Why visit Iceland : My Guide to Iceland
When people find out I am a travel blogger the first question they tend to ask what is your favourite destination. I find this quite hard to answer as I have enjoyed most places I have visited, all for different reasons. However, one place that springs to mind is Iceland. I was actually surprised at how this country has found a special place in my heart and it is one of the places that I would visit again at the drop of a hat.
The currency is the Icelandic Krona
I visited at the beginning of January, it was so cold that it hurt my face but in some strange way this is one of the reasons why I loved it. I had never experienced this extreme coldest before whilst travelling. This was at the beginning of my blogging career. Before I became a travel blogger I would have a few trips each year and I tended to pick places for the sun and to lie on a beach so this was totally different to what I was used to doing during my holidays.
Iceland is beautiful at any time of the year, it has waterfalls, northern lights, it’s own breed of horse and is that special it is part of two continents.
Read More : Essentials for your trip to Iceland
Read More : Chasing the Northern Lights
Flights to Iceland
There are several airlines that fly to Iceland from the UK, Iceland also has a number of airports so it is best to pick the closest one to the destination you are going to. I flew from Bristol to Reykjavik with EasyJet and the flights were so cheap around £20 each way which was one of the best bargains I have found.
Reykjavik was easy to get to from the airport. I used the Flybus it was a great price and dropped me off at a convenient place in the city near to my hotel.
Cruises to Iceland
There are also a few cruises that incorporate Iceland in their itineraries. A cruise would be a great way to see the Northern Lights as you would get a great view of them out at sea. Hurtigruten and P&O have a few cruises around Iceland.
When is the best time to visit Iceland?
The best time of year to visit Iceland will depend on what you want to do and what you want to see and experience.
If you want to see the Northern Lights the best time of year to visit are Feb, Mar, Sept and October. However I visited in January and got some amazing views of the Northern lights. It was freezing in January your snot literally freezes on your face so make sure you have plenty of thermals and layers if visiting in winter. I saw some fireworks and bonfires during my visit as Iceland celebrate the 13 days since Christmas.
Read More : What to pack for your trip to Iceland
In the summer, the sun sets for only a few hours and in winter it rises for only a couple, so again this will affect when you want to visit.
I would love to visit in the summer where you get practically 24 hours of daylight. One of the things I found special visiting just after Christmas was how they decorate the graveyards with lights and the houses were still decorated with Christmas lights and I was told that this was due to long dark days and the residents wanting to make things look prettier.
Most attractions are only open for part of the year mainly May to September so it is best to check what you want to do and when it is open before deciding when you are going to visit Iceland.
Read More : Driving Icelands Golden Circle
Things to do in Iceland
Iceland has so much to offer and I only visited a small part of the country so I feel I need to visit again to explore North Iceland.
I like how Lonely Planet describes Iceland as :
A wonderland of moonlike lava fields, belching mudpots, epic waterfalls, snowcapped peaks and whale-filled bays
Stand on Two continents
I learnt so much during my time in Iceland from the tours that I did. I wasn’t aware of the tectonic plates. If you visit the Þingvellir National Park you can look at the most beautiful surroundings whilst walking between the two continents.
When I did the Golden Circle tour we stopped at a place where the bus was on both continents unfortunately we were not able to get off the bus so if I was to visit Iceland again I would like to visit here independently then I can say I have stood on two continents at the same time.
One of the coolest experiences would be to see these tectonic plates from the water and you can do this during silfra fissure snorkeling. You can swim in between the tectonic plates in the Silfra Revine. You can do this all year round but it is going to be absolutely freezing in the winter so I would wait until it gets a little warmer before trying something like this unless you are a hardcore snorkeler.
The Snoring Giant
I came across the Snoring Giantess during my stay in Keflavik which is a lovely place to stay just outside of the City of Reykjavik on the way to the airport.
The giantess is in a cave and as you approach you will hear not only snoring but also farting. She is hilarious and is based on a popular islandic children book series by Herdís Egilsdóttir about a little girl, Sigga and the Giantess.
