The idea of travelling to Iceland was never really on my radar but when a friend said he was going there with a mate for the New Year holiday and that I could join them, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes as such opportunities don’t present themselves too often.
Heavy rain in Reykjavik meant the plane was 4.5 hours late in leaving Heathrow. It was still raining hard when we took the airport shuttle bus to our accommodation which was chosen purely for the name; Hotel Bjork! It was oh so quiet!!
We got straight to work on the G&Ts before walking into the city centre in the freezing cold which Sherwood the chav did without a coat! It was a mistake that he certainly didn’t make again after that! However, paying £7:50 for a fizzy beer was something that was repeated, and that was one of the cheaper beverages!!
Sunrise is not till 11 am in the world’s most northern capital with sunset coming round only four hours later, and as we reached Hallgrimskirkja (kirkja = church) just before sunrise the following morning, the heavens really opened up pelting it down with hail stones as well as an increase in the wind speed. To add insult to injury, the church was closed!
Icelandic fish and chips was served up for lunch at a quite reasonable price by local standards!
After that, we walked along the old harbour front in the snow for about four kilometres to get to the thermal baths at Laugardalslaug but typically that was closed so we headed back to the hotel as the conditions deteriorated further.
A few early evening shots in our room got our New Years Eve under way but things were to slow down big time after that! We got a taxi to Vox inside the Hilton Hotel but thought it not to be our thing so another cab took us to the city centre where absolutely everywhere was closed till after midnight! This is what happens when you don’t do your research on local customs and just expect it to be like the UK!!
We returned to Vox but that had closed. However, they said we could have a table in the Hilton but when we sat down and saw the 8-course menu and the 120,000 ISK (about £95!) price we came to our senses and left! Even the petrol station was closed so in the end we had three bags of crisps each back at the hotel while working our way through G&Ts in bed with the iPod speakers pumping out the tunes and a relentless amount of fireworks going off outside our window. It sounds sad but it was very funny to us and has certainly lived long in the memory!
After seeing in 2008 from our hotel room, we went out as Bar Oliver was opening at 12.30 am where we joined the queue and stumped up 2,500 ISK (about £20) entrance fee. Before we knew it, it was 5:30 am and time to get some sleep as we had an early start a few hours later.
After only a few hours sleep, 2008 kicked off with a 45 minute morning bus journey to Blue Lagoon which wasn’t so agreeable with our New Year hangovers. I didn’t feel too good but Sherwood even went as far as saying it was the worst 45 minutes of his life!
Obviously it was bl*ody freezing outside, and the short walk from the building to the lagoon was far from comfortable to say the least! As warm as the water was, it was still difficult being in the nation’s number one tourist attraction as the wind and occasional hail seemed to be forever in our faces. An interesting experience for sure.
We were up early doors the following morning to do a ‘Golden Circle’ bus tour of some of the country’s top natural sights which started with us arriving at Skalholt church in the foreground of some mountains in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. It all made for a very picturesque location, if not a bit eerie!
Lunchtime saw us arrive at Gullfoss waterfalls; Iceland’s most spectacular falls flowing down in three different levels.
After that I paid nearly 10 pounds just for some lamb soup which is supposed to be some kind of Icelandic speciality. It was very nice but no soup is ever worth that kind of price!
Next up was the nearby geyser which erupted every few minutes and waiting for this natural phenomenon to occur was absolutely freezing while I was poised with my camera hoping (but ultimately failing!) to capture the perfect image.
Kerio volcano crater lake was completely frozen over which was not too surprising really given the temperatures!
The final port of call was Pingvellir National Park where there’s a rift valley caused by two of the earths plates being separated! The water was so clear that you could see right down to the bed of the river thing with ease.
More expensive food (Icelandic lobster pasta for about £30!), half a dozen beers and a few hours sleep rounded off an eventful few days in Europe’s most remote country, and though things certainly never went to plan, we experienced what we were kind of after in terms of a place not flooded by tourists.
Click here to read ‘Iceland 2007/2008: Pt I – Around Reykjavik’
Click here to read ‘Iceland 2007/2008: Pt II – Blue Lagoon & Golden Circle Tour’