All this wintery weather we’ve been having the past couple of weeks isn’t what Britain is used to. Streets clogged with snow, supermarkets empty, schools shut… the ‘Beast from the East’ is a phenomenon not normally experienced in the UK. But elsewhere, say Iceland, well it's safe to say they have this sort of weather covered.
Also known as the ‘land of fire and ice’, Iceland is magical in both the long snowy winter and the mild summer, which is blessed with 24-hour sunlight. It’s a big country with stunning natural beauty in every direction that’s just waiting to be explored!
Iceland is an expensive holiday but definitely worth saving up for. Most flights go into Keflavík airport, which is close to the capital of Reykjavík. Reykjavík is a spread-out, sprawling sort of city that has an atmosphere unlike any other capital I’ve been to. It’s very relaxed and slow-going, feeling more like a remote town rather than the main hub of industry and population.
Along the seafront the Sólfar sculpture of a Viking longboat is beautiful in the evening, as is the imposing Church of Hallgrímur, further inland. In the centre of town there are plenty of places to get food and take in the atmosphere (although maybe avoid the whale meat and fermented shark, both local delicacies). You’ll also find the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavík, with apparently over 215 penis specimens. Wow.
If you want to see living animals, boats go daily from the harbour on whale watching trips, with harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and minke whales seen regularly. Puffins inhabit the near islands, and can be seen flying across the waves with beakfuls of sand eels for chicks between May and August.
The Northern Lights are always a possibility in Iceland, although are unpredictable. More reliable are geysers. There are loads of ‘Golden Circle’ tours that will take you to see Iceland’s finest, including the Geysir thermal area, the Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir, the site of two colliding continental plates, and the seat of Iceland’s ancient parliament. Hire a car and drive out to other hot springs as well, and you might meet some more interesting characters than tourists- near the Langjökull glacier we met a gentleman boiling eggs in the superheated water!
Iceland’s certainly got its quirks, although most are charming to say the least.