I would recommend visiting the Giantess even if you don’t stay in Keflavik, you can call in on the way back to the airport.
The town also has some stones that are facing out to sea and is home to the Viking Museum so there is plenty to do. If you do visit Keflavik I had a lovely meal at Kaffi Duss, it has lovely views over the harbour and the menu had some lovely options.
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights also known as the Aurora Borealis. Seeing the Northern Lights was as I said earlier just magical. It even brought a tear to my eye but that could have also been the cold weather.
Before visiting Iceland, I thought you would see the Northern Lights every night by just walking down the street but during my tours we were actually driving around trying to find them.
If you are visiting Iceland for the Northern Lights I would recommend staying for a few days and not to be disappointed if you don’t see them just think it means you can plan another visit to Iceland. There has to be certain conditions to see the lights and they do not appear every night and it is also best to see them without city lights.
I stayed in Keflavik which is just outside of the city of Reykjavik and is more rural. I was lying in bed one night when my room started to glow green. I looked out of the window to see the lights showing. I quickly got dressed and went out onto the cliffside and watched the lights dancing over the sea, it was absolutely amazing. A totally different experience of when I saw them during a Northern Light tour which was by a waterfall. But both experiences were so worth visiting Iceland for.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited places in Iceland. Unfortunately, during my visit it was closed for maintenance so I never got to go. It is a geothermal spa and is one of 25 wonders of the world. I love spas so was gutted that I didn’t get chance to visit but again that is another reason for me to go to return to Iceland.
· The water temperature is generally between 37-40°C (98-104°F).
· The lagoon contains 9 million litres of water.
· The water is self-cleansing – it renews itself every 40 hours.
· Blue Lagoon is mostly ca. 0.8-1.2 metres deep. Its deepest point is 1.4 meter
(source : The Blue Lagoon)
Animal spotting in Iceland
I didn’t see a puffin when I was in Iceland as they travel south in Winter so another reason to visit Iceland again. The best places to see puffins (not eat them as I don’t think I could) are :
- Vestmannaeyjar – Largest puffin colony in the world! This cluster of 15 islands south of Iceland is the ideal place to spot some cute puffins. …
- Lundey – Akurey. …
- Látrabjarg. …
- Vigur Island. …
- Dyrhólaey. …
- Papey. …
- Tjörnes. …
I went on a whale watching cruise but unfortunately I didn’t see any however I did see a few bottlenose dolphins so I wasn’t too disappointed. Whale watching is a popular reason why people visit Iceland and there are a lot of boats offering this as a excursion. Be warned though that the tour will be cancelled if the weather is not good.
I had a tour booked and it was cancelled but luckily because I was there for a week I managed to reschedule. I am kind of glad that the cruise got cancelled as when I was down by the harbour on that particular day the waves were crashing wildly and I didn’t fancy going out in that swell.
Tip : If going whale watching take some sea sickness pills as the sea can be choppy
Polar bears have been seen in Iceland coming across from Greenland on icebergs, this would have been an amazing thing to see. During my visit to Iceland I was actually thinking of going to Greenland as I saw a good deal on a flight from Reykjavik to Nuuk but I didn’t have enough time as I had a cruise booked a few days after this trip and I would have wanted to spend more time in Greenland.
You could combine a visit to Greenland with your trip to Iceland
The Icelandic Horse was a common sight during my visit. They are smaller than the horses I am used to and more like a pony. They are very cute and Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return (Source : Wikipedia)
Waterfalls in Iceland
I love waterfalls, I could stand and watch them for hours. However, when visiting Iceland I mainly viewed them from the bus as it was just too cold to spend much time outside.
The waterfalls in Iceland are magnificent. Different times of the year will give you different experiences of the waterfalls. In the winter they may be frozen and in the summer they may be really powerful as the snow and ice melts.
I didn’t realise there were so many waterfalls click here for a list of the major waterfalls in Iceland. I loved how travelling from A to B was broken up with seeing the waterfalls along the roadside.
