Is it too late to go to Iceland?

Your Insta and fb accounts are likely filled with friends and celebs frolicking in the Blue Lagoon and on snow capped glaciers, so is Iceland over? Is it too late to see where GOT is filmed as the last season is on the horizon? When a country tops all the destination hot lists does it become overrated? I was asked this at a party just this weekend.

The answer: Hell no. Iceland is the most wonderful weekend destination and is so totally different from where you’ve been before that it is worth the trip, even if others have been there before you. That wouldn’t be the criteria for visiting Venice or going on safari would it?

When you on born in August in Toronto, you likely have never gone snowmobiling on your birthday. This was on Mr. H’s bucket list, so for the first time in many years, we left Muskoka and flew to Reykjavik during prime cottage season.

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Yes, a weekend in Iceland should definitely be on your travel list. First up, you can fly direct from YYZ to Reykjavik in just five hours and enjoy your first Icelandic experience on Icelandair. As you step onto the plane, the snappily-dressed steward hands you a bottle of Iceland water which is known to be the purest in the world.

The TV screens are wide screen, believe it or not , but the movie choice is a bit old, so I watched Downton Abbey reruns and Mr. H watched several Die Hard movies. No problem because the hospitality is lovely.

When we landed in Reykjavik around midnight their time (four hours ahead of Muskoka), we are met at the airport by a driver that our hotel has arranged and it is an informative 45-minute drive to our hotel in the central square of Reykjavik, the Hotel Borg. What you quickly learn when you are planning your trip is that there are not really any 5 -star hotels right now but they are building several. We stayed at the Hotel Borg. Great location in the central square of Reykjavik. Our room was on the small side, but modern and the bed was super comfy. The washroom had a great walk in shower with heated towel racks all in black and Carrera marble.

Five things to do in Reykjavik/Golden Circle:

  1. Blue Lagoon: Maybe you can’t afford to rent out the whole place like JayZ and Beyoncé did, but the Blue Lagoon is a must see, if even you think this is a tourist trap. BOOK in advance of leaving home, especially in the summer months. We didn’t and almost missed it. We ended up going late evening and enjoyed sunset there. So you are forewarned: Book your visit in advance and book an underwater massage. There are several packages available but all of them come with the beautiful volcanic waters and silica and algae facials. Of course, we added a glass of sparkling wine. Geo-thermal waters are the energy source for Iceland so it is great to get a hot springs introduction here, although it was not the only place that we enjoyed the geo-thermal springs. You will see what you think is smoke dotting the landscape in Iceland and those are geo-thermal springs. Update: there is a new hotel adjoining the Blue Lagoon since we visited. It’s the Silica Hotel. They also have day retreats but again book these in advance.

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    2.  Harpa Music Hall: Harpa is a waterfront concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík, Iceland. The opening concert was held on May 4, 2011. The building features a distinctive colored glass facade inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland. You can enjoy a tour and attend a concert in one of three halls with incredible accoustics. Iceland´s award-winning concert hall Harpa this summer is presenting Reykjavik Classics in Eldborg summer 2018. This unique concert series is now in its third year and is a vital part of the vibrant scene of arts and culture in the Capital. Reykjavik Classics presents Icelandic music and classical masterpieces performed by artists of the highest caliber in “one of the ten best concert halls of the new millennium.”

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 3.   Golden Circle

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Is there any sight more beautiful than the Gullfoss Waterfalls.

A number of Iceland’s most beautiful and historically significant locations can be found within a short distance of each other. Among them, you will find Gullfoss – The Golden Falls – where the mighty River Hvítá plunges into a narrow, dark canyon. On sunny days a rainbow glitters in the spray above the raging torrent. Nearby is Geysir, an area of hot springs that gave the English language the term geyser, a surprising phenomenon where a huge fountain of scalding water intermittently spouts from the ground. A short drive across the barren heath leads to Þingvellir, a national park which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geological forces are relentlessly pulling the surface of the earth apart, and the growing gap between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates can clearly be seen. It is also the site of the world’s oldest parliament, a place of great cultural  and historical significance for Icelanders.

4.       Snowmobile on a glacier

Even in August, you can snowmobile on the Langjokull glacier, about a two hour drive from Reykjavik. We booked this tour in advance and they picked us up at the hotel. We opted to each drive our own snowmobiles and it was a hoot. They provide all of the snowmobile gear you need including helmuts and gloves and the snowmobile guides were excellent with an eye to safety. You can do this run even if you have never gone snowmobiling before. Mr. H was thrilled to do one of his favourite Muskoka winter activities in August.

Day 2 - Snowmobiling

5.     Eat fish and chips

Right down by the waterfront in Reykjavik, there are a number of great fish restaurants. We loved the Fish and chips restaurant that featured fresh fresh fresh Icelandic cod. While we are on the subject of food, our favourite restaurant in Reykjavik is KOL. We had an extraordinary Birthday dinner there.

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And lastly, do not miss out eating at one of Reykjavik’s famous hot dog stands…yes, that’s what I said. Hot Dogs. The small take out counter in the centre of town, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – which translates from Icelandic into English as “the best hotdog in town” – reached global fame in 2004, after President Bill Clinton visited Reykjavik and stopped for a hotdog. We lucked out because the hot dog stand was around the corner from Hotel Borg and when we landed, not much else was open for dinner, so our first bite in Iceland was one of these famous hot dogs.

There is so much more about Iceland to see and do…such as the Icelandic horses and sheep that you pass driving on the volcanic roads, the Northern Lights, fishing, whale watching, puffins,  the freshest lamb you have ever tasted.  All in all, a trip not to be missed and certainly, Iceland is not over!

 

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