Iceland is obviously much more than just Northern Lights. A great summer or winter destination, no trip to Iceland would be complete without visiting the Golden Circle. The exact stops on the itinerary can differ by season and weather conditions, we visited Gullfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geyser and the Thingvellir National Park, where you can walk between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates!
We started our full day excursion by stopping by one of Iceland’s geothermal power stations, not that it looked much like a power station. One of the world’s lowest carbon emitters, nearly 100% of the islands electricity is produced from renewable sources. Icelanders pay very little for their energy, around £30.00 per month! The hot water in your hotel radiators is pumped straight from the volcanically heated ground. Even the pavements are heated to melt snow and ice. Cool, huh?
Next stop was Gullfoss Waterfall, or golden waterfall. Standing on the frozen ground, we marvelled at the power of the water as it gushed down the three tiers of rock. They’re pretty impressive in size and the noise is awesome. The visitor centre gave a welcome break from the cold and mum was impressed with the free WiFi.
Onwards to the geysers. I’d never seen a geyser before so I was rather excited! The geyser explodes around every 6 to 10 minutes and there’s lots of little pools of sulphuric water to walk around and enjoy (if you can stand the smell). When the geyser does erupt, the water can reach 100ft and it’s thrilling to watch! We were delighted that it started to blizzard whilst we were waiting for the blast and I was especially happy that I’d (stupidly) decided to wear jeans that day. Needless to say, I was soaked to the skin and damn cold. My top tip, don’t wear jeans!
After trying to dry my jeans under the hand dryer in the men’s room, we moved on to Thingvellir National Park. The other half was particularly looking forward to this part of the trip and the opportunity to walk between two tectonic plates.
Our guide lead us through the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like all of Iceland, the scenery is spectacular and to be able to walk between the North American and Eurasian plates, being pulled apart by a few centimetres each year was really cool. Unfortunately, the dark clouds started to build again and they soon unleashed typical Icelandic weather. Dashing for the visitor centre, cursing wearing jeans again, I knew I’d have to revisit this place again someday, but in more sensible and weather appropriate clothing!
Another of Iceland’s highlights is the opportunity to see whales or dolphins in the frigid Atlantic Ocean. Having been on a couple of these excursions in other parts of the world before and not seeing a sausage, I was quietly praying that the marine gods would be on our side. Alas, it wasn’t to be on our first trip out, but the choppy seas certainly made for an exciting ride! Not to worry though, as we didn’t see anything, the tour company gave us a second trip for free. Most companies do this (same as with Northern Lights) so check that your operator does too.
The second trip was much more successful! Not only was the weather much calmer and kinder, but the dolphins came out to play and we saw many pods near and far. No whales, sadly, but the dolphins still gave a good show and one inquisitive bunch came right up to the boat to suss us out.
Our short trip to Iceland was over, but we bloody loved it! Not everyone enjoys cold weather and being blasted by freezing wind and rain, but in the right clothes and with the right attitude, it can be a lot of fun! It’s also not the crazy expensive country that everyone thinks it is. We ate really well at a burger joint (kind of like a posh McDonald’s) and a Chinese restaurant. We splashed out on the last night, mostly because we had loads of spending money left. Iceland delicacies are expensive which is a shame as I quite wanted to try the fermented shark, but it’s a lot of money if you’re not going to eat it! Alcohol is very expensive so go to Iceland if you need a weekend off the booze!
Date of trip: January 2015
Price paid: £230.00pp for 4 nights B&B at Centre Hotel Klop with EasyJet flights from Manchester. Golden Circle excursion was £50.00pp. Dolphin Watching was £30.00pp.
Points earned: 3500 Virgin Flying Club point for booking through lowcostholidays.com (no longer trading).