[Iceland] Iceland must have existed in many people’s bucket list, and one of the main reasons why travellers head there is for the Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis.
To be honest, I wasn’t that prepared for Iceland, whether it is terms of weather, information, cost or disappointments.
So reminder to you is: Do your homework.
When my friends heard that I actually went to Iceland (more in IG stories), the most common questions were, “Where do I change money”, “Are things THAT expensive there”, and “What’s there to eat?” (But of course.)
Quick answers to those are: No money changers in Singapore (at least those I asked) have Icelandic currencies – change to Euros first then get the currency at another European country; Food is expensive, generally about 2 to 3 times that of Singapore (1.5 to 2 times of US); Fish and Chips>
In terms of food, there’s also Icelandic Plokkari, tomato ice cream, lamb, hotdogs, rye bread (usually with smoked fish) and Skyr – that famous “yogurt”.
To give you an indication, a simple plate of Fish and Chips in Reykjavík, Iceland can be about USD15-25 (SGD20-33).
And yes, do reach the airport early enough before departure. Otherwise, you could meet a single looooooong line like mine, added with a heart-thumping mad-rush for the plane.
Iceland is a Nordic island that lies just south of the North Pole, and its proximity to the Arctic Circle provides stunningly unique landscapes that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
You can explore raging waterfalls, vast black-sand beaches, and exploding water spouts.
Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
Tel: +345 420 8800
Opening Hours: 8am – 10pm (1 Jan – 24 May), 7am – 11pm (25 May – 28 Jun), 7am – Midnight (29 Jun – 19 Aug), 8am – 10pm (20 Aug – 1 Oct), 8am – 9pm (2 Oct – 31 Dec)
One of the official 25 wonders of the world
You may have seen those viral INSIDER videos – those beauty masks are true. It is also true that you can be in the waters while sipping on sweet sangrinis while overlooking the breathtaking landscape. I had a blue-coloured drink.
So here’s the tip: There are a couple of masks, but only one is provided FREE. That is good enough for me. Put on the mask, washed it off in the water, feel so good about yourself, repeat.
The Blue Lagoon is an all-inclusive spa-centered around steaming geothermal hot tubs. The brilliant blue water caused from organic silica, algae, and minerals can supposedly help soothe sore and irritated skin.
There are various spa amenities, such as silica mud masks, sauna rooms, steam baths, and an indoor waterfall.
Next tip: Leave the conditioner IN YOUR HAIR before you enter the water, otherwise it will turn into a mess like tangled dry rope.
Several opportunities for selfies. However, DO NOT think you can hold on to your phone without accidentally dropping it into the water. Get a water-proof protector which you can hang around the neck.
If you get hungry during your day of luxury, The Blue Lagoon offers many differing dining options. You can enjoy contemporary Icelandic dishes from the LAVA restaurant, fresh sushi made in-house at the Blue Café, or swim up to the Lagoon Bar and order yourself a drink.
A basic admission ticket is ISK 6990 (USD67, SGD90) though.
Laekjargata, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Opening Hours: 24/7 Year-Round
Explore three national landmarks on one route
The Golden Circle is a road that connects three natural tourist attractions: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss. The path is 237 kilometers long and takes around 3.5 hours to drive (excluding time spent at each location).
The National Park has been recognized as Iceland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site.
You will find fields of dried magma, springs formed by years of glacial movement, and mountains jutting sharply in the distance. Snorkerllers and scuba divers can explore the cool blue waters that rest between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
At Geysir, you will explore geothermal water spouts and mud pits, while at Gulfoss, you can experience vast waterfalls and deep canyons.
Traveling the Golden Circle on your own is always free. However, there are many guides and tours that you can take.
They often provide activities, tips, and access to lesser-known areas of each location. Most areas also have locations where food or drink can be purchased.
801 Selfoss, Iceland
Tel: +354 486 6500
Opening Hours: Waterfall open 24/7; Restaurant open 10:00am – 7:00pm Daily
Explore waterfalls and canyons in one trip
Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Waterfall, is a tremendously beautiful waterfall that cascades down through the air for over 32 meters.
The water lands into a canyon 70 meters deep, emitting enough mist to create a brilliant rainbow that spans from one side of the falls to the other.
You will find many different areas for photographing the scenery, purchasing souvenirs, or even snowmobiling if the weather permits.
There are traditional Icelandic shops around which offer touristy food at touristy prices such as soups, freshly chopped salads, and several different styles of sandwiches.
36 Haukadalsvegur, Geysir, Iceland
Tel: +354 585 4300
Opening Hours: 24/7 Year-Round
Watch a 30 meter tall water spout erupt every 10 minutes
Geysir Hot Springs features boiling mud pits, small water pools, and a behemoth geyser known as Strokkur.
It erupts often, typically every 5-10 minutes, and emits a 30 meter tall spout of water into the air.
You can enjoy this spectacle with a tour group, as a stop on the Golden Circle, or simply on your own. I was with a group of Japanese tourists, so you can imagine the collection “oooooohhhhh” as the water shoots in the air, least when you expect it.
While you are there, check out the smaller geysers that erupt across a 500 meter long strip of land.
Visiting Geysir is always free. For more information, stop by the newly opened Geysir Center. It offers many different exhibits and presentations pertaining to Iceland’s natural Geysir formations year-round.
Route 215, Vik, Iceland
Tel: + N/A
Opening Hours: 24/7 Year-Round
Explore the world’s most beautiful black-sand beach
Reynisfjara beach has long been considered the world’s most famous non-tropical black-sand beach.
