Our intrepid travel adviser, Sarah Tichacek, recently returned from a weekend city break to Iceland. It's a destination that is really popular at the moment, but with so much to see and do it can be hard to choose your itinerary, especially if you only have limited time in the country. Sarah’s travel diary shows how to fit the best of what Iceland has to offer into one long weekend…
The flight to Keflavik, the nearest airport to the city of Reykjavik, takes less than 3 hours so we still had plenty of time after our journey to enjoy the rest of the day. Once we arrived, we checked in to our hotel, Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina. It’s a quirky, arty, hotel that combines contemporary Icelandic design with references to the marine culture. The rooms certainly have a Nordic feel, as each is uniquely decorated with colourful modern designs mixed with harbour and shipyard sculptures and relics! In the evening, we walked ten minutes to the main centre and stopped at one of the local restaurants to have something to eat. The menus are quite varied with anything from boiled sheep’s head to hotdogs, but we opted for traditional national dishes of fish and lamb.
Travel tip: Being quite far north, Iceland is one hour behind us, giving you that extra bit of time to explore.
On Saturday we were up early for a day of sightseeing. The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in southern Iceland, as it is a loop containing most of the must-see natural and historic attractions of the country. It takes about 8 hours, but is definitely worth it, as it’s the perfect way to see nature at its most incredible. Our tour encompassed Pingvellier National Park, a Geyser geothermal area, the breath-taking Godafoss Waterfall and returned through the Icelandic Horse Park, Fakasel. My favourite part was the Geyser area, with volcanoes, mud pools, and the Strokkur hot spring, which fountains hot water 20 metres in the air every five minutes!
Travel tip: To see everything in the most fun and informative way, I recommend a guided tour. The expert tour guides speak English really well, and you get access to information only the locals know!
After our long day of exploring, we had a slower-paced morning and wandered the colourful streets of Reykjavik. There are many museums, craft shops, and places to buy traditional Nordic clothes to discover – much needed on a winter visit! A great route to walk is along the marina wall past the harbour and the ‘Sun Voyager’ Viking ship monument, with the striking snowy peaked mountains visible across the water. In the afternoon we went on a three hour whale-watching tour. The boat Andrea takes about 150 people, and has an indoor section for when it gets too cold up on deck. I was lucky to witness some amazing sights – a mother and baby humpback whale swam by just meters from our boat and dolphins were out to play too!
Travel tip: It’s really cold at sea on the whale-watching trip even if the temperature isn’t below freezing, so make sure you wrap up warm.
At 7.15pm, we were picked up from our hotel and taken by coach north, away from the lights of the city, in hope of seeing the Northern Lights. We were so lucky the weather conditions were suitable and we managed to get a spectacular view. The lights were incredible to see, but just don’t come out the same on camera!
On Monday we had some free time before our flight to explore more of Reykjavik. It began to snow which was magical, so we stopped for a warming lunch of soup served in a bread bowl – another Icelandic favourite! After lunch we were picked up and taken back to the airport. We arrived home that evening tired from all our exploring but with amazing memories of some truly unique experiences.
Travel tip: Keflavik airport is quite busy as it is used as a transfer airport for some flights to the U.S. Be prepared to dodge the crowds to get to your gate!
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For inspiration, advice and to discuss your travel plans further, contact:
Sarah Tichacek - Norad Travel
T 01730 892298