Yes, that’s right.
The “beast of the east” hit the U.K. bringing with it snow like we haven’t seen for years (I’ve never seen snow like it in the almost 5 years we’ve lived in Somerset!) and of course, we head off to Iceland.. where there was only snow on the mountains or the empty, vast expanses of undisturbed countryside. We also had the most incredible, beautiful blue skied weather the entire time we were away. We were lucky!
We were extra lucky as well in that the day after our arrival was sunny, warm and there was NO icey wind! We had this day free (Northern Lights Tour being in the evening) and so walked for miles and miles exploring Reykjavik which we couldn’t have done if the wind had picked up and frozen us through (like it did many other days on tours!)
I also feel the need to mention that – my worries over communication barriers (due to being pregnant in case anything happened!) were completely stupid and unfounded. Icelanders speak better English than most English people.
Tap water is readily available pretty much everywhere as the water – obviously – is so pure and clean there. That was quite ideal for keeping costs down (that and the tip of taking out your own snacks (crisps, biscuits etc!) and the good old British way of sneaking a sandwich away at breakfast.. although when you hear the price of breakfast, at our hotel you won’t feel guilty!)
I booked the entire holiday through IcelandAir (selecting the “Northern Lights & Golden Circle Tour) for frankly not a bad price – with the exception of the Blue Lagoon experience as I could clearly see that as working out cheaper by booking directly with Blue Lagoon. Iceland is known for being expensive – and once you get there, it really is, but to be honest I thought the price of everything included for 5.5 days was quite reasonable.. it’s just when you get there you need to watch out! Tips below 🙃
I’d also like to just quickly add that the most popular form of travel for holiday-makers is coach. All absolutely fine (if a little random at times; small mini bus to pick you up from hotels, then get onto a coach at the bus station, but coach drops you back at hotels…🤔😂) however we all know some people are just assholes 🤣
So, as per, I’ll review by day/restaurant/trip/hotel. FYI we stayed in Reykjavik.
Iceland Air Hotel Marina
Our hotel was the only option we had when it came to booking our package. I was a bit annoyed as when I’d looked previously I’d had a choice of four + to book, but it turned out, this was a lucky only choice! The hotel is ideally situated for pretty much everything! Lots of great restaurants to be found opposite on the harbourside, and only a short walk from the main shopping street; Laugavegur, which you’ll find more great restaurants off of as well…
It was also pretty cool and quirky inside, and the bar and restaurant inside (which I’ll review below), although expensive, seemed to be quite the place to be on a Friday night!
Something we also thought was really cool and clever at this hotel, was the option to hang a “no room clean” card on your door handle. You’d then be credited back a 750ISK (roughly £5, so not a lot when you see the prices, but better than nothing and a good idea!) voucher to use within the hotel restaurant/bar. Presumably you can put these towards breakfast too but we stupidly didn’t collect our vouchers until the second to last day.. 🤦🏽♀️
Mumma and bump by open fire in the hotel reception
Iceland Air Hotel Marina Bar/Restaurant
We ate here on the evening we arrived – purely because thanks to the UK’s snowmageddon we’d had a super long day travelling (needlessly as Heathrow saw ZERO snow 😂), I’d slept badly the night before, plus I’m pregnant so just ALWAYS tired apparently 🙄😂. Wow. We spent £95 in a flash on two beers, one non alcoholic cocktail, a shared starter (calamari: average), a burger (James was happy but I thought it average) and a lamb dinner (again, average!!). Yep – Iceland prices had hit, hard! So although lively and popular with Icelanders – I wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than using up your vouchers!
We also, stupidly, ate breakfast here most days. Stupidly because on days we didn’t have an early pick up – we could have gone elsewhere for half the price (literally) and a much better choice!! (See below when we visited Cafe Paris). Breakfast in the hotel was charged at 6,600ISK 😳 yep, that’s almost £50 for two people for a cold buffet option!!! If you mentioned you wanted to make/take a sandwich out, they’d charge you another few thousand ISK.. so just slyly wrap in a napkin and whisk away discreetly!!
Icelandic Fish and Chips 🥔 (can’t get the website to work!)
