Ally's Magical Iceland Group Trip

Ally Case on 18 November 2022
As a group of 17 we departed Dorset in the early hours of the morning to travel up to Heathrow for our flight on British Airways to Reykjavik. Upon arrival at the airport, we were met by our private driver and transferred to our hotel, Storm Hotel, for check in and a free afternoon. Many of us chose to sightsee around the capital city and have a stroll along the waterfront. On the first night we enjoyed a delicious 3-course meal at Fjallkonan Restaurant, a restaurant in the heart of Reykjavík which is lively and casual and great for drinks and delicious food. At 9pm we strolled around to the harbour for our Northern Lights Cruise where we would maximise our chances of sightings on our search for Aurora Borealis away from the city lights as Northern Lights are best displayed under dark, clear skies. As we set sail out of Reykjavik there was a slight breeze, but it looked as though we may have a fairly clear sky. Very quickly we could see a green hue. This was only visible by cameras. As the night progressed thankfully the clouds moved, this allowed us to have a fantastic view of the night sky. We could see Mars, Jupiter and so many stars! The green hue we could previously see started to fade and with it so did peoples hopes of a great show. They were proved wrong! The northern lights put on a fantastic show for all of us. We could see green and purple lights that were constantly moving and changing shapes. Everyone was overjoyed and people could tick this amazing spectacle off their bucket lists.

The following morning started at 8am when we were picked up from our hotel for our South Coast & Ice Cave Katla tour. Our small group headed south, through the ever-changing scenery towards the breath-taking south coast. Our first stop is Hvolsvöllur for some coffee and snacks for the day. The next stop was Vik, where we met up with our Ice Cave Guide s and climbed into our super jeeps and took an exhilarating ride through the private back roads to reach the glacier area. The first stop is at the front of Kötlujökull – the Katla outlet glacier. Kötlujökull is actually part of the famous Mýrdalsjökull glacier – the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. From here, we had a fun 10 to 15-minute glacier hike across the ice to explore our first ice cave! We marvelled at the magnificent colours and textures inside the ice cave, and the crazy shapes and crystal ice. Our amazing guides shared with us the history of the Iceland ice cave and explained how it was formed and also how the volcanic eruptions of the Katla volcano caused the ash and sand to combine with the ice, to form the incredible shades of black and blue that appear almost like ‘dragon glass’. After some time in the main cave, we then took another short glacier walk to hunt for hidden glacier canyons. After our ice caving adventure, we headed to our next destination: a private black sand beach. Finally, our jeep took an exciting detour through the wild terrain and we drove through the actual film set from Star Wars Rogue One. From here, we headed back to Reykjavik with a few stops enroute, one at the thundering Skógafoss waterfall and the second at Seljalandsfoss, a truly magnificent and picturesque waterfall, and one that you can even walk behind during the summer months. Before heading back to the hotel, we enjoyed black crust pizzas at a fantastic pizza restaurant in Vik. This evening we headed out to Matarkjallarinn Food Cellar, a Grill & Cocktail bar, situated in a 160-year-old building in the centre of Reykjavík to enjoy a three-course meal consisting of Icelandic brasserie style of food.

Sunday morning began with a leisurely breakfast before making our way to the infamous Blue Lagoon where we enjoyed a 2-course lunch at the Lava Restaurant which is built into an 800-year-old lava cliff on the west bank of the Blue Lagoon. We then entered the Blue Lagoon, an otherworldly wonder in the heart of a volcanic landscape, geothermal seawater is 70% ocean water and 30% freshwater, enriched with silica, algae, and minerals. We received a silica and algae mask each at the in-water mask bar, hoping for healthy, luminous and ageless skin! This evening we dined at Grillmarket restaurant, a restaurant who put a lot of work into co-operating with the country's farmers and this is reflected in their menu.

After a great nights sleep we were met the following morning by our super jeep & expert guide to embark on our final day’s adventures around the Golden Circle Our trip consisted of seeing three equally stunning locations in southwest Iceland: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Thingvellir National Park is an amazing site, steeped in history and folklore and surrounded by incredible geology. It has the honour of being the first of Iceland’s three national parks to be established. It is also the only one that has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It is a place where dramatic geology meets a millennium of fascinating history. Our second stop was the Geysir Geothermal Area, located within the Haukadalur Valley. As we drove here we could see the earth’s volcanic activity grow more intense. Steaming vents and chimneys are visible along the way and notably concentrated in the village of Laugarvatn, located halfway between Thingvellir and Geysir. This settlement has a spa that is heated by hot water currents beneath the ground’s surface. Its steam rooms sit on top of bubbling hot pots, which reach a sweltering 60°C (140°F). Our final stop was one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland: Gullfoss waterfall. The waterfall was less than ten minutes down the road from Geysir and is located in a plunging, ancient valley and tumbles down two drops, from an overall height of 32 meters (105 ft). For lunch we stopped at Fridheimar where they grow tomatoes all year round, despite Iceland’s long, dark winters, under artificial lighting in greenhouses. We had an amazing lunch of tomato soup and home baked bread. After lunch, my highlight of the holiday was to snowmobile on Langjokull, we spent over an hour on the snow at the top of the glacier. After arriving back at the hotel, we headed out to Sushi Social for another amazing meal. This restaurant offers a unique fusion of Japanese and South American cuisine combined with the freshness of Icelandic.

This truly was a magical trip and one I will never forget.