When we set out for Iceland, my heart was hoping for one thing: to finally be able to see the Aurora Borealis. I knew, of course, that it was largely on probability — the fickle weather, for one, had to go in our favor.
Speaking of weather, probability of it not going our way has followed my friend and I from when we planned our first trip to Niagara Falls years back. It has since become a running joke. Now, much later and going into our girls’ trip, we had to laugh it off when bad weather followed us overseas.
We were forewarned of this ever changing Icelandic weather: raining for five minutes, the sun comes out for ten, clouds for the next fifteen. So when we landed our first day, went on our first tour with heavy rains not letting up and were told it was unusual, it was official that we brought it with us.
Our flight left New York around midnight, and landed about six in the morning. We set up a Flybus pick up in advance, a popular tour bus in the area. The bus was full in no time and started dropping off passengers in different hotels in Reykjavik. We booked our tour with Iceland Air so we were able to choose Hilton Nordica, a very nice hotel situated approximately 10 minutes away from downtown if you are to take a cab or 20 minutes if you are to walk.
We had scheduled to go on a condensed version of the Golden Circle tour the same day we arrived. The bus picked us up at our hotel at noon, which gave us enough time to rest, freshen up and even order room service.
The Golden Circle is probably the most famous group of destinations, and a must see for everyone visiting Iceland. We went to three main sites: Pingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir. Even though we did not end up seeing these sights in the best circumstances with the cold, rain and wind, it was quite an experience, especially being able to witness the active geyser.
The next day was our day to explore Reykjavik itself. Not having an an itinerary but vague ideas of landmarks that we should head to, we took a cab downtown. It is an easy place to navigate as everyone speaks English and all stores, as well as taxis, take credit cards (the only exception would be some rest rooms where you’d need to pay using the local currency to be able to use). Thanks to my unlimited data plan when traveling internationally, we were able to use Google Maps to find our way to where we wanted to go, including Sea Baron restaurant where the lobster soup is a must try, but where we got more than convinced that the seafood in Iceland is ace (thanks of course to their cod skewer).
We headed to our Warm Baths and Cool Lights tour that night, knowing that the “cool lights” part would most likely be cancelled due to the weather. We had a relaxing time at the spa, making the most of a quiet night in a beautiful place.
It was on our third day when the sun finally made an appearance, and it was a welcome sight. We were headed to our South Coast tour that day, and it was great to have nice weather. We booked a smaller tour this time which I personally like more than being in a bigger bus. Our itinerary included Seljalandsfoss, Eyjafjallajökull, Solheimajokill, Reynisfjara and Skogarfoss.
So in the end we did not get to see the aurora, but I feel blessed to have been able to experience this beautiful place with a great friend. It’s definitely one of those places I know I’d be coming back to one day. For now though I’ve got the memories of a refreshing trip full of laughs and moments of awe.