Iceland is one of the most interesting and beautiful countries that I have visited. I wanted to visit it again before I landed. Why? First of all, this 4-day trip was special because of my partner Bala. Without him I would not have so many great memories. Secondly, Iceland (the last place on Earth inhabited by man) is a micro continent that delights with landscapes, diversity, contrasts, delicious food and exceptionally kind people despite the harsh climate. This is an island that you can visit several times at different times of the year and still be delighted. I have been thinking about visiting Iceland for a long time. When the opportunity arose, I knew it was a good idea. We decided to discover the charms of Iceland in the winter season (March 8-11), despite the fact that we were frightened by the cold.
How to discover Iceland in the winter in four days and fall in love with it? Read this text. At the beginning, however, a few interesting facts about this country, where only 280,000 people live and is four times more sheeps. Iceland is located on the border between two Oceans – the Arctic and Atlantic and is the main island on south of the Arctic Circle. Its lanscape is covered mainly by glaciers (11%), volcanoes (over 130), waterfalls (10,000) and geysers. The Icelandic language is the oldest language used in Europe (the Vikings used it) while the largest ethnic group of the Icelandic groups are Poles. Icelanders enjoy the longest predicted average life in the world. Due to cheap geothermal energy, it is the only country in Europe that has greenhouses of bananas and is the first country in the world to completely resign from fossil fuels. Iceland is also the only country in the world that has a dating application with the function of checking if people are related to avoid kising a cousin. At a glance, Iceland is unique in many ways.
We only felt the civilization at the airport. After a quick check we went to the point with Flybus bus tickets (visible immediately after leaving), where you can buy a ticket to the bus station in Reykjavik (1475 ISK / person). The journey takes about 50 minutes. From the station depending, where you have a hotel to the center is about 15-20 min walk. We stayed at Guesthouse Galtahell (€ 322,35/2 people) which is located in the former embassy of Malta. A very cozy place with a good access to the center and the bus station.
We were a bit tired, so we decided to unpack and relax for a while. Unfortunately, this was due to the fact that we were not able to enter the Hillgrimskirkja church. This is one of the most famous buildings in Reykjavik (open October – April to 17:00, May – September to 21:00, ISK 1000 ticket). Well, what to do. At least we looked at it from the outside. It makes a real impression with unusual shape and height (73 meters).
After a short walk between colorful houses and charming shops with Icelandic products, we went for a late lunch to the cozy restaurant Salka Valka, which I highly recommend. The choice of dishes is small, but the food is delicious, healthy and natural. Food in Iceland is one of my major discoveries. Wherever we went, it was always tasty and healthy.
Unfortunately, in winter the day is short. When we finished eating it was already dark. We took a small walk towards the center and returned home. The next day we had one of the most popular trips around Iceland, the so-called. Golden Circle. This is the quintessence of the island in one day. The trip lasts 9 hours, but during it we will get to know the most famous attractions in Iceland and discover its various faces, starting from steppes and volcanoes, ending with glaciers and geysers. With good conditions, you can do this trip yourself, because the roads in Iceland are very good. We were in winter with very limited time, so we bought a trip for safety. There are plenty of companies that offer Golden Circle so you can book it even the day before. However, it is worth paying attention to the program. Some companies combine it with watching aurora or swimming in hot springs. Personally, I think it is worth spending a whole day and getting to know Iceland without a hurry. We decided on Golden Circle Complete Classic with Extreme Iceland (11,900 ISK / person). You will see the Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geothermal area, Thingvellir National Park and the Kerd volcano. In addition, you will stop at geothermal power plant the Hellisheidi, at Faxi waterfall, a farm with icelandic ice cream and on place with Icelandic horses.
Throughout the route, I admired the harsh beauty of this picturesque island. On the one hand, ice and stretches of frozen snow, and on the other black lava fields and brown hills. In addition, the omnipresent emptiness and silence forced me to reflect. Bala, however, slept most of the time or took photos under cover .
The trip supposed to start with Hellisheidi Power Plant, but unfortunately it was closed. Our first stop was the volcano, or rather its crater called Kerið (Kerid), in which the lake was formed. At this time of year it is frozen, which gives it beauty. Around there is a volcanic and severe landscape worthy of being captured in the picture. A lot of fun also makes sliding on the water surface.
Then we moved towards the 700-year heritage of Skaholt, a place where we can get to know the Icelanders’ life in the last century.
Our next stop was the small waterfall Faxi, which is only 12 km from Gullfoss and geysers, and its name was chosen in honor of the Icelandic horse. The waterfall is located on the Tungufljot river. We took a few photos and went to the most famous waterfall in Iceland Gullfoss. It is a unique feeling to be so close and to feel the ice water on your face. The Hvítá glacier flows from a height of 32 meters into a canyon with a length of 2.5 km and a depth of 70 meters forming a waterfall.
