throughout the day because we were so busy and wanted to keep our energy up! Breakfast in the hotel was quite basic, which was a bit disappointing! There was cereals, fruit and toast with jams. We would have loved some hot food to keep us going all day so having breakfast included didn’t actually save us much money because we were starving again by 12! I think this is just the norm in Iceland though.

All of the Icelandic people we encountered were very friendly and helpful and they’re really protective of the environment. Everywhere is so clean and there’s very little pollution. There’s only about 350,000 people living in Iceland and 80% of these people live in or around Reykjavik. We didn’t encounter any traffic jams and the pace of life seems to be very relaxed and stress-free. We were considering renting a car over there but we really didn’t need to for three days. There are buses everywhere and they are very punctual. The bus picked us up from our hotel and dropped us back to the door for all our tours and even at 3.30am when were we heading back to the airport. If we were going for say a week it’d be great to have a car to explore more secret lagoons, geysers, etc. Getting the bus was great because it meant we could drink at the Blue Lagoon and on the Northern Lights tour. The Northern Lights tour is also a much better atmosphere when you are experiencing it as part of a large group. I’d highly recommend booking your tours in advance with Viator. We got them pretty cheap and they sell out very fast, especially the Blue Lagoon. We really wanted to do the ATV & Golden Circle tour but it was sold out when we got there. We should have booked it in advance! Don’t forget to bring a valid driving licence if you want to do this one or go quading or anything like that.

The cheapest way to convert your Euros to Icelandic Krona is to take money out at the ATM when you get to Keflavik airport. Make sure you have an idea of how much Krona you will need – my favourite currency exchange app is XE.com.

We used FlyBus to get from the airport to our hotel and bought a return ticket because we had a really early flight back on the Thursday.

It was 10,000 ISK, so about €43 each. Not cheap! There’s also another company called Gray Line that we did all the tours with so it might be worth checking out if they are cheaper. I think when you go to Iceland you just have to accept that it’s going to be priceyyy.

Monday 13th February

We arrived on Monday on the 11am flight and it was just under 2 hours which was brilliant because it meant we were there for lunchtime and still had the afternoon to explore the city.

We dropped our bags in to the hotel and wandered around Reykjavik. It’s very compact and we got to see everything we wanted in about 3 hours. We went to the famous hot dog truck, Baejarins Beztu Pylser, which is really popular and has been there since 1937.

Bill Clinton raved about it a few years ago. I thought it was nice but the hot dogs were quite small and it was nothing to rave about…controversial opinion! It’s just one of those things you have to do when in Iceland though to see what all the fuss is about. Here’s the location on Google Maps. We went for a walk down by the seafront where there is a fantastic viewpoint for the picturesque snow-capped mountains.

This also led us to the Harpa concert hall and conference centre, where Gav got very excited because Fat Boy Slim were playing there the following Friday night 😂 We went to the Hallgrimskirkja church at about 5pm but it was closed so we couldn’t go in.

We were a bit disappointed because during the day you can go to the top of the building and see a 360 degree view of Reykjavik which would be stunning.

Check out our video of Reykjavik sightseeing here (turn the sound on for music):

That night we went to the Hard Rock cafe for dinner and cocktails.

It was delicious – pretty similar to the menu we have here in Dublin but more expensive (of course!). We were home early because we were getting the bus to the Blue Lagoon on Tuesday morning. Eeek!

Tuesday 14th February

This was an amazing day!

I woke up to Valentines presents from the love of my life before heading off to Blue Lagoon paradise. This place is a million times better than it looks in any Facebook video!

We had paid in advance for our standard entry and when we got there we decided to upgrade to the Premium package which gave us a free drink, two face masks, robes, towels, slippers and a complimentary glass of bubbly with our lunch in the fancy Lava restaurant. There was no limit on the amount of time we could spend here and there were hourly buses back to our hotel up until 10pm. We got the bus at 9.30am but I think there’s later tours too. I definitely recommend getting there early though so you get to see the lagoon in daylight and at night time. Find out more about the Blue Lagoon here. You can also get in-water treatments here which looked amazing! The silica in the water has amazing healing properties, especially for psoriasis. The silica is also what gives the water its amazing blue colour. At the Blue Lagoon you are given a wristband and you use this for everything so you have to be really careful not to lose it. You’ll use this to access your locker, pay for drinks & lunch and to get your face masks from the mud mask bar.

