JLife’s new travel expert Amanda Bower of Travel Councillors talks us through her ice cool trip to the increasingly popular destination of Iceland.
With many traditional holiday destinations being unavailable for travel recently, the holiday-making population of Manchester have begun to consider destinations less travelled. Iceland is a bucket list destination, and while it might not have warm white sandy beaches, it definitely has a lot to offer: “Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice because of the difference between the weather and the landscape,” Amanda explained. “The conditions can be extremely cold and icy, but Iceland is also located on tectonic plates which allows heat under the ground to escape and creates geysers, where hot water and air comes up from the ground and spurts into the sky. There’s this extraordinary contrast between the cold and heat, on one side of you there’s snow, and on the other there are geysers.”
Fresh off leading a group trip to the Nordic island, Amanda talked us through her itinerary: “The relaxing part of the trip was the visit to the Blue Lagoon, which is only about an hour from Reykjavik. It’s a geothermal spa in front of the mountains. It’s classed as one of the wonders of the world. Even though some of it is manmade, the water is bright blue naturally because of the heat of the water due to the volcanic landscape and the silica minerals that are in it. You can stay up at the lagoon, there’s the Silica Hotel and the Retreat Hotel right next to it, or you can just go for the day like us.
“We arrived on Thursday and had the afternoon in Reykjavik, which has some really nice eateries. The northern lights tour was in the evening. Most people when they go to Iceland do tend to stay in the city and then go on tours around the rest of the island from there. After pick-up from the Storm Hotel, we went down to the coast and out on a boat to chase the northern lights. There are three conditions you need to be able to see the northern lights: the sky has to be clear, where you are has to be pitch black and the weather needs to be cold. Sometimes the naked eye can’t see the lights, but a camera can pick them up, which can seem a bit odd. You can either do a northern lights cruise, or you can do it by land. It’s really luck of the draw which will be better on any given night, and the whole trip lasts around three hours.
“On the Saturday we did the whale watching, and again, that’s a private pick up from the hotel which takes you down to the sea- front. The animals you tend to see off the coast of Reykjavik are usually humpback whales and dolphins. It’s difficult to explain how amazing the whale watching is without seeing it in person. The weather is, of course, very cold but the boats have a lower deck inside which you can use to warm up on and enjoy a hot drink or something to eat. There’s internet on board, and if you want to just go up on the deck when the whales are out, you can do that. There are snowsuits you can borrow to make sure you’re fully protected.
“Then we did the snowmobile trip. We got picked up from our hotel in a giant super jeep that could seat 11 people. We went out to explore a place called the golden circle, which is full of glaciers, waterfalls and hot springs. This is quite far out from the city so it’s a full day trip that takes about nine to 10 hours. There’s time at each waterfall or hot spring to get out and explore or take pictures. After that you head up into the mountains and the landscape changes completely. It becomes completely covered with snow and ice in just a few minutes’ travel. You go a bit off road, right up to the top of the glacier. We then got changed into our gear and drove around this glacier on snowmobiles. It was an absolutely awesome experience.”
Despite all of these incredible attractions, Iceland is unknown territory for many holiday goers. Luckily, Amanda has plenty of advice to offer about preparing for a trip to the land of fire and ice: “A lot of people see Iceland, and especially Reykjavik, as being quite expensive to visit but you really don’t have to spend a lot of money if you go to the right places. Although officially there are four seasons in Iceland, in reality there are two. Summer is cold and winter is glacial. The hottest month in Iceland on average is in July with temperatures up to 14°C, the coldest months are January and February with city temperatures around 2°C. However, in the mountainous regions temperatures can drop considerably. Walking boots or snow boots are essential, as are thermal base layers and hats and gloves, in the winter months you need at least four layers on. If you do go on a trip like the whale watching, it’s better to have too many layers that you can remove when you go inside, rather than be too cold.”
If you’re interested in booking your own adventure in Iceland, you can contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0161 297 0034