Charles and I decided that as neither of us really needed anything we would set a cap of £50 for Christmas presents for each other – however I couldn’t resist booking a five day trip to Iceland with the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. The trip booked through Secret Escapes included flights, hotel and a number of activities including snowmobiling which if I’m honest clinched it for me….must remember its Charles’ present. Christmas morning arrives and Charles is suitable stunned but thrilled with the gift as I am with his gift of an indoor skydive experience.We arrive in Iceland on the evening of the 15th January. We soon learn that buses are the primary form of transport with small mini buses taking tourists from the bus station to hotels or to the various activities.
We arrive at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina which is next to the port and a short walk from Reykjavik city centre. It’s quite quirky and whilst not five star is very comfortable with all the amenities we could ask for and the staff are so friendly. It is fortunate that I eat fish and live on fresh cod for most meals (apart from breakfast) and probably the best cod I’ve ever eaten. It is surprising how many different dishes can be produced with the main ingredient but I am never disappointed.
Due to weather conditions our itinerary is scuppered at the beginning so our first day is spent wandering around Reykjavik and climbing to the top of Hallgrímskirkja church which provides spectacular 360 degree views – but we cannot stay for too long as the freezing winds creep into our bones.
We also quickly learn to forget about the exchange rate – Iceland is very expensive but we are only here for a few days so just let it go and enjoy ourselves.
On Wednesday morning we are up early for the mini bus to take us to the bus station where we are transferred onto a 4 wheel drive coach. From here we enjoy the views and the amusing tourist guide who directs our gaze to many parks and gardens but informs us the Icelanders don’t walk because they love to drive so never visit the gardens by foot.
Our first stop just before the sunrises (about 10.30am!) is to view the rift valley where the plates of Europe and America are slowly pulling apart – across the middle of Iceland.
Then onto Geyser to see the weird landscape where hot springs erupt every few minutes. Next we visit Gullfoss to see the huge frozen waterfall and have lunch. After lunch we transfer to an 8 wheel drive bus which used to be a missile carrier – certainly not luxurious but necessary to get us over the glacier to Lanjokull where our snowmobiles await.
We don very thick overalls with gloves and crash helmets and after a short health and safety instruction guide Charles and I get on our snowmobile – yes I am driving but it is not as easy as it looks.
Whilst the snow looks beautifully smooth it is in fact very uneven and its quite tough on the arms steering and trying to maintain direction but it is a lot of fun and the views are amazing. The only problem is that the visors keep icing up making it tricky to see anything.
Charles drives us back and its a great experience but before long we are heading back down the glacier.
Its about an hours drive back to our coach and we have to stop half way down for the driver to put air back in the tyres – as they needed to be ‘soft’ up on the glacier. We arrive back about 8pm and go straight back out to enjoy a Northern lights search cruise. Sadly the lights didn’t show up but we are given a free trip on the following evening.On Thursday we spend the day at The Blue Lagoon; one of the 25 Wonders of the World (when I was at school there were only 7). The Lagoon was formed in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plan. People began bathing in the waters applying the silica mud to their skin and noticed the great effects it had. From 1987 the public were allowed access and the facilities include spas, water massage, restaurants and rest area. One does not dilly dally after getting changed as the temperature freezing but it is worth the few seconds of discomfort to relax in the waters and enjoying applying the different types of mud. We do look a bit funny but so do all the other swimmers. We then enjoy a very pleasant meal in the restaurant although it feels odd being in dressing gowns, flipflops and dripping hair supping a glass of champagne.
In the evening with fingers crossed we take another evening cruise in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights and whilst they are not spectacular we do indeed see them and Charles is especially excited by the sight – more so than anyone else on the cruise.
Interesting often the northern lights look grey to the naked eye but through a camera lens at a particular setting is vivid green. We managed to acquire some evidence of our sightings anyway.Our five days fly by and whilst there is so much more to see and do it is time to return to the UK.