Iceland

In March 2018 I took a short trip with a friend to Iceland. Flight time is approx 2 and a half hours from the UK – we flew from Manchester and arrived into some low cloud at Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport mid afternoon. After getting to the hotel, we had a bit of a wander around the local area to orientate ourselves, before having dinner and an expensive drink.

The next morning, the weather was much better and we could see some of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Reykjavik.

We had a long walk around Reykjavik, along the waterfront which has some interesting sculptures, and we visited the Aurora Northern Lights museum to learn about the Northern Lights, which we were hoping we’d be able to see in the evening.

After an expensive burger for lunch, we visited the Hallgrimskirka, which is the main church in Reykjavik. You can also climb up the bell tower and see some great 360o views of Reykjavik – I definitely recommend doing this if you visit Reykjavik. And I also recommend trying to get up high in any new place you visit – it gives such a great perspective on wherever you’re visiting.

We continued our wandering and ended up visiting the Icelandic Phallological Museum (ahem…)

After that, we meandered back to our hotel for a bit of a break and snooze, as we were heading out later in search of the Northern Lights. We were quite fortunate with a break in the weather on the day we were booked on the Northern Lights trip, the previous day’s trips were all cancelled due to the weather. We were picked up at around 10pm and were driven out of Reykjavik for around an hour towards Thingvellir National Park. We were looking for dark, clear skies, and we were so fortunate to get them. To the naked eye, you could see the sky shimmering a silver-ish colour, but when I cranked up to the right settings on my DSLR, it captured the greens and purples amazingly (if a little shakily as I didn’t have a tripod). I still reckon the Northern Lights are one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, such an awe-inspiring sight.

We were out until around 12.30am watching the skies, and then with an hour’s drive back to Reykjavik, it was a late night. Followed by an early morning as we were doing a full day Golden Circle tour – an absolute must do when you go to Iceland.

The first stop was at Geysir, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Not the most impressive geyser I’ve been to (humble brag…), but if you’ve not seen one before, it’s certainly a sight to behold. There were also some wonderfully blue pools in the area, and lots of steam coming from the ground, as you’d expect in a place with lots of geothermal activity.

The next stop was a Gullfoss Waterfall – an amazing sight, though it was absolutely freezing and blowing an absolute gale.

The final stop of the day was back to Thingvellir National Park, which we were unable to fully appreciate when hunting for the Northern Lights. This is an important place in Iceland, it’s where the first parliament was held, and is also where 2 tectonic plates are moving away from each other, and you can literally see the crack in the earth.

After some more expensive drinks in the evening, we had an early night followed by an early morning as we had a very early flight back to the UK. Iceland makes for a great, if expensive, short break destination from the UK. If you’re going to see the Northern Lights, choose your dates wisely – the sky needs to be dark so better to go around the time of a new moon rather than a full moon, and also bear in mind the daylight hours in Iceland. It’s the furthest north I’ve been and especially in summer, there will be near-constant daylight. We went in March which has approx 12 hours of daylight and does mean it is dark enough in the late evening for viewing the Northern Lights. Do your research if seeing the Northern Lights is an important part of your visit. There are also some wonderful natural phenomenon to see here, it’s on a plate boundary so heaps of geothermal activity and barrenly beautiful scenery in and around Reykjavik. Definitely recommend!

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