Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Reykjavik Holiday: Days 1 & 2

Honestly my friends, you are very lucky I came back from my beautiful holiday to Reykjavik in Iceland. Have you ever been? It's so beautiful there- especially with the snow. Apparently there was a big snowstorm the day before we arrived so when we did arrive, it was just as the sun was coming up, and the snow was freshly laid and sparkly. The view from the plane was pretty spectacular coming in. 
The first day was a very long one, having got up at 4am to get to the airport. We flew in to Keflavik and took a coach ride to Reykjavik before checking in to our hotel and going through the usual hotel routines- open all drawers and cupboards, turn kettle on, have first mug of instant coffee (or tea in my friend's case), work out the Wifi... Does anyone else do that? It's almost like a holiday ritual. 
We had been booked on a Northern Lights tour that evening, and were picked up at 9pm along with all of the other well wrapped tourists. It's not guaranteed that you will see the lights so we were very lucky! After about an hour of waiting, things began to happen in the black, starry sky and we saw the lights!!

Funnily enough, they look absolutely nothing like these photos. The cool thing (or one of many cool things) is that the brilliant colour you see in these images only appears through a camera lens. In real life they are more of a light greenish, tinged white, moving cloud. The colour is where the solar wind reacts with the oxygen and nitrogen in the sky- if I remember rightly- but the intense colour only comes through the camera.

The lights are a little unpredictable and may not appear for very long. These lasted about twenty minutes and by the time we had journeyed back to the hotel it was 2am! 22 hours up and about!

The following day was stuffed full of amazing sights and long coach journeys. We were up relatively early considering our previous long day. First stop Thingvellir National Park, an area of outstanding beauty! The sun is visible from about 11am - 3pm so by the time we got anywhere the sun was coming up which made for the most amazing lighting. It never really got high up in the sky so there was always a kind of golden glow. At some points on the journey here, all we could see was white snow. The population of Iceland is less than the population of Manchester so I'm told, and there are just miles of un-populated, snow covered land stretching in all directions.

See how beautiful it is? The frozen lakes, snow dusted evergreen trees, sweet little houses and a picture perfect chapel. It was like constantly gazing into a postcard. Of course, what you can't see is the bitter wind and freezing temperatures. I wore two hats, two scarfs, two pairs of socks, thermal shirts and leggings, gloves...it was super cold!

Second stop, the Geyser geothermal area, complete with bubbling hot springs and the very active Strokkur, the most active geyser in Iceland. It shoots water up nearly every ten minutes, which involves quite funny scenes of tourists all standing frozen around the spout hole with their cameras and phones poised and ready. It's a surprise every time it explodes!

And third stop, Gullfoss waterfall. By this point it was about 3.30pm so the sun had set, but there are approximately two hours of twilight either side of sunrise and sunset so it doesn't get dark straight away. There were some amazing sunrises this holiday.

So much water!! We didn't stay all that long at the waterfall because it was super cold by this point and we couldn't get much closer than this. Impressive though huh?
The way home was a little stressful as the weather had turned nasty over the roads back to Reykjavik. We were about an hour and a half away in the countryside and although the weather wasn't obviously awful where we were, the two main roads back into the city had been closed by the time we reached them. It's part of a preventative system they have to avoid accidents and allow for the roads to reopen as soon as the weather has cleared up. This left us with the third, loooong way around which was also still a little iffy. One coach had already got in trouble and slid off the road (no one was hurt and other coaches rescued the passengers- they all pull together in times of need), and the smaller cars were sliding around all over the shop. It took us 4 hours to get back to the hotel, so much excitement.

Do join me again for my next post about the remaining holiday days!

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