Iceland

Back in August last year EasyJet were having a group booking sale to Iceland – £45 each return from London to Reykjavik. So we gathered a few of us together and soon had a group of six ready to go.

We chose to go at the end of January so we had a chance to see the Northern Lights and also because it coincided with my birthday on the 26th.

Due to Iceland being a bit on the expensive side we booked from Thursday – Tuesday.

Unfortunately one of our group had to drop out in November and go back home to Australia, but it did make hiring a car a bit easier now we only had 5 people to accommodate.

Due to there being 5 of us, with limited time, we made an itinerary for the 5 days. This may not work with everyone’s style – I’m more of a go with the flow kind of person myself – but it’s a good idea to accommodate what everyone wanted to do.

We landed around 5.30pm on Thursday night and hopped on the shuttle bus to pick up the car. Unfortunately we got stuck behind some walk ins who couldn’t understand why they couldn’t pay in US dollars… After waiting about half an hour we were finally introduced to our noble stead.. a blue Dacia Duster.

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Once I got on the right (wrong) side of the road, we were off and headed to Reykjavik, first stop food! And yes, the food is expensive, but BanThai offers gluten free options. I got a Tom yum and a pineapple curry and it cost about £35. Luckily we all had enough leftovers for the lunch the next day.

We had booked the Vidgelmir caves for Friday morning, which is the largest cave in Iceland and about a 2 hour drive north east of Reykjavik – FYI – there is a toll on this road! We arrived early, so had a bit of a play in the snow, Cara unfortunately failed at her snow angel as the snow was too hard.

We were lucky enough that it was only us 5 and another girl in our tour so it was easy to hear and ask questions.

The entrance to the cave is down about 3 or 4 flights of wooden stairs with the stairs continuing on into a wooden footpath.

Throughout the cave, ice had grown pretty much everywhere. Our guide told us that one of the jobs of the staff is to go around breaking ice off where it had grown over the wooden railings.

 

 

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After we had warmed ourselves back up in the visitor’s centre we headed back to Reykjavik, with a quick stop to the Bonus budget supermarket. It’s a good idea to hit up a supermarket for supplies so you aren’t always forking out the big bucks on food (Iceland prices can get dear!)

Lucky for me, Bonus holds a range of gluten free products, so I got some tiny rolls and fillings to make sandwiches.

After a nap for some of us and a walk around town for others we all met at Tapas Barinn for my birthday dinner. I had chosen this place because all the gluten free blogs had talked about how accommodating they are regarding allergies and dietary requirements – and they did not disappoint! Cara and I were the only ones who opted for the Icelandic Feast and it was amazing. We started with a shot of Icelandic vodka, followed by 6 courses, including puffin, lobster tails, minke whale and lamb. Some of my dishes were adapted as the sauces were not gluten free and I missed out on the advertised Skyr dessert..but I absolutely love creme Catalina..so win for me!

 

 

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Saturday morning had Kristy, Steph and Sophie up early so they could go snorkeling. Unfortunately, the pick up time was moved to an hour earlier with no warning. They did manage to rebook – Sophie for Monday morning and the other two girls for Tuesday before departure.

This meant that we could also leave a bit earlier to have a look at some waterfalls!

We attempted to go see Bruarfoss but unfortunately the road was covered in ice, so our first stop was to the Great Geyser. There are a few different steaming pools, but one was the main attraction.  I did get a video of it exploding, but I’m too poor to pay for the WordPress upgrade so here is a photo of a smaller geysir in the same area.

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Our next stop was to Gullfoss Waterfall. It has parking at the top of the falls, where the visitor centre/gift shop is located and also a carpark mid way down. You can also get between the levels via a set of stairs. There was a bit that was closed due to safety and the weather – although some idiotic tourists decided to jump the fence for the ‘gram.

 

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One we had a fill of waterfall, we headed back to the car and onwards to the Secret Lagoon for our 5pm booking.

At both of the pools we visited hygiene is a very important pre-swim factor and you WILL need to get naked and shower before jumping in, so leave your modesty at home.

The short distance of about 5 metres from the ladies changeroom to the naturally made pool was freezing! Luckily the water temperature soon had us sweating. The temperature changed naturally the closer you got to the springs in the back, or to cool down head in the other direction. We had about 45 minutes in the pool just relaxing before I started feeling ill so had to get out. The girls went about taking photos in the dusk while I recovered with a Sprite.

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Sunday had us up bright and early and headed to the South East of the island. Our first stop was to Seljalandsfoss – another waterfall! Guarding the entrance was a huge statue of a puffin, so of course Cara and I needed a selfie with it after enjoying the delicacy on Friday night.

 

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There is a little van that sells donuts at Seljalandsfoss – I’ve been told they were amazing (so amazing Cara had 3 of them) – and also hot chocolate! Gluten free hot chocolate! Not sure if it was because it was so cold, but it was some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!

Twenty minutes down the road is Skogafoss. This waterfall is cool as you can walk to the top of falls via a set of stairs. I am not as fit as I once was so had to take a few many breaks when climbing the stairs. The view from the top was definitely worth it though!

 

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Another 10 minutes headed east and you will come across a random car park on the side of the road. It’s actually the start of the 4km long path to the DC-4 plane wreck from the 1970s. In 1973 a US pilot clicked over to an empty fuel tank and crash landed onto this southern Icelandic beach. Luckily, everyone survived, but it also turned out that the pilot had clicked over to the wrong tank and actually had fuel in another!

