It was time for me to head away on leave again and I was really excited to be exploring outside of the Emirates network and going to Reykjavík in Iceland. Another new country to add to my list, taking my total up to 51! I was going with two of my best friends from home, Amy and Lucy, and after setting off at 3am we flew out of Manchester with EasyJet with a short 2 and a half hours over to Keflavik International Airport. Landing at 8am we had the entire day ahead of us and we made our way over to our accommodation to check in and change before exploring the city of Reykjavík.
We had booked into a place called Apartment K which was numerous apartments within the city centre with all amenities needed at a really affordable price in comparison to many other hotels offering solely a room rate.
Wrapping up warm, we stepped out into the very chilly autumnal air with a map in hand and an idea of things we wanted to see in the city. We began making our way across to the harbour which was around a 10 minute walk.
With not very much going on here, we continued our way up to Hallgrímskirkja the most famous church in Reykjavík and an iconic landmark.
I didn’t actually realise this but you could go right to the top, so after a look inside the beautiful church with its huge organ, we paid a small fee of 1000 Kronor and took the lift to the top.
The views over the city were impressive and it was nice to get a birds eye view of what Reykjavík actually looked like.
Back down and after a long stroll around the city admiring the views, we realised that Reykjavík doesn’t really have a lot to offer. It’s just a city in which two thirds of the population live in.
Stopping for a hot chocolate break I couldn’t believe how tired I was. I’d not slept prior to our departure out of Manchester and I had been running around like a crazy woman. From working the flight back from Beijing, to having 90 mins from landing to check in closing for travelling as a passenger over to Manchester where I had on and off disrupted sleep and not napping once home, I could barely keep my eyes open. So I decided to go back to our accommodation for a nap before our excursion that evening!
Waking up and feeling full of energy, I was so excited for what we had planned. One of my main reasons for visiting Iceland and at this time of year was to try and see the Northern Lights. We had booked a trip which cost £42 each and we were being picked up at 7:30pm. You’re not always guaranteed to see the lights which they make clear when you’re booking which is understandable but I had high hopes for witnessing this natural phenomenon.
Making our way out of Reykjavík, as you have to escape the “bright lights” to have a better chance of seeing them, I could hardly contain my excitement. We’d been told the night before was one of the best Aurora Borealis sightings in years and the lights were so prominent they were even seen in the city. I was hoping that this was a good sign of things to come and not that I’d just missed them by the skin of my teeth. We drove for about 2 hours when we pulled up out of the way of anything and were stood in the darkness waiting.
Yet nothing. After about 15-20 minutes of standing in the cold, we were back on the bus to move to another area with hopefully a better chance of a sighting. But again, no such luck and after almost 45 minutes of waiting at this point, the driver then said that sadly we probably weren’t able to see them tonight. With time pressing on, and with incredibly low spirits we pressed on home.
When suddenly the best thing happened, after around 20 minutes of driving, the tour guide came over the PA and said everybody was to get out of the bus as the lights could be seen. And we came out to a beautiful view.
Apparently this was a weak viewing but to me it was incredible. We only got to witness the green lights, but they danced around the sky fading in and out unexpectedly in alternating swooping motions. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and I was SO happy to tick this off my bucket list with two of my best friends.
Ready for bed, we made our way back to the hotel in high spirits. Ready for a lie in after our long day we’d had.
We woke up the next morning and went to a cute cafe called the Laundromat. We grabbed a table inside the warm and cosy cafe and I ordered bacon and eggs toast with a vanilla latte. Ready for the day ahead of me.
Our next part of our trip was to head to the Blue Lagoon, around a 50 minute drive out of Reykjavík. “The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C (99–102 °F). The Blue Lagoon also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the mineral-rich water.
The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.
The rich mineral content is provided by the underground geological layers and pushed up to the surface by the hot water (at about 1.2 MPa (170 psi) pressure and 240 °C (464 °F) temperature) used by the plant. Because of its mineral concentration, water cannot be recycled and must be disposed of in the nearby landscape, a permeable lava field that varies in thickness from 50 cm (20 in) to 1 m (3.3 ft). The silicate minerals is the primary cause of that water’s milky blue shade. After the minerals have formed a deposit, the water reinfiltrates the ground, but the deposit renders it impermeable over time, hence the necessity for the plant to continuously dig new ponds in the nearby lava field” .
The Blue Lagoon was very modernised and had excellent facilities. So you should hope though for £110 per person!!
Included in our ticket price was a towel, an algae face mask, and a complimentary beverage. It was nice to drink a cider in the 38 degree C milky blue waters. Again, nothing quite like I’d ever experienced before.
