Iceland 2016

26.11.16


What we thought of Iceland?

Luke and I recently took a trip to Iceland, As I said in my last post we had talked about this for years. and we both generally prefer winter/colder holidays that summer ones so Iceland seemed appropriate. We visited for 4 nights and 5 days, staying in Reykjavik. We had read up before hand on what to do, tips, advice and travel books. I thought I'd put together a post on our stay there from our perspective, what we found,seen and enjoyed along with some tips if your traveling to Iceland; Hopefully you find it somewhat helpful. I took and filled two 64gb memory cards so there's lots of photos, I took some of my favorite photos to date on this trip. I sorted through my favourites, but it was so hard to choose! So that being said the post is rather photo heavy; but I wanted to include it all in one post.. here goes!



What We Packed?


During the time we visited the temprature on our trip ranged anywhere from 3 degrees to -15 degrees, so generally VERY cold; this is a list of essentials we took with us; A water bottle, thermals, light weight coat, big puffer jacket, wool socks, walking boots, scarf or balaclava, gloves, A hat, waterproofs, waterproof Backpack, protective lip balm and moisturiser, camera, tripod, memory cards (especially if you want to capture the Northern Lights), external charger. I found Pinterest guides to be really helpful (here) 




Where we stayed?

During our time in Reykjavik we stayed in an Airbnb, this is now our fourth time staying in an Airbnb and this was our favorite one yet.  If you're not sure what Airbnb is check it out here. Generally I couldn't recommend airbnb enough, they're all over the world and great value for money. You can choose to have the 'entire Home' on your search results which we always do, you can opt for just the hire of a room if you're on a budget; for us we love having the kitchen and dining areas too. Our airbnb in Reykjavik was located right on the harbour in downtown Reykjavik, as soon as we seen the listing we knew it was the one we wanted, Hekla's airbnb is always fully booked so we felt so lucky to have managed to get a booking when we did (the earlier the better) The interior felt like something out of a scandi pinterest board and the location couldn't have been better, it was smack bang in the middle of loads of trendy bars, restaurants and tour booking offices. The view was also another winning factor, views over the harbour and into the mountains. Here is the listing if you're looking for somewhere to stay in Reykjavik, If you do end up booking let Hekla (the owner) know I sent you! :-) 











Exploring Reykjavik 


The first day in Reykjavik we spent exploring the sights and getting to know the area, Reykjavik had a really modern urban feel to it, very trendy and lots to do. There is street art everywhere and art galleries and ceramic shops galore. Generally everything in Iceland is expensive, from the food to the souvenirs; you're looking at no less than £20-30pp for almost every meal, when I first read this I got the feeling people over exaggerated and it would be similarly priced to london.. I was very wrong! On our first day we payed £19.95 each for fish and chips, and this was at one of the cheaper restaurants. Luckily they tend to serve tap water with every meal as it's so fresh out there, but had we wanted alcoholic drinks they were priced at around £11 a beer and £14 for house wine! We found a list on this website really helpful for cheaper eats (not really cheap but standard to what you would pay at home) the Burger joint listed on there was just opposite our airbnb and they were really tasty. So money aside the city is beautifully breath taking, the streets usually met with a mountain at the bottom of them. The architecture is also beautiful, colorful and simplistic. One of my favorite buldings shown in the pictures is Hallgrímskirkja Church; you can pay to get to the top of the church which I would highly recommend doing; stunning views of the city! 



















Tours we went on?



This was a trip we booked to go on the day of Luke's Birthday, this was one of the main tours we were excited to do. The sun in Iceland (at the time we were there) didn't rise until 10:30am our tour started at 9am so It was still dark when we left the bay, really surreal. The lady at the ticket office advised this was the best time to go for photography as you see the sunrise over the sea. We were given massive padded overalls to wear over our clothes as the temperature before the sun has risen and out as sea are VERY cold; they evidently worked though as I felt toasty and warm. As the boat started to head out the sun started to rise, it was truly one of the most beautiful things I've witnessed, we passed mountains and glaciers as the sun rose from behind them. The tour guide told us about the areas of Reykjavik we passed and the likelihood of what wildlife we would see; at first we seen loads of Arctic birds, there was these black herrings that kept diving for fish; really entertaining to watch. We hunted around the usual whale spots.. unfortunately we didn't see any whales but we did see Dolphins and Porpoises, I've seen this in captivity - but never in the wild before; very satisfying and again very surreal. It amazes me that they live happily in such drastic weather conditions.