This geothermal water is amazing – it’s so hard to believe this place is all natural. The water is heated by the lava under the surface of the rock and the base of the pool and surrounding structures are all made up of volcanic rock. The water is really salty and full of silica so has great healing powers but try keep it out of your eyes as the silica isn’t good for them and the salt can sting (found that out the hard way). There’s certain patches of the water that are hotter than others. We also noticed that our skin didn’t wrinkle in the same way it would if you were in a jacuzzi or hydrotherapy pool. One of the down sides to the lagoon (especially for me because my hair is bleached) is that the silica really dries out your hair. They recommend that you put a conditioner in it before entering the lagoon. I did this and I reapplied the conditioner twice during the day but my hair was still like straw at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong it was totally worth it but it’s something to bear in mind. I’d probably recommend putting your hair up into a bun if you want to protect it because you won’t have your head underwater. There’s drinking water at the lagoon and I’d recommend staying hydrated because if you’re in the lagoon for a long time it does get very hot and dehydrating. The air temperature was about 6 degrees celsius and there was a bit of drizzle but this was actually really nice because it meant we didn’t get too hot in the lagoon. It’s freezing when you get out though – be warned! The heat off the water creates a fog which just adds to the beauty of this place.

There’s a system for the face masks – first you should do the Silica Mud Mask to cleanse skin and clear pores. Second you should do the Algae Mask to nourish skin. We chilled out with the silica mud masks on first, before washing them off underneath the waterfall. Then we headed straight for the in-water lagoon bar for a Prosecco and a beer. The Icelandic Gull beer is nice. The face masks worked wonders on my skin – I’ve been suffering from breakouts all over my face since before Christmas and my skin is now the clearest it’s been in months. 

There’s a limit of three alcoholic drinks per wristband so keep that in mind (this doesn’t include your free glass of sparkling wine with lunch so technically it’s 4 alcoholic drinks in total). They also serve yummy juices and yoghurt based smoothies here too. We thought the prices would be crazy but it was actually very reasonable by Icelandic standards. Our first drink was also free as part of our package 🍺

We just chilled out here for about three hours – you literally won’t want to get out! You can swim around exploring caves and different parts of the lagoon. You just feel so relaxed. This place really is paradise! 😍

We had some delicious green juices and did our Algae face masks before lunch. We wanted to save our alcoholic drinks for the evening because we knew the lagoon would be stunning when lit up after the sun set. When we arrived we had booked a table in the Lava restaurant at 2pm which was perfect. There’s also a snack bar and a cafe so there’s lots of options. We just thought we’d do it in style with it being Valentines Day! We went to the relaxing area to dry off for a while before lunch.

The Lava restaurant is stunning – the walls are all constructed from volcanic rocks and it is very posh! The best part about the restaurant is that you can wear your robe and slippers to have your meal – heaven!! We had our complimentary glass of prosecco and chose from a 2 course set menu. We both had Icelandic Char to start (similar to salmon) and lamb for main course. Check out the menu here. Some bread and bottled water was brought to our table before we ordered. The food was absolutely delicious.

After lunch we headed back out to the lagoon to have a few more drinks and just chill out. The sun went down at about 6pm and the lagoon looked absolutely stunning lit up. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. To be watching the pink sunset while sipping a glass of Prosecco in the warm water at night – there are no words!

The Blue Lagoon have a range of skincare products which are available to buy when you exit the lagoon e.g. face masks, shampoos, etc. Shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser were all provided in the changing rooms so don’t bother bringing any of that. They also have hair dryers and plastic bags to put your wet stuff in. Just don’t forget your swimsuit when you’re packing your suitcase.

We got the 7pm bus back to our hotel with Gray Line. If we had more time I definitely would have gone back here another day! I’ve also heard great feedback on a place called the Secret Lagoon, but we didn’t have time to go there. This was such an amazing, romantic place to go but there was lots of families and groups too. I would definitely recommend it for a group – not just couples.

Check out our Blue Lagoon video:

We were almost asleep when we got back to the hotel purely just because we were so relaxed! We did some research and booked an Italian restaurant in Reykjavik for Valentines dinner 😍 In Iceland most restaurants seem to be open until 11pm and people seem to eat later. This is really handy because sometimes your tours will arrive back at a late time. There are so many restaurants in Reykjavik – we just Googled and looked for good reviews to decide on one. It worked out well for us. The Italian we went to was called Caruso. Get directions to it here. I had deep fried Camembert to start and Gav had garlic bread (huge portion). We shared a carbonara and a Satisfaccione pizza (onions, blue cheese, pepperoni, jalapenos) for mains.

Look at the banana pizza on this menu! Make sure you know what you’re eating in Iceland because they have some unusual delicacies like rotten shark…

 

Our meal was delicious, especially the Carbonara. I’d highly recommend going here! Check out the menu. We didn’t book any restaurants in advance so I wouldn’t worry about that until you get over there. Most of the time they can accommodate you. Our hotel was less than a 10 minute walk from the town where all the restaurants and bars were so we didn’t need to get a taxi anywhere. The location was ideal.


