An adventurous weekend in Iceland

Back in November we jetted off to Iceland for a long weekend for Olly's 40th birthday so we could tick something off his bucket list. Here's what we got up to on a rather adventurous long weekend in the land of fire and ice.

We flew to Reykavik on the Friday, leaving Heathrow at 7.55am and landing at 10.55am. An early start but it did give us pretty much a full day to explore. (We stayed much longer on our first visit to Iceland and did the more obvious touristy things that time round.) The flight was decent enough and we cleared customs and got our luggage pretty swiftly. It did, however, take a lot longer to queue up to get our hire car. Which always seems to be the way!

Now, I will say, think carefully about whether you want to drive or not in Iceland - we didn't last time round because it was properly winter and we saw lots of cars tipped at the side of the road, stuck in banks of snow. It was pretty bad driving conditions when we were doing our various excursions that time. But! This time it was quite mild for the start of November (temperatures hovered around 0°C, with a feels like temperature of a few degrees below zero), and we didn't have snow on the cards. Also, taxis in Iceland are super expensive, so bear that in mind.

Whilst we didn't have bad weather to contend with, thank goodness, we did have something else... In the weeks leading up to our trip there were earthquakes aplenty happening in the area we were going to be in, with the risk of a volcanic uprising occurring in the Rekjaynes Peninsula. In fact, our first port of call was the town of Grindavik which, after our trip, was impacted quite a lot by volcanic eruptions. Yep, they happened. We were able to head off-road to take in the scenery - which included shipwrecks, lighthouses, and a lot of sheep - at the moment this is all, understandably, out of bounds.

From there we continued on our way to the town of Stokkseyri for lunch at Fjöruborðið, which is famous for its langoustines and 'magic soup'. I had a large portion of the soup - very delicious - whilst Olly had a smaller portion, followed by their langoustine tails and a slice of cake. All yum, but quite pricey. Refuelled, we drove to the nearby Lava Tunnel at Raufarhólshellir (pictured above), where we donned our hard hats to explore the fourth largest lava tunnel in the country. Tickets cost 14800ISK (£44 each), and we spent a fascinating hour exploring the 5,200 year old tunnel with a guide. 

Our next stop was our hotel, the rather trendy and cute Greenhouse Hotel in the town of Hveragerði (above) which we were major fans of. Plus it was super cheap, for Iceland: £474 for 3 nights, and £6 for a glass of nice wine at their bar's happy hour. So I would highly recommend this hotel if you're planning your own adventurous weekend in Iceland. Over the road from the hotel is a supermarket - we'd actually stopped off there in 2019 on our Golden Circle adventure - and a reasonable pizza place, Hofland Eatery, which is where we headed for dinner.

The next day was the big event, Olly's birthday! After a quick pastry at our hotel, we were on our way to Thingvellir (Þingvellir) national park, home to the oldest parliament in the world, but also where the Eurasian tectonic plate meets the North American plate. And that's why we were there - after a quick wander (we did the park previously; again, on the Golden Circle tour), we were there to tick off Olly's bucket list activity: snorkelling between the tectonic plates in the Silfra Fissure. 

I must confess, I was very apprehensive about this when we booked it... I needn't have been. Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable as you need to be strapped up around the neck and wrists to prevent water from leaking into your drysuit - but it was totally worth to snorkel in the crystal clear waters. The water is around 2°C all year round, but you wear your own thermals, then get given extra thermals and a drysuit to keep you warm. A bit of water did get in around my neck and in my gloves but it wasn't too bad. Worth it to snorkel between the plates! We booked with Troll Expeditions, which cost us 43800ISK (£132 each), and I'd highly recommend the company. Veronica, our guide, was excellent, and took some great shots of us. I feel I look like a James Bond spy! 

After a cup of hot chocolate and snack back in our clothes - we still had wet hair under our beanies - we made a quick stop at Þórufoss, a waterfall that you might recognise from Game of Thrones, before it was back to the hotel for a celebratory birthday glass of champagne. And a hot shower! Later that evening we headed over the road for dinner at Hotel Ork's HVER restaurant, followed by drinks again at our hotel's trendy bar. We spent a lot of time there when we weren't been adventurous!

The next morning we had a two-hour buggy adventure tour booked nearby, and we had an amazing time exploring old lava fields, driving over rocks and moss, and splashing through streams. It's not the cheapest activity - it cost us 59800ISK, in total; £178 each - but it was so much fun. And afterwards we had a quick explore next to the lodge, which is right in the geothermal area of Hveradalir. Worth a mooch to see the bubbling springs, mud and steam. 

Lunch beckoned, which we had back at the hotel, and that's because our hotel also had a street food hall. We enjoyed some fab tacos and nachos, which refuelled us to tackle our next adventure, a hike to the Reykjadalur hot springs. The hike startes just on the outskirts of Hveragerdi, the town where we were staying, and there's a handy car park at the start of the trial. Google "Reykjadalur Skáli" if you're doing the hike.

The hike is totally worth it, and the scenery is stunning. We trekked uphill for about an hour to reach the hot river that is the Reykjadalur hot springs. There you'll find open partitions to strip off in the icy conditions - it was so windy! - before you launch yourself into the warm waters of the river. That part was most enjoyable, chilling out in the warmth, though our faces did get rather cold. Less enjoyable was having to brave the weather and get out to get dry and dressed in the open elements. Worth it though. And coming down was a bit quicker - it took us around 45 minutes to get back to the car. 

Dinner that night was at Olverk Pizza & Brewery - a five-minute walk from the hotel - followed by drinks at the hotel bar. Yes, again! But, we were also on Northern lights watch as the forecast was looking decent. Sadly it was too cloudy to see them; thankfully, we did see them on our previous adventure in Iceland, so we weren't too sad. And also because we needed to be up and away by 8am to make the 80-minute drive back to the airport so were quite happy to end our Icelandic adventure with a decent night's sleep. 

Quite the birthday celebration! Is Iceland on your bucket list? x

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