I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland, so this week’s Snapshots from Emily at The Cosy Traveller is confirmation that Reykjavik is an interesting and different city, offering up so much in the way of exploration and once-in-a-lifetime experiences – and it can be done on a budget. Emily’s travel blog is a fabulous mix of all her adventures from city breaks to far-flung destinations such as Hong Kong – and she loves a good cuppa. Check it out, there’s lots of inspiration and reviews. Meanwhile, her trip to Reykjavik has realised a long-held dream since she was a child.
Over to you, Emily…
Looking back at my travel back-catalogue, I’m only ever really been on culture and sight-seeing trips! I’m someone who gets a bit restless if I’m not exploring, and love nothing better than learning about the culture of the country I’m visiting – but I love packing as much as I can in or else I feel like I’ve wasted the opportunity.
Where did you go?
One of the best places I’ve been to is to Reykjavik in Iceland for around six days.
Why did you choose this destination?
We were trying to choose between lots of different places but we kept coming back to Iceland. It seemed like a reasonably priced place to visit, plus there was just so much to see. The fact it’s completely unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been to and it just made me want to go even more.
I went with a good friend of mine. Over the years we’ve been to quite a few places together.
Where did you stay?
Having heard that Iceland was slightly on the pricey side, we decided to opt for a self-catered apartment. Our studio, which was booked through Expedia, was located just off the main street and just round the corner from a supermarket so we were able to stock up on food for breakfast, evening meals and packed lunches!
If it was family holiday, were there plenty of activities for the kids?
It wasn’t a family holiday per se, but both my friend and I were big kids so we had loads of fun feeding the ducks at the nearby pond, as well as trying our hand at segways for the first time ever.
So many! One of the most amazing moments was when we went to the Blue Lagoon. Pictures of it used to don the outside of my school folders when I was younger, so I was stupidly excited to finally visit. It was pretty chilly outside, so the walk to the lagoon from the changing rooms (this was before we realized there was an inside bit…) wasn’t the best. But as we tentatively lowered ourselves into the lagoon, it was like receiving a giant hug.
What did you get up to? Any sights, activities you want to shout about?
My friend was eager to go on a whale watching tour, and I’m SO pleased we did. We went with a company called Elding, which took us on a tour of Puffin Island, and then out to the open seas in search of whales. With these kind of tours it’s mainly down to luck, but we were so lucky to be treated to quite a show by a whale who circled our boat for quite a while, appearing for a split second and then crashing back down into the waves.
Other fantastic sights include the Golden Circle tour, which takes in the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, ferocious geysers and the Thingvellir National Park where both the American and Eurasian tectonic plates can be seen above ground.
Was it good value for money?
I found that most things were quite similarly priced to those in the UK. We definitely saved money by going self-catering and not eating out every night, but we did opt to splash out on a lot of tours so we could get the most of the city. I can very easily see how Reykjavik can be a pricey travel destination, but I reckon we did the best we could to keep costs low.
Your top tip/s for the area?
- Head to the Laundromat café for the best chocolate milkshakes. These milkshakes are one of the reasons why I’m itching to get back to Iceland!
- Save money by walking as much as you can. Most things in the city are quite near each other, so you can see quite a lot in just a few hours.
- Book a tour to the Blue Lagoon for either the day you arrive or the day you leave. It’s half-way between the airport and Reykjavik, so it makes sense to do it while you’re on the way. And there are secure places to leave your luggage, so don’t worry! We booked our tour with Reykjavik Excursions (https://www.re.is/).
Which photo is your favourite and why? Tell us the story behind it.
This picture with the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church in the background was snapped on a whim as we were having a stroll around the area. It was the knitwear that attracted me at first, but I fell in love with the whole message. From a little Google search I’ve found out that ‘Blød Lykke’ means ‘Soft Happiness’ and is a form of street art. Definitely prefer this type of street art to graffiti!
Absolutely, I’ve been telling absolutely everyone they need to experience the delights of Iceland! I’d love to go back to re-visit the Blue Lagoon as well as to try even more milkshake flavours in the Laundromat. I’d also really like to go back in the winter when there’s more chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
What are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?
Aside from all the obvious things (like a passport, money, travel documents and insurance) I’d go with the following:
• My SLR camera. (I have a Nikon D3200 which I find is great)
•My phone in order to keep in touch via Whatsapp/Facebook
• My iPad so I can watch films/TV shows while I’m travelling
• A tea wallet packed with my favourite Yorkshire Tea teabags and peppermint teabags. You never know when you might need a cuppa.
• My cat slipper socks – because toilet floors can be cold on the old footsies.
That’s a toughie! I’d probably be totally predictable and go with New York. I’d wanted to go for years, so it was completely surreal to finally visit – and I made sure I squeezed in as many sights as I could, even though I wasn’t feeling my best. A close second is Seefeld in Austria, a small resort near Innsbruck. I visited earlier this year and it was such a winter wonderland, filled with the opportunity to ski, go on a horse and carriage ride, and sample some schnapps.
If you would like to be featured on Holiday Snapshots, please email me at [email protected] and I look forward to including your travel stories.