After our rather intense (but amazing) fourth day of travelling around the spectacular sights of Southern Iceland, we decided our fifth and final day in the country should be a rather more subdued affair, particularly as we had covered a lot of ground the previous three days.
It is common knowledge that you can’t visit Iceland without going to the Blue Lagoon – its often ranked the number one single greatest thing to do in Iceland, especially if you are short on time – so who were we to turn it down. Off to the Blue Lagoon we went.
THE BLUE LAGOON, ICELAND
The night before, we had gone out in Reykjavik to discover the infamous Icelandic night-life (at least at the weekends), that we had heard so much about. We had heard stories of restaurants turning into bars then into nightclubs, people getting quite literally blind drunk and groups of friendly Icelanders initiating visitors into their unique night-life culture in big friendly packs.
What happened on our night out in Reykjavik is not quite for this blog (also I can’t remember everything still today), but I woke up on day 5 not even hungover, but still extremely drunk with only vague recollections of ending up in “Kiki’s Gay Bar” having a wonderful time and managing to lose my new baseball cap in the process. How fantastic the Blue Lagoon was the main itinerary for the day. I highly doubt I would have been able to cope with any kind of hike state I was in, never mind walking behind a waterfall.
The Blue Lagoon is not in Reykjavik itself, but about 45 minutes drive South East of the capital, quite near the airport. Being such a huge tourist attraction, I was sort of expecting to hate the Blue Lagoon. I expected it to be a packed, money grabbing tourist trap….luckily for me I was proved wrong!
Upon driving up to the Blue Lagoon you start to see large pools of LUMINOUS (the pictures don’t do the colours justice at all) pools of water, and this bizarre shock of colour starts to form a twinge of excitement in your stomach –
When I visited, the basic Blue Lagoon entry package was around £35, with the next price level up not really offering enough to justify the spend (as long as you bring a towel with you). Unless you are flush with cash, or really want the entire Blue Lagoon experience, I don’t think most people would need more than the basic entry level price.
The Blue Lagoon is Scandinavian magnificence. For such a huge tourist attraction it is clean, slick and organised enough to never feel too full of people, despite the opposite probably being true. I was personally really impressed. I never felt rushed, or overwhelmed by other people, and the whole experience was quite wonderful – probably much better than I ever expected.
Upon entry you are handed a magic wristband, which is your locker key and your payment in the Blue Lagoon itself – you can buy beer, wine, smoothies and treatments with it – you pay upon exit so no money needed in the pool. Its a simple but very clever system, and makes the process of being in the Blue Lagoon much simpler, and queues much shorter.
The actual Blue Lagoon itself is brilliant. It was quite a cold day when we went, but the Lagoon is more than warm enough that you don’t notice the weather at all (the entire complex is located outside). The juxtaposition of the freezing cold air and warm water is pretty awesome, and there is a free steam room, face masks and thermal waterfall (which feels like “a troll pummelling on your back”) even with basic entry.
I had a great time, and it really helped sort out my stinking hangover. We spend out 3 hours in the lagoon itself, and loved every minute. Eventually we left, and carried on South East to the amazing Krysuvik region…
If you only have a short amount of time in Iceland, I would certainly recommend the South East corner of the country as a really great place to go, much more so than putting yourself through a Golden Circle tour. It offers some very unique landscape (particularly in comparison to the relatively bland landscape surrounding the nearby Reykjavik), it is near to the capital, Blue Lagoon and the airport and most importantly – there is loads to see!
We were too tired/hungover and relaxed following the Blue Lagoon to really make large headways into this part of the country. But we did pack in a few sights before leaving Iceland for good.
SELTUN, KRYSUVIK, ICELAND
The Krysuvik region is an area of South East Iceland that features particularly large amounts of geothermal activity. You see a lot of lava fields, smell a lot of sulphur in the air and see a lot of milky bright blue water.
One of the most impressive areas is named Seltun. Amazingly this area is free to visit, and very easy to walk around. It feels like you are visiting Mars.
You will know you have arrived at Seltun, as you will see this ominous abandoned farm standing tall by the roadside, looking like a David Lynch film location –
Right next to this building is the lake Grænavatn, a former crater that is now filled with the bright blue water we saw at the Blue Lagoon –
Almost across the road from here is the otherworldly Seltun itself.
