Ok G Spotters, I know that I am meant to be finding hidden gems from our neck of the woods, but my recent trip to Iceland was so good that I had to share it with you, and besides as you can travel from Belfast I might just make it my new home from home.
I imagined Iceland as a mystical far off place that was well very icy, and during my four days in Reykjavik I was hopped up like an Eskimo – or is that the wrong continent? Travelling from Belfast with Easyjet it takes just over two hours and sure a wee glass of prosecco always makes the flight seem quicker. It felt weird getting hit up the face by snow and not the dry heat I am used to when going on a sun holiday, but when I got out of the bitter chill that would cut you in two, it was nice and cosy.
Iceland is not a very big country, the 18th largest island in the world apparently, not sure where Ireland is on this scale…but you can get round it in a day and a half if you are brave enough to travel. Don’t get me wrong there are not that many cars and they always politely stop if you are crossing the road, but if you brave the terrain and got lost…. you better have enough hot rations to keep you alive.
Here are my tops tips:
Blue Lagoon – One of the 25 wonders of the world, this is a must if you visit Iceland. Imagine you are swimming in a hot bath, outside, with loads of other people from different countries. Ok maybe I’m not really selling it, but it is definitely an experience. We went around noon and it wasn’t too busy. Get your ticket in advance and bring your own towel and flip flops or you will have to pay extra. I wouldn’t advise bringing any valuables as the lockers aren’t the best and be sure to bring conditioner as you hair will be like cotton wool after you come out. There are other thermal pools in Iceland, but they are like the swimmers vs a luxury infinitely pool, so splash out the money (pardon the pun) and enjoy.
Drinks – Eating out in Iceland is not cheap. It is similar to here, but add an bit extra on. Wine is particularly expensive so it mightn’t be a bad idea to pick up some duty free at the airport and sure it is nice to bring a wee tipple to warm yourself from the inside out if you are on the bus tours or venturing out in the cold.
The Golden Circle – I was told this was a must do, but I wish I hadn’t listened. Being stuck on a bus for 7 hours and only stopping at three locations is not my idea of fun. The three locations were Strokkur Geysir, Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir National Park. Strokkur was ok, but make sure you don’t make the mistake of standing on this side of the rope, unless you want to get soaked to the skin when the thing goes off. Gullfoss is definitely the best of the three and definitely a spectacle to behold. I’m saying nothing about the National Park because I was taught when I was small; if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.
Food – My favourite culinary experiences from the trip swing from the sublime to the ridiculous. For lunch try Svarta Kaffi – soup in a crusty bap is heaven on a plate in that weather. For a snack, Bæjarins beztu pylsur hot dog stand near the harbour has queues down the block and after trying the wee fellas I could see why. Cheap and nasty looking, but they taste delicious and make sure to get everything on them, just like the locals do. The other must-visit is The Grill Market not too far away from here, but a million miles apart in terms of quality and price! Fully booked nearly every night, this gave me a taste sensation I will never forget. My top tip is opt for the fish platter as you get three different types. If you have a sweet tooth, the dessert platter comes in a Viking boat and it’s great if even for a few snaps to make your hungry friends jealous.
Overall Impression – What makes Reykjavik special is the fact that it is like nothing you have seen on a holiday to Europe. The architecture, the cafes and even the dogs! Everything is so unique. If you are travelling on your own or in a small group, the city is very safe with apparently zero crime rate and very organised with good public transport links. The people are friendly and the shopping is first class especially if you are looking for a sheepskin rug or cosy winter gloves. If I had to pick a fault, I felt that some tour companies lacked that personal touch when tourists are on the trips and of course the fact that we didn’t see the Northern Lights was disappointing….especially as they appeared over the North Coast earlier this week! This wouldn’t put me off going back though, and if my trip has inspired you to visit, then make sure to send me a postcard!
By Grainne McGarvey
Spotting local hidden gems from the world of beauty, health, fashion, tourism and hospitality. I have my ear to the ground (quite literally) to keep you up to date about the new or interesting products and services from our neck of the woods. If you know one – get in touch on twitter @grainnemcgarvey or at www.pulseprni.com