Hi all! ♡ I am back today with my Iceland travel diary! <3 I visited Iceland earlier this year in late January with my two besties and it was definitely a trip to remember. We spent 3 days in Iceland, which was not long enough for us to do absolutely everything, but just enough for us to see what Iceland has to offer :) If you are interested in seeing our Iceland journey or are visiting Iceland soon and want some sightseeing ideas and tips - continue reading below! ♡
On the day of departure, we took a night flight from London Gatwick Airport to Keflavik International Airport via WOW Air, arriving at around 12am at night. Since we knew we would be arriving late at night, we booked a hotel near the airport for our first night so that we could rest as soon as we arrived Iceland. Even though we arrived in the middle of the night, our hotel (like many other hotels in Iceland) offered free shuttle services that took us to and from the airport, so we were picked up by our hotel's shuttle as soon as we landed and were whizzed to the hotel shortly afterwards.
When we woke up the next morning, the first thing on our to-do list was to visit the Blue Lagoon <3 We had all heard such good things about the Blue Lagoon and were anticipating this part of our trip long before we arrived Iceland :D For the Blue Lagoon, you do have to book beforehand and when we were booking our slot 2 weeks before our trip, we were pretty shocked to find out that it was nearly all sold out with only one time slot left at 9am in the morning. That being said, make sure you book early to avoid disappointment!
When booking all our outings for this trip, we also had to bear in mind the weather and daylight situation during this time of the year in Iceland. During wintertime, daylight is extremely short-lived and lasts for only 4-5 hours per day, from sunrise at around 11am to sunset at 3:30pm everyday. This basically means that tourist attractions between 11 to 3 are extra busy! When we arrived the Blue Lagoon at 9am, it was completely dark outside, but we were able to watch the sunrise while we were in the Lagoon, which was a wonderful experience. ♡
The Blue Lagoon was definitely my favourite part of the whole trip <3 You get to enjoy the super warm spring baths in below freezing temperatures outdoors, as well as mud masks and drinks, which was extremely relaxing and a unique experience ♡ As a suggestion, I would recommend that you get the Premium package for a little more money because they supply you with an extra face mask, a drink of your choice, as well as bathrobe and slippers and so you do not have to bring your own. If you booked your Blue Lagoon trip through a travel agency/ company (e.g. Grayline), you can also upgrade to the Premium package when you arrive the Blue Lagoon :)
*How amazing is this place! :O* We almost did not want to leave! ♡
After the Blue Lagoon, we took a shuttle to our next hotel located in the Reykjavik town centre. After checking in, we decided that it would be a good idea to walk around and explore the town centre before the sun was down :) Iceland during January was EXTREMELY COLD. It was around -7 to -10 degree celsius while we were there, which, if you are from Switzerland, or Sweden, or Norway, or Finland, or Russia (you get it - the list goes on HAHA) - you probably won't find THAT bad; but for us - 3 weaklings from tropical countries who occasionally find the UK weather even a little unbearable - Iceland was SOOOO COLDDD! \(o_o)/
But the cold didn't stop us from exploring Reykjavik (at least for the first 30 mins LOL) so off we went! The first thing we saw while we were walking towards the coastline was Mount Esja, which looked magnificent on this cold (yet sunny) Winter day <3
How beautiful is it?! ♡
My Iceland OOTD (p.s. call me crazy but I was wearing 8 layers to stay warm and not die LOL):
Scarf from Primark
Puffer jacket from Prada
Leggings from Lululemon
Boots from Dr. Martens
Nylon bag from Prada
Unbranded ski gloves with fleece lining
(Underneath my outer layers - I was also wearing: 2 heat techs from Uniqlo, 2 cable knit sweaters, Ultra Light Down jacket from Uniqlo, Fleece jacket from North Face, another pair of leggings underneath, and 2 pairs of fuzzy socks LOL)
Yep. Not cold at all. \(~_~)/
Regardless of the cold, the view was amazing, and we felt so happy and lucky to be in Iceland <3
We continued with our tour of the town centre and went past the interesting-looking Hallgrímskirkja Church....
...and found our first food destination after walking for 20 mins - the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hotdog stand! It apparently serves the best hotdog in town :P
So we tried it out :D The hotdogs were good - not the best we have ever had - but still pretty good! We were however FREEZING at this point (I could barely take my gloves off to look for coins to pay for the hotdogs - it was SO COLD!)
So we decided to head into a café nearby to get some heat and warmth before embarking on our journey back to our hotel haha.
On our way back, we passed by the shopping streets in the town centre :)
These streets definitely made me feel that Reykjavik is not as empty as many would think!
