This has been one of the most highly anticipated trips I’ve ever been on. Haydn planned the entire holiday as a surprise back in 2020 but when Covid restrictions changed he had to break the news that the trip had to be delayed. In December 2021, after 12 entire months of waiting (and hoping it wouldn’t be cancelled again), it was finally time to fly to Iceland and live out some incredible bucket-list moments.
The restrictions around travel at the moment make getting on a plane a multi-step process that used to be simple. Haydn sorted all the documents we needed so we knew we were good to go but there was still confusion from the cabin crew as to what we actually needed when we went to check-in. If you are travelling at the moment it’s definitely worthwhile doing as much research as you can, there is some great information on the Icelandair website.
Day 1 – Tuesday 14th December
Haydn and I knew from that first night that we were going to like Iceland, there was such a relaxed atmosphere and an illusion of an easy-going lifestyle. The airport and city seemed both full of character and modern.
I wanted to make sure I had caught up on sleep before using more energy to explore; once we had checked into our hotel at around 2pm I took a nap. We stayed at the Skuggi Hotel which was had a lovely modern interior and was in a great location.
In the early evening, we went for a short walk into Reykjavik to see the town and find something to eat. We found a pasta bar for dinner which was exactly what I was craving. Due to cloud coverage, our tour guide rearranged our Northern Lights tour for the following night, which actually worked out better for us since we were quite tired.
Day 2 – Wednesday 15th December
The strangest thing about Iceland was the daylight hours, since we visited towards the end of December it was darker for much longer than it was lighter. By 10am the sun had only just started to rise and by 3pm it began setting again. We got up relatively early as our second day was our only opportunity to explore Reyjkavik as we had plans for the other days.
There were a few places we had planned to go, but overall there weren’t too many places within Reyjkavik that we wanted to see which meant we could still take it relatively slow.
I wanted to start at the National Museum of Iceland to get an insight into the history and culture of the country. It was a great place to start as it had a lot of information that helped us learn about social norms and ways of life in Iceland. It was relatively cheap as we were able to use my student discount. On route to the museum, we made a photo stop at the Sun Voyager and the Harpa Concert Hall.
The National Museum of Iceland was a great way to learn more about the country as well as see some really cool pieces of history. I’m always so interested in the way people lived their lives and so naturally a museum around the settlement of Iceland was right up my alley. After the museum, the weather turned fairly bad so it took us a while to walk back to the harbour where we were able to see across the bay.
Not only was the harbour a gorgeous place to see the view across the sea was amazing. Seeing the snowy mountains was amazing and got us really excited to go on some of the day tours we had planned for the rest of the trip.
After we got back to the hotel we just took it easy until it was time to go on our Northern Lights tour. We booked with Siggi from Iceland Everywhere. We really liked that the tours were smaller groups and since we were booking multiple tours there was a small discount available.
Siggi taught us so much about the Northern Lights and really put in the effort to ensure we got to see the lights. We drove around in the night for about 6 hours and were lucky enough to see them! Don’t let the pictures mislead you, the Aurora doesn’t appear colourful in the sky, they actually appear as white dancing lines in the sky controlled by the magnetic field of the earth.
Day 3 – Thursday 16th December
One of the most popular day trips to take whilst visiting Iceland is the Golden Circle tour, which takes around 7 hours to complete and enables you to see some of the most breathtaking sights in the country. At this point in the trip, I had already decided that Iceland was my favourite place ever visited but it was about to get a whole lot better.
As it was just Haydn and I along with one solo tourist taking the tour With Iceland Everywhere that day Siggi picked us up in his 4×4 which enabled us to travel faster and more easily between locations than if we had been on a minibus (or even worse a big tour bus). We did the route in reverse order to the normal way in order to reach each stop before it was dark.
The first stop on our itinerary was Þingvellir, we learned that the ‘Þ’ sound is pronounced like a ‘th’, which translates to Parliament Plains. Its geological significance stems from the fact that it lays between two tectonic plates, the North American and Eurasian plates.
Next, we visited Haukadalur which is an area known for active Geysir. One of the most active, Strokkur, goes off around every 5 minutes so you only have to wait a short while to see this phenomenon.
