After an immense dinner at Forettabarinn the night before and a day of excursions, we had some great news to wake up to. After three nights in a row of cancellations, our Northern Lights tour was definitely on tonight and when we looked out the window we could see why.
Finally we had a clear sky (ish!). This was the view from our room and if it wasn’t so cold, I could have sat on that balcony all day watching the boats come and go. So if you do ever stay at the Icelandair Marina Hotel try to request a harbour side room.
We didn’t venture too far and took the day to explore Reykjavik. In the harbour part of town there were museums galore, and we started off in Whales of Iceland. An impressive exhibition in a huge space (think big yellow self storage company size) which featured scale models of whales that can be found in and around the waters of Iceland and the Antarctic. As January is a quiet time tourist wise, we were pretty much on our own inside, which I found quite eerie because of all the whale song floating around. But it was an awesome exhibition and I’d imagine Mini would love it! Lots of fun facts and really interactive displays which we spent a lot of time reading and learning a bit more about whales and different dolphins.
Once we’d gone around this exhibition, we walked 10 minutes up the road to the Aurora Reykjavik which is designed to teach you more about the Northern Lights. How they occur, where you can see them and what ancient beliefs were held around them. Turns out they’re pretty much a symbol of fertility in all the counties they can be seen from.
It’s another interactive museum and has a pitch dark room where a 15 minute video plays showing the Northern Lights across the world. We checked the forecast for that night and the magnetic activity was showing as a 2, which isn’t great on a scale of 0-9 but apparently that’s the most common forecast so tour companies will always head out for a 2 upwards.
Right next door to Aurora was the Saga Museum which depicted the story of the sagas of the ancient settlers in Iceland and the vikings.
And naturally, Daddy Hustle embraces his inner Viking at the dress up box in reception
This would be a great place for older kids, maybe 7 or 8 upwards as it can be quite gory. You are given an audio guide and follow wax work scenes from the first settlers up to the Middle Ages, through the religious reformations and Viking invasions. The wax works are incredible and this was probably my favourite museum that we visited.
We’d started to build up an appetite and Daddy Hustle had looked up a place called Icelandic Street Food which was about a mile away from the harbour, in main Reykjavik.
We took a walk up to the Cathedral and headed in search of good grub!
We didn’t actually go inside because it was the first place all weekend we’d actually seen a queue and we were starving!
On arrival at Icelandic Street Food, we were told to find a seat and grab a macaroon from the counter while we made our decisions on what to eat. It was a very short menu, lamb soup, fish soup or intriguingly named “fisherman’s favourite”. But your decision didn’t matter anyway, because this place is all you can eat. Mr Hustle took it as a personal mission to try everything on the menu – and liked it all. Since I don’t eat fish, I stuck to the lamb soup. It. Was. Incredible.
rolled walked back to the hotel and got ourselves ready (and layered up) to be picked up by the coach at 9pm to go Northern Lights hunting.
The coach was rammed. Our tour guide explained that because of all the cancellations these last few days, their company alone had 14 full coaches out tonight. In fact, our coach was so full it ended up leaving people behind at the next pick up point (they were picked up by another coach shortly after).
We headed off back to Thingvellir where we did part of our Golden Circle tour as it’s out in the country side and completely pitch black. It’s so dark, that in the distance all you could see were clusters of orange in the distance, light pollution from other towns miles away.
It was freezing. If you are going on a Northern Lights tour, dress warm. I had two T-shirt’s, a jumper, a down coat, leggings and jeans on. I just wish I’d worn 4 pairs of socks. You are literally plonked in the country side with nothing around you. You’re encouraged to not go back to the coaches because of letting the warmth out. The coach engines are off and all lights are off. You are also asked not to use any torches as your eyes need complete darkness to see the Aurora.
Over a miniature bottle of brandy, we started talking to another couple whose friends were on a hunt with a different company and had sent a picture of what they’d seen. We were quietly confident that some Aurora action would come our way.
Lo and behold, 30 minutes later, a haze came over the sky and there she was. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t like you see in photos. It looked like the sky had gone cloudy. But through a lens, the familiar green glow shone through. My photos are horrendous, I only had my iPhone and used an app called Northern Lights Camera which changed the shutter speed but the iso was still too low so it’s very blurry.
But it’s there! Once the photos were taken I was desperate to get back on the coach, and after an hour’s trip back to Reykjavik my hands were still numb.
We got back to Reykjavik at around 1am and climbed in to bed. We were leaving the next day but not until the evening.
When we finally surfaced we’d missed breakfast, but were just in time to check out. After leaving our bags in reception, we headed back in to Reykjavik in search of more food and more places to explore.
We had breakfast (and the cheapest thing we’d eaten all weekend) at Le KocK and meandered in to town.
Our first stop was Reykjavik Art Museum which is in an amazing converted prison. And had a great exhibition by Erro, we love street art and urban art so this was a cool exhibition to take in.
In the time we’d been inside a crazy snow storm had blown up. The main town is so close to the harbour there’s no way to escape the wind and it wasn’t very pleasant to be walking around in.
We took shelter in a pub and hunkered down with some good music and great bartenders. Always on the hunt for good food – and wanting a lasting memory of Iceland, we took the bartenders recommendation of a late lunch at Hamborgarabúllan, a cool burger place right next to the hotel.
And before we knew it we were back on the bus to the airport. Ready to go back to normality and London (and mini of course! Who was living his best life being spoilt rotten by his grandparents).
Of course, as you might notice we didn’t take a trip to the blue lagoon. At £50 each entry plus travel, we thought we’d spend time in town. If you do want to go, it may be worth booking the Golden Circle, Northern Lights and Blue Lagoon in one package. But be wary, some places don’t include entry as part of the excursion so you need to book that ahead.
We are already planning a trip to come back with the whole family, Reykjavik is very family friendly but unless your children are night owls, a Northern Lights hunt might be out of the question.
- Don’t worry about bringing cash, card is king here and everyone accepts it – even the public loos
- Bring wicking socks, you’ll be doing lots of walking
- Speak to locals about where to eat, their recommendations always did us really well!
- Alcohol being expensive here isn’t a myth! Buy duty free when you arrive at Keflavik for your hotel. If you want to drink in bars, there are happy hours all over town. Download the app “Appy Hour” to find out the best places
- Museum entry – £10/15 each
- Coffee – £4
- Main course – £15-20
- Cocktail – £13
- Flybus – £25 each one way
- Taxi to airport – £150 (TAKE THE BUS!
If you are looking at a trip to Reykjavik, do it! It’s one of my favourite places we’ve visited – even with the snow storms. It’s a buzzy, friendly town with amazing food and great things to see and do!
The Mummy Hustle