Seltun is pretty much the closest you are going to get to Mars on earth without actually going there. The area isn’t enormous, but well worth a visit. The landscape is steaming, scorching, bubbling and really quite amazing. Here are a few pictures –
Just around the corner from Seltun is the extremely beautiful lake Kleifarvatn. I was VERY tired at this point, and didn’t have the energy to get out and explore (something I obviously regret now), so all I got was this lonely photo, again the colours in the picture do not do real life justice –
It was then back home, ready for a final meal and our flight back to the UK the next day. We had an amazing time in Iceland, as a country it really is completely unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been on earth.
If you want to read about the rest of our trip, here are the blogs of the other days –
Being a life-long Bjork fan, Iceland as a country has always intrigued me – more than intrigued me, it has always been top of my list of countries to visit – a pilgrimage if you will to the land of the spiritual leader of my 13 year old self. However, until recently actually getting to Iceland hasn’t been the easiest if you are intending to do so on the cheap. It has only been the last year or so that Easyjet have started flying regularly to Reykjavik from London, and these budget flights were the breakthrough I needed to finally fulfil my destiny of finally visiting one of the craziest places on our planet – Iceland, homeland of Bjork.
As I mentioned, I was intending to visit Iceland on a budget, and contrary to what other people may tell you it is actually perfectly possible to do so providing you are sensible and use a bit of initiative (quick budget guide to Iceland list forthcoming alert) :
BUDGET GUIDE TO ICELAND CHECKLIST :
– First of all, do not fall for groupon, or Iceland-tourism-board-advertised Reykjavik breaks for £300+. Whilst not a rip-off, these are usually 3 nights tours including accommodation of their choice, not yours. These trips usually involve a lot of coach tours as you get ferried around on the familiar tourist trail. Great if you are past the age of really wanting mass exploration, but you are really missing the best of what Iceland has to offer if you aren’t.
– Instead use a website such as Skyscanner to book your flights in advance cheaply (ours were £95.00 return with luggage), any time from mid-March to late-September are good! Just remember in the Winter months the country has a lot less daylight (and warmth) which could impact your trip considerably so probably aren’t the best times to be booking a holiday.
– Use a website such as AirBnB to book your accommodation! Not only is this so much cheaper than staying in a hotel, its much likely to be a lot bigger, nicer, convenient and cheaper. With AirBnB you can rent out a whole house or apartment opposed to a room which is much better value for money (and usually nicer), and also means you get your own kitchen so you can prepare your own food, instead of having to eat out 3 times a day – instant massive saving on your trip.
– Finally, go with somebody that can drive so you can hire a car. Not only does this give you absolute freedom to explore, its much cheaper than seeing the country via a coach tour. With a car you will see a lot more, and you can do it on your own time. You won’t have to deal with a bunch of other people you have no interest in, and you will probably have a much better trip as a result.
Following the above, for the amount of money a 3-night £300 Reykjavik package tour would have cost us, we managed to book a 5 night/6 day trip, stay in a beautiful huge house next to the sea in Reykjavik (with a kitchen!) and rented a car (2X drive) to get us around the country – really not bad going I do not think (sounding smug right).
One of the first things I would suggest you do once you have landed, is do a supermarket run. Not perhaps what you are desperate to do the minute you land in this land of insanity, but you will probably be glad you have done once you discover Reykjavik restaurant prices. My favourite was the supermarket called BONUS – recognisable by its huge yellow sign with what seems to be a drunk piggy-bank on it. These are all over populated area’s of Iceland (including one in Reykjavik city centre) and seemed to match UK supermarket prices pretty closely to me. My best tip is their amazing packs of dense rye and spelt breads – great with some cheese and tomato for a picnic lunch, and cousin-of-yoghurt SKYR which is massive in Iceland. Essentially really thick yoghurt, it is really delicious and packs a whopping amount of protein per pot/drink. I was absolutely addicted during my time there! Buy and cook your own food, save a fortune.
Budget guide out the way, details of our actual road trip to follow in my next post…