A surprise trip to Iceland for my birthday to see the Northern Lights! Best boyfriend ever! I’ve dreamed of seeing the flickering neon lights of the aurora borealis and after hearing rave reviews about Reykjavik I was so excited about this long weekend.
We flew via Copenhagen, where we had 12 hours to explore, more about that here: Christmas Markets in Copenhagen.
We arrived in Reykjavik about 11pm and went directly to our hotel, the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, which was lovely (a short bus ride from the city centre). Waking up the next morning was cool, its was pitch black! Throughout December, the sun rises at approx. 11am and sunset was about 3.30pm which actually was amazing.
On our first day we booked a Horse Riding Tour, we are both beginners but were keen to get out into the countryside and see the beautiful Icelandic Horses (not ponies). They are a really unique breed and we learned Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return. They are very protective of keeping the breed ‘pure’. The Icelandic has a stunning heavy winter coat and is a “five-gaited” breed, known for its sure-footedness and ability to cross rough terrain.
The tracks were mostly flat and the landscape was beautiful, it was very cold but amazing to see the moss covered lava fields. We made a short stop to view of the beautiful Blafjoll Mountains on the horizon and get some photos.
For dinner we went into town, I just love the ‘alpine lodge’ feel to this place and we discovered the most incredible restaurant. Read about our 7 course taster menu at Sjavargrillid
On day 2, we departed early on a Super Jeep Golden Circle Tour. We arrived at Thingvellir National Park just as the sun was coming up. We walked a snowy track through the park down past where the first parliament in the world was founded in 930. The geologic history is well known and the natural wonders of Thingvellir are visible in every step – I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape.
We made another short stop at Geysir to see the geyser Strokkur bursts into the air every 5-8 minutes before moving on to see the very impressive Gullfoss Waterfalls cascades down two huge steps 11 and 22 meters into a deep gorge.
It is from the Icelandic word “geysir” that the English word “geyser” is derived.
After a delicious hot lamb and vegetable soup for lunch we drove along the Kjolur mountain road and enjoy the view of Jarlhettur, the mountains (The Earl’s Hat) on the east side of Langjökull; a palagonitic mountain range, which originated in a fissure eruption during the Ice Age. Then we kick the action into gear by deflating the tires on the Super Jeep to get even closer to Iceland’s nature and go for a snowmobiling tour on Langjokull Glacier. Its volume is 195 km³ and the ice is up to 580 metres thick. Unfortunately, Langjokull is melting quite fast, and some researchers believe that it will disappear in about 150 years if climate change continues at its current pace.
Snowmobiling on the glacier was amazing! So picturesque, it would be easy to become disorientated as the blanket of white snow reaches for miles in every direction, its sometimes difficult to recognise the horizon or even see which direction we had come from.
We headed back to the hotel to get ready for our Northern Lights tour that evening.
We drove 2 hours out of Reykjavik into the dark to try and find the most clear sky which would give us the best opportunity to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Sadly, the weather was not in our favour and we did not manage to locate this incredible natural phenomenon.
The silver lining is… I will have an excuse to come back to Reykjavik. This place has been amazing and possibly one of my favourite holidays. Icelandic people are friendly and have great sense of humour (albeit slightly odd) and the food in Iceland has been outstanding. Absolutely love this place!