Iceland has been on top of my bucket list for years. And not just for the Northern Lights – a couple of years ago Rebecca from The Clothes Horse visited the blue lagoon and that got me properly hooked.
Flights and Hotels
Last year flight tickets were super expensive so this year I pro-actively booked them back in September for £90 return trip with easyjet. I also used their website to book our apartment as well – and that came to another £100 per person for three nights.
By the way, I really love staying in apartments during my vacation no matter how short it is. Just having a kitchen and a couch – even if you don’t plan to cook because you want to go out and try the local cuisine – it is still awesome as you can enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. My favourite websites are Airbnb and Booking for international destinations and Homeaway for UK ones. Do you prefer another one? Please let me know in the comments as I am always on the lookout for one!
Back to the subject now – we stayed in the heart of Reykjavik which was handy as we could walk around in the evening and sample local restaurants and bars.
Car vs Tours in a van
I planned all our tours in advance – scheduled our northern lights tour during the first night (it got cancelled due to cloudy weather) as it can be so easily postponed, you need to allow as many nights as possible. With regards to tour operators, I completely trusted Tripadvisor and I can say I haven’t regretted it.
PS) I chose operators that only use mini-vans. I found that to be a good idea as they were more flexible and could make frequent stops
The alternative is to rent a car as all the Icelandic sights belong to nature and you do not need to pay any extra fees. Still it was snowing when we went so we thought that a mini van and a tour would be a more relaxing option.
So I would suggest a car if you travel between May and October and a paid tour after that.
What to do
If you plan to stay around 3 days as we did (a long weekend) I recommend the Golden Circle tour which will take up the first day (about 8-9 hours) and will tour you around waterfalls, geysers and the tectonic plates that separate America from Europe. Our guide also stopped along the way for us to see some Icelandic horses.
Northern Lights is another must-do excursion if you visit Iceland between November and March. Apparently, northern lights can also be seen during the summer, with or without moon and the most important factor is the clear sky (NO DAMN CLOUDS!) but it is really a bit of luck you need as well in this equation.
I also recommend spending at least a few hours in Reykjavik to try out some spots for breakfast and lunch, see that impressive church and walk to the harbor. From what we were told, whale-watching is more probable over the summer so we did not give that a try but I would definitely try it on my second visit. There is also an excellent free walking tour which shamefully did not try as we had very few hours to spend.
And finally… Blue Lagoon aka paradise. And the bar in the middle of it is another highlight 🙂
What to wear
I contemplated between buying a new heavy jacket from a hiking clothes brand OR spend a couple of quid in Dekathlon for thermal underwear – I chose the second option and I think I was OK despite the heavy wind and snow.
I ended up with many layers and a fleece between my clothes and my jacket and I think that was sufficient. As one of our guides said during our Northern Lights tour “everyone remembers seeing the northern lights for the rest of their lives – but everyone forgets the cold quickly so get out there” 🙂
For restaurants we visited and food we ate, check out my sketchnote below: