A beginner’s guide to Iceland
Ever thought of visiting Iceland? Here’s why this fascinating destination should probably be on your travel wish-list.
We’d arrived into Reykjavik on an early flight from London. Once we’d checked into our hotel, we headed out to explore the town and grab some lunch. Our taxi driver from the airport had recommended the seafood cafes by the marina, so we opted for Saegreifinn – a fairly unassuming looking place but we had the most fantastic lobster soup and fish kebabs.
Other stand-out food experiences were Cafe Glaetan where we breakfasted on omelettes and the local Skyr yoghurt, Grillmarket where we had a really great tasting menu for dinner, plus Fishmarket and Fish Company are also worth checking out for some great seafood.
As you arrive into Iceland, you do really feel like you’re in a remote outpost of the world. Driving through the almost lunar landscape of treeless lava fields, it’s easy to imagine that you’re discovering uncharted territory.
One of the highlights of our visit was a boat trip with Elding adventures out to observe a puffin colony – small awkward birds with colourful beaks, that burrow into the islands around Iceland to nest and breed.
We also really enjoyed a horse-riding expedition with Ishestar Riding Tours, a great chance to experience the small hairy Icelandic Horses with their unique gait - known as tölt – it’s a smooth pace somewhere between a trot and a gallop.
Whale watching is easily accessible from Reykjavik.
It’s also really straightforward to hire a car and drive across the island to experience the spectacular Golden Circle waterfalls and geysers.
Iceland is able to heat its water using geothermal energy. You do notice a slight sulphuric rotten-egg smell when you’re showering, but you soon get used to this.
Worth checking out is the spectacular Laugardalur pool complex. Not just a massive pool with virtually no chlorine - due to the strict hygiene standards enforced – the complex also has an extensive series of outdoor heated pools.
Before my visit, the famous Blue Lagoon was pretty much the only thing I could associate with Iceland, and it’s definitely something that should be included in your itinerary. The black volcanic sand is what turns the water of this lagoon an eerie milky blue, and paddling around in the warm water is quite a surreal experience.
With limited immigration, the people of Iceland are almost universally tall, blond and attractive. They’re also surprisingly friendly, welcoming and charmingly inquisitive. English is widely spoken, so communicating is easy.
At the time of our visit to Iceland – late May/early June – it really didn’t get dark at all. During the day, it was warm with clear blue skies. At night, even though the sun did kind of set, it was still light enough that you completely lost track of time, which messes up your body-clock a bit.
At all hours of the night, the streets of Reykjavik seemed to be mobbed with groups of local people out drinking, laughing and enjoying themselves.
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