I still remember standing with Bala on the observation deck and tried to warm up ourselves like two penguins with intention of taking the perfect selfie. Despite the wind and cold, we could not stop admiring this power of nature. And this deafening roar of water
Another unprecedented attraction was geothermal area of the Geysir, which is located a little further in the valley of Haukadalur. Rustic geysers have been active for about 10,000 years. Among them is the most famous, Strokkur (you will seee crowd of onlookers), which shoots every 10 minutes to a height of 10-15 meters. It makes a huge impression. It’s worth joining and watching this show several times, even if it means giving up the lunch break. It really draws you in. You can not take your eyes off.
At the end of the trip we visited the family farm Efstidalur near Laugarvatn, which is famous for its delicious homemade ice cream. I recommend it to everyone, if you do not fear the low temperature outside. An additional attraction are Icelandic cows. When everyone was queuing for ice cream, I tried to make friends with some lovely calf who almost ate my scarf.
The last point of the program, which can not be omitted, was a walk in the Þingvellir national park (Thingvellir). This extraordinary nature reserve provides constant admiration for its basalt landscape and diversity. In this place two tectonic plates meet – Eurasian and North American, and where was established the Althing, the first parliament in Iceland (the oldest in the world). No wonder that the park is on the UNESCO list.
After an eventful day, fighting with cold and hunger, we went to the Harbor Restaurant Hofnin, fish restaurant, which is located in the Reykjavik’s harbor. It is a very nice and cozy place overlooking the sea. In my opinion, it is perfect for a romantic dinner and fresh seafood. We ate two types of fish and mussels (ISK 12,000 for 2 people).
At the end of the day, ie around 9 pm, I went on a guided tour (Gateway to Iceland, 8,900 ISK) to look for aurora borealis. I must admit that this was one of the biggest challenges due to weather conditions and being alone. Despite the ski outfit and several layers of clothes, I thought I would freeze. Unfortunately, the aurora is a very capricious phenomenon and you almost always have to wait for a few hours and visit a few places. For this unique view, however, it is worth sacrificing. I had a lot of luck that I was able to do it the first day, but you usually have to try several times. Fortunately, most companies include several trials in the price.
The next day we had a typically winter attraction of Iceland – majestic ice caves. In my opinion, this is the number one attraction in Iceland. As you know, the island has many volcanoes and glaciers. However, we decided to visit the caves under the Katla volcano, which is covered by the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Apparently, there are the most beautiful ice caves.
This time we went with Arctic Adventure (29.900 ISK / person). While the Golden Circle can be made by rented car, this trip is possible only with a guide, and access to the caves is by specially adapted jeep. Driving with a professional driver and snowy drifting on the glacier provide additional fun. Unfortunately, the trip from Reykjavik takes a total of 11 hours, but believe me it is really worth it. Shiny ice walls glistening with different colors and covered with volcanic dust are something so beautiful that I can not express it in words. To admire such phenomenal landscapes, it is worth going even for a day.
In addition, you will visit the village of Vík with a beautiful coastline full of black volcanic beaches. Pictures do not reflect the beauty of nature that you will be exposed to. It is simply breathtaking. It is also a kind of small adventure, because you will walk through caves in helmets and anti-slip hiking crampons. Sometimes you’ll make a fall or puddle, but good fun is guaranteed.
I have to admit that what I really appreciated in Icelandic tours are guides who have an amazing sense of humor and openness. They are also very well-read. Thanks to their interesting anecdotes, you can get to know the Icelandic lifestyle better. Interestingly, according to surveys Icelanders are one of the happiest people in the world and you can really feel it in every conversation and on the streets.
I think that a good crowning of the stay is to go to the local bar one evening. Personally, we recommend Club Boston and Bar Kaffibarin with live music.
Earlier, however, we decided to go for a whale steak to the Frakkar restaurant. I know what you think. Personally, I also think that eating whales is disgusting. Iceland and Japan are the only countries in the world where this type of hunting is still legal. However, I adhere to the principle that i need to get know every country with all the senses. As a rule, I always eat traditional dishes, even if it will be only once in my life. Whale in Iceland is just such a dish. Icelanders are quite proud of this delicacy, and the waitress emphasized several times that the best kind is served with them. If I am to be honest, the whale meat did not impress me, even though I am a huge fan of fish. When eating a fillet, you have the impression that it is red meat, eg beef because of the texture and color, but it tastes and smells like a fish. However, it was an interesting experience that I will not repeat.
On Sunday, before the flight, we visited at 8:00 am, located in the geothermal area the Blue Lagoon spa resort – a place that can not be skipped while being on the island. Even if some say it is very commercial, just do it. The Blue Lagoon is simply beautiful and perfect for relaxing after a few days of exploring the island. Just remember to make reservation minimum one month before the arrival date, because the tickets are sold out very quickly. You can buy them online. We chose the Comfort package along with transport to the airport for 14.490 ISK / person. On the spot we received a bathrobe, towel and slippers. The price includes a special algae mask as well. The resort also has a luggage room (extra paid) and a restaurant.
If you still have time in Reykjavik alone, it is worth visiting the modern Perlan museum, from where there is a panorama of the whole city and the Kolaportio market (Tryggvagotu 19).