For my birthday L treated me to a trip away to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland! Obviously a lovely, thoughtful gift as always… however when he surprised me with the trip, apart of me was slightly annoyed. We take turns each year with planning a trip for our anniversary and this year it’s my turn. After some research (and a lot of looking at beautiful photos of locations on Pinterest…) my heart was set on Iceland! Mainly for the reason that we would get to go to the blue lagoon. So the disappointment was completely selfish as I knew I would have to find a new place for us to go in December – terrible, right?!
Just like all other trips L organises – he had every minute of each day planned down to the final details, which I LOVE. It means I can relax and be lead around an amazing city and be told about all the amazing things and history to it.
Iceland has a lot of ground and space to it, so I would strongly record hiring a car. It’s so much easier and means that you’re on your own terms, you don’t need to wait for a coach schedule or for another party to be finished at a location. When you’re only in a place for a long weekend, those kind of things can take up so much time so it’s a good way to get more time out of your stay. So in our rented car, we were on our way from the airport to the Blue Lagoon!
This place is just stunning, like really stunning. I would come back to Iceland just to come back to this place. It’s everything you expect it to be, however without the smells you think! As it’s volcanic springs, we were expecting a very strong eggy smell, and although there were some areas that had a slightly strong smell, overall it didn’t smell at all. You get given robes, some conditioner for your hair (the water can make it go rock hard so this was very handy) and a free drink. Into the hot springs and there we stayed for the next few hours – complete bliss.
After reluctantly pulling ourselves out of the water, we dried off and set off to our hotel. We were staying in a place in the centre (unfortunately I can’t remember the name of it) which was quite nice – nothing too amazing, but it did the job, however I’m sure there are more trendy hotels there. Although L did organise a bottle of prosecco and chocolates to be in our room on arrival which was pretty sweet.
Next on our list of activities was a horse ride! I was slightly surprised that Laurence had organised this as I’ve only ever been horse riding once and haven’t really mentioned it as something we should do. Although I know he had done it a bit when he was younger. Anyway, the gamble paid off – it was SO much fun. We went with a company called Reykjavik Riding Centre who were great – they picked us up from our hotel along with another couple and took us on a short drive outside of the centre to the riding school. Once on our horses we took off on a 2 hour ride around a beautiful lake, stopping for a picnic half way which included Icelandic meats and dried fish (which personally I wouldn’t recommend but it’s always good to try it!).
When we got back from horse riding, we went to The Dillon Whisky Bar for a few drinks and in hope of some food (unfortunately the dried fish just didn’t hit the spot for us). We loved it! There are a few awesome things about this bar…
1. Insane tunes, just rock all night long! This cool lady sits up top with a whole load of tunes just banging them out all night! it’s so good. tune after tune.
2. Great whiskey selection, found some there that we don’t even get in England!
3. Great beers and bar staff, loved their attitude.
4. Awesome atmosphere, such a nice vibe.
5. It’s just above The Chuck Norris Grill! So we were able to satisfy our hunger by just popping down to order and then taking it upstairs to eat whilst enjoying numbers 1, 2, 3 & 4!
Even if you’re not a whisky lover I would recommend checking this place out, the vibe and tunes will not let you down and there are some other drinks for non-whisky lovers.
After pulling ourselves out of bed we ventured out to explore some of the city. As a rule, we like to watch Anthony Boudains, No Reservations, on a city before we visit it. He tends to go to some pretty cool places so it’s always good to see that and get some sort’ve idea on the area before we go. One of the places he went to while in Iceland – Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. This sounds like some fancy restaurant, however it’s far from it, it’s simply a little hotdog van on the side of the road! I found it pretty odd how much the Icelandic’s loved hotdogs, they even had theses little hotdog holders in restaurants – they kind of look like toast holders but more rounded. These hotdogs were pretty good, definitely worth a try, they do this great thing with crispy onions in the base then loaded with fried onions, mayo, mustard and ketchup – all in the BASE of the hotdog bun then the dog on top – A REVELATION in my eyes. It meant you ate the hotdog without being messy and getting sauce all on the side of your mouth – just genius.
Laurence found a cat – he was pretty happy with himself.
