Since working at Off The Map Travel Iceland has been high up on my wish list to visit, it’s a really interesting country from a tourism perspective as its growth in the last decade has been huge with tourism now being 70% of its main industries with no sign of it slowing down. It’s a country which we get a lot of customer interest for so I am always reading about the different destinations, natural wonders, activities, unique hotels and most importantly food during my working day so when I found out I was going for a long weekend to meet some of our suppliers and see some sights I was over the moon!
We arrived early on the Friday morning and checked into a wonderful hotel in Downtown Reykjavik, a short 15 minute walk from the main centre this was a great base for a weekend of exploring Iceland’s capital. Tonight was our first Northern Lights spotting opportunity, we headed out on a boat trip deep into the dark night away from the light pollution of the city – after about an hour and a half the first green cloud appeared. I always love it when the Aurora appears lowly as it’s almost teasing you, after a short while the sky just opened up and we experienced some fantastic Aurora which danced across the sky for the rest of our trip! What a way to spend our first night!
The following morning we met our guide who was taking us on a tour of the Golden Circle, this is an extremely popular tour with many of our customers so I was really looking forward to trying it out. Our first stop was Geysir which is now actually dormant, however it’s slightly smaller cousin Strokkur erupts every 4-5 minutes in the most impressive manner! We then journeyed on to Gullfoss, this was the most beautiful sprawling waterfall I have ever seen, complete with a rainbow across one half of the falls. We spent a lot of time walking around Gullfoss admiring the falls from the different angles before walking to the top where you can actually seen start of the glaciers! Our final destination was Thingvellir National Park, the spot where many Game of Thrones scenes have been shot, and you can see why – the landscape almost looks slightly alien, with dramatic lava fields and mountains. If you walk from the top car park right down through the rocky cliffs you reach a winding river which has the clearest water I have ever seen! The Þingvallakirkja church looks like something out of a film it’s so perfect, the whole area is just amazing. Our guide was so knowledgeable about Iceland’s history as well as telling us all about the country’s geology and answering my never ending questions on geothermal energy!
On our return to the city we headed down to the harbour in search of a delicious fish supper, wherever you are in Reykjavik you will always have plenty of restaurant choices all serving locally sourced Iceland ingredients either traditionally or with modern twists! We opted for Iceland tapas, which was perfect as we tried a variety of fantastic dishes such as Icelandic sea-trout and grilled lamb – giving us a real taste for the country’s cuisine. After dinner we met our private guide who was taking us out on a Northern Lights chase out into Reykjavik surrounding countryside, I couldn’t believe how amazing the sky was, as soon as you’re away from the city’s lights the stars are just incredible – like nothing I’ve ever seen before, we spend some time admiring them whilst drinking lots of hot chocolate but unfortunately we were unsuccessful with the Aurora on this trip. Our guide however was fantastic, this just confirmed to me why we use the suppliers we do. They’re professionalism is outstanding and the amount of effort our guide went to to still make the trip worth while was really appreciated. We went out to Silfra where you can snorkel between the tectonic plates (this is on my extensive list of what I want to do on my next trip!) our guide told us we could drink the crystal clear water and told us all about the geology of the area. Our next stop was the house of one of Iceland’s most famous authors who built the first ever private pool in Iceland using geothermal energy to heat it! As with every natural phenomenon it is not always guaranteed which is why doing other activities as well as Aurora spotting is so important, so if you aren’t lucky, you’re not so disappointed!
Our final day in Iceland was spent as probably one of the most famous sights – the Blue Lagoon! I can safely say this is an experience not to be missed, we slathered mud and Algae facemasks on and enjoyed a free green smoothie at the in-lagoon bar (all included if you buy a comfort enterance ticket) and just relaxed! What a way to prepare yourself for the journey back to London! We explored the saunas and steam rooms as well which are all powered by geothermal energy as well as the main lagoon – there is a beautiful LAVA restaurant where you can enjoy a meal before or after your dip and several different spots where you can just take some time to unwind and soak up the atmosphere!
I had extremely high hopes for Iceland, there was a lot for it to live up to as I’d built the country in my mind to be one of my favourites before I’d even visited – but I can say now, hand on heart is is one of the most interesting and unique destinations I have ever been to! I can’t wait to start designing customer’s itineraries to Reykjavik and recommending some of the best elements of our trip! I am also looking into new and exciting products since visiting, so watch this space for some new developments too!