A recommendation by several friends who’ve previously visited Iceland! And a good one! Not entirely traditional – you get an option of fresh fish (battered) caught that day, and, as is the norm for Iceland, the “chips”* were crunchy new potatoes – which I’m normally not a fan of, but these (I chose the rosemary ones) were DELICIOUS! *much like the rest of the world, “fries” are what the U.K. (correctly 🤣🤣) calls chips… All served on a bed of salad of your choice (I chose mango, I’ve never seen mango like it, but it tasted amazing!). We really enjoyed this meal which was much better than the hotel, and almost a full £50 cheaper for the same amount of food and drinks 😳!! Highly recommend!
Northern Lights Tour
I think I am only now mentioning the time of year we travelled – early March – and purely because I *think* this is a really great time to see the Northern Lights. We were lucky to be fascinated by them for several hours in a couple of different locations, and from what we can tell from following our tour guide on Facebook, March (this year at least!) generally seems to be a good time to see them. Husband took some particularly fantastic pictures (my fav is below) on his Samsung phone – but I will advise that iPhones just WILL NOT capture the Aurora Borealis. Don’t rely on an iPhone if you want your own pictures!
What we also thought was brilliant, was that (for our tour guide at least!) any pictures he took (including ones with us in them, see below!) he put on Facebook the next day for free. FREE! And makes a point in telling his guests that they have “absolute bragging rights” to those photos!! I KNOW! You’d normally be ripped off a good £20 or so for images taken whilst on a trip etc!!
Your package for Northern Lights/Golden Circle Tour when booked through IcelandAir also includes free entry into the Aurora Borealis tourist centre which is really good, informative and with a GREAT room displaying many pictures from past Northern Lights experiences, so make sure you stop by! (We also particularly loved the pin-map of where visitors were from!!)
Adding our pin to the U.K.!
Golden Circle Tour
Really good tour, and includes a lot (although some of it a little random!). Biggest downside for me was that, booking through IcelandAir it was automatically set for us the day after our Northern Lights Tour. It’s quite a long day (remember I am pregnant!), with an early start after a late night return from the Northern Lights! Had I thought about it/twigged/noticed when booking I’d have switched some days around so that I wasn’t utterly exhausted by the end of it!
Onto the tour.. now, the slightly random part of it is the first stop – which they go on and on about, mostly talking about horses and this horse farm.. (I was dipping in and out of consciousness because 1) tired and 2) never fail to nod off briefly from the movement of a “car” 😂) only to get there and find.. 5 horses, but a HUGE tomato 🍅 farm… yeah, we were confused to.. presumably it’s a moneymaker as they sell produce from the farm (not just tomatoes 😂, but chutney, passata, pickles/oils etc. They also had a fresh food part where you could buy tomato soup, which I’ll admit did smell amazing but was super crazy expensive (1,100ISK (almost £8) for a 500g jar of passata…!)
Onto the next stop – and my favourite of the day, the live Geysir, named Strokkur which erupted every few minutes and was fascinating to watch.. (sorry about my annoying voice.. we had stood in the same spot earlier and watched without filming.. or getting drenched!)
Next stop was Gulfoss Waterfall, which was stunning to look at. Sadly due to the weather we couldn’t walk quite as far up to it as you can on other occasions, but we got some good pictures. One thing I will say here is that the wind was insane and pure ice sheets. Get all of your windproof warm layers on for here – I couldn’t feel my thighs at one point with three pairs of tights on (none windproof as none fit over the bump!). My picture is from the top, you can normally walk further up to the waterfall from the bottom.
Final stop was to the Pingvellir National Park where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart from each other (source). Here you also take a short walk (if you want!) up Kerið, a volcanic crater lake, with some further stunning views.
Höfnin Restaurant (Harbourside)
This one had us laughing. We liked the look of the menu so nipped here for dinner… James ordered the fish stew, and I ordered the vegetable lasagna (what did I say about carbs!!). We had to laugh because the waitress explained in detail the fish stew because apparently it is often not what people expect and so they’ve begun explaining it… what she didn’t explain was that the lasagne, although very yummy, was not lasagne, but ratatouille. We did laugh. On the flip side they had delicious bread and amazing butter (we think, having learnt from another restaurant, Skyr butter – I’m addicted!) and they even topped us up. I don’t think we’d return, but still far cheaper than the hotel!
