Reykjavik, Iceland – part 1

I’ve never been on holiday on my own so I was quite nervous when my friend sadly had to bail out at the last minute of our trip to Iceland. Instead of just cancelling it though I thought I’d still go and enjoy myself. It would be an “experience” and a good time to get away from it all. I’m so glad I did go because I had a fantastic time. Though I was alone, I was never lonely.

I’d planned to do my usual tradition of going to Jamie’s Italian for a big dirty fry-up before flying but was aghast to find that Gatwick South Terminal didn’t have one. Despite this, I was spoilt for choice and almost went to Nando’s (I know, I know, I’m obsessed) but in the interest of trying something different I chose WonderTree as it seemed quite unusual and had a good menu. I ordered the ‘Woodstock’ with a side of bacon and sausages (because I’d been craving them).

Woodstock - Wondertree

Poached eggs, avocado, hummus, roasted cherry tomatoes, labneh cheese, za’atar, baked potato wedges and basil-parsley oil

Very tasty. It did feel weird sat there on my own but I enjoyed people watching and reading my Kindle (“My Sister’s Secret“- very good).

I arrived in Keflavik airport after an easy three-hour flