Last weekend Mr. A, a couple of friends and I took a trip to the beautiful Country of Iceland. We took off from London on Thursday morning and arrived 3 hours later, stepping off the plane into a flurry of snow – boy was I glad I had packed all the knits into the hand luggage!
We decided before the trip that we would rent a car as our hotel was outside of Reykjavik city centre and it would give us the freedom to explore at our leisure. Our hotel was about a 45 minute drive from Keflavik airport, and luckily for us it was easy to find.
We stayed at the Hotel Kriunes, a family run hotel situated by the Elliðavatn lake. We did laugh when we got there as we had paid a few extra icelandic krona for a lake view – but little did we realise that the lake would be entirely frozen over this time of year!
But the view from our room was still pretty spectacular!
By the time we had finished packing it was late afternoon so we decided to spend the rest of the day and evening exploring the city of Reykjavik. We took a cab into town and headed straight for one of city’s main attractions, the church of Hallgrímskirkja.
Towering over the City this spectacular concrete church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674). It took 41 years to build and was designed by architect Guðjón Samúelsson’s who is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.
From here we walked back down into the city via the Tjörnin lake, again completely frozen over.
By now we were feeling a bit peckish and began looking around for somewhere nice to eat. We happened upon the Apotek restaurant, a stylish and contemporary restaurant with a lively atmosphere – and luckily they had a table available 🙂 We opted to go for the 6 course taster menu, offering a selection of icelandic fish and meat dishes, and I have to say the food was devine. Each course was introduced by one of the waiters and beautifully presented. It was one of the nicest meals I have had for a long time (and one of the priciest too…but the experience was well worth it).
We caught a cab back to the hotel after dinner and after a quick drink in the hotel lounge made our way to bed ready to start our next day in Iceland.
We woke early on Friday eager to hit the road and explore the Golden Circle – a trail of 3 large attractions including the meeting place of 2 tectonic plates, a geysir and a waterfall. I was super excited to finally wear my knitted Drops Design Dress; I made this dress about 5 years ago but it’s double stranded and sooo warm that I had never found the right occasion to wear it. Teamed with some thermal leggings and long thick socks it was perfect for this road trip!
We piled into the car but didn’t get very far before we were compelled to stop and take some photographs of the beautiful scenery that surrounded us.
Thingvellir National Park
Back in the car and the first stop on our trail was one of Iceland’s most historical sites, where Viking settlers established the world’s first democratic parliament in AD 930. Now a national shrine Thingvellir has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The site sits on a North America and Europe tectonic plate boundary which provides a stunning, dramatic landscape of rivers, waterfalls and ponds.
Next stop on our tour was the site of the Geysir (literally translated as ‘Gusher’). Located in a geothermal region the Great Geysir has been active for around 800 years, however it’s neighbour Strokkur is the one that draws in the crowds with regular eruptions every 8 to 10 minutes.
An eerie hydrothermal mist emanates from the land on approaching the site of the geysirs…
It was a pretty phenomenal sight!
The final attraction on the Golden Circle trail was the Gulfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall – a double cascading waterfall with a dramatic 31m drop!
The gorge was formed by flash flood waters forcing their way through cracks in the basalt lava layers.
Here’s Mr A and I taking a Gulfoss selfie 🙂
And then it was time to jump back on the road. I couldn’t stop taking photo’s all the way back, everywhere I looked the scenery was just breathtaking.
Hydrothermal vents – or ‘cloud producers’ as we called them 🙂
The famous icelandic horses.
That evening we stayed for dinner at the hotel and played a few games of cards in the lounge.
The next morning we went back into Reykjavik town for a spot of sightseeing and shopping. Mr. A and I went back to Hallgrimsjirkja to have a look round the Church and also took a lift to the top to the viewing platform.
The inside of the church was quite stark and minimalist.
But the views from the top were something else!
The rest of the city didn’t take long to explore, Reykjavik is not a very big place and it was easy to cover most of it in the time we had. Luckily for me I also managed to scout out the local yarn store, The Handknitting Association of Iceland 🙂
I shall write a separate blog post on my purchases soon, but in the meantime check out all the lovely hand knits that were for sale in the shop.
In fact it was commonplace for most shops to sell a selection of hand knitted goods. Even our hotel had hand knit lopapeysa for sale!
Next up on our agenda was snowmobiling! We had booked the previous night to travel up the South Coast to the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, an icecap covering one of Iceland’s largest volcano, Katla. The site was close to Eyjafjallajokull – the volcano made famous in 2011 when it’s ash plume halted airlines in Europe!
It was a pretty awesome experience driving across the glacier, I was happy to let Mr. A take the wheel while I clung on for dear life! We stopped at the top for photo opportunities…
And to take in the view…
It was certainly an experience and I’m glad I did it, but I’m not sure I would rush back to do it again…Next time I would wait at the bottom with a hot chocolate and my knitting 🙂
Before we left the South Cost we journeyed a couple of miles to Dyrhólaey, a nature reserve rich in birdlife and good for puffin spotting in season.
Sunday came around all too quick and it was time to check out and make our way back to the airport via the Blue Lagoon. We didn’t realise that this was something that we needed to book in advance so unfortunately we were unable to visit to the spa as they were fully booked. They did let us take some photo’s…but I wish we had had the foresight to book as it did look pretty awesome!
Still, it’s the perfect excuse to go back one day. Especially as we didn’t get to see the Northern Light’s whilst we were there either…
Whilst we were at the Blue Lagoon we got an e-mail from our flight company to say our flight home had been delayed by 5 hours so we had a bit of extra time to kill. Close to the airport there is a Viking Museum so we dropped by there on the way back. It was a really nice museum with the focal point being an exact replica of a 9th Century Viking ship.
In 2000 this ship made the journey from Iceland to New York as part of the millennial celebration of Icelandic explorer Leifur Eiriksson’s journey to the new world!
And so it was, our wonderful weekend in Iceland drew to a close. It was breathtaking, exhilarating and full of laughs. We had an amazing time, and I do hope to return one day (with a pre-booked ticket to the blue lagoon!)
Until next time x