The stops just continued to get better, we next went to the Gullfoss, known as the Golden Falls. Located in the Hvítá river, which comes from the glacier Langjökull, this is a sight we will remember seeing forever. The path down to the waterfall was incredibly icy and I was very glad to have my walking boots on. The struggle down was completely worth it, it was just breathtaking. I had goosebumps, or as we learnt from the German solo traveller ‘Gänsehaut’.
Siggi also made a stop for us to see and stroke some Icelandic horses. To stop tourists from ditching their cars at the side of the road in order to see the horses there are designated areas designed for tourists to have interactions with the horses without causing a nuisance.
As we had made good time between the stops we were able to fit in an additional stop at the Kerið Volcanic Crater. As the name suggests this is a volcanic crater located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland. As we visited in December the bottom of the crater had frozen over with a thick sheet of ice.
Day 4 – Friday 17th December
Our final tour with Iceland Everywhere was the South Coast Tour. This tour took us on an incredible adventure and enabled us to see unbelievable sights like nothing I’d ever seen before. I adored all the exploration we did in Iceland but this just might have been my favourite.
The first stop on this tour was the Seljalandsfoss, one of the most well-known waterfalls in Iceland due to the fact that the water falls off a cliff at an angle that allows you to walk behind the waterfall and take in a 360° view of the falls. The waterfall drops 60 m (197 ft) and falls at quite a speed.
Haydn and I quite often visit waterfalls in the UK since we love hiking but this was just something else. We were mesmerised by the sounds and sights in front of our eyes.
Skógafoss shares its drop with the Seljalandsfoss but has a width of 25m. In Iceland there are many myths including the waterfall. It is believed that many years ago, a settler named Þrasi buried his treasure chest full of gold under the waterfall. You can take steps up alongside the cliff in order to view the waterfall from the top down which gives a really cool perspective of the water falling over the edge. Of all the waterfalls we saw on our trip this is one of the ones I think I’ll remember forever.
The Black Sand beaches are popular amongst tourists and Reynisfjara is of the favourites with beautiful basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid. This was incredible to see and is probably one of the stops that really made the tour my favourite from the trip. The beach had a delicious cafe where Haydn and I enjoyed some lunch, Haydn reckons this was one of the best burgers I ever had and I very much enjoyed the pasta I ordered.
The village of Vík is the southernmost village in Iceland Despite having only around 300 inhabitants, Vik is the largest settlement for more than 50kms in each direction. I loved seeing the way other people lived. They have a school, health centre and we saw locals walking dogs or taking their kids for a stroll. Since we returned back to the UK we watched the Netflix series Katla which was filmed in the town of Vik. We loved seeing the landmarks we recognised from our travels and the series was also a great watch.
Finally, we made a stop at the Sólheimajökull Glacier, this is the southwestern glacier tongue or outlet glacier of the Mýrdalsjökull ice-cap. It is about 8km long and 2km wide and is the 4th largest glacier in Iceland. Our tour guide shared information about how the glacier is receding and it is suspected that in the next few decades it may have disappeared totally.
Day 5 – Saturday 18th December
Since the popular Blue Lagoon is located near Keflavik it made sense to visit on our last day since we wouldn’t need to travel back to Reykjavik before heading to the airport. We had a hotel for the night in Keflavik which had a free shuttle service to the airport.
The Blue Lagoon was amazing. We booked a package that enabled us to trial a few different face masks as well as use robes and slippers around the facilities. The water was amazing and the lagoon was so much bigger than we had imagined. Despite lots of towels being hung up by the entrance to the lagoons, the space was large enough for everyone to spread out. Haydn and I swam the entire way around and found quiet spots to sit together and relax. We had a drink and just spent hours relaxing in the warm water.
Day 6 – Sunday 19th December
We did nothing on our final day other than head to the airport early and fly home. The flight was easy and despite the covid restrictions in place, it was easy to get through security at the airport and back into the UK. At the time that we travelled it was still essential to get a test once you had arrived back in the UK as well as before heading home. Iceland made this really easy as they offer free tests to everyone with a Fit To Fly certificate so we made sure we got that done around 36 hours in advance.