Myself, Jenny and our friends Neil and Nic took a little trip to Reykjavik in the hope of spotting the amazing Northern Lights.
We set the date for the 19th of Feb 2013 and rather than fly direct to Iceland we decided to fly from Manchester to Copenhagen where we would spend half a day in Denmark’s Capital. It took just under 2 hours to fly to Copenhagen.
We arrived at 1pm and threw our bags in some lockers. (to save time, we all agreed to “carry on” our luggage). There’s a train station in the airport so we grabbed a map and hopped on the train into Copenhagen, which took around 15 minutes. We wandered around the cold city taking in the sights, going for a coffee and looking for somewhere to eat. We all decided to try an Italian place called Mother, situated in the up-and-coming meat-packing district. Between us all we ordered a bowl of marinated olives, 3 decent sized, very tasty sourdough pizzas which were cooked to perfection on an impressive wood fired oven, and a bottle of house red which came to a reasonable £65. We paid up and took the 10 minute walk back to the train station and headed back to the airport.
The flight from Denmark to Iceland’s Keflavik Airport took around 3 hours. We hired a car which we picked up at the airport and then followed the main road to Reykjavik. We arrived at our hotel around an hour later at 12.15pm, chucked our bags in our rooms and then had a couple of beers at the hotel bar.
We stayed at the stylish Centerhotel Thingholt which is located right in the centre of Reykjavik and has a very nice contemporary feel to it. The rooms were clean and warm and the staff were very helpful. The buffet style breakfast options were vast and tasty.
The next morning we jumped in our car and headed off to one of Iceland’s most visited tourist attractions; The Blue Lagoon. This is a geothermal spa located in a lava field. The hot waters are very relaxing and are rich in Silica and Sulphur. Bathing here is said to be very good for your skin.
It took us about 40 minutes to reach the lagoon from our hotel and it cost around £40 each for as long as we wanted. This included a towel, a dressing gown and a locker. The changing rooms and shower areas were very modern and clean. We were in the pools for just over an hour, during which we got some of the sulphur out of the boxes located at the side of the lagoon and smeared it on our faces. We kept this on for as long as we could on the advise of our hotel bar man the night before who claimed it was amazing for the skin. We got out of the hot waters and chilled in the cafe. We couldn’t have felt more relaxed! There is a viewing platform located above the LAVA restaurant. We didn’t eat there but it looked nice enough.
On the way back to Reykjavik we stopped off at the The Pearl. This modern glass and steel dome shaped structure offers 360 degree views of Reykjavik and has a revolving restaurant at the top.
We parked up at our hotel and went in search of the infamous hot dog stand; Beztu Pylsu. I had heard a lot about these hot dogs before we visited. Some claiming the hotdogs (which are served from a small static hut near the harbour) to be the best in Europe! The hotdogs were very tasty; the sausage was bedded in very soft bread with some secret sauces laid on the top and crunchy onions underneath. You have to ask them for “Everything on” otherwise it’s an insult to their secret recipe, which gives them “best hotdog in Europe” status. They are a bargain at under £2.50 each!
The rest of the afternoon was spent mooching around the shops in Reykjavik.
That Wednesday evening we had our dinner at Snaps Bistro and Bar, which was very nice, then off for drinks including a visit to the Damon Albarn owned bar Kaffibarinn and The Big Lebowski themed Lebowskibar. On average the cost of a pint of beer or glass of wine is £5.
The next morning we headed East to Thingvellir National Park, which was about an hours drive away. The panoramic views of the mountains and open landscape were amazing. We continued through the park for another 3 quarters of an hour until we reached The Geysers. These things were awesome; every 5 minutes they would hurl boiling water up to 70 meters in the air to the delight of a load of camera poised tourists. There’s no fee to go and see the Geysers. You just park up at the tourist centre car park and walk up the hill to them.
We jumped back in the car and continued on the same road for about another 20 minutes until we pulled in at the Gullfoss waterfall. The waterfall is obscured from your view as you approach, then all of a sudden the magnificence of its sheer scale and noise really does take your breath away. A very impressive waterfall! Again, there’s no charge to see this.
We headed back to Reykjavik for another dose of Beztu Pylsu hotdogs, a chill in one of the many coffee shops and a wander around in search of somewhere to eat that evening.
We decided to eat in a really cool looking restaurant called Slippbarinn, which is located inside the Icelandair hotel on the edge of the harbour. The food was very good and well presented.
After our meal we drove out of the city into a car park and sat in hope for a Northern Light display. We knew there wasn’t much chance as we had been very aware of the clouds and rain that seemed to be very reluctant to clear the whole two days we were there. But we had to try. Although cloudy, we did see a faint green flicker, dancing through the clouds. But unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Northern lights as we had hoped, like how you see it on those pretty postcards. We were gutted but we also knew that seeing the Aurora is totally down to chance. Not just the right weather but also the level of solar activity.
We headed back to the hotel. We had to be on the way to the airport for 5am the next morning.
We stopped off at Copenhagen again on the way back, this time only long enough for lunch. We headed straight for the meat-packing district again and found a gem of a place called Pate Pate. You could tell by the atmosphere, décor and service that these guys took their food and drink seriously. They didn’t disappoint either. A great lunch to finish a brilliant trip off with!
Although the Northern Lights didn’t put on it’s best show for us, there was still plenty to do and see in Reykjavik. The town and people are great and there is a real arty buzz about the place. Music and art definitely play a big part in Icelands culture and I like that. A lot.
The best thing about not getting a great show from the Northern Lights is that we have an excuse to see this cool city again. Only this time I would fly direct. That’s nothing against Copenhagen, I’d just like to get there quicker!