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The Northern Lights – Amazing Adventures

So, on to the main event. We sat down a few years ago and wrote our own bucket lists. We have tried over the past few years to cross off as much as we could – or at least plan opportunities to do so. My husband has been very determined, and especially as he is also coming up to the big 30 (see previous post on turning 30 and planning achievable goals) has been hammering his. Mine have ranged from the sublime to the absolute ridiculous, but one goal we both had in common was to see the northern lights.
We knew that catching even a glimpse of the aurora was not going to be a sure thing, and made sure that our expectations were kept to a minimum. However, with the greatest will in the world, that’s easier said than done.
There are hundreds of tour companies offering tours of all shapes and sizes – plus, there is the option of hiring a car and going solo. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this option though, unless you’re a meteorology expert…or a psychic. Tour guides (generally) are the experts, and we were so extremely lucky to see what we did.
Tours were cancelled on the day we arrived due to cloud.
Most tour companies offer the opportunity to book onto the following night’s tour if yours is cancelled, so I strongly recommend booking your tour for the first night you arrive. You can also check the aurora forecast online, which helped us to manage our expectations up to a week before arriving.
We were told on the second night that we had 50/50 chance of seeing something, so tours went ahead. We had decided to book through Amazing Tours Iceland, who picked us up from our apartment in, what can only be described as a monster truck. We travelled in cohort with three other vehicles and our driver was fantastic. We left Reykjavik at 9.00pm and drove for approximately 90 minutes towards Vesturland, where there was a break in cloud and the only possibility of seeing the northern lights. However, hope faded slightly as we ventured further and further into the wilderness.
Shortly before 10.30pm, as luck would have it, the aurora appeared above us, dancing away.

 

Now. I have to say, it was not exactly what we expected. No bright colours, or powerful glow. I hope nobody thinks less of me for saying this, but I did half expect the northern lights scene from ‘The Snowman’. Alas, there was no dance of the snowmen. The aurora did reappear stronger and stronger in all different shapes and sizes and our driver did take photographs of all of us with his incredible camera, which showed the lights in all its glory – even if that wasn’t what we could see with the naked eye. I will warn you, to capture the aurora effectively, you will need some hefty photographic equipment. Maybe, as we had a fairly cloudy evening, it was extra difficult to take effective photographs. The team at Amazing Tours took some incredible footage, which they shared with us all for free via their Facebook page the following day. They are also keen to send high resolution copies to you directly on request – a good touch. Our driver was a professional photographer of the northern lights, therefore has a vested interest in finding them every night. This, we felt, gave us the upper hand in our chase, compared to the bigger operators in larger coaches.
The finale of mother nature’s natural light display was, by far, the best. The brightest, most colourful beam yet, danced and floated on the spot above us, like a mermaid’s tail, before disappearing for good.

 

An incredible experience, one we will never forget, we were lucky to see and has left us wanting more. Amazing Tours gave us the personal experience and expertise that we wanted, ensuring that if there was even the slightest opportunity to see the aurora, they would find it. Speaking to others, who had chosen the bigger tour companies, they had not been so lucky. The tours were cancelled again the following night.
The Magical Northern Lights from Amazing Tours cost 22.000ISK per person for approximately 4 hours. Pick up is from your hotel/apartment and if conditions are not right, tours are rescheduled for another night.

A Festive Adventure in Reykjavik – Part One

Iceland, and all it has to offer, features on many a bucket list. We decided that it was about time to cross it off of ours! With its cinematic landscapes and natural wonders aplenty, planning our trip was not a challenge.

Day one:

On arrival at Keflavik International, we jumped on a transfer to Reykjavic with Reykjavik Excursions. Super easy and free wifi.

Once we’d check in at our apartments, snow boots and thermals on, we were off. Sadly our northern lights trip was cancelled, due to cloud, but we were able to book onto tomorrow night’s trip – free of charge.

Now, I’m a sucker for Christmas lights, so Reykjavik in all it’s magical Scandinavian beauty, did not disappoint! I will be searching for the stars in every window for the next three days.
We stayed at the Rey apartments, in the heart of Reykjavik’s main shopping and eating district. Most of the streets are either pedestrianised, or traffic is slowed to an almost walking pace. As daylight in December is limited, we arrived around 4.00pm in darkness, so we scrapped some of our afternoon plans, in place of my favourite city break pass times – wandering around in any old direction.

Since a tiny age, for some unknown reason, I have been obsessed with puffins. Therefore, I was in heaven, this truly is puffin land. I have never felt the need to purchase a carved, wooden backscratcher – however one with a puffin on the end? Just what I’ve always wanted.

We ate at Sólon Bistro, where a burger and chips will set you back about £11 – fairly reasonable. Luckily, we caught the end of happy hour, so the beer wasn’t too bad either.

Day two:

Today was all about experiencing the blue lagoon. Now a lot has been said about how ‘commercialised’ and busy the blue lagoon is, but it’s one of those places that you need to make your own mind up about.

We wandered to the very cool Reykjavik Roasters to grab a quick bite and flat white, before heading to  the iconic Hallgrimskirkja – The white concrete church, named after the poet Reverent Hallgrimur Pétursson. As sun rise was not until 11.21am, we took the lift to the tower (1600ikr) and looked out over the beautiful lights of the city.

We booked our transport to the Blue Lagoon through Reykjavik Excursions and were at our  in an hour. It was, as expected, extremely busy and the changing rooms were full. I had read about an expectation of ‘showering in your birthday suit’, and I’ve got to say, it kept me awake slightly during the night. Luckily though, there were cubicles with doors, and no scary scandernavian woman watching over you with a cane (as several tripadvisor reviews made out). I did however struggle with the lockers, which locked when you pressed your wristband over a sensor. I managed to pick a locker that didn’t shut properly and had to ask a poor old lady to hold the door shut while I reached over to the sensor.

Once through the shower section, we decided to hang our robes and towels outside. This was a stupid decision. It was snowing. There are a number of hooks inside, where your robe and towel will stay nice and warm – although don’t automatically expect to take the exact same towel when you get out – there seemed to be a slight pass the towel around situation going on.

With the package we bought, we were entitled to a free drink from the lagoon bar, which is redeemable with your electronic wrist band. I’ve got to say, I loved it! I had read scathing reviews of the whole experienced ruined by factories in the background and huge crowds. The website was very honest about the building work taking place, but even that did not spoil it for us. The steam, teamed with the blizzard we found ourself in, meant it was hard to see three metres in front of our faces. Selfie-stick-dicks were few and far between, and the novelty of sipping an ice cold beer, in a hot lagoon, in the middle of a snow storm did not wear off.

The only downside? The changing rooms stressed me out, but that’s more of a weird me thing. They were very clean, spacious and stocked with cotton pads and buds, hair dryers and every other ammenity you could need in that situation. Also, shock horror, the price of the food (gasp). We were pretty starving after a couple of hours bobbing with a beer, but a sandwich each, packet of crisps and drinks for £25? Come on.

Northern lights tour and Golden Circle to follow…

Return flights from London Gatwick on (the very impressive) WOW Air were £170pp.
3 nights stay at Rey Apartments, Reykavik – £298