Sorry I haven’t posted a blog for ages. I’ve been jetting around Europe with my day job and also recently headed up to Aberdeen to surprise a brilliant young man called Finlay. It was a magical moment as part of BAMagic
I’m also writing a travel piece on the top 10 cities to visit in Europe. You’ll be able to see that in one of the National newspapers soon. Hope you’ll find it useful.
In the meantime, if you’ve ever considered a short visit to Iceland then check out the blog below written by Kay Burley for the Mail on Sunday. Looks awesome.
You can fly with me from London or British Airways also fly from London City
Spectacular views of Iceland as I flew into Keflavik airport with British Airways. Jonny says sit on the right of the aircraft for the best views. He was right!
Iceland is on everyone’s bucket list. Or at least that’s how it appears. Every time I mentioned I’d spent a few glorious days in this curious country I was met with: ‘I’ve always wanted to go there.’ Followed swiftly by: ‘Did you see the Northern Lights?’
The answer is, yes I did. Sort of. But, there really is so much more to Iceland than looking upwards.
Whale watching, Icelandic-horse riding, snowmobiling, all terrain vehicle tours, caving… They’re all available for the more energetic traveller. Or, for visitors more like me, there’s absolutely breathtaking scenery enjoyed from the sanctuary of the tranquil Blue Lagoon!
Blue Lagoon is heaven on earth
The lagoon is a spa that was created from a nearby geothermal power plant – almost all of Iceland’s hot water is generated from the earth’s core – and has been developed into one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.
I visited on an absolutely freezing November day and the tentative sub-zero steps from the main building to the water’s edge took my breath away, but the shivers quickly melted as I eased into the 100 degree biothermal lagoon. The waters are said to work wonders for the skin and in addition a silica mud mask is a must. I was a little embarrassed about wallowing around sporting the brilliant white mask, but everyone else in the lagoon was doing the same!
Steam gently rising from the crystal clear waters was so relaxing I wanted to stay submerged forever, so I compromised and treated myself to a half hour in-water massage. Floating on a yoga mat in scenic surroundings while having my shoulders manfully manipulated by a brilliant masseur will, without doubt, be a life memory for me.
The lagoon is heated by a geothermal power plant. As is 95% of Iceland homes.
Of course I wanted photos too but was worried about keeping my phone dry. I shouldn’t have been. There are plenty of staff who will take a souvenir snap on an iPad and email them to you – free of charge.
If you’re planning a trip to the lagoon then go early would be my strong advice. It does become very busy later in the day. I went at 9am by shuttle bus, around 50 minutes from Reykjavik, and had the waters almost to myself for an hour or so.
- Any road trip offers spectacular views of the countryside. Locals say if you’re lost in a forest in Iceland – stand up. Vikings cut down 99% of trees!
If you only have a few days to spare then travelling by bus is an excellent way to get around the country. Less than a third of a million people live in Iceland with around 120,000 in Reykjavik. However, business is booming and after the challenges of the financial crisis brought the country to its knees, its rebuilding quickly and tourists are flocking there. Two million visited this year and that number is predicted to grow by 40% in 2018, so go soon.
Hotels in Reykjavik – the Smoke City – cater for all wallets, though be aware that Iceland is relatively expensive. A G&T cost me £14 and supper for us more than £100. Do not buy bottled water. Tap water is excellent. And free!
The new harbour is a bustling part of town and there’s a strong party scene if that’s your thing. Restaurants are plentiful and there’s lots of fabulous food to choose from, including a ‘world famous’ hot dog stand where tourists and locals alike queue around the block.
Reykjavik is a functional rather than beautiful city…
Architecture in the capital is not so much of a draw if I’m being brutally honest, but nevertheless I enjoyed strolling around the small city and a two-hour walking tour conducted by a local historian, was informative and fun. However, I wanted to see much more than geothermal swimming pools even if Ryan Gosling and the cast of the Game of Thrones had been seen wallowing in one of the outdoor public baths while I was there. So, I left behind the heated pavements of the capital – no necessity to shovel away snow- for a Golden Circle Tour of Geysers and waterfalls.
Hot, old geysers everywhere
The scenery is second to none. Hot, old Geysers putting on a regular show are a popular stop for tourists. In addition, visit Pingvellir, a picturesque world heritage national park which sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of two tectonic plates and is the site of the oldest parliament in the world.
Pingvellir is a world heritage site where tectonic plates collide
Not my thing, but it’s also said to be one of the best spots for diving in Iceland. I preferred to visit the Gulfoss waterfall where the power of nature sees chocolate milk-coloured water flowing at 2,000 cubic metres per second. Don’t stand too near the edge though. Some have, with fatal consequences.
Gulfoss waterfall is chocolate milk coloured. Jonny described it as Nesquik on tap. Wish I’d thought of that. Perfect description
Of course, I couldn’t not mention the Northern Lights. Tour operators are certainly geared up for the spectacular phenomenon and on a daily basis they measure magnetic activity to proffer reasonable predictions on what might happen on any given night. Be prepared though to stand in the freezing cold for a long time waiting for Mother Nature to put on a show. I was in the United States in August waiting with eager anticipation as a total eclipse was promised. The moon nibbled at the sun, the second it had been predicted to, right on cue. That doesn’t happen with the Northern Lights. There’s a lot of looking up towards an inky-black sky in eager anticipation. It was absolutely freezing the night I was there and just when I could no longer feel my toes and thought I needed to call it an evening and seek refuge in the warmth of the tour bus, the magic came.
There they are, but be prepared to stand for hours in the cold waiting for the magic to happen
However, it doesn’t always, so build in time to make sure you can boast to your friends back home that you saw the Lights. My tip would be try early in your visit and if you’re unlucky the first night then you have options.
So, in summary, if the most you knew about Iceland previously was that it was home to an unpronounceable volcano that caused airport chaos around Europe back in 2010 then now’s the time to visit this stunning part of the world.
The phrase locals used to me time and again was: Take nothing from us and leave nothing behind. I think I may have left a little part of my heart there. I’ll definitely be heading back soon to find it…
In the meantime, if you visit before me, could you please visit the square outside the parliament building and just check on how my snowman is doing?
There’s more on my Instagram feed…