“What do I think?” I repeat, somewhat more high-pitched than the person that originally put the question to me. I’m literally driving down the side of a volcano at a 90 degree angle in a jeep.
What I THOUGHT I’d be doing was having a peaceful evening of gazing at the Northern Lights – that being one of the reasons we decided to visit Iceland. Yes, lets get the jokes about frozen food out of the way – back to my steep descent down a rockface. I thought these were just mountains. I didn’t realise that they were the remnants of the 18 volcanic eruptions on the island since 874 AD. Or that there were over 100 volcanoes in Iceland. Of course at the time we had no idea that Eyjafjallajökull was shortly going to be causing Europe so much grief…
But it all adds to the beautiful vast views that look like something from another planet. It takes your breath away when you’re driven miles into the heart of nowhere, with only the lights from the sky above and silence engulfing you.
Obviously this is the surrounding terrain to Reykjavík, which is like a beautiful Christmas town. Hallgrímskirkja looms skyward like a giant spaceship. It’s actually the largest church in Iceland, and took 38 years to complete. If you’re not particularly religious (apparently recreating the Like A Prayer video isn’t a goer in these places) then it doubles as a rather nifty viewing tower, with stunning views.
There are only around four hours of daylight during winter, which is perfect for someone who shuns the light as I do. This would be more of a problem had I visited in summer, where the nights aren’t very dark at all.
With all that darkness we made good use of the local gay bar, Barbra (no, really) which, like most places, opens late. And you know what that means – late to bed and early to rise means if you’re going on a long coach journey the next morning you’re going to be the one pulling the bus over so you can be sick.
Still, better out than in, especially if you’re about to travel across a glacier on a snowmobile. They provide you with all manner of padded clothing that slips over your own, from head to toe. You need to be so wrapped up that you can barely move. Of course, this makes it especially difficult to hold on to the tiny strap when your friend hits the pedal and speeds off over said glacier. Trust me, hitting snow at that speed isn’t all soft and fluffy.
At the end of our tour we stopped off at the local Geysirs. Lets not beat around the bush here, sulphur smells like eggy farts. And being somewhat delirious and in the company of two American gentlemen who seem to love British humour… Well, I do, ever so slightly, pity the tourists who now have pictures of four gays dancing behind a Geysir going off. Well, you’ve seen one hot explosion, etc.
No trip to Iceland would be complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon. Which is, as its name would suggest, a lagoon that is blue.
Let’s put this into perspective here. You’re outside, wearing not very much at all in the freezing cold in a naturally heated bright blue pool. Immediately over the side of the lagoon are rocks and mountains as far as you can see. A large industrial mining site looms in the distance and mist continually rolls across the landscape. It’s creepily alien and fantastically atmospheric.
And although I never did get to see those elusive Northern Lights (*shakes fist at Joanna Lumley*) I hear that you can see them from Norway. I think I’m well suited to a colder climate…
Reykjavik Excursions have full-day tours visiting Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall with snowmobiling on the Langjökull glacier for 24,500ISk (around £120 per person). Northern Lights and Lobster Super Jeep adventure costs 26900 ISK (£131). Excursion to the Blue Lagoon costs 6300ISK including entrance (£31). Visit re.is. We stayed at the Fosshotel Baron where double rooms start from 14,000ISK (£70) per night including breakfast and free wifi. Fosshotel.is.
Words: Darren Scott