Wednesday 15th February 

What a place to wake up on my birthday! ☺ I was showered with more pressies from my amazing Gav, including tickets to Jack Whitehall at the 3Arena which I cannot wait for this week. We headed off on the Golden Circle Express tour at 10.30am. You can also go on the Golden Circle Standard tour which is 2 hours extra but we wanted to do the Express Tour because we were going on the Northern Lights tour that evening. We didn’t have a chance to do it but there’s also a Game of Thrones tour which looked very interesting!

The Golden Circle tour was amazing, especially if you’re interested in the history of the country and seeing some beautiful landscapes. The first part of the bus tour took us to Pingvellir National Park where we saw some amazing scenery and walked through the park down to a beautiful waterfall. We had a 30 minute stop here and we had to run up a huge hill to get back to the bus on time – Gav had to push me up the hill!! If you’re doing this stick to our motto: “What goes up must come down” 😂😂😂 Keep track of how much time you have – it’s really easy to lose track because there’s a load of other buses and tours there too. Most of the paths lead you downhill so remember you’re going to have to trek back up them…

The second stop was at the geysers for 50 minutes. We got lunch here before going over to the land where the hot springs are. There were lots of options for lunch – we got some chips at the main restaurant and really nice soup at a place called Supa. I had Malaysian soup with peanut paste, sweet potatoes and other veg and Gav had a spicy Tex Mex soup which was served with crushed nachos and sour cream on top. Bread also came with it. Delish! We were really pushed for time at this stop so we had about 15 minutes to pop over to the geysers to see them erupt which happens every 3-4 minutes. The water is about 80-100 degrees celsius… hot hot hot 🔥🔥🔥

The next stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. We got the most delishhh hot chocolate in the cafe there before going down to see the waterfall. We climbed down steps to the viewpoint and it was so windy and absolutely freezing! Definitely worth it though. It’s a serious task trying to hold a selfie stick when you can’t feel your hands. I think we had about 45 minutes here, and it was the perfect amount of time. There is a lovely gift shop here too.

The tour was 6 hours in total. The tour guide talked us through the history of Iceland as we travelled along on the bus. Icelandic people are similar to Irish I would say – very friendly and they have a good sense of humour. I’d definitely recommend this tour.

Check out our video of the Golden Circle tour:

We were starving when we got back to the hotel and we had about 2 hours before we were getting picked up for the Northern Lights tour (eeek!). I washed my hair quickly over the shower because it looked crazy after the wind and rain at the waterfall. Gav found an unbelievable Indian restaurant called Austur-Indiafjelagid. It was by far the nicest restaurant in terms of service, atmosphere and food we had while we were there! Check out the menu here. We ordered Poppadoms and Naan bread for starters which came with three delicious chutneys. There was no lamb korma (my fave) on the menu but they said they could make one for me and Gav had Achari Gosht (he loves the spiciest dishes, I don’t understand it!!!). We then legged it back to the hotel to catch our bus to see the Northern Lights!

 

 

 

It had been so cloudy since we arrived that all of the bus trips out to see the Northern Lights for previous days had been cancelled so we just assumed that our tour was going to be cancelled as well. It wasn’t until Wednesday that we found out the tour would be going ahead. How it works is that even when the tour goes ahead you still only have a 50% chance of seeing the lights. The bus took about 30 minutes to reach our destination. Everyone got off the buses to wait for the sky to light up. It’s worth noting that there’s no food or drink sold here so bring some supplies. We were very classy and brought bottles of Ginger Ale topped with Jameson’s and lime juice! We weren’t the only ones though – we ended up sharing drinks with other people and swigging out of their hip flasks!! Make sure to wrap up really warm too because you are standing around for a few hours. The tour brings you to a selected destination to try see the lights and if they don’t appear the buses will bring you to a different location to try there. The tour can last for up to 5 hours, depending on how long it takes to see the lights. There’s no guarantee you’ll see them either. The best time to see the lights is between 22:00 and 00:00 though. We were lucky enough to see them in the first place we went to, meaning we were home by about 11.30pm. As the tour guide told us, every tour is different and you can’t really plan it in advance.

The lights were absolutely incredible. They look completely different to the eye in comparison to how it looks on a camera. They look green on a camera but it looks like a grey cloud to the human eye. It’s amazing! A lot of people around us had expensive cameras, but we actually took better photos on our iPhones using the ‘Northern Lights photo taker’ app (99c in App Store). The normal camera on a smartphone won’t capture it. This was such an incredible end to my birthday and to our trip 👫

Check out our Northern Lights video here:

We were up at 3am the next morning to get our bus to the airport which was a serious struggle but we made it. Buses operate from the hotel to the airport and vice versa on the hour so you won’t be stuck. The best thing to do is to book it with reception at your hotel. There’s lots of nice food places in Keflavik airport which is great. I’d definitely recommend taking the following day off work – you’ll need to catch up on some zzz’s.

I would go back to Iceland tomorrow if I had the chance and I think it’s a trip that everyone should experience! Feel free to ask me any questions that I haven’t answered here.

Karissa x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s