We covered ourselves in face masks, and sat inside a cave whilst we listened to an informative audio note telling us different things about the Blue Lagoon. Interesting fact, it takes 40 hours for the waters to go from the centre of the earth and into the Blue Lagoon!
After an incredibly relaxing day, we made our way back to Reykjavík and ready for something to eat. My friend Berta, who is ex Emirates crew, is from Iceland and had recommended a few places for us to eat. We opted for a place called “Sæta Svïnid” which literally means The Cute Pig and I ordered a big plate of mussels to start with and the burger for main. Icelandic delicacies are whale and puffin, neither of which I really fancied so I just kept it safe.
We then moved on to a bar called The Icelandic Bar to catch up with my friend Berta. It was nice to be able to catch up as I hadn’t seen her since she left Dubai and wanted to see how she’d finding the post Emirates life!
With time pressing on, it was time to go to bed as we had an early start in the morning and also had to pack!
Up bright and early we checked out of our place and went over to the designated bus stop for our final excursion of the trip. We were going to explore the Golden Circle.
“The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in southern Iceland, covering about 300 kilometres (190 mi) looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. It is the area that contains most tours and travel-related activities in Iceland.
The three primary stops on the route are the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Though Geysir has been mostly dormant for many years, Strokkur continues to erupt every 5 to 10 minutes. Other stops include the Kerið volcanic crater, the town of Hveragerði, Skálholt cathedral, and the Nesjavellir and Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal power plants” .
We began our excursion at the Keriõ volcanic crater. With the sun behind the crater it was creating beautiful silhouettes, until you walked further around the crater to the most beautiful view.
It was a cold and crisp chilly morning out in mainland Iceland, but the blue skies and the sunshine added to the natural beauty that Iceland has to offer.
Moving on, we went over to Bláskógabyggõ Waterfall. An interesting fact we were told was that a small ladder had been built into the waterfall to help with the salmon who swim up stream to lay their eggs. They jump up the ladder and continue on their journey. How incredible?
After this it was time to walk along the edge of the Gullfoss waterfall. A completely stunning waterfall, so powerful the spray was carried right down the valley.
Getting close to the edge you were actually starting to get quite wet from the fine mist as you could see the power of the water rush past you.
Next up was lunchtime at the Geysir. Geysir is one of two Icelandic words that made it into the English language untranslated. That and saga, which I thought was very interesting!
“A geyser is is a spring characterised by intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by steam. As a fairly rare phenomenon, the formation of geysers is due to particular hydrogeological conditions that exist in only a few places on Earth. Generally all geyser field sites are located near active volcanic areas, and the geyser effect is due to the proximity of magma. Generally, surface water works its way down to an average depth of around 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) where it contacts hot rocks. The resultant boiling of the pressurised water results in the geyser effect of hot water and steam spraying out of the geyser’s surface vent” .
I’ve never witnessed something so naturally amazing! How incredible is this planet?! This particular geyser erupts approximately every 4 minutes and we must have stood and watched this at least 6/7 times, every time it made us all jump out of our skin.
I honestly could have stood and watched it erupt all day! Onto our final stop of the day it was the Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir situated in a rift valley lies in between the North American Tectonic Plate and the Eurasian Plate. I studied a lot on this in high school and my Geography teachers would be delighted that I have once more taken my studies from the page to the field.
Not only is this national park a UNESCO world heritage site which it was granted in 2004, it was also so unbelievably beautiful. The scenic views went on for miles and as we walked up along the black volcanic gravel to the top of the rift.
This trip was not what I expected from Iceland at all. Its natural beauty was incomparable and I found myself in awe at every different thing we visited. Albeit, Reykjavík didn’t have much to offer other than it being a town in which the majority of Icelandic locals reside. Iceland has so much more to offer and explore that you soon forget about the lack of attractions in Reykjavík and use it as more of a base for your trip.
I honestly couldn’t recommend Iceland enough to go and visit. There is a lot to see and there’s still a couple more things I would have liked to have done there, except there was a lack of snow which meant it unable. Before going, do research into your time of year. You can’t see the Northern Lights year round and in the height of summer the sun never sets, and in the midst of winter sometimes you can only experience a few hours of sunlight.
Additionally, Iceland is a very expensive place. If you’re working on a budget it probably isn’t the destination for you, but I would seriously suggest saving to go and visit this beautifully idyllic destination to tick off some bucket list activities. To give you an idea of pricing, on a 2 night and 3 day visit I spent £700. This includes everything from flights, to hotels, to excursions and currency exchange.
Anyway, I’m back in Dubai now and ready to head back to work tomorrow afternoon with a quick turn around to Saudi Arabia and back. As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more daily updates: