After my trip to Denmark, Sweden and Norway in November 2022 I still had some credit with British Airways left to use by September 2023. Due to exchange rates I actually ended up with a fair amount to spend, so the girlfriend and I decided to go back to Iceland.
We’d originally been to Iceland in 2011 for my birthday, that trip being the first holiday that I ‘adulted’ for, having planned, booked and paid for the whole thing. That trip while enjoyable was shadowed by the fact that I had no money at all to enjoy myself while out there, so that and the plan to go see the Southern Lights in New Zealand in 2024 drove the trip to revisit Iceland for my 35th birthday and do things properly.
Having already been to Iceland I think it’s better to reflect on how things have changed since 2011.
Reykjavik has certainly changed in that time, when we went there was only really two shopping streets in the city but this time there were many more and our hotel was located a couple of kilometres outside of the city centre.
There was definitely a change in the level of tourism, compared to 2011 it felt like every second person was a UK tourist which made it easy to talk to people, but also removed some of the ‘magic’ of going abroad, along with the fact that depending on the type of person UK tourists can be a pain to be around.
One thing that was different this time was our airport transfer arrangement, back in 2011 we flew with Icelandair who included transfer to the hotel as part of the deal but as we flew BA this time we had to arrange our own. This transfer dropped us off on the other side of the city and given how bad the pavement was we spent 3km dragging our suitcases over ice, trying not to fall over before reaching our hotel.
Hunting the Northern Lights
As the main objective of the trip was to see the Northern Lights, we booked two excursions to see them. The first was to see them on a boat from the bay and the second was in a remote area via bus.
The boat tour sounded interesting before we went but in reality our bodies were not prepared for it as we were tired from the flight out. I took my DSLR camera in order to take a long exposure but there wasn’t a lot of room on the boat so people kept getting in the way of my shot with their phones which became frustrating. In the end we spent most of the trip inside waiting for it to be over, and because of that the walk home was incredibly cold.
The bus trip was a lot better, not only was the sky clear but the Northern Lights were really strong and because we were in a remote area it was easy to get away from the crowd and take some quality pictures. I ended up giving up on my DSLR however because my iPhone did a much better and easier job of showing the lights, instead of having to set up a tripod and stand for a minute to get a picture I was able to just point my phone at the sky and take photos and videos of the Northern Lights.
I was amazed at how strong the lights were that night and I felt a little bit sad that I spent the last 12 years thinking that the Northern Lights were nothing but a slightly lighter patch of the sky. This year it was so strong that it was clear where the lights were and they almost looked green in real-life.
It was so strong this year that we were even able to see the lights from within town when we were walking along the bay.
As we had a bit more expendable income to play with this time we booked a whale watching tour. Initially I was worried about another boat tour given how it messed us up the first time, but after getting out on the deck we got used to the cold (and it was very cold, on land it was -12C).
Once we got out on the bay to the area where the whales were the captain co-ordinated with a couple of other boats to track down a whale who then took an interest in the boat giving us multiple opportunities to take pictures as it surfaced and dived.
This trip was the only time I was glad I had my DSLR, as I have a 300m zoom lens which allowed me to take a much better picture than zooming in with my iPhone’s camera. The strap came in very handy when the boat chucked us about as I could just let the camera hang, which was important because being zoomed in so much it was easy to lose balance.
One of my favourite beers is Einstök’s Toasted Porter, a beer which doesn’t seem to be sold in any of the pubs I go to in the UK anymore. There’s an Einstök Bar in Reykjavik so on the last day we went there and they had Toasted Porter on tap which was just :chef-kiss:.
No holiday is complete without looking at some juicy dongs so we went to The Icelandic Phallological Museum to see their collection and while it was slightly unnerving to look at them it was interesting to learn about how different animals have different penises. I never knew there was such a thing as a penis bone but apparently it’s a common thing.