The Land of Fire and Ice

Katrina McMullan on 15 October 2018

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In recent years, Iceland seems to have topped a lot of customers bucket list. With a regular direct flight from Dublin, it has made this unique country very accessible for a popular 3 or 4-night break. And with a flight time of around 2 hours, you’ll barely get to watch the end of a movie!

I travelled on a 3-night package in October inclusive of all the main tours taking the hassle out of organising them and budgeting for them locally.

The transfer on arrival from the airport was 50 minutes to Reykjavik city centre. It gives you your first glimpse of the barren landscape. The countryside in Iceland is pretty much a lava field with a lot of area extensively covered in moss, it creates a very unusual green hue scene. Trees only make up 1.5 – 2% of Iceland’s landscape so it’s not hard to see why movies like Star Trek and Star Wars chose it as the perfect location for many scenes.

There was something quite exciting about being in one of the most volcanic countries in the world. The Western part of the country is particularly volatile and home to Iceland’s biggest volcano, Katla. Tourism is essential to Iceland’s economy and ironically it is the country’s volcanos which attract an unprecedented number of tourists.

Our home for the 3 nights was the centrally located 3* Storm Hotel, located within walking distance of the main city sights. Reykjavik is pretty compact and small enough to wander around of foot with the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church dominating the city’s skyline.

The first of our trips was the world-famous Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa situated in the middle of a lava field approx. 40 minutes from the city. When we arrived after dark the weather was particularly bad with gale force winds and torrential rain, it was difficult to imaging changing into swimwear and heading out into the elements. But let me tell you, it was amazing. The weather is irrelevant once you step into the relaxing hot waters. Our first port of call was the Lagoon Bar for a glass of local Islandic beer before applying a Silica Mud Mask on our faces with the promise of radiant skin after just 5 minutes.

Next morning, we took a full day tour of the Golden Circle, bringing you east from Reykjavik on a 300km loop. The landscape is incredible starting at Thingvellir National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site) where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The Silfra crack between the two plates is one of the top diving and snorkelling sites in the world. We travelled on to Fontana Spa, another beautiful hot spring and then to the Strokkur Geyser where the boiling mud puts erupted every 6-10 minutes. It is compelling and difficult to walk away from. The highlight of the day was next, the Gullfoss Waterfall, this two-tiered powerful waterfall is one of the most photographed locations in Iceland.

Our next day was another full day tour taking in the South Coast. This part of the country offers a much more lush landscape and all the natural wonders you could image – waterfalls, volcanos, glaciers, cliffs, black sand beaches…the south coast has it all. The main sights included Sogafoss and Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls and a close up of Eyjafjallajokull however my highlight of the day and possibly the whole trip was our Solheimajokull Glacier Walk. Our guide was incredible, as he took us on the same route he had taken the day before and he appeared shocked that the landscape of the glacier had changed so much at each turn, in just one day. It’s sad to thing that it is melting at such a rapid pace, but it made me feel even more privileged to be part of the experience. Our crampons ensured that we would keep upright on our journey to the amazing views at the top.

On our last day we took a jeep safari en route to the airport. Our 4x4 super jeep brought us up close and person with the volcanic lava fields with a few bumps along the way. It was a fun and unique way of getting off the beaten track to see some of the remote lakes and landscape you would otherwise not see.

I can’t finish without mentioning that the Northern Lights didn’t make an appearance during my trip. A couple of times throughout the weekend, knowledgeable locals mentioned that the forecast was particularly good for that night. The anticipation that they might appear caused great excitement. However, it wasn’t to be, and I’ve come to realise that Iceland has so much more to offer than I ever imagined with or without the Lights, just take it as an added bonus if you’re one of the lucky ones!

If Iceland is on your bucket list, why not contact me to find out more. With my first-hand experience and travel expertise I can create the perfect bespoke Icelandic experience all tailored just for you!

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