A Weekend Getaway in Iceland

Three weeks ago we decided to go to Iceland for Valentine’s Day weekend. The goal was to do some tours, do some hiking, try out the thermal baths and see the northern lights. We managed to do three out of four.

We landed on Friday afternoon at 4 pm. It was still sunny and we were eager to get to our hotel in order to change before our Northern lights tour.

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IMG_20150213_155425 The view when we flew in.

We used Flybus service to shuttle us to Reykjavik and it took forever. I would not recommend it. Reykjavik is 50 minutes away from the airport. We finally arrived at our hotel at 6 pm! After checking in we received an email from our tour operator saying the weather was changing and the tour was cancelled. Only thing to do was find a place for dinner and regroup. It took forever to find a restaurant that had a table since everyone’s tour had been cancelled. Finally around 8 pm we sat down somewhere to eat. Can’t remember the name of the restaurant since it was in Icelandic but we had a good meal of authentic Icelandic food. Fermented shark, dry seaweed and lamb. Yes, lamb. Icelanders love their lamb. The basic food groups are seafood, fish and lamb. They apparently have a very good “World Famous” hot dog but we never got the chance to have one.

Saturday morning we got up and after breakfast we took our bus service to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue lagoon is a thermal bath based upon a source of geothermal seawater. It’s the largest in Iceland. Think of a water park but all you do is hang out in the hot water, get a mud and algae mask and relax. The morning we went it was raining and there were Gale force winds. Still nothing was going to stop us from enjoying this. We had the supreme package. That meant that on top of getting into the place they made a lunch reservation for us, we received a complimentary drink, an algae mask, some products and the use of a robe, a towel and some flip-flops. Once you get in the water you must grab some clay in one of the boxes and apply it to your face. While you are waiting for the mask to set in, you just relax and try to find the hot spots in the lagoon. After we rinsed our clay mask we headed for the steam room and then the sauna. Upon exiting the sauna, we headed to the pool bar to get our free drink, a shot of green juice (hey, you have to be healthy at the lagoon!). You also pick up your algae mask from the bar. It’s this frozen cube that melts and then you apply and wait for 15 minutes. Our skin was pure and smooth as a baby’s butt. One can only enjoy so much relaxation. We got out at noon and headed for the showers. After changing and feeling quite zen, we headed to the “Lava” restaurant for lunch. There I enjoyed a small salad and some mussels. Peter had the fish. Lovely meal and inexpensive. At 2 pm it was time to leave. Our bus shuttle was waiting to take us back to our hotel. At the hotel we had another message saying the Northern lights tour was cancelled. Bummer! We asked the concierge if she could work her magic and get us a dinner reservation for Valentin’s Day. In the meantime all that relaxation made me tired. I don’t know if I was still jet lagged from coming back from Sedona or just tired, I needed a nap. We received a call from the front desk telling us they had made reservations for us at Kopar in the Harbour for 6 pm. After my nap we walked around Reykjavik in the rain and gale force wind and made our way to the restaurant. Dinner was a 9 course tasting menu and it was out of this world. I have had some of the best fish and seafood I have ever had over this past weekend. And let me tell you, it’s pretty cheap. The exchange rate for our meal was about £100, including gratuity. That’s cheap!

(Disclaimer, these pictures were taken in pouring rain and gale force winds)

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Sunday morning we did the South coast and glacier hike tour. Unfortunately, the glacier hike part was cancelled due to the rain on Saturday but we still got to see the magnificent waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. And we did get to go and walk a little on the Sólheimajökull glacier which is part of the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. We just did not hike on it.  The weather in Iceland changes all the time. In one hour we could get sun, rain, sleet and it was always windy.

We also saw from the distance Iceland’s most famous volcanic glacier Eyjafjallajökull. This is the one that erupted in the summer 2010. We had lunch in the small town of Vik, and afterwards we stopped at a black sandy beach called Reynisfjara. There we saw basaltic rock pillars. The waves were pretty nasty. Still very windy. I am not kidding you, winds and wave size were comparable to a cat 1 hurricane. It was crazy. This tour was great. We learned a lot about volcanoes, geothermal energy and the history of Iceland.

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The volcano that erupted in 2010 started behind the second house to the left. Went on for 5 weeks. I would have moved.

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By the way, this is an excellent tour company. I highly recommend http://www.igtours.is. They are professional, they respond to phone calls, emails and texts as soon as they can and if one tour gets cancelled due to weather they try to arrange something else for you. Odinn at Iceland Guided Tours is the man!

After 8 hours of touring we came back to our hotel. During the 2 hour drive back to Reykjavik we got rain that turned into snow and by the time we reached the capital, everything was white.

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Of course, you know where I am going with this, with all that snow our last chance at the Northern lights tour was cancelled. It was an early dinner and packing for us.

We were hoping to catch some lights this morning on our way to the airport. It was 5:30 am and we were told there was a possibility but no. We did not see anything! Just more snow. Maybe next time…

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