Friday, 9 February 2018


I had always wanted to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights, so when my daughter said she would like to go there in January for her birthday, it was an ideal opportunity to tick one more thing from my Bucket List.

Unfortunately we didn’t see the Northern Lights, for which I was gutted, but we did have a fabulous time, though to be honest it was eye-wateringly expensive. We had been warned to take snacks with us because nothing is cheap, but I was staggered at the cost of eating out.

But not to put a damper on the trip, the country is stunningly beautiful, the people are very friendly and there is plenty to do and see.

We arrived during a storm, having been told that Iceland is the third windiest country in the world – and the other two countries are uninhabitable (not sure where they are either!).  The wind was bitingly cold with driving snow which makes your eyes sting, so we abandoned all efforts at make-up during our stay there as our eyes streamed constantly with the wind.

Known as the Land of Fire and Ice, much of the tourist activities are available around water, and since our hotel was The Icelandair Marina, in Reykjavik, that’s where we started.

The hotel was lovely, very quirky with interesting artefacts scattered around the place.  The room was cosy and comfortable – despite the lack of drawer space and tea making facilities.
Stepping out into the Marina – still a working port since the economy relies heavily on fishing – we booked a whale watching tour by boat, followed by the Northern Lights sea tour for the same evening through Special Tours, though there are plenty of alternative tour companies, offering everything from fishing to puffin tours.

We had bought goose-down coats, thermal underwear, boots and gloves, woolly hats and scarves before we left home, and they were genuinely a life-saver.  However, the tour company provided one-piece suits to wear over our clothes to keep us dry at sea, which were not flattering but did the job. They even provided sea-sickness pills although fortunately the sea was quite calm so we didn't need them.

An hour or so out to sea the captain spotted a pod of dolphins frolicking in the sea, which was amazing!  The boat stopped while we watched the white beaked dolphins, including a mother and her baby diving in and out of the waves, playing and showing off. Dolphins are naturally curious and friendly creatures and it was a privilege to see them in their natural habitat.  We didn’t see any whales, but the stories we heard peaked our interest so we visited the whale museum later in the week to learn more about these majestic creatures.  

The museum was showing a documentary about Keiko the star of the “Free Willy” movies which was returned to the sea in Iceland after a lifetime in captivity.  The documentary was so moving, particularly since Keiko only lived a couple of years after he was finally set free, dying of pneumonia and probably a broken heart, since whales are sociable and live in pods.  Unfortunately, Keiko no longer belonged to a pod, and was unable to hunt food for himself, dying sick and alone in Norwegian waters, which is so very sad. The whale-watching tour company is passionate about whale conservation and urged us not to eat in any of the local restaurants which cater for tourists wanting to eat whale meat (not that we ever would!).  

But back to our first foray out to see the Aurelia Borealis. The boat is equipped with special cameras to pick up what the naked eye cannot, and although there was some geo-thermal activity, it was very faint, looking just like an ordinary cloud in the sky.  So, no spectacular activity, and a disappointing evening.  The company does offer free trips again if you are not lucky enough to see the lights, so we booked for another evening and repeated the performance, again with no luck.  The third time we booked, bad weather had set in so the trip was cancelled.  Apparently if we ever go back we can have another free trip, but I doubt we will return.

Next on my bucket list was the Blue Lagoon, a natural geo-thermal pool at Grindavikurbaer, and one of the 25 wonders of the world.  The tour companies have a system of sending a mini-bus to collect you from your hotel and then taking you to the bus terminus to collect the tour bus, which was largely efficient, if a bit of a faff!

We booked a 4.00pm slot on an executive package, which included free drinks, queue jumping (the place was very busy), robes and slippers and a dining reservation (more of the latter later!)

The pool is a gorgeous shade of milky turquoise, and was as warm as a hot bath.  Visitors could take advantage of two separate face masks – the first one was silica and the second was algae – both of which left our skin feeling super soft and lovely to touch! Again be warned about the price – you can buy the mask in the shop, but at around £200 for a tube, it was super-expensive.

Everything in Iceland is dependent on the weather, and our visit coincided with an icy wind, so it was nice to slip beneath the water to keep warm.  It was surprising to see people with pints of beer walking through the water, but we opted for healthy smoothies and took shelter out of the wind to drink them, since we didn’t fancy manoeuvring round the rocks in case we spilled them.

After a hot shower we ventured to the restaurant and again were staggered at the cost of a meal – which started at around £100 each, so we opted for a salad in a plastic tub, with a packet of crisps and a small bar of chocolate, it was almost a bargain at £60!

I think you get the picture about prices, so I won’t mention them again, just take a credit card and  plenty of Krona if you visit!  

Next week I will be letting you know about our more land-based activities, which includes around Reykjavik town, the Golden Circle, and a morning with Icelandic horses!


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