Iceland – Something for a Winter Weekend

Ever since easyJet launched the new Luton to Reykjavik service, I have been looking forward to my little pre-Christmas jaunt to Iceland.  Thanks to easyJet flying up to four times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday) travelling to Iceland has never been cheaper, and I wanted to see the main winter attraction – the Northern Lights.

Arriving at 11am from Luton on a cold Tuesday morning, I arrived into Keflavik Airport on a clear winter’s day.  The transfers to town are extremely well organised, there are two main excursion and transfer companies, Iceland Excursions and Reykjavik Excursions. For my little trip I used Reykjavik Excursions, and they have the benefit of having free wifi on board all their coaches.  They also have two levels of transfers to and from the airport, the standard which only takes you as far as their coach station near Reykjavik Domestic Airport, and an upgraded version which drops you off at your hotel.

Arriving at the hotel, The Icelandair Hotel Marina, which is brand new and in the up and coming Marina district of the city, it couldn’t give you any more of a welcome to Scandinavia. It has a quirky modern design, and a bar which would rival those of the most desirable in the centre of town, it really is the trendy hangout location.

Having the afternoon to myself, I decided to have a look around the city. It reminds me of a large ski resort, lots of small independent shops interspersed with some really nice restaurants.  The weather can be really cold, hence why walking & skating on the local lake seems to be a favourite pastime.  Although I was out for a good 4 hours, I was really surprised at how late it got dark, at least gone 4pm, which is what we are used to in the UK at this time of year.

That evening I went straight for the main event, the Northern Lights.  Again I went for the cheaper bus option with Reykjavik excursions, and with the tours they pick you up from the hotel as standard. To my surprise there were actually 5 coaches going, mostly filled with Japanese students! At 9pm the coaches left, and we headed inland. It took about an hour to get to our final destination, somewhere near the rift valley and the old parliament. It only took about half an hour in sub-zero temperatures, but the Northern Lights did come out – not at their brightest, but at least I did see them. Due to the travelling time I didn’t get back to the hotel until gone 1.30 am, so you really do need to plan your trip carefully.

The next morning, really early I departed on the Golden Circle tour. With Reykjavik Excursions they have the added bonus of travelling to a Tomato factory, where they use the geo-thermal heat to grow tomatoes all year round. The next stop was Gullfoss and the amazing waterfall, and then on the nearby Geysers, one of the iconic stops on a visit to Iceland. Due to the time of the year everything was really icy, so although the tour was supposed to finish at 4.30, it was nearer 6pm actually arriving at the hotel due to the coach having to put show chains on for quite a bit of the journey.

Going to Iceland in winter is something that I could really, really recommend, and it will surprise you. Out of anywhere I have been in the world, I could say that it is the most unique and interesting place you could ever imagine.

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