Otherworldly Iceland

Iceland's beauty is like no other I've experienced. Touching down at Reykjavik airport was like landing on a different planet. 

When I first arrived in London, a trip to Iceland was high on my agenda. I'd seen and heard so much about it's stunning landscape, so I was pretty excited when my bestie Lou suggested a trip to Iceland together (that and I knew I would have no trouble convincing Lou to partake in the more active sightseeing options)! 

We only had three days and it was really just a taster (or tip of the iceberg... yes, I went there), that Iceland is now on the top of my list of places to revisit. Next time, I will definitely hire a car to tour around the country. It might take me a while to save the funds for a revisit though - Iceland is eye wateringly expensive!

Going through these photos has also highlighted to me that I need to stop being so lazy and shoot more with my Leica. I love my Leica X1, but even though it is compact, it is still so much more cumbersome than my iPhone and not nearly as responsive... but it is pretty easy to tell which of these photos was taken with a proper camera. 

Would love to hear your Iceland (and camera) tips! L x

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STAY

We stayed on the outskirts of Reykjavik at Reykjavik Lights hotel, which was cosy and cute - perfect for our quick trip. Next time, I'd like to explore the island more and drive around the ring road. There seem to be some good options available, though as always, take note of prior reviews.

ARCHITECTURE, ACTIVITIES & SIGHTS

Iceland may be small in area and population, but it packs a punch when it comes to exquisite architecture. Unfortunately we didn't have as much time to explore the architecture of Reykjavik as I might have liked, but I did get to admire two of the city’s jewels from the outside. 

Hallgrimskirkja is a church that I hope when I do get to visit again, I find it as spectacular internally as I did externally. Designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, its style is reminiscent of one of my favourites, Grundtvigs Kirke in Copenhagen. The parallel asymptote / truncus form (yes, mathematics nerd alert) is dramatic, imposing, and leads the eye up (I assume, towards the Heavens, for the churchgoers).

Harpa Music Hall was designed by Danish Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. I am a huge fan of Eliasson’s in particular (I even did a day trip to Vienna from London, just to catch the last weekend of one of his exhibitions) so I wish we had seen experienced the building during the day with daylight streaming through the faceted windows. Next time.

As we were so pressed for time, we booked a few excursions with a local tour company, Arctic Adventures. They have a wide variety of tours to choose from, most of which are small group tours. 

Many people visit Iceland in search of the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. We chased the Lights in a huge almost tank-like jeep until we saw the faintest glimmer of green dancing in the sky. Unfortunately I have stronger memories of my frozen feet than I do of the Northern Lights. 

My favourite of the tours we did, was definitely Black and Blue which included lava tube caving (some crawling/planking was necessary) and the highlight of snorkelling between two tectonic plates in the Silfra Fissure. It’s a hugely popular dive site, unsurprising when the water of the Silfra is crystal clear, with 100m of underwater visibility. It’s also bloody cold. 

Hiking on Sólheimajökull was also pretty amazing. For once, I was equipped with proper hiking attire (courtesy of the tour company), though the same cannot be said for some of the other tourists (yes, my fellow Asians) who were wearing Stan Smiths on the glacier. Ice climbing was even more fun than I thought it would be, though I am still scratching my head at the guide’s evaluation of my climbing style as “graceful like a mountain goat”… compliment, or not?

Geothermal springs can be found all over Iceland, but the most famous (and perhaps most picturesque) of them all is the Blue Lagoon. Whilst the entry price is steep, I do think it’s a must at least once in your lifetime. And if you’re splurging anyway, book the in water massage. So. Good.

Top of the list for next time: the black sand of Reynisfjara; the glacial lagoon of Jokulsarlon; and falling waters of Gullfoss.

FOOD & DRINK

Normally, I have almost too many recommendations when it comes to food… but I just didn’t find Icelandic food quite to my taste. Other than Skyr. Skyr is great.

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