This tour starts with a 'Hooooorah' as we actually seen the Northern Lights! The first night we headed out on the tour bus from Reykjavik, around an hour journey where they told us all about the northern lights and how best to photograph them. It was perfect clear night with so many stars, we headed way out of Reykjavik to get away from all light pollution. We then arrived at the destination where there was a cafe and lots of open space, it was probably the coldest we've both ever been in our lives, to the point having your hand out your glove for two seconds and your fingers where to numb to move. We waited and waited and unfortunately the didn't make an appearance, we were really disheartened after three hours of waiting round in the cold. Everyone on the tour bus was a bit deflated; the tour guide informed us that we could go back any night we wanted for the remainder of our trip free of charge. We had lots of tours booked on the other days and not allot of time so we debated weather we would go back again; on our last night we had bumped into two Americans from Boston who we got talking too, they also had attempted to see the northern lights the night before and failed; they told us about an app called Aurora forecast where you can gauge and track how good the activity is going to be, we promptly downloaded the app and seen that on our last night the sky was going to be rife with activity. It would mean we had hardly any sleep as the tour didn't finish till the early hours of the morning and we had to be up for a flight; but we figured it was worth it.. long story short we went again and seen them! they started really early on in the night around 8pm till around 3pm they were even going off on our drive to the dark skies area - I couldn't wait to get there as I was desperate to photograph them. I had my camera, many lenses and my tripod at the ready. I'd practised my night time photography before going away so felt a little bit more prepared. I was really pleased with the way the pictures turned out. Definitely a tick on my bucket list. 



The next tour we did was the Golden Circle Route. The wide open landscapes are like nothing you've ever seen before. Actively volcanic, this inland route is a mass of waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, lava fields, and, of course, those volcanoes. The first stop is Thingvellir National Park,  the spectacular site of Iceland's first parliament and the place where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet - and are moving apart. There is a widening fissure in the ground where the planet is literally opening up. Next it's on to Gullfoss waterfall, a huge fall of water. From here you can see a glacier off to one side. And then it's geysers. The sheer power of water and steam erupting from the ground due to the build up of extreme heat is awesome and really makes you realise how alive the ground is beneath our feet. After a day sight seeing the last thing on our list was too see the Icelandic horses, they re all over Iceland when you leave Reykjavik, just roaming in Fields, on this tour we stopped off at some stables and got a chance to feed and interact with the horses (and many cats that where running about) it amazed me how thick there fur is, its not like standard horse hair; they need extra thick mains and fur to endure the cold, as seen in my pictures. 


After a long weekend in Iceland theres nothing better than the idea of relaxing in a hot spring; after all that walking and cold weather its bliss. We booked for Pick up from Reykjavik for the 5'oclock tour; we chose this time as we wanted it to be light enough to photograph but get dark as the night went on so we could see the sunset. We swam and floated about for at least four hours and didn't want to leave; they have a bar there and also free Silica mud masks which you can apply at your leisure, the masks made my skin feel amazing! I couldn't stop touching it when I got out. One tip though, dont get your hair in the water, it makes it meggggggaaaa dry! take a spray in conditioner if you do plan to. 









  






















A few Tips.. 


Don't pay for tap water it's available everywhere usually served in jugs and better quality than bottled; Our host said locals will laugh at you for buying bottled water. 

Do you restaurant research, try places that are more budget friendly like the hot dog stalls or these where some of our favourites.

 Look at Airbnb's before hotels so you can experience living like a local.

If your a photography enthusiast for good lighting plan your main sight seeing trips mid day as the sun doesn't rise till 10-11am and sets around 3:30 (unless of course you want to see sunsets etc) 

The water in Iceland smells like sulphur, my hair smelled of eggs most days which isn't the most pleasant thing in the world, however most Icelandic people can't smell it anymore as they're so used to it, just be sure to take some nice perfume.

Overall we LOVED Iceland, it was one of those places where we immediately fell in love with. It was unlike any place we had every been before, the stark landscape and extreme weather made it feel like another planet. We spoke to many Icelandic people throughout the trip, even making friends with another couple, and everyone we encountered from the moment we arrived was really friendly. I will definitely return to Iceland one day! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or tips for next time!


12 comments

  1. LOVED this post Emma! Literally felt like I was there with you as I was reading it and now I'm super jealous! Amazing photos too ❤️

    Gianni
    www.thegedituk.com

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    1. Aww thanks Gianni, you must go!! You'd love it ❤️ x

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  2. I love reading your travel posts, Emma. Iceland is on my bucket list of places to visit and seeing these beautiful photos has made me want to go there even more!

    Lorna | Lorna, literally.

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    1. Much appreciated Lorna, glad you enjoy them! they're always my favourite kind of posts to put together. You must go! x

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  3. I'm unsurprised that you filled a couple of large memory cards, as Iceland is a remarkably photogenic place. I like that you have provided useful tips for first time visitors.

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    1. Thanks Stuart, glad you found it helpful.

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  4. I've always wanted to go there, it looks so special! Love your pics as always :)

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  5. WOW, I'm thrilled! The photos are so beautiful and capture the atmosphere so well ��

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    1. Thanks so much! Loved photographing them :-)

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  6. Your photography is STUNNING!!! loved this post, so informative and you captured the trip amazingly xx

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  7. Aww I'm glad you enjoyed my beautiful country! You took some very stunning and impressive photography as well. Iceland's definitely one destination that everyone has to visit at least once in their lifetime.

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