This path was quite uneven so I would definitely suggest wearing comfortable shoes (I had only taken my snow boots – and they are not made for walking long distances! – don’t be me!) It took us around 45 minutes to walk one way, when we reached the wreck we were lucky that there were only about 10 other people there, so I was able to get some amazing photos without having to edit people out of them.

 

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The long walk in the wrong shoes gave me blisters so when we arrived at our next stop – Dyrholaey lookout I decided to wait in the car while the other girls had a look around.

Just around the peninsula is Reynisfjara Beach, famously known for it’s black basalt columns and black sand. We arrived at sunset which was perfect timing on the photo front. I limped about to get a few shots before heading back and waiting in the car.

 

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It was still really early before dinner so we backtracked to a glacier that was located near Solheimasandur. Cara and I elected to stay in the car as both our feet were hurting from the days exercise.

Then it was on to Vik, situated in the south east of the island for dinner before setting off on the 3 hour journey back to Reykjavik.

Monday saw me and Cara having a sleep in and wander around the capital while Steph and Kristy went on a day tour and Sophie went snorkelling.

Cara and I had one thing that we knew we definitely wanted to do – visit the …..

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…penis museum!

The Icelandic Phallological Museum has a collection of more than 215 penises and parts from a variety of different mammals including human specimens!

 

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After spending some time perusing the collection we headed down to the Bay and came across the Sun Voyager and some wonderful views across the bay.

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We finished the morning buying souvenirs and taking advantage of a burger, wings and fries lunch deal at the American Bar – the wings, fries and burger without the bun was gluten free so I was winning! The meal also cam with a drink, but I opted for a softie – I didn’t see the cider option until it was too late!

We met up with Sophie back at the flat around 2pm so we could head to our booking at Krauma Pools. These hot springs felt like they were in the middle of nowhere! This worked to our advantage as when we arrived (and during our whole 3 hour stay) there was only a handful of people.

Krauma consists of 5 pools of varying warm temperatures and an ice plunge pool, as well as a sauna and a relaxation room. They also provide tub side service for drinks! It took us a couple of hours to drag ourselves out of such a trying environment, but we knew Kristy and Steph were waiting for us back at base.

 

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Our last full day was Tuesday, which had Kristy and Steph go snorkelling between tectonic plates while Cara, Sophie and I had a double tour with horse riding in the morning and caving afterwards.

The horse riding was amazing! Icelandic horses are a smaller breed with a smoother gait than your regular sized animal. Ishetar provide wet weather gear for use which I highly recommend, especially if you’re riding in the snow. The tour went for about 45 minutes through lava fields (although it was covered in snow!)

 

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After being dropped back off at the bus station we were picked up for our next installment – caving. It was apparently only about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik but it felt a lot quicker to me as I napped on the way. During the drive, there was a bit of a snowstorm so it was touch and go to see if we could access the cave. We did, but also had to wade through 3 feet of snow to get there. Our guide provided us with crampons as the short distance as well as the terrain inside the cave was dodgy (as were most of the crampons). The cave wasn’t very deep but it was interesting to compare it to our first cave experience and how much more natural this one was.

 

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We met back up with Kristy and Steph after our tours ended and made our way back to the airport, sneaking in a cheeky beverage and snack before our flight home.

 

 

 

Cost Breakdown:

Flights – £45 return per person with EasyJet

AirBNB – £779.14 for the 5 nights (£156pp)

Car Hire – £365.44 (£73.90pp)

Secret Lagoon – £20

Krauma Pools – £27

Horse riding and caving combo – £140.84

Vidgelmir Caves – £46

Icelandic Feast at Tapas Barinn (inc drinks) – £77

Spending money – £150

 

 

Accessibility

I personally do not have any physical impairments but due to my job working with spinal injured people I have become much more aware of wheelchair accessible places. I’ve given a list of the places we went and how accessible I found them. Of course, different abilities would mean that some things may be more accessible to some than others:

*Snow may also make attractions inaccessible throughout the winter months.

Vidgelmir caves – unfortunately the huge flight of steps going down into the caves and the steps throughout would make this attraction inaccessible.

Tapas Barinn – there are a few stone steps down to the entrance and quite a big step on the inside of the door – it would be possible but with assistance.

Skogafoss Waterfall – the snow seemed to be the only restriction at the base, there is a set of stairs to reach the top of the waterfall.

Seljelandsfoss Waterfall – there is a path leading to the bottom of the waterfall.

Geysir – rocky paths around the different geysirs, some were a bit steep.

Gullfoss – there is a car park half way down the waterfall and another up by the visitor’s centre, making it easier to access. There is also a wooden walkway to different vantage points, although it was icy.

Secret Lagoon – it didn’t look like there was any accessibility.

Krauma Pools – I did see a shower chair in the women’s change room and there are ramps around the pools, access to the hot springs would depend on ability to transfer or help.

Plane Wreck – it’s a 4km one way walk from the car park to the wreck over rocky terrain.

 

13 thoughts on “Iceland”

  1. Iceland just looks so incredible! Not sure that I’d be brave enough to drive on those snowy roads myself though. And the penis museum looks very.. interesting!

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  2. Great informative post! You did so much in a few days.
    I moved to Iceland after visiting from the UK. I’ve never heard of the Krauma pools though, we’re they far from Reykjavik?

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  3. When I went- I opted for a tour because I was by myself and didn’t want to do those roads without a copilot. But I’d love to self-drive Iceland on another visit

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  4. This looks breathtaking! Iceland is pretty high on my list of places I want to go to but it’s just so expensive. You did it in a pretty reasonable budget. Thanks for sharing you experience!

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