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In the Land of Ice & Fire (well, mostly ice)

Iceland in January??

Yes, Iceland in January. Yes, it was cold (though it was much colder in Oxford). And, yes, it was dark; at that time of year there’s only about 5 hours of daylight.

Mark and I agreed that we wanted to take this chance to try to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). There’s no guarantee that you will see them, but the conditions are better in the winter with those long, dark nights.

We were also going to be in England and Scotland during the winter, so we needed warm clothes. Both of us already had a few things like thermals, but we both needed winter coats and gloves and I needed warm hiking boots. REI Co-op ( had everything we needed. I love my yellow coat. You’ll see this coat in almost every picture of me for the next 3 months!

If you’ve read anything about visiting Iceland, you know that it’s expensive. The hotels, the food, and the transportation. Frankly, the best deals we found were the excursions. We booked all our tours through Reykjavik Excursions ( They were on-time, professional, buses were very clean, guides and drivers very friendly, and spoke very good English. Tak!

Day One

We booked Centerhotel Klöpp, but when we arrived we found they had closed the hotel due to unexpected maintenance. As as result, we were upgraded to the Centerhotel Plaza. It was a bit confusing the morning we arrived, but the hotel staff took very good care of us and it worked out well in the end.

We were able to get into our rooms early, took a short nap and then wandered around a bit before our first tour. We booked a combo tour of Sky Lagoon and the Northern Lights. Sky Lagoon is an alternative to the famous Blue Lagoon, it’s much closer to Reykjavik, less crowded, and slightly cheaper. A nice hot soak was a good option for that first day when we were jet lagged.

There was plenty of time to enjoy the 7-step spa ritual, a glass of beer and then back to the hotel to shower and change for the Northern Lights tour.

The trip to see the Northern Lights is about 30 minutes outside the city, so that the sky is very dark. Our bus, along with 6 other buses, stopped at the parking lot for Thingvellir park and looked to the Northern sky. (It was very cold, around 0-2 Celsius.) We didn’t have to wait long before the skies lit up. It was spectacular.

First day and success! Checked off that bucket list item.

Day Two

We had the Golden Circle tour the next day. Back on the bus while it was still dark (doesn’t get really light until around 10 am). Geysir a geothermal area with Strokkur, the most active geyser in Iceland , Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir where you can walk between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Another fantastic day, just the scenery riding around in the bus was stunningly beautiful. We found a fun place for dinner, the Funky Bhangra, Middle Eastern cuisine. Delicious!

Day Three

We head out again in the dark morning on our final full day in Iceland, this time heading to the South shore. Stops today include Reynisfjara black sand beach, and Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls.

Lessons Learned

Overall the day tours were a great way to see many of the natural wonders in Iceland, but each day was very long. In hindsight I wish we had left ourselves a day to just explore the city of Reykjavik. There are a number of interesting museums, architecture, and sights that we just didn’t have the time for.

I’d love to go back in the summer, when it’s not so cold and the days are longer. I’m sure many of the sights look completely different. Plus, you can walk behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall when it’s not icy.

Our Iceland stop-over was a success, but now it’s on to the UK.

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