Warming to Iceland
© All photographs by Bernhard Kristinn Ingimundarson, except where otherwise noted
Northern lights – an
I frankly didn’t know what to expect. Everyone said “Oh!
Are you going to the ice hotel?” But in fact it’s in Sweden.
Our ultimate destination was Lake Myvatn in the north of
Iceland. The brochure billed it as a nature break, with pictures
of beautiful countryside.
As I was going to a country where I had never been before,
my curiosity couldn’t let me visit without stopping off to
see Reykjavik, the world’s most northerly capital, with the
Atlantic Ocean as its coast.
The first thing that strikes you is that everywhere is very
clean, and the air is fresh. There is very little pollution as the
country is on the mid-Atlantic ridge, a volcanic area which
produces geothermal heat, which is used to heat 90% of the
The city is very small with only 110,000 inhabitants, and
only has one main shopping street. It does, however, have a
backdrop of mountains, which were tipped with snow during
The most striking thing about the place is that none of the
buildings are very old, with most of the houses having the air
of being prefabricated. Dotted around you will also see the
odd sculpture as the city prides itself on the variety of cultural
interests that it has to offer.
After a visit, you will never again complain about the
British weather. Apart from it being very windy one minute,
it could be snowing and then raining the next. The people
there have a saying ‘if you don’t like the weather, just wait
a minute’ as it changes so fast.
One of the main attractions about the place is its restaurants.
We didn’t have a bad meal anywhere, although you
will certainly pay London prices, with wine being perhaps
even more expensive.
The highlight of this area was a visit to the Blue Lagoon,
50 kilometres or a 40-minute drive out of town. There is
a public bus service which will collect you from your hotel
with the cost including your visit. The fare was around
£15.50, with entrance to the lagoon another £9.50
depending on the rate of exchange.
Even with temperatures at just a little above zero, we were
able to swim outside in the geothermal seawater, which is
kept at 36–39°C looking up the sky through clouds of steam.
Its distinctive blue colour comes from the blue green algae
and white silica.
The latter are proven natural skin conditioners, and buckets
of the silica are placed around the pool for you to smear
on your face as a conditioning mask. I also had a massage,
which is given to you in the open air, in a reserved part of
the lagoon. With a restaurant and snack bar, our only regret
was not having put aside enough time to spend there.
Our trip to Myvatn was taken in a small plane. The airport
is incredibly efficient, and although you are asked to be there
half an hour before departure, people were arriving virtually
up until the time we took off.
The wind made the short flight rather bumpy, although in
the summer there is also the option to hire a 4x4 car to make
the journey, which will take you through their Highlands,
driving in between glaciers.
Lake Myvatn is about an hour’s drive from Akureyri, and is
the most idyllic spot. The star rating in Iceland is unfortunately
not the same as in the UK, and although the family-run hotel,
the Reynihlid, where we stayed, was portrayed as four-star, it
was actually a very nice, but basic family-run hotel. However,
we did get to eat delicious, authentic Icelandic cooking,
including black bread, which had been freshly baked in the
ground over night, as the temperatures near the surface are
warm enough in some areas.