After we got back to our hotel, we had a bit of a rest (since we had a super early start to the morning), until it was time for our Northern Lights Tour. Unfortunately, the weather conditions that night were not great and we were not able to see the Norther Lights. However, I would still like to share our Northern Light tour experience with you all in case any of you are looking at Northern Lights tours in Iceland :)
We booked all our tours on this trip through a company called Grayline. If you prefer driving around Iceland yourself, that is probably ideal as I feel that you would be able to experience Iceland a lot more by driving yourself. However, driving would not be a good idea if the weather conditions are bad as there are a LOT of slippery roads around Iceland and I have heard scary stories from friends who drove around Iceland themselves when weather conditions were bad and they were not able to see the roads clearly. Since none of us were able to drive overseas, we chose to book our tours through travel companies in Iceland, which is what most people would do if they are not driving as it would be impossible to get around Iceland without a car.
Grayline and Reykjavik Excursions are some of the biggest travel companies for tours around Iceland, and we have friends who had used Grayline before when they visited Iceland, so we also chose to use Grayline for all our tours. I have checked different travel companies that offer tours around Iceland and Grayline's tours seem quite reasonably priced, probably because the size of the tour groups are pretty big and so you would be in a big tour bus with many other people.
At the start of our Northern Lights tour, a tour bus came and picked us up at our hotel at around 7:30pm. Most hotels in the Reykjavik town centre are included in Grayline's list of pick-up locations, but if your hotel is not on the list, you can just choose a pick-up location on the list and make your way there to be picked up. There was a tour guide on the tour bus who explained the history of the Northern Lights while the bus made its way out of Reykjavik into more deserted areas, since there has to be minimal light pollution for you to be able to see the Northern Lights. What would happen is that you would be driven to a place where the experts/ aurora weather reports say is most likely for the Northern Lights to appear, and the bus would stop there and you will have to sit and wait patiently. You can choose to stay on the tour bus while you wait or get off the bus and have a stroll around. It was however EXTREMELY cold at night - much colder than during daytime so I was wearing snow pants and we pretty much did not leave our tour bus since the Northern Lights were not appearing as the skies were not clear enough. After stopping at the first location for a while, we were driven to a second location where we waited further, but again the skies were not clear enough for the Northern Lights to appear.
Even though we were not able to see the Northern Lights that night, the Grayline team definitely tried their best to look for locations where we would have a chance of seeing them and they also contacted several Northern Light experts in the area to come to our location to analyse whether we would be able to see the Northern Lights there. There is also a policy that if you don't end up seeing the Northern Lights on the night of your tour, you can be booked on any Northern Lights tour within the next 2 years free of charge until you ultimately get to see the Northern Lights. We originally wanted to be booked on the next tour, but the weather conditions were even worse the next day and all Northern Lights tours were completely canceled as the experts said there was no chance of the Northern Lights appearing that night. I guess we will have to go back to Iceland within the next 2 years to see the Northern Lights! :P
On Day 2, we went on a full day tour - the Golden Circle Classic Tour through Grayline :D The Golden Circle Tour is a well-known tour in Iceland where you get to explore 3 of their landmark places - the Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area.
We first arrived the Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site where interestingly the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year. The Thingvellir National Park during wintertime is completely white and I can imagine that it would look very different in the Summer/ other weather conditions. On the day of our tour, it was snowing really heavily with not a lot of sunlight at all - which explains why everything literally looked black and white! The National Park was still an impressive landscape with a lot of history and I would love to see it in the Summer!
We were next driven to the Gulfoss waterfall, where we had to walk along the trails on the slopes to get as close to the waterfall as we could. Even though the wind and snow made it really cold and hard to walk on the day - it was worth it as the Gulfoss was amazing!
These geological layers were formed during or soon after the mid-Ice Age - how incredible! :O
The Gulfoss is definitely a must if you are visiting Iceland - it is the most magnificent natural wonder!
We then had our lunch break at a café near the Gulfoss, and were driven to the Geysir area afterwards, passing by some of the locations where Game of Thrones was filmed and endless pieces of Winter wonderlands...
...until we finally arrived the Geysir area!
The Geysir area is basically a natural hot spring area that is filled with geysers - where mud pools boil naturally and even shoots boiling water all the way up into the air!
We were also able to see the Strokkur hot spring, which is currently the most energetic spouting spring in Iceland. Every few minutes, it would erupt and blast a column of super heated water up to 20 metres into the air :O It was incredible to be able to see these blasting hot springs in person!
Before and after eruption:
On our last day, we walked around the Reykjavik town centre again in the morning until it was time for us to head off to the airport for our flight back to London :) There is definitely more you can do if you are in Iceland for a longer period of time (e.g. glacier tours, the Skogafoss waterfall etc.) but we felt that for the short period of time we were there, we were still able to get the Iceland experience we wanted and had a wonderful time looking at all these landscapes and natural wonders you won't be able to find anywhere else in the world <3
That being said - I would love to visit Iceland again - maybe in the Summer because it would definitely look and feel completely different! ♡
I hope you have all enjoyed this Iceland travel diary + guide :D I absolutely loved writing this and reminiscing our trip <3 I will also be back soon with more travel/ other posts so keep your eyes out for them!