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Christmas in Iceland

18 October 2014

image from Christmas in Iceland

Living in London has given me the opportunity to travel to places I had never considered when I was back in Australia. Iceland was one such destination until couple of friends shared some photos from their trip to Reykjavik. All of a sudden Iceland was on my bucket list.

Another friend of mine in London shared the same desire to visit Iceland so we planned to visit over Christmas. It would be my first Christmas outside of Australia and I wanted to do something special. I had dreams of experiencing a white Christmas for the first time in my life.

Iceland Air offer holiday packages from London so we booked one that included flights, airport transfers, four nights hotel accommodation with breakfast and a Northern Lights excursion.

My friends had travelled to Iceland in autumn and there was tonnes of snow while they were there. I was expecting the same when we arrived in Reykjavik but to our surprise there was no snow on the ground at all. The chances of having a white Christmas were now looking pretty slim.

We were up early the following morning for an ATV tour, a quad bike ride on the Reykjanes peninsula. My friend and I shared an ATV and I nominated her to take the wheel first as I was feeling a bit apprehensive. There were some great views along the way but we were driving through some rough terrain so I was a bit worried about getting my camera out. We did stop after a little while so I got a chance to take some photos and then it was my turn to drive!

The ATV tour lasted about an hour, after which we headed to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Once we’d changed into our swimwear and stepped outside there was a mad dash to get out of the cold air and into the warm waters, where the temperature averages 37–39 °C.

The Blue Lagoon was definitely the highlight of the trip for me, we spent hours soaking in warm water. The whole complex is beautiful, the facilities are modern and spotlessly clean. There was an outdoor bar which meant you could enjoy drinks without leaving the water and free cleansing mud masks are provided in various areas around the lagoon.

The only (slight) downside is that while the minerals in the water are great for your skin, they aren’t so great for your hair. Shampoo and conditioner is provided in the showers at the Blue Lagoon but even after using these my hair still felt a bit yuck and was terribly knotty. Both my friend and I ended up giving our hair another wash once we got back to the hotel.

Later that evening we had our Northern Lights excursion. The company who operates the tour will check the forecasts and take you to a location they predict will have the best viewing opportunities. Unfortunately on this night there was too much cloud cover and we did not get to see the Northern Lights although I did take a few long exposure shots though while we were waiting around in the cold.

The following day we took a tour of the Golden Circle, a popular tourist route in South Iceland. The three main stops on this route are Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir National Park and Geysir geothermal area. We also saw Skálholt Church and a volcanic crater lake. This tour really highlighted Iceland’s natural beauty.

Most tours didn’t operate on Christmas Day so we took the opportunity to explore Reykjavik on foot.

Since there were no Northern Lights sightings on our previous attempt, the tour operators gave us the option of joining another tour for free. On Christmas night we set out once again to a different location in hopes of seeing the light show, but sadly it wasn’t to be. Again, we entertained ourselves with some more lightpainting shots.

I am really keen to return to Iceland again at some point, perhaps on a self driving trip next time to see more of what the country has to offer. I’m also now more determined than ever to see those elusive Northern Lights!

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