Matt is the cutest, he bought this trip as a wedding present, he’d found it on a site similar to wowcher, and had known it’s a place I’d always wanted to go. I’ve dreamt of seeing the Northern Lights ever since I watched the BBC’s 100 Places to See Before you Die (aged 17) so as cheesy as it sounds, it was a dream come true.
That said, we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights so our quest continues, but you’ll never come away from Iceland disappointed for it has an unmatched landscape, gorgeous seafood and once-in-a-lifetime activities such as Snowmobiling in Winter or a Whale watching tour in the Summer’s midnight sun, both of which you can only do in a select few countries. Whatever the weather, it’s a must visit!
I’ll break down our itinerary, as I always try to do for a travel blog, but first I’ll cover off two key questions:
1. When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
This is a question, I asked anyone that would listen whilst we were there and most people said the same, it tends to be at the turn of the season in March / April, or in October when it’s a little warmer than the winter months, and there is less cloud, but it’s still not guaranteed, as it depends on the earth’s electromagnetic field too!
2. How long would you recommend going for?
It really depends on why you’re travelling for, how disappointed you’d be if you didn’t see the Northern Lights, and your budget (yes, the “b” word always gets in the way, doesn’t it?!).
A week would be amazing as you could hire a 4×4 and drive the country and see everything the Iceland has to offer, as well as be in with a much better chance of seeing the Northern Lights. First tip, if you do this, especially in winter make sure the vehicle is suitable for the terrain and weather conditions, we were talking to a couple who had hired the cheapest compact to make it more affordable and there were points that it held them back so it’s definitely worth thinking about a more suitable vehicle even if it costs a little more.
If, however, you’d like a flavour for it, with the option to go back one day, will hope to see the lights, but could come away just as happy if you didn’t, then two or three nights is great for a whistle stop tour. Plus, you won’t break the bank eating out every night, which you’re much more likely to do if you’re there for a week – it is as expensive as everyone makes out, if not more so than you’d imagine! The trick is probably to avoid wine and three course meals… but that’s no fun, right?!
– O U R I T I N E R A R Y –
– Day One –
Matt picked a flight that meant we got there slightly earlier on the first day so we could explore the town a little bit, but it was already getting dark, which was interesting because it was still quite early in the day but of course the days are much shorter in the Winter.
We then headed to a restaurant called the Grill Market in the evening, which comes with high recommendation, even if it is on the pricey side – I had the second best meal I’ve ever eaten in this lovely little joint – Langoustines in Champagne Sauce – yummy. Ok, it was a lavish pick, but whilst on holiday, we thought we’d treat ourselves… even if we did feel a splash of guilt when the bill came to the table… #YOLO.
– Day Two –
We pre-booked a Golden Circle Tour (find the tour we booked here) and this also comes with a high recommendation as it enables you to see Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysers, see the landscapes of Iceland, and experience a Snowmobile tour on Langkjofull Glacier. We booked this only a few days before we travelled so it doesn’t need to be way in advance. There are also numerous variations, for example, without the Super Jeep or Snowmobiling activity.
That said, the snowmobiling really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and whilst a lot heavier or navigate than I’d expected, I would do it over and over and over again.
Gullfoss Waterfall was amazing to see, but on the edge of the cliff, it is bitter cold so always wrap up super warm.
The Geysers were a spectacle too. Wait for Stokkur, which is the only active one on the site to shoot into the sky and that still happens every 5 – 7 minutes, just make sure you stand on the side of the Geyser that is opposite to the direction of the wind – you’ll get a much better photograph and you won’t get soaked by the spray either!
The the last stop is Þingvellir national park, which has great views on a clear day.
That evening we ate in a beautiful French restaurant called Snaps Bistro Bar and I had Moules and Frites because whilst typically French, I wasn’t missing out on the opportunity for more Icelandic seafood and it was delicious and had lots of cacti! It was just perfect.
This was the night we were meant to see the Northern Lights, but due to weather, we had to say better luck next time and in the meantime, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for another trip in the future.
– Day Three –
Please, please, please don’t waste a day travelling to and from the Blue Lagoon that’s in the middle of your trip because it’s on the route to / from the airport so it makes much more sense to do it either on your journey in or on your way out to maximise time, but do visit, it’s a fantastic, relaxing experience that I wouldn’t miss for the world. I’d definitely go again and again and again too, if I could.
We bought the luxury experience that enabled you to get slippers and a dressing gown, and we thought it was worth it too, it’s super chilly outside of the pool, and you do get a nice lunch and a drink at the bar included too, which we really enjoyed. We managed to while away around five hours here, and the only thing I would wish is that we left just short of sunset, and that would have been incredible to see, but hopefully there’s always a next time. Oh and before I forget, make sure you book in advance (here), it’ll help you beat the queues!
Pssstt.. these are the mussels at the Lagoon’s restaurant and they were delicious too!
Other activities we’d love to do…
Sailing on a glacier lagoon
Hunting down the Northern Lights
Visit an ice cave (you can combine this with a northern lights tour too)
Drive around the country hunting out more geothermal pools and waterfalls in a Super Jeep
Whale watching, particularly in the Summer’s midnight sun
Snorkelling or diving because it’s between two continents and I’ve heard you can can actually see where the two tectonic plates separate as you are floating in the water, and you can’t experience this anywhere else!
Other restaurants, we’d found that looked lovely include – Apotek Kitchen Bar, Cafe Loki (for traditional Icelandic cuisine), Hofnin and Messins. Not forgetting Brauo & co. or Sandholt for yummy morning pastries.
Dreamy accommodation options:
The Sand Hotel in Reykjavik
Hotel Ranga in Southern Iceland’s countryside at the base of a Volcano and a great spot to hope to see the Northern Lights.
If you visit, I hope you have the best time because we did!
P.s. my other favourite thing is because it stays dark until quite late in the morning in November (that’s when we went), you get to have breakfast by candlelight too! It really was lovely.