Review: A taste of Nordic life plus the chance of a sighting of the Northern Lights or Midnight Sun in Iceland

Blue lagoon

Blue lagoon - Credit: Archant

Although you won’t be wanting to take your bikini, even in June, says Andrea Powell.

Blue lagoon

Blue lagoon - Credit: Archant

Iceland is a great place for a short break. A taste of Nordic life: Northern Lights or Midnight Sun (depending on the time of year you travel – and luck of course in the case of the Northern Lights) and quite a cosmopolitan place.

Just a three-hour flight; plenty to see and do. Hubby and I were thoroughly excited about one of our first “real trips” abroad. We had done packages to Majorca and so on but this was bit of a toe-dip into the big wide world out there.

Ours was a summer expedition in June. The sun would not set whilst we were there. Our itinerary all planned, it would be a busy three days.

As we left Reykjavik airport we headed straight for the Blue Lagoon even before reaching the hotel.

Jokulsarlon

Jokulsarlon - Credit: Archant

Despite being summer, it was still COLD. I questioned the virtues of my newly purchased thermals and supposed warm winter coat (you try finding that in the UK in June when bikinis and sun hats are far more the rage).

It felt to me as if I might as well have bought that bikini and saved myself a hundred quid. Just looking at our local guide – in nothing more than a T-shirt and jeans – made me shiver. For him it was summer, for me COLD.

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I began to wonder about my logic of visiting these geothermal baths. Wrapped up in several layers, I considered the sense of my decision to change into a swim suit, even if it was to sit in supposedly-warm waters, where the average temperature was alleged to be about 37 degrees. And I was sure the changing rooms would be heated. But it was the dash between the two that I was slightly concerned about. What if I froze to death getting from one to the other? I had not heard of this happening before, but there was always a first time for everything…

Shivering at the thought of shivering, I decided it was time to have a bit of a firm chat with myself and get a grip. This was, after all, meant to be fun. It was the stuff adventures were all about. Doing something a bit different. Pushing the boundaries. Even if for now it was just running in the freezing cold from a changing room into a stinky pool of hot water.

Iceland

Iceland - Credit: Archant

And the dash WAS cold. And the waters did STINK of sulphur. But to be honest, that was all part of this unique Icelandic experience and something that just has to be done when visiting the country.

Finally, off to the hotel to drop our bags. We were down for snowmobiling in the afternoon. Something else new.

I had been cocksure about wanting to drive one of these, but upon seeing the sheer power and weight of these vehicles I soon hung back and was glad Hubby took charge (not that I let him know, I hasten to add – there is one’s image to maintain). With the sun beating down and my thermal suit, I finally felt warm and toasty. And the scenery was spectacular. A fabulous trip.

Arriving back at the hotel, it was hard to believe it was pm. With the sun still relatively high in the sky, it was time to acclimatise to the Midnight Sun, I guess. We were definitely glad of the blackout curtains in the rooms, anyway.

Gulfoss

Gulfoss - Credit: Archant

It was only later during our stay that we learned one of the guests at our hotel had gone down for breakfast at one in the morning, believing it to be 7am instead!

We were off to the geysers and Gullfoss today. (Iceland’s most popular waterfall.) Much fun was had trying to anticipate the timings of the water explosions and avoid getting our precious cameras wet. (You know the advice – do not take them anywhere too hot, cold or wet. Perfect, then, for such a trip!)

As for the famous Gullfoss waterfall, it was indeed spectacular. But the thing about Iceland, and much of Scandinavia in general, is the abundance of such stunning scenery around almost every twist and bend in the road. To be honest, by the end of our trip we became somewhat blasé – a bit ABW (another bl---y waterfall).

That evening was the whale-watching. Following an internal flight to Keflavik we donned our thermal suits and headed out to the boat. With the sun falling below the huge mountains, the landscape took on a pink hue – a true sense of calm and serenity. But today there would be no whales, despite the skipper’s best efforts.

Instead it was a mad dash to the coach. With no thermal suit now, the wind cut through thermals, three layers of jumpers and a thick winter coat as if I was just in that bikini again.

It was hard to believe just how much warmth those suits provided.

As we boarded our plane again, midnight was approaching. And there they were, the sun and the moon – side by side, just above the horizon. As those behind made their best attempts not to bang into the idiot who had suddenly stopped in front of them (me, in case you were wondering) I did not care. This was totally breath-taking. Granted, I have seen many other amazing sights since. But this was definitely where it all began.

But it did not end there, of course. Minutes later, and glancing out of the window of the plane, it was clear things had changed.

“Night” had ended and it was once again daybreak. The sun and the moon had switched places. Brilliant stuff.

And so to just one final impressive adventure in the morning – the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon.

I had never seen icebergs so close before. Reaching out, it was possible to touch them – unbelievable.

It was an amazing end to a fabulous few days. Action-packed, granted – but if shopping and eating out is more to your taste, I would not suggest Iceland as your destination of choice, unless you have an open chequebook. (Don’t get me wrong; the shops and the food are both lovely – but expensive.)

This had certainly whetted my appetite for exploration and adventure, though. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Andrea Powell is owner and managing director of Idelo Travel in Ipswich. Contact: 01473 231181.

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