Iceland. Travel (to the) Light

It’s getting to that time of year again when assessment deadlines are approaching and the caffeine addiction is getting all too real. But don’t worry, the end is in sight and what better way to celebrate than by jetting off to marvel at one of the greatest natural phenomena there is: The Northern Lights. Yes, Iceland, here we come. Rachel Salveta is your guide…

GO EXPLORE

So, you’ve had your breakfast and are feeling full and prepared for the day ahead but where to begin?
The capital city, Reykjavik has a wide variety of attractions and hotspots from the stunning architecture of Hallgrimskirkja Church, where you can climb to the top of the bell tower for sweeping views of the city, to The National Museum of Iceland which will get you up to speed with the country’s history. And, to make sure you hit up all the best locations the city has to offer, there are many walking and bus tours available to choose from. However, as wonderful as Reykjavik is, there is so much more of Iceland to explore so why not book a couple day trips when you’re there (if your budget permits)?

For a unique experience, take a trip to The Lava Tunnel (one of the longest lava tubes in Iceland) or the classic Golden Circle Tour guiding you through majestic waterfalls, hot springs and a national park. And who could go to Iceland in winter and not attempt to see The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis as they’re also known. There are many excursions set up if you want that little bit of help securing the best spots to capture the magnificent illuminations and at just under an hour’s drive away from Reykjavik are some of the most recommended areas to catch a glimpse of them including Thingvellir and Threngsli. Or why not head along to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach where you can take in the sounds of waves lapping while the dark skies light up above you.

WHO KNEW?

Before venturing off to the unknown it’s always handy to have a few facts up your sleeve but no worries, we’ve got you covered in that department. Did you know?…
Iceland has no public railway system. The main reasons for this are the small population, competition with automobile traffic and the harsh environment. Beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989 and now ‘Beer Day’ is celebrated every year on the 1st of March to honour the elimination of the 74-year prohibition. There are strict laws on naming in Iceland to preserve the Icelandic language and names not previously accepted must go before the Icelandic Naming Committee which will either accept or reject it.

TALKING ABOUT?
As Icelandic is one of the oldest languages in the world, it’s no surprise that they have a few odd phrases going around that are sure to get a giggle. The raisin at the end of the hot dog (Rúsínan í Pylsuendanum) – This is used to describe a pleasant surprise or the highlight of something. I’m sure once you’re back home you’ll be telling everyone that seeing The Northern Lights was the raisin at the end of the hot dog! I come completely from the mountains (Ég kem alveg af fjöllum) – When someone is completely out of the loop. “What are you talking about, I come completely from the mountains.” Totally out driving (alveg úti að aka) – A phrase for when someone is acting crazy or off about something. I think we’ve all witnessed someone who is ‘totally out driving’ at some point in our lives.

CULTURE

Iceland has lured nature lovers for years and is increasingly topping bucket lists for seeing the awe-inspiring wonder that is The Northern Lights. Often referred to as ‘the land of fire and ice’, typical landscapes include impressive glaciers, fjords, sparkling icebergs and jaw dropping waterfalls. But it’s not just the spectacular scenery that makes this place so special. Icelandic culture is rich and varied. Traditional Icelandic arts include weaving, silversmithing and wood carving as well as being home to four active folk dance ensembles. There is no shortage of theatres, art galleries, museums and bookstores so whether you’re looking to try out a new skill or simply just want to relax and take in a show, there is something for everyone.

WHAT TO EAT

One of the many great aspects of foreign travel is sampling the local food, so for Iceland, be prepared to order the things you can barely even pronounce. Icelandic cuisine consists largely of lamb, dairy and fish produce with some of their most popular dishes being Kjötsupa (traditional lamb meat soup), Harðfiskur (dried fish jerky,) and, for the more adventurous eaters out there, Hákarl (shark meat) and Svið (Sheep’s head). And why not wash that all down with a bottle of their favourite beer, Viking Classic. Although, if a hot drink is what you’re after, no problem there as Icelanders are crazy for their coffee so there’s an abundance of local coffee shops and cafes.

GETTING THERE


Flying is by far the easiest and quickest way to get to Iceland with a flight time of around two and a half hours.
With sites such as Skyscanner, Kayak and Cheap Flights you’ll be sure to bag yourself a bargain and if a hassle-free package deal is what you’re after you can find this for as little as £220 on sites such as Lastminute.com and Expedia.
From the airport it’s around a 40-minute drive to the centre of Reykjavik and you can choose from a range of bus, taxi or rental options.

USEFUL-ISH INFO
Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK)
Conversion rate: £1 = 158 Krona
Language: Icelandic
Population: 339,000
Flight time from Glasgow: 2 hours, 20 mins
Time zone: GMT
Climate: Sub-Arctic. Temperature ranges from -30 degrees Celsius in January to 25 degrees C in July and August
Administration: Iceland is divided into eight regions
Governance: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is the Prime Minister. When elected in 2009 she was the world’s first openly gay head of government.