Where do I start with Iceland? Maybe the part where my heart was completely stolen by a glistening, dancing emerald sky. So unbelievably silent, but as though I could hear the beams of green as they dashed and swirled above our heads whilst we ran up the hill not quite believing what we were seeing. Our cabin was in the middle of the vast, dark frozen landscape, miles from the nearest town. We stood in awe, feeling as though we were in some kind of dream where the sky had come out to dance for us, just in the moment we had arrived…. Then without warning, they were gone.
The Northern Lights arrive on most chilly, clear evenings in the northern regions, but this was by far the best way I could ever have imagined seeing the Aurora. Peaceful, beautiful and completely AWESOME!!!!
Iceland IS as amazing as you will hear. With a population of 330,000 people, when you move away from Reykjavik (Iceland’s capital) and out of the suburban towns (which hold two thirds of the whole countries population), areas of civilisation are few and far between. Although you may not meet people, the island is very much active geologically. From lagoons, to geysers, to waterfalls, you can find nature’s magnificent beauty all in just under two hours from arriving in Reykjavik… and the Icelandic people are great. So friendly, and very very helpful.
So, where do you begin with planning a wonderful winter trip to this spectacular volcanic land?
You have the choice from hire car or tours. Tours are great as you can sit back and enjoy the scenery of Iceland. Tours will take you to each designated place and give you the time to admire key tourist attractions. There is a lot of driving, lets say around 6 hours in one day to complete the Golden Circle…. Exhausting right?!…. so you won’t have to worry about your long journey home.
If you hire a car, you will get the opportunity to stop wherever you like and whenever you like, so your trip is a lot more flexible. The landscape is stunning, and stopping off is great fun, especially, when you spot the (adorable) Icelandic ponies and the gorgeous frozen rivers. It’s good fun, but driving in the snow can be dangerous, so getting a car that is fit for purpose (snow tires) and filling up with petrol so you can make it home safe is important.
If you want to absolutely WIN at visiting Iceland, then I say Airbnb wins hands down for accommodation. Stay in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it is dark and freezing, but nothing a little heater and blankets can’t sort out. You will get the full experience of visiting Iceland in the winter. Obviously, it would not be so wise to stay too far off the track that the Arctic weather conditions may halt you reaching your cosy cabin, but just outside of the major towns so that light pollution does not affect your ability to see the Aurora. I would advise somewhere outside the town of Selfoss. You can rent a car from either Keflavik or Reykjavik depending on where you fly in to.
The Golden Circle
So, the golden circle is the tourist route to see the Southern regions wonders. Both Reykjavik and Selfoss are along the route, so you can start from anywhere. Tours will start from Reykjavik, but you may be able to find others that start from other places along the way. If you have a car, you can start pretty much anywhere. Be prepared, you’ll need hats, gloves (ski gloves are your best option), and a VERY warm coat.
When it comes to the northern lights, it really is down to luck. However, choosing the right season will dramatically increase your chances of seeing them. The best months to see the northern lights are between September – Mid-April, with November – January having majority of the day in darkness. So, more dark hours = higher chance of seeing the lights. I would suggest going in mid November onwards, as the snow season is just starting and the land transforms into a perfect setting to see the lights. It’s completely dark from 6pm – 4am, so these are the best times to catch the Aurora.
Make sure you stay away from the city, and find a dark area where you feel safe and comfy, and wait it out. You can take night tours from Reykjavik to watch the lights, where you’ll head out for several hours and return around 00:00.
Remember, the sky must be clear, so with a little bit of luck and good planning you might just get to tick the lights off your bucket list!!
Hey, if you do miss the lights, DO NOT FEAR friends! The Blue Lagoon is a wonder of its own! Absolutely stunning, sky blue waters surrounded by snow. These pools of heaven are not to be missed. The days are usually busier, starting from 08:00 – 20:00. Now, I would advise to go for sunrise 09:00/10:00 start or sunset 16:00 (this may vary depending on which time of year you go so check your day light hours before booking). Another option is to go at night!!! Much quieter, and you’ll bathe with a chance to see the stars. Any time is a win win, so make sure you book early to reserve a slot as spaces fill up fast.
What is included? Here is a link to the web page to see the various packages the Lagoon has to offer : http://www.bluelagoon.com/blue-lagoon-spa/prices-and-packages/experience-packages/
We went for premium, but if you don’t intend to go for dinner in the LAVA restaurant after, take a pair of flip flops and you can save yourself a bit of money.
You’ll get a drink at the lagoon bar, a towel, Silica mask and Algae mask with the comfort and premium packages, so definitely go for one of these to get the best experience.
Tip: Do the Silica mask followed by the soothing Algae mask – Your skin will feel unreal after!!
Now, if you’re absolutely broke from booking your trip, take food with you. Lunch (as in a panini) and a drink for two will cost you at around £50. Ouch! Beer is around £10, so just prepare yourself or pack wisely. Most places in the southern region take card, so don’t worry if you run out of cash.
If you’re travelling by car, here are two recommended places you can stop if you’re staying around Selfoss:
Olverk Pizza and brewery (Olverkbrugghus) – Hveragerði
If you’re heading outside of Reykjavik towards Selfoss, there is a small town named Hveragerði. Olverk ‘Pizzaria and home brewery’ is the perfect place to stop off and get some good food! The pizza is great and the beer is too.
Sindri Bakari Café – Frudir
This tiny bakery is the perfect stop if you’re travelling to or from the Gullfoss waterfall (golden circle). You’ll need to use the map link below to find it, as it’s hidden from the main road. You can pick up a coffee and Iceland’s homemade bakery treats. Delicious and fresh!
Summary of Iceland
If you’re looking for a short winter weekend trip, you can see a lot of Iceland in two days if you do it the right way. Plan, pick your destinations and accommodation, book trips early, and go at the right time of year. Pack warm clothes and foot wear – trainers are ok, but as the snow becomes deeper, walking/snow boots may be a better idea.
There is so much to see, and the landscape itself with the low sun and plentiful snow, is enough to win you over. Try not to get your heart set on seeing the northern lights. Seeing them is really down to the weather, so just aim to get yourself outside of the city and a massive fingers crossed you’ll be in luck. There is so much more to see in Iceland, from thermal baths to frozen waterfalls, so just plan plan plan, wake up early, and you’re bound to have the trip of a life time.