Iceland: Land of Ice and Fire
If you’re planning a holiday during the winter, your first thought might be a beach in Thailand or Skiing in the Alps; but what about the beautiful island of Iceland? It may not be your first thought for a holiday getaway, but Iceland has so much to offer that makes it the perfect winter holiday destination. Vast landscapes, huge mountains and the friendliest people imaginable all make the three-hour flight from London so worth it.
Ok, so it isn’t the warmest place to go (in February the average temperature is around -2 degrees) but there is so much to do in Iceland that you don’t go for the weather, you go for the all-round experience. Despite the cold, the island is incredibly volcanic and trips to the volcanoes are a popular tourist attraction. Iceland also boasts one of the smallest carbon footprints in the world as it is mostly run on geothermal and hydropower.
Reykjavik is the capital city and where you will want to stay during your holiday. It’s a 45-minute coach from the airport to Reykjavik, and most travel companies will drop you off at your hotel. The city centre is bustling with people and all sorts of shops so it is easy to find lots to look at once you arrive (I definitely remember walking past the Penis Museum…).
What to do in Iceland?
Tour the Golden Circle
Whilst in Iceland, book a tour of the Golden Circle. This is a guided tour which lasts a few hours and takes you to the incredible National Park, the famous Geysers and the Gulfoss Waterfall. Wear warm clothes and be prepared for quite a lot of driving. You spend about half an hour at each place and it is really worth the drive.
Go whale watching
Again, this trip lasts a good 3 hours so make sure you are wearing really warm clothes (big overalls are usually provided too). This is a fantastic opportunity to see loads of different whales and dolphins, including humpback whales, harbour porpoises and – if you’re lucky – Orcas. The guides are so knowledgeable and the boats work together with fisherman to make sure you get a good chance of seeing some whales.
Bathe in the Blue Lagoon
This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. It is very busy, but once you are in the bath-like water, every care in the world disappears. The lagoon was made by an accidental overspill from a nearby geothermal plant, but has continued to be heated-up completely by the natural heat of the earth. There are some gorgeous natural mud masks all around the pools so you can swim around whilst also purifying your face. Fab!
Get a glimpse of the Northern Lights
This is easier said than done, I’m afraid. This other-worldly phenomenon is a bit unpredictable as it all depends on the time of year, whether it is cloudy and the frequency of solar flares. There are lots of companies who organise coaches to drive out to remote parts of island to get away from any light pollution to give you the best possible chance of seeing them, and when you do, they really are incredible.
Stay chic and warm: Lopapeysa
The Lopapeysa is a very popular fashion accessory in Iceland. Made from the hair and wool of Icelandic Sheep, this is the thickest and warmest jumper you will find. The Icelandic people have been wearing them since the 1950s as it is the only thing warm enough for them to cope with the entire winter. You will see these jumpers in all of the clothing shops around the town, whether you are in a charity shop or a high-end fashion house. Fact: it is an old tradition in Iceland that you buy your wool and knit your own!
Scenic beauty: film locations
If all that’s not enough reason to visit, there are loads of film locations that are shot around the island too. Usually Iceland locations are used for films that need to look like a faraway planet, or a very scarce landscape. Films including Prometheus, Thor: The Dark World and even the brand new Star Wars: The Force Awakens were all shot on the island.
So there we go, a taster of Iceland. It’s hard to sum up such an amazing place in just one article, but if we’ve made you want to find out more visit Iceland’s tourist information website.
Have you been to Iceland? Send your pics to @tweetjanes!