As winter holidays go, exploring Iceland is something that I thoroughly recommend. This majestic island is full of adventures with stunning scenery, beautiful light and laid back living.
Visiting Iceland in January was brilliant, we had all types of weather, snow, sun, and really windy gales (so windy that it was hard to walk, my hat comically flew off my head and landed in a puddle across the street! ha). The temperature dropped to a chilly -9 but with a set of thermals and a rented car, we were prepared for the adventure.
The apartment that we rented was in a great location, on one of the main shopping streets in Reykjavik called Laugavegur. There are some great bars and restaurants on the street too, which made the occasional night a little loud. The apartment, 37 Apartments, was designed in a very minimal, Scandinavian style with some stylish Artek furniture in the kitchen! However the bathroom had room for improvement. I didn’t take any decent pictures of the apartment as we made it quite messy, oops, It’s worth checking out through their site.
I’ve put together a little list of places to visit and sights to see, I’m hoping one day to return and explore much more!
Designed by Guðjón Samuel in 1937 with construction starting in 1945 and not completing until 1986. This impressive building is one of the largest in Iceland. For a small fee you can get a lift to the top and take in some great views. It’s VERY windy up there!
Coffee at Reykjavik Roasters
I love my coffee and finding this cute coffee shop that roasts their own beans on site was such a treat. Reykjavik Roasters coffee is so good! I was also pretty obsessed with their cinnamon scones with crowberry jam, mmmmm.
If anyone can help me source some Crowberries in the UK I’d really appreciate it, I’d love to try and make that jam!
Walking around Reykjavik you find some cute buildings and bump into some friendly characters.
We spent 3 hours at sea, ‘Whale watching’. Unfortunately not a whale in sight however we did spot 2 dolphins. I was SO upset that no whales came out to play, a little tear was shed, my dream is still waiting to come true…….
Harpa concert hall
This building of crazy architecture sits at the harbour. You can walk in and explore the building freely, the views over the harbour are beautiful and snow capped mountains in the distance are framed in the faceted glass panels like artwork.
View from the Perlan (The Pearl)
The Perlan is another landmark building with distinguishing architecture, a glass dome resting on top of six huge water tanks, “each of which can contain 4 million litres of water averaging 85°C “. As part of the heating system, the hot water is pumped through the metal framework of the building and cold water in the summer, maintaining a comfortable temperature all year round. The restaurant is at the top of the glass dome, which I can imagine is very romantic at night with clear skies and the northern lights if you’re lucky, apparently the restaurant revolves too (slowly).
Visiting the viewing deck on a very snowy day didn’t give us the best view as it was slightly obscured by the weather however it was still beautiful. We spotted the woodland, Oskjuhlid ,where over 170,00 trees were planted on a hillside.
The Nordic House
The Nordic House was designed by Finnish modernist architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), along with designing the building he also designed most of the furnishings, lamps and furniture within the house. The aim for The Nordic House was to be a cultural meeting ground, being a venue for events and exhibitions etc. It was great to explore the building, I fell in love with the simplicity of it all. Also finding a very bright library, the light was flooding in through a central light well, purposely designed by Aalto of course.
Food is also available at The Nordic House, we stopped at Aalto’s Bistro and had a very relaxing meal of pan fried fish with roast tomato salad and potatoes. The fish was HUGE! and the prices were very good too. The restaurant looks over a lake and towards the centre of Reykjavik, a very peaceful setting. I was so full and relaxed, with Aalto’s chairs so comfy I really didn’t want to leave.
Hiring a car is a must when visiting Iceland. We had a great time on the open road, with very few roads, it was easy to navigate our way around.
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is a very well known waterfall in Iceland. We discovered it driving on the ring road going south between Selfoss and Skógafoss. You can climb up by the side of the waterfall onto some metal steps (not all of the way up), I’m glad I had my yaktrax with me as the steps were SO wet and icy!
Icelandic horses! Always happy to se you.
A part of ‘The Golden Circle’ route after driving through Þingvellir national park (also very beautiful), we stopped off at Geysir. A very popular stop off point to see these erupting geysers. Not only do they erupt up to 70 meters on the air but there’s little ones too and hot springs but I must say some of the gas in the area smells like farts, haha.
The light here was incredible, so hard to describe but it illuminated the natural colours all around.
Moving on from Geysir and continuing the ‘The Golden Circle’ route, we discovered Gullfoss an incredible canyon and waterfall.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
Back on the south coast ring road between Skogafoss and Vik we drove onto a small, bumpy dirt road to find the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. This US navy plane crashed in 1973 onto the black sand, surprisingly everyone survived the crash (which I still find hard to believe after seeing the wreck). The area felt very calm, I was quite taken with the colours and tones of the plane wreck against the black sand and mountains.
The black sands of VIK
We drove to Vik, the southern most village of Iceland, as the sun was setting, it was all very romantic. The black basalt sand and wild sea made me feel like I was in another world, it’s a stunning place. I aim to come back one day to explore in the light, to spot the puffins on the cliffs. However Vik at sunset is something I’d never forget.
This was a great start to my discovery of Iceland and I haven’t listed everything that I did! Like going to the Blue Lagoon wellness clinic (the boutique geothermal lagoon owned my The Blue Lagoon), soaking in the lagoon at night looking up at the stars. Happy hour drinks at Apotek, great cocktails half price and discovering a graveyard in Selfoss illuminated with red bulbs (reminded me of Beatle Juice).
Until my next trip I’ll be dreaming of crowberry jam, the purest water, the clearest light, beautiful colours and the horse that tried to eat my coat pocket.
* All photography © Hannah Trickett *