Our guest writer Charlotte Hull has recently visited Iceland and she has kindly shared her thoughts and experiences with us here at Female First.
Iceland – as a newcomer to this part of the globe it doesn’t take long to notice that on this island of volcanoes and hot springs, it is routine for the earth to eject steam, erupt, send waterfalls plummeting and explosively melt masses of ice below.
A giant rock in the middle of the North Atlantic and twice the size of Denmark - it’s a country that had been on my bucket list for years.
Just a mere 330,000 people populate the country, mostly at the island’s edges to make as much distance as possible from the multitude of geologic events that are imminent in the middle.
Passed-down folk tales are told with mysticism, ghosts and elves and trolls.
Iceland’s concept of a natural world takes on a magical tone and magical creatures.
These stories are highlighted by the eeriness of the unpredictable and otherworldly weather. It’s a country with a storied language and rich with culture. Icelandic folk are proud of their Island and have every reason to be.
Recently the centre of that ‘Eyjafjallajökull’ eruption, which caused the biggest air travel shut down over Europe since World War II, Iceland is now visible on most travellers ‘to do’ list and I was quickly blown away by it’s beguiling charms.
Three hours from London and home to a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where it is possible to walk between Europe and America tectonic plates. This country has a lot to stay cool about and on arrival at Keflavik airport my fellow travelling companions and I were ready to wrap up and explore.
At some point during the 30-minute bus journey from the airport we discovered a largely barren land of mystical mountains and beautiful landscapes. We were on our way to the world’s largest hot tub – the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon
At the end of a long path surrounded by lava fields, lies a geothermal spa with glistening seawaters and a misty salty spray. It is widely anticipated as a natural wonder of the world and taking a dip was eagerly awaited. The real interesting part to this experience is getting from the changing room doors into the heated pool without getting frostbite!
On arrival I was given fresh towels and everything I needed to be able to enjoy the experience. A wristband allowed me to buy a fresh carrot juice from the in-pool bar and there was nothing more to do but kick back and melt into the 37 degree heated waters.
The waters’ healing powers and active ingredients of minerals, silica and algae get to work straight away and floating in the lagoon lends itself to an almost biblical experience. The misty waters also make it difficult for me to see the opposite side of the lagoon.
It’s a home of indulgence and entry will cost around £60, which includes high-end catering, accommodation and a lavish LAVA restaurant.
I was booked in for a unique in-water spa treatment where I was lifted onto buoyant yoga mat and covered in a fluffy towel to stay warm. Essential oils were used to massage my back, neck and temples as I floated away to heaven.
The Blue Lagoon also specializes in natural skin care products that promote anti-ageing - a real treat for women looking for the ultimate pampering.
The sun was starting to set on day one of our trip and that evening we booked into ION hotel to thaw out and dine in the first-class locally sourced Silfra restaurant. The hotel is less than an hour’s drive from the capital and set against majestic mountainous lava fields. It makes a perfect base from which to explore the country’s rich heritage and fauna on day two.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route covering about 300km of Iceland’s south, looping from Reykjavik into central Iceland and back. We were driven onto lonely treacherous stretches of road to find that civilization has gone away and all that is left is Iceland’s soul.
We were guests of Grayline Iceland excursions who safely guided us to Gullfoss falls, one of the country’s largest waterfalls. Spectacular cascades of water roar under a half-cover of ice and I could only take it all in silently, reverentially, while I shivered in the sub-zero temperatures.
Our local tour guide regaled us with stories as the tour continued onto the famous geysers and hot springs in the Haukadalur valley. Strokkur continues to erupt every five minutes and I was lucky enough to capture it blowing off steam.
Daylight hours are precious in Iceland and the gloom of the night lingers from around 3.30 pm during the winter months. After a day’s touring I was looking forward to warming my hands and feeling the heat of the country’s capital city.
That evening we booked into the 101 hotel which continues the capital’s sleek and modern theme. It is presented and run to a high standard with a warm fire, luxurious lounge bar and rooms to match.
Maneuvering around town on the icy pavements is no easy fit – I spent two days perfecting the ‘ice waddle’ in order to stay upright. The town has an eerie quality of being just unearthed and despite being the country’s capital the city feels a little like a ski village.
Trendy restaurants are enthusiastically organic. Residents still consider the notorious local dish known as ‘rotten shark’ a delicacy and the creative distinction seemed right: there is more than its fair share of writers, poets and musicians around town.
Hallgrímskirkja church is a crowning landmark and star attraction of Reykjavík city and offers an exceptional observation tower for incredible viewing across the whole of the city.
The longer nights mean more nightlife in Reykjavík and I really felt like I was at the North Pole because sunlight the next day doesn’t come up until 10 am. A real perk for those wishing to party into the hours…
It may come as a surprise that beer was banned in this country up until 1 March 1989, but the locals make up for it now. We spent our first night at Kaffibarinn, a trendy and local haunt of the Icelandic glitterati. Part owned by Blur frontman, Damon Albarn, the candled Kaffibarinn offers good times, cool music within a cosy atmosphere.
This is a city that packs a punch and really delivers.
On the last day of our trip, I longed for a few more precious days to experience the country's unique edge and fascinating landscape. With approximately 200 volcanoes in Iceland and most of them active - I’d go so far as to say that this country really rocks, in more ways than one.
easyJet now operates ten flights per week to Reykjavik from London Luton, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol airports.
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