Gullfoss waterfall was amazing. It was frozen in parts but I could still see how powerful it was. If you do a golden circle tour then it will stop here. I would like to visit Gullfoss in the summer to see how different it is when it is melted. I would be able to spend more time actually at the waterfall as when I visited it was so bitterly cold it hurt to be out for too long so after about 10 minutes I had to return to the coach.
Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss & Gljúfrabúi are waterfalls in the South of Iceland and are so beautiful you can not visit Iceland without seeing them.
You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss to get the view from behind a waterfall. It was at this waterfall that I saw the Northern Lights.
To stand next to this waterfall seeing the dancing northern lights is one of the best things I have seen during my travels.
I have seen many TV programs about Iceland and they normally feature the Geysers. I was so excited to actually go to Iceland and see a geyser for myself and I was not disappointed as it is a spectacular sight.
A geyser is a hot spring that spurts out water. I am not sure how hot the water is as there are signs telling you to not get too close and I didn’t fancy getting scalded.
It is quite a funny thing to watch as you don’t know when the water is going to sprout and I kept missing it with my camera as it is so quick. There are a number of geysers in Iceland, I visited Strokkur that sprouted every 7-8 minutes. Everyone was going ooo ahhhh when it did sprout just like when a firework goes off.
Food in Iceland
I was warned that the food in Iceland can be pricy but I didn’t find the prices that unreasonable. I did stay away from eating in the centre of Reykjavik so maybe that is why. I had some really good comfort food during my stay in Iceland. I think you need comfort food if you are visiting in winter to warm you up.
Lamb is popular in Iceland especially smoked. I saw a lot of burger places and I had read that puffin was a delicacy either cooked in milk or smoked. I personally didn’t try this however I did see it on a number of restaurant menus.
For a quirky place to eat and the one of the best burgers you need to try Hamborgatabulla tomasar. It was a little hut near the harbour but as soon as you get near it you will smell the burgers. They are cooked to order and it was so juicy and tasty. It is only a little place so I imagine it could get quite busy. I got my to takeaway as there are only a couple of seats inside and it was busy but it is a must if you are in Reykjavik.
Not only did I have one of the best burgers in Iceland but I also had some of the tastiest fish and chips with mushy peas. The Reykjavik Fish Restaurant was near Hamborgatsbulla Tomasar and the harbour as this is near where i was staying. The fish was so meaty, batter was crispy without too much grease, nothing worse than biting into a greasy batter and again it was a popular place.
Where to stay in Iceland
There are so many places to stay in Iceland for different budgets and depending which areas you are wanting to visit. If I could drive I would love to go back and explore more of the island because it is quite hard to get around with public transport. I stayed in a cheap hotel in Reykjavik, it met my needs as I knew I was going to be too busy touring and I just wanted somewhere to sleep. Check out this link for some of the best hotels according to the Telegraph
Hotel Berg – Bakkavegi 17, 230 Keflavik
This is where I stayed in Keflavik and this is perfectly located minutes from the airport. It has excellent views over the cliffs. I loved sitting in the lounge by the fire and then stepping out the front door to see the northern lights. The snow was so deep here at one point it nearly went up to my knees.
If I were to return to Iceland I would definitely stay here again. It was reasonably priced and is situated in a small town that I enjoyed walking around as it was so peaceful.
Hotel Ranga – Hotel Rangá – 851 – South Iceland
This hotel looks amazing and if I return to Iceland I would love to stay here. The reviews are brilliant and you can sit in a hot tub and watch the northern lights overhead.
This hotel is on the east coast of Iceland and has amazing views of moutains and water. The reviews on trip advisor make it sound like the perfect place to stay if visiting Fáskrúðsfjörður
Further articles you may find interesting
Have you been to Iceland, what did you love get in touch and let me know so I can add it to my list of things to do next time I visit Iceland
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- Originally written in 2017. Updated with relevant links and checking places to still exist in Feb 2019