I spend four days in the most beautiful, picturesque country I've ever visited, come along for the ride...
#12COUNTRIES12MONTHS PART 2: ICELAND
Late last year I came up with a plan to travel 12 countries in 12 months, in January I kicked off my project with a trip to my favourite city; Paris, with my best friend Megan, you can read all about our trip here and also watch our vlog here!
For my second trip I wanted to venture to somewhere that I'd never been before but had always had my heart set on visiting; Iceland! Me and my boyfriend Ben booked our last minute trip, packed our bags (hand luggage FYI - much to Ben's dismay!), and boarded our 3 hour flight to the most beautiful, picturesque country I've ever had the pleasure of visiting!
Iceland for me, was one of those countries that captures your heart the second you land, I was glued to the window as we touched down on the runway and I genuinely felt like I'd landed north of the wall (GoT reference, SOZ BOUT IT if you're not an avid fan like moi!).
In this super picture heavy post (honestly I tried so hard to whittle the pictures down but there was just too many pretty ones!), I'm sharing what to pack, where we stayed, where to eat, what to do... in short, an epic guide to Iceland if you're ever planning of going!
I also vlogged our trip so if you want to see some more of Iceland, you can watch it !
WHERE WE STAYED: HAFNARFJOROUR
We actually booked out apartment super last minute (2 days before, oops!) as our whole trip was fairly last minute trying to finalise dates with Ben's work! I came across this beautiful apartment on Air bnb, I fell in love with the listing as soon as I laid eyes on it - it was equally as beautiful IRL too! It was super hard to decide on a region to stay in as Iceland is so big, I came across an amazing log cabin complete with a hot tub but it was around 2 hours from Reykjavik and an hour and a half from the air port, even though we hired a car I just thought it was too far.
The apartment we opted for in the end was based in Hafnarfjorour, which was only a 15 minute drive into Reykjavik and about 25 minutes from the main airport so the location was perfect. Hafnarfjorour is located on the Southwest coast of Iceland and is actually the third-most populated city in Iceland, it had plenty of lovely restaurants, supermarkets and bars if you want to wander around.
A couple of days we ventures into Reykjavik as it was so close to us, the route was super straight forward too and we didn't even use the sat nav after the first time as we found our bearings pretty quickly.
I would highly recommend staying in Hafnarfjorour as it was a great, central location and I would definitely look into this incredible apartment if you want to opt for self catering (it's way cheaper this way as we cooked two nights as it's pretty expensive to eat out in Iceland!), we paid £340 for 3 nights, and it was worth every penny as it was stunning!
Watching the sunset from our balcony!
THE ANNUAL ICELANDIC BEER FESTIVAL 2016
FEBRUARY 24th - 27th @ KEXLAND HOSTEL
It just so happened that the weekend we were visiting Iceland it was the Annual Icelandic Beer Festival (my dad was like OBV you booked it that weekend on purpose haha!), but we genuinely didn't - I had trouble finding a hotel in Reykjavik and after a little research I realised it was on that weekend, hence why it was probably so busy.
Even though it's once a year I'd highly recommend the festival if you're planning a trip to Iceland early next year, it would be great with a group of people - if you're planning to stay at the hostel to really get involved with the atmosphere, don't stress as they offer free ear plugs to all guests staying at the hostel so you will get some sleep!
We visited the festival on the Friday night (and actually missed the main part, LOLZ!), the festival was from 5-7 daily apart from the Saturday which was until 11pm, I thought it was on until 11pm Friday night too.. my bad! We arrived at the hostel and loved the atmosphere though so we stayed for a couple of beers and ordered some bar food (which wa yummy!).
Even though we missed the bulk of the festival (100% heading back next year), I'd definitely recommend the Kex Hostel for a stay or even for a few beers/dinner as it has so much character and the atmosphere was second to none!
A TRIP TO THE BLUE LAGOON
THE BLUE LAGOON... AKA THE BEST PLACE YOU'LL EVER VISIT!
I had one thing on my bucket list when visiting Iceland that I had to see, and it was the Blue Lagoon! Me and Ben are massive water babies and we spent nearly three and a half hours in the Blue Lagoon, it's so surreal to see it IRL, it's so incredibly beautiful!
We booked a slot at 5pm as we were advised to visit slightly later (from 10am-2pm is meant to be super busy so try to avoid peak times), the time we booked was perfect as the lagoon shut at 8.30pm so we got to watch the sunset which was pretty bloody special!
'The Blue Lagoon was formed in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plant. In the years that followed, people began to bathe in the unique water and apply the silica mud to their skin. Those with psoriasis noticed an incredible improvement in their condition. Over the years, Blue Lagoon has been innovative in harnessing this gift of nature to develop different spa services and products. Today, Blue Lagoon is recognized as one of the wonders of the world.'
