Back in December (which now feels like a distant memory) we headed to Iceland with our friends Matt & Abbey for a white Christmas winter break. We had a pretty well mapped out itinerary in mind – deciding to hire a car and drive along the South coast staying at a different location for each of our 5 nights.
We started with a night in Reykjavik, arriving just in time for a wander through the main shopping district heading straight to our dinner reservation at Grillmarket. This restaurant uses the very best local produce and puts a modern spin on traditional Icelandic cuisine. Here we experienced the most mind-blowing, yet simple, freshly baked bread and lava salt butter to start, horse tenderloin, rack of lamb cooked on charcoal and the chocolate special for dessert. Our taste buds were in absolute heaven and I would say a meal here is an absolute must while in Reykjavik.
Visiting Iceland in the depths of winter plays games on your body clock. It was pitch black until about 10.30am when it went into twilight till about 11.30am when the sun rose, then at about 4.30pm the sunset. This meant limited time to squeeze in the sights, so we only really experienced Reykjavik in the dark!
On our second morning, we headed back out towards the airport to indulge in the Blue Lagoon. Now I had read a number of blogs, as well as heard many opinions from friends and colleagues about visiting the Lagoon – it was about 50/50 some saying it wasn’t worth it while others said yes it’s touristy but still go! And I totally agree with the latter, it was touristy but I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t actually too busy, especially considering it was a Saturday. We managed to find a nice quiet corner entirely to ourselves, enjoyed a cold Icelandic beer and a face mask or two – what’s not to like?!
After our Blue Lagoon session, we drove along the coast stopping in the sleepy fishing village of Grindavik in search for a late lunch. We stumbled upon Papa’s Pizza and had the most amazingly fresh fish and chips – and we all seemed to agree it was potentially the best of our lives! Salivating just thinking of it now. As it started to get dark we drove further east to our apartment just outside of Selfoss at a goat farm.
On day 3 we set out early to make it to our first sight – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – by daylight. During the night it had started to snow and by the time we got to the waterfall there was a constant snow flurry which made taking pictures a bit tricky. Seljalandsfoss drops an impressive 65m and in summer months you can walk behind this pounding waterfall – it’s roped off in winter though, it would be way too dangerous!
The weather, as well as the landscape in Iceland, can change so dramatically even just driving 5 minutes down the road. By the time we got to Skógafoss waterfall the snow had cleared; there was just the spray of the waterfall to contend with. If you think this is impressive from the bottom the climb up the 500+ steps to the observation platform offers another perspective of this monster. Walk further along the path and you’ll find numerous smaller falls upriver as well. The landscape here was unreal!
Back on the road again Andrew spotted Sólheimajökull Glacier from the car window, which we may have missed otherwise! We headed off the main road to see this frozen valley, slipping across the icy paths and had fun pummelling rocks into the ice sheets covering the lake. We saw quite a few tour groups here doing glacier walks – which in hindsight may have been better than our ice cave tour (more on that in my next post).
The final sights of the day were at Reynisfjara Beach. This world-famous beach has several attractions – the basalt columns which in folklore are believed to be frozen trolls, the black sand and the killer sneaker waves. We had read about the dangers of this beach but it was another thing to see the force and unpredictable nature of the currents and waves. We witnessed a massive sneaker wave knock down a tourist who was busy face timing and completely engulf and drench her – it could have so easily dragged her out to sea but she seemed more worried about her phone!
Since I have a lot of photos and memories to share I thought it best to split this Iceland post into two – so stay tuned for the next post 🙂