After our hotdog revelation we went for a walk around the city and went into a few vintage shops and a flee market (which was pretty rubbish which is why I don’t have any photos of it!). By the time we had covered most vintage shops it was time to start drinking again, so we found this great restaurant called The Laundromat Cafe for a few drink and some nibbles. It was totally our kind of place, we loved the decor, the staff were really relaxed and friendly (as most Icelanders are) good drinks choice and good nibbles. Laurence designs restaurants and bars for a living and he loved the decor, it was comfy and cool perfect for whiling away the afternoon playing games and watching folks walking past. The tunes were great too! We could have stayed for hours but there is alot to fit in over the weekend…
Laurence loves to visit a church wherever we go and this trip was no exception! This one was pretty impressive though, I was amazed by the stunning modern look of the church, it had a real impact. You can also go to the bell tower and get an amazing 360 degree view of the city.
Another good reason to rent a car while you’re in Iceland, is for ease of going to ‘The Golden Circle’ – a popular tourist route in South Iceland, covering about 300km looping from Reykjavik into central Iceland and back.
You could definitely do this without a car, I know a lot of tourist buses do the route, however I think it’s always nice to be able to be on your terms when visiting somewhere, not having to wait on other people to move onto the next location. As we were only here a short time I think it was very important as it meant instead of taking a whole day to do this trip, we did it in an afternoon.
The tree primary stops on the route are the national park Pingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss (meaning “golden falls”) and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. (I have to admit I did get some of this information from Wiki as I could not remember the names of everything!). The national park Pingvellir didn’t really have much to it… I can’t even explain what was there really! So we moved onto the waterfall Gullfoss which was stunning, those kind of things always blow my mind to think how much water passes through and the sheer power of the water. Finally we went to the Geysirs which again were pretty impressive!
After a long day sight seeing and getting our cultural hit of the trip we headed back into the centre and headed out again in the evening. We had a table booked for dinner, however we wanted to go to a bar before to unwind and have a couple of cocktails. Next to our hotel was The Lebowski Bar which we were recommended to go to by some friends. As Laurence was a big lover of the film, he couldn’t miss going somewhere dedicated to the character (I have never actually seen the film… so wasn’t really sure what the place was about, but the film has been on my list of must watches since then). From the carpets and bowling alley on the wall to the Americana all over the place, this joint is a departure from cool scandi style but is so much fun and we really enjoyed it.
It was our last night in Iceland, so we made sure we went out in style by having dinner at The Grill Market. An amazing restaurant that is pretty pricey but definitely worth it. If you follow my blog regularly, you will know that I am a MASSIVE fan of tasting menus. My view point is if you’re going to go to a swanky place and spend a couple of hundred pounds, then do it in style and try everything they have to offer. As the courses are always the restaurants most popular dishes, you are never disappointed – it’s always the best.
Some of the dishes we had included crispy traditional dried fish and squid (I know what I said about dried fish earlier, however this was on another level. The mixtures of flavours with the squid was beautiful, it really didn’t taste of your usual dried fish). One of the main courses was mink whale steak with deep-fried mushrooms – UNBELIEVABLE! When we arrived in Iceland, I was really keen to try whale and also puffin and although we didn’t get a chance to try puffin, I was so impressed with the taste and quality of the whale. I know what you may be thinking… whale hunting is pretty taboo, and it is, when it’s illegal – this however wasn’t illegal. The mink whale isn’t endangered so it’s not that bad really. It was like the best steak you will ever eat. So lean, tender, rare – it just melted in your mouth.
We wanted to have a few more drinks after dinner, so we wondered back towards our hotel in search for a bar that took our fancy. We ended up in the Lewbowski bar again! By this time it had transferred into more of a night club, there was a big dance floor where they were playing some amazing tunes and it was packed! It had such a great atmosphere. One of the cool things about the bar was that they had a ‘wheel of fourtune’ where you could spin it for about £12 and potentially win some drinks – the most being 12 beers. We must be super lucky, because on the first go we won the 12 beers! As I’m not a massive fan of beer, we ended up giving some away to some people next to us which instantly made them our best friends! Which was great as they ended up sticking with us the whole night and took us to some amazing places. I’m not going to be able to tell you where we went once we left the Lewbowski bar as it all kind of turned into a blur… however I know it was a good night as we ended up getting home WAY too late, sleeping through our alarm and almost missing our flight the next day! At least we had fun ay?
One thing I can not get over about Iceland is the sunlight. L and I went to Helsinki and St Petersburg a couple of years ago and it was pretty similar there in summer where it doesn’t get very dark, and when it does it’s only for a couple of hours. It’s a pretty odd feeling and can actually make you feel quote jet lagged as it throws your body clock out. Iceland is even further north so you get that effect a lot more when you’re there, you need to stay somewhere where they have black out curtains really.
Iceland is so beautiful, the people are amazing and I just love the style and vibe in scandi countries. I would 100% reccomend to go there, I would love to go back just to have the mink whale again and go to the blue lagoon.