Huge waves, sometimes called “sneaker waves,” crash against the shore in cold, roaring bursts.
You can also explore one of the area’s many caves, waterfalls, and white rock walls. Large pillars of rock stand guard in the distance while visitors pick through the smooth pebbles beneath their feet.
Anyone can visit Reynisfjara for free every single day of the year. However, visitors are advised to stay at least 30 meters away from the water’s edge at all times due to the sneaker waves that randomly rush across the beach.
For a light lunch or coffee to warm you up, visit Black Beach Restaurant right down the road, and can also grab desserts, such as cake, waffles, or ice cream. Most meals are under USD20, while smaller items can be purchased at the rate of USD10 or less.
Northern Lights of Iceland
Secluded locations across the country
Tel: +354 585 4300
Opening Hours: Nightly (early September – late April)
Watch ribbons of vivid colors dance across the night sky
The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are a must-see Icelandic landmark. Bright bursts of neon green, yellow, pink, and purple ribbons dance across the sky sporadically, attracting thousands of visitors per year.
The phenomenon occurs naturally between September to April when the night skies are the darkest; however, some claim that visiting between November-February increases the chance of catching a glimpse.
Visiting the Northern Lights is always free, but you need the right vehicle to cut through potential snow along the trail and insulated clothes to keep you warm. You can also utilize guided tours, which last between a single day and an entire week. They feature adequate equipment, activities, and expert guides who can quickly lead you to an area where you are most likely to spot the Aurora Borealis.
And so… even though I booked a 5-day tour, this is a stock photo, and I didn’t get to see the Northern Lights in the end. Part of it was due to the weather, part of it the group felt that the tour was not that well-organised (but I won’t go into that).
You can imagine the disappointment, after saving up and travelling for so many hours just to get to the spot. But I figured I could try one more round this lifetime.
Some of the members in my tour were retirees who went ”This is it”, and then that is when you feel the fragility of life.
So if this is what you really want to see this lifetime, do not wait till the chance slips you by.
Reykholti, Bláskógabyggð, IS- 801 Selfoss
Tel: +354 486 8894
Opening Hours: 12pm – 6pm (Mon – Sun)
The world’s first all-tomato restaurant!
On to some food. Frōheimar has become one of Iceland’s most iconic restaurants since opening in 1995—and it is located right inside a greenhouse.
Despite the sometimes dark and cold Icelandic winters, the restaurant still produces 370 tons of tomatoes per year, which comes out at over 1 ton a day.
They use four varieties of the hand-grown produce in every single dish, every single day. You can even purchase tomatoes by the pound or in freshly-made tomato sauce right from the on-site souvenir store.
It was quite the experience dining in the greenhouse with tomatoes growing all around. There are a couple of main courses: the famous Frioheimar tomato soup, fresh ravioli pasta, and grilled cheesy tomato tortillas. All of these can be enjoyed for USD25 or less.
Owners Knutur and Helena have even expanded the grounds to include horses and horse shows in 14 different languages.
Reykjavík Fish Restaurant
Tryggvagötu 8, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Tel: +354 578 5656
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Mon-Sun)
Enjoy fresh Icelandic fish straight from the harbour every day
Open every day, Reykjavík Fish sits right on the edge of a bustling harbour. Grab a window seat and watch the fishermen pull in fish by the pounds while you wait.
In fact, these are the very fish that Reykjavík Fish serves in their restaurant every day.
There are many Fish and Chip shops around Reykjavík. Reykjavík Fish offers a variety of dinner options, from standard fish and chips to traditional Icelandic Plokkari.
Other options include vegetable lasagna, chicken and chips, fish burgers, steamed mussels, and various baked fish fillets. Larger meals that include chips or salads cost between USD19-29. Smaller options, such as salads or soups, run between USD13 – 17.
Kárastígur 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Tel: +354 517 5535
Opening Hours: 8am – 6pm (Mon – Fri), 9am – 5pm (Sat – Sun)
Locally roasted coffee with hipster vibes
Reykjavík Roasters first opened its doors in 2008 under the name Kaffismiðja Íslands. In 2013, the company underwent a transformation and re-opened as the brand many Icelanders know and love today.
They have even expanded to include a small brew bar in a separate location. However, all coffee bean roasting occurs daily at the original cafe in Reykjavík.
Reykjavík Roasters offers a variety of drinks, such as an espresso, macchiato, cortado, or cappuccino, for under USD6. You can also purchase whole bags of coffee, typically between USD18-50 depending on size.
Complex items like lattes or blended drinks cost between USD7-10. For snacks or small sandwiches, expect to spend between USD5-10.
Noodle Station at Reykjavík
Laugavegur 103, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Tel: +354 551 3198
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Mon-Fri), 12pm – 10pm (Sat-Sun)
Enjoy authentic Thai cuisine right in the heart of Reykjavík
I included this place because many of my Singaporean friends crave for Asian food badly in Iceland. This was a friend’s recommendation, and it worked out well.
The Noodle Station opened in 2009 and quickly became one of the most popular restaurants in Reykjavík. So popular, in fact, that they opened two additional locations over the past few years.
The Thai-born owner Charin Thaiprasert uses top-secret recipes passed down from his grandmother to create each dish.
You can choose from beef, chicken, or vegetarian style noodles with the option to customize each bowl with garnishes of your choice. The beef and chicken style noodles cost USD17 for both lunch and dinner.
If you are a fan of wholesome flavors and hot piping soup, then you will enjoy dining at the Noodle Station.