😍 Information on their website states that the Blue Lagoon is perfectly safe for pregnant women.. from an additional Instagram stalk of the Blue Lagoon hashtag, I also saw another IVF-pregnant lady enjoying the Blue Lagoon a few weeks before we went out, at a few weeks less pregnant than I was. So I felt comfortable, even though the temperature is advertised as 37-40 degrees, like a hot tub which is not recommended for pregnant ladies.. as soon as I stepped in the water I knew it was fine. It was lovely and warm, and much like the sea there were some warmer spots – but I never felt uncomfortable or too hot. Probably because the air temperature your head is at is COLD ☃️🤣.
You HAVE to pre-book the Blue Lagoon online. Which is really simple to do. Only reason I didn’t book through Iceland Air is because as far as I could see I could get a better package (Premium Package) for less by booking direct with them. This also meant we had zero queues when we arrived with a bus load of other people – unexpected but very ideal!
I can only assume the pre-booking, alongside individual feelings of having had enough, is how they keep the Blue Lagoon from becoming overcrowded, because it didn’t feel overcrowded at any point – despite you not having a “get out” time, meaning really you could stay all day if you wanted! In all we spent about 1.5-2hours in the water. If you have the time, and can get a space, I found the lounger style deck chairs in the “relaxation area” super comfy and could easily have fallen asleep (a particularly loud snoring guy a few people down DID fall asleep which had a few of us in giggles 😂)
Bumpy and Mumma keeping warm!
Lava Restaurant @ Blue Lagoon
😍😍 I added this reservation to our booking based purely on the menu once again – and wasn’t disappointed! The food was INCREDIBLE (pictured, my mussels starter with more yummy crispy new potatoes; basically a main!), the restaurant beautiful and the service really lovely and friendly (our waitress offered to go out of her way when she realised I was pregnant but wanted the mussels as they were cooked in beer). Once again they had delicious bread with yummy “healthy!” Skyr butter which I can’t get enough of and we are planning to try and make this weekend! I even had a cheeky glass of sparkling wine which came free with the booking because it was SO delicious!
Lava Tunnel Tour
Added this onto our trip as a bit of a random added extra. I didn’t think a glacier typed walk would be sensible when pregnant, so this kind of felt like the next best thing, and it was kind of cool! I can’t really say too much without giving away, but if you’ve got some spare time you want to fill, I wouldn’t change having done it. More info here (we did the standard tour!). However I will mention that there was a lot of phallus looking icicles 🤣 which also reminds me that Iceland seemed to have a bit of a thing about phallus’ as there was a whole Phallus museum on the main shopping street in Reykjavik (we didn’t visit!!)
I just wanted to mention this restaurant which had been recommended but we didn’t make it to.. for a couple of reasons.. we left it until our last night.. faffed around despite being hungry and then headed over for 7.30pm.. only to find a note on the door saying they were shutting at 8pm that night.. 🤦🏽♀️ there was only one couple in the queue in front of us, so we waited in the queue anyway but after ten or so mins hadn’t moved.. I was hungry (🤰🏽) and frankly, didn’t feel like the fish that was on offer (baby LOVES carbs 😂) so we headed to below mentioned burger joint!
However – like I said, his had been heavily recommended to us as – although looking like a little tin shack – having fresh fish, caught that day, on offer. I have to say – it certainly all looked super fresh and very yummy and had I not by this point been ravenous for carbs, we’d have definitely stayed and eaten!
Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (beside hotel)
Website not helpful at all.. but basically this is the decent kind of “fast food”. Freshly prepared burgers served with chips (fries) or even sweet potato chips! Lots of different options and sauces, and basically for someone who was just craving some “dirty” food – this happily appeased my ever-growing belly! I’m actually hungry again just thinking about it!! 😋
Well, my biggest Iceland regret is not looking this up sooner thus enjoying better breakfasts for a better price here! We only visited on our last day but I’d highly recommend it for a cute venue, yummy menu (I needed to go back more days as there was several things I neeeeeded 🤤!)
We’d both certainly recommend looking around for breakfasts rather than getting ripped off at your hotel if you don’t already have it included!
Lastly – although I am not a beer drinker at the best of times (ever), and obviously wasn’t drinking at all due to #IVFBabyOnBoard (!) apparently the Icelandic beer is GOOD.
As always, feel free to ask any questions!