The pictures I took honestly don't do the lagoon justice, I would genuinely head back to Iceland just to see it again and I already can't wait to be reunited with the lagoon! If you're heading to Iceland you have to go! Prices start from 40euros and I would just recommend the basic package!
We flew to Iceland from London Luton airport with Easyjet and back into Gatwick also with Easyjet. The flight was around 3 hours each way and we had a great flight both ways - although slightly delayed on the way home by around half hour, we were kept updated though and everything ran smoothly. Our flights cost around £320 each which was pretty expensive but we booked super last minute (about 4/5 days before our trip) so we booked some of the last seats available on the flights. If you're booking in advance you can pick up flights to Iceland from as little as ...
On the Sunday of our trip we booked to go on the ... with Mountaineers of Iceland and it was one of the best day trips I've ever been on! Last year I attended the World Travel Market and with a trip to Iceland on the horizon I picked up a business card and vowed to get in touch if we ever booked our trip, fast forward 6 months and here we are!
We opted for The Pearl Tour which is their most popular day trip, it consists of the golden circle and riding snowmobiles across the second largest glacier in Iceland. We got picked up at our apartment at 8.30am (on a Sunday, ouch!) for our tour and set off on our way to pick up the rest of our group (there was 8 of us in total). Our first stop was a visit to the Gulfoss waterfall which was absolutely breathtaking to witness IRL - you have to visit!
We then drove about an hour north/west to the second largest glacier where we rode snow mobiles for about 40 minutes (one of the best things I've ever done - although I fell off and quite badly hurt my leg, the team were amazing and with Ben's help I'm being nursed back to health!). I honestly wouldn't let it put you off though just listen to the instructions and don't be reckless as it's so much fun!
Our last stop of the day was visiting the Geysers which was again incredible to experience in real life, the pictures honestly don't do the scenery or this trip any justice! If you're seeking some action and sites you'll never forget then I would highly recommend this tour!
Even if this trip isn't on the cards for you, I'd 100% recommend visiting Gulfoss as it's beauty will take your breath away!
REYKJAVIK: ICELAND'S COASTAL CAPITAL
We first visited Reykjavik during our failed attempt to attend the annual beer festival, as it was dark we couldn't wait to head back in the day time and explore! We headed back into Reykjavik on Saturday afternoon for a wander around and also for a couple of hours on Monday in search of the capitals infamous fish & chips!
On the Saturday we visited the Hallgrimskirkja church which I would really recommend if you're visiting Reykjavik, I've written about it below which I hope you find helpful! When we headed back on the Monday, we just wandered around the city, camera in hand and feeling far too snap happy! It was so nice to soak in all of the views, it's such a colourful city and I couldn't wait to share my snaps with you all!
The streets are filled with super quirky nordic boutiques, cute coffee shops and beautiful views of the mountains across from the city! I loved wandering around Reykjavik and loved the vibrancy and colourfulness of the city - it was so pretty on the eye which made for some great snaps!
We lazily browsed the streets (or hobbled post snow mobile accident in my case, LOLZ), and went in search of some yummy lunch before heading back to the airport in the evening to catch our flight at 7pm! My landlords were telling us that they'd had the best fish & chips they'd ever eaten in Iceland, so we went on the hunt! I wrote all about it below, and trust me it was so worth the wait!...
VIEW FROM THE TOP OF HALLGRIMSKIRKJA CHURCH...
Hallgrimskirkja church is a main attraction in Reykjavik and can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city, it's open daily from 9am-5pm and is definitely one for your to-do list if you're planning on visiting Iceland!
From the outside it's absolutely stunning to look at, but oh boy, wait until you reach the top! We paid around £5 for a ticket to the top and it's so, so worth it as the 360 degree view is incredible and makes for some wonderful pictures (I also vlogged the view too in my video!).
Hallgrímskirkja is both a parish church and a national sanctuary in Iceland. It is named after the poet and pastor Hallgrímur Pétursson and is one of the most visited places of tourists in Iceland. Every day thousands of people visit the church.
The church is pretty easy to find as you'll see it towering over the city so just navigate your way there and allocate an hour to properly look around and soak in the incredible view! If you're heading to Reykjavik anyway then I would definitely recommend a pit stop at this beautiful church as it will be some of the best views across Iceland that you'll encounter on your trip that's for sure!
If you made it to the end of this post, then go you! I'm aware that it was super picture/info heavy but I had so much to share with you guys - I hope you can appreciate the beauty of Iceland from these snaps and found this post helpful if you're planning a trip (which I 100000000% recommend you do!).
Have you ever been to Iceland before? Any tips for when I head back? Is it somewhere you'd like to go?