Liz's exhilarating trip to Iceland

I travelled to the suitably named island of Iceland in December. In winter the name is most fitting – we arrived to billowing winds and heavy snow, along with a temperature of -8oC – it was certainly not the warmest of welcomes, but a wonderful welcome nonetheless!

It’s little wonder Iceland is used as the background for many a film and television show, it’s like stepping into another world. The scenery is astonishing with lunar-like vistas, beautiful rolling hills, rugged mountains covered in snow, vast frozen lakes, rushing waterfalls, exploding geysers and delightful towns; together with delicious dishes made with the freshest of ingredients and extraordinary open-air spas which all make for an invigoratingly wild holiday.

Route 1 circumnavigates the island and a must-do is a circular tour of the southwest: one of the most popular excursions. Included is a visit to Gullfoss – a powerful waterfall flowing into a deep crevice. Continuing on to a geothermal area, the most reliable geyser, Strokkur, bubbles away continuously and every 7 minutes (or so) there is a gentle rumble under the ground before a mighty torrent of water blasts upwards, an impressive 65 feet or so – just don’t look away at the wrong moment! A visit to the geyser museum is insightful even for the non-geologically-minded, with a number of interactive presentations illustrating the giant forces of nature which shaped the country and its people and a quick visit to Althing, site of the world’s oldest parliament, completes the tour.

In winter it’s worth adding a snowmobiling excursion to the circle tour. Full-body thermal suits are necessary (and provided) – fasten your helmet and away you go delving deep into vast fields of snow, acres and acres of the most beautiful and pristine wilderness imaginable. The fact that you are in control of your own throttle only adds to the excitement – a pure adrenaline rush. In summer it’s possible to do the same on a quad bike – minus the snow of course.

My base for the three nights was in the centre of Reykjavik; a large city with a delightful and surprisingly compact centre. Numerous restaurants with enticing menus align the main square and surrounding streets and the shops are certainly worth a look. For the night owls amongst you, we found live music two nights running and the bars and clubs remain open until the early hours of the morning.

The last few years have been the most reliable for Northern Lights sightings although we had to wait until our third and final night; it was a clear night and we raced through the hotel corridors when we heard the cry of “lights – now – outside”! I stood in wonder at the remarkable display before me of swirls and twists of vivid green: it was utterly mesmerising. The lights appeared several times that night and each time an entirely unique spectacle unfolded before our eyes. 

No visit to Iceland would be complete without a spa visit; there are many hot pools, lagoons and geothermal spas all over the island – the most well known is the Blue Lagoon; the water is a striking shade of turquoise and is (thankfully) a lovely temperature. We visited on our last morning in Iceland. Plastering my face with a silica mud mask was a must and as I sat sipping a cocktail – yes, there is a bar in the middle of the lagoon – I had chance to reflect on what a wonderful trip it had been and plan another action-packed visit, perhaps next time in the summer.

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