ICELAND by Anne Fisk

My Iceland trip commenced from the North Terminal at London Gatwick flying with Icelandair. On arrival into Keflavik, after a 3-hour flight, we were met and taken to our private vehicle to visit the famous Blue Lagoon. The journey only takes 20 minutes so it is good to visit either on the way from or to Keflavik airport. This was an amazing experience – so relaxing lounging in the huge outdoor lagoon filled with geothermal hot water containing natural mineral salts, white silica and blue-green algae. Situated amidst a dramatic field of black lava, temperatures average a relaxing 35-40 degrees centigrade. We had the comfort package which includes a towel, drink and silica mud face mask and you can stay for 2 hours.
We then transferred to Reykjavik, approximately a 50-minute journey and checked into our hotel for the night, The Alda. The hotel is located in the heart of the city on the main shopping street, close to attractions and bars and restaurants, the striking Hallgrimskirkja church, the national gallery and the waterfront. The rooms are Nordic in style. The following morning after a lovely breakfast at The Alda we left the Old Harbour on a RIB boat accompanied by a specially trained whale guide.
Unfortunately due to the Atlantic being too rough that day we weren’t able to go out far enough to view whales. However, the experience of the RIB boat alone was quite exhilarating. After a quick lunch, we drove over to Reykjavik’s heli-base. We met the team and learnt about the various heli-tours they offer, from soaring over the capital to landing on volcanos and glaciers. We were then treated to a sample five minute flight over the capital which was superb – the sun was shining and the views were incredible. Leaving the heli-base we started our drive into Iceland’s famous Golden Circle, stopping at the Thingvellir National Park lookout point, taking in the panoramic views whilst our expert guide told us about the tectonic plates that meet there, following which we drove to check in to our next hotel, the Grimsborgir. The hotel consists of a comfortable collection of traditional Scandinavian country lodges and is perfectly located to access attractions such as Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir National Park. It was after dinner whilst staying here that we were able to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights – not to be missed!

Day three found us continuing our Golden Circle tour, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this collection of bubbling hot springs, cascading waterfalls and gushing geysers will not fail to amaze. The spouting geyser Strokkur erupts every 6-7 minutes or so and its white column of boiling water can reach heights of 20-30 metres – time it right for the perfect photo! Following this, we witnessed the white waters of Gullfoss waterfall “Golden Falls”. You could feel the vapours on your face as the water thundered down a 32-metre drop into an impressive canyon.

We were treated to lunch at the Geysir hotel which is due to open in the next few months and then headed out to a family-run farm, Einiholt, set in the midst of the Golden Circle. It was here we started our private ATV (quad bike) adventure. Leaving the farm we ventured through scenic terrains, speeding along for around an hour.
We left the ATV’s parked and then headed on foot through deep snow arriving at the beautiful Gullfoss falls on the opposite side to the main tourist trail! I did feel very privileged to be able to view them from such a unique vantage point. It was then time to check into the Hotel Skalakot on the south coast, stopping along the way to view Seljalandsfoss with 60m of thunderous falls. When the conditions permit you can walk behind the waterfall and hear its roar.

Skalakot Manor is a boutique farmhouse hotel in a very rural area. It is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes. After breakfast the following day we took part in a short horse trek in the area surrounding the farm, it was so peaceful. Varying levels and durations of ride are available to suit all. A scenic journey along Iceland’s south coast takes us to Skogafoss falls, here you can climb up the walkway that clings to the cliff to see the falls from a birds-eye view.

Iceland waterfall
Next stop is Reynisfijara, one of Iceland’s iconic black beaches near the small fishing village of Vik. It is famous for its lava black sands, roaring Atlantic waves and panoramas, there are rocky sea stacks sitting off the shoreline, this beach leaves all its visitors in awe. At the end of another busy day, we witnessed one of the most beautiful places along the south coast of Iceland – the magnificent glacier lagoon, Jokulsarlon. Here we saw bright blue and white icebergs floating in the lagoon. Seals can be seen popping their heads out of the waters and basking on the banks. The main lagoon measures about 7 square miles. With the world’s climate changing, 330 feet of ice breaks away each year to reshape the lagoon and fill it with huge spectacular icebergs.
Another iceberg lagoon, Fjallsarlonm, has floating icebergs that break free from the edge of the Vatnajoukull glacier and chunks of ice wash up on Iceland’s Jokulsarlon beach and sparkle in the sun, more famously known as Diamond beach with its black sands.
Following a hectic day, we arrived at the Fosshotel which is located very near to Glacier Lagoon and enjoyed a lovely dinner in preparation for our last day of adventure in Iceland! Friday arrived and another stunning blue sky and we headed to Vatnajokull glacier, all fully equipped, to traverse across the glacier and explore the wonderland of ice sculptures, water cauldrons, ridges and deep crevasses. It was absolutely breathtaking and its landscapes have been the settings for many iconic films due to their pure beauty.

Iceland

We then headed back to Reykjavik for our last night in Iceland, the three-hour drive was quite welcome by this point, energy levels had depleted somewhat and the minibus was unusually quiet! Spending the last night in the city makes sense and travelling to the airport is so much easier when you have an early flight the following day.

I have to say that Iceland has been one of the most amazing places I have ever visited and somewhere I would love to return to someday – I can certainly highly recommend it!