Travel Coordinator Philly and European travel consultant Anne recently visited Iceland, a place where majestic lava fields and snow-capped volcanoes create a landscape that will constantly leave you in awe. Here Philly tells all…
From watching the Northern Lights dance in the night sky above a snowy Arctic wilderness to taking a dip in a natural hot spring, Iceland offers a plethora of unique experiences. Whether in summer or winter, a trip to this beautiful North Atlantic country promises nothing short of an extraordinary adventure. Anne and I were lucky enough to find this out for ourselves.
After a jam-packed first evening where we enjoyed a Northern Lights Hunt with caving and a delicious lobster dinner, Anne and I were collected at the crack of dawn for our first adventure of the day – a visit to the contemporary Hótel Húsafell in West Iceland. After a 90 minute drive in complete darkness from Reykjavik in our giant super jeep, driven by our knowledgeable Icelandic guide Óskar, we arrived at Húsafell to an exceedingly warm welcome. Hótel Húsafell is renowned for being located in an area rich in history and magnificent natural wonders, however after its recent renovation the hotel now has a voice of its own. We were lucky enough to enjoy a delicious lunch in their gourmet restaurant, which boasts a typical Nordic menu with a contemporary twist – it certainly did not disappoint.
After lunch we ventured down to the hotel’s very own geothermal swimming pool. With planned renovation next year, this hidden gem is one of the most tranquil spots in the area to relax and is used by both hotel guests and locals. We are really excited to be working with Hótel Húsafell in 2016 once all of the relevant refurbishments have taken place.
From Húsafell, it was then on to our next Arctic adventure. Donning our giant snow suits and boots and looking like men from Mars, Anne and I clambered up into our special modified glacier vehicle (with 6ft wheels!) for our Into The Glacier Tour. This new experience into one of Europe’s largest glaciers, Langjökull, has proved to be one of Iceland’s most significant new attractions since its official opening day on 5th of June last year. After rumbling up the glacier for 30 minutes, we stopped off at base camp for a hot chocolate and a Christmas biscuit before progressing to the summit for our tour. We meandered through the tunnels dug through the glacier, which are illuminated by underground lights creating a magical setting. Our guide’s engaging commentary on the history of the glacier was fascinating and we were able to see, with our own eyes, the hundreds of layers of ice and the truly impressive crevasse which has formed and progressed over the years.
After a white knuckle journey down the glacier as the weather began to become slightly tempestuous (having said that our driver didn’t bat an eyelid!) we climbed back into our super jeep and Óskar drove us to our next stop, Hotel Ion. Here we enjoyed a delicious three course dinner of traditional smoked trout, sautéed cod and melt in the mouth carrot cake – a fabulous ending to a busy, but thrilling day.
Our early morning pick-up the following day was by our wonderful new guide, Svavar who promised another adventurous outing. As the sun rose we enjoyed some incredible views – all brought to life by Svavar’s rich knowledge of the geology and history of the landscape. Perhaps our most authentic (and relaxing) Icelandic experience was visiting the Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Laugin as it is known locally, which is the oldest natural swimming pool in Iceland dating back to 1891. Hidden away in the countryside located near to the small village of Flúðir in the Golden Circle area, this Secret Lagoon has been kept original and authentic. After daring to leave the somewhat basic changing rooms, Anne and I timidly tiptoed outside to face the -10°C temperatures, only to be greeted by a horde of amused cameramen filming a Polish beer advert! Needless to say we swiftly made our way into the balmy 38 °C pool… The natural bath is surrounded by several hot springs, among them a little geyser which erupts every 10 minutes or so, providing the pool with fresh warm water and maintaining a temperature of 38-40 °C throughout the year. After an hour or so relaxing in the geothermal waters, which Icelanders have long believed have healing properties, we braved the sub-zero temperatures to get changed and head off back to Reykjavik for dinner at the trendy Kitchen & Wine and another relaxing night’s stay at Hotel Borg.
On our final morning, after the reception staff at Hotel Borg had casually advised us that Iceland was due to experience the ‘worst snowstorm the country has seen in 30 years’, a slightly panicked Anne and I made our way into our waiting Land Rover for our 60 minute transfer to The Blue Lagoon where we would stop en route to Reykjavik Airport. However, despite the heaps of snow and gale force winds, Iceland is much more prepared for such unpredictable weather extremes than the UK, and our extremely competent driver dropped us off at the lagoon as if the cascading winds outside were nothing out of the ordinary. In Iceland if you don’t like the weather, don’t worry, it will change in 5 minutes.
The Blue Lagoon is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Normally, the Lagoon sees hundreds of visitors each day who bathe in the geothermal waters set in the pure heart of the Iceland landscape. However, thanks to the tumultuous weather outside, we had our very own private lagoon experience with a mere 10 other guests daring to join us. On arrival we were given our pamper pack, towels, robe and slippers and were shown to the newly refurbished changing rooms. After sampling the algae facial scrub and mineral hair mask, we timidly made our way out into the Blue Lagoon to experience this true natural gem in all of its snowy glory – it was magical.
We were also fortunate enough to sample the lunch menu at the lagoon’s very own restaurant Lava. After devouring our delicious main courses of rack of lamb and the fresh fish of the day from Grindavík harbour, it was time to be taken to the airport for our flight back to London. Thanks to the wonderful Icelandair, our flight was on time, despite the weather conditions, and we experienced a seamless journey back to the UK. The short 3.5 hour flight time passed so quickly while we reflected on the last three days of truly memorable and life affirming experiences.
For more information on Iceland, visit our website scottdunn.com, or call us today and speak to one of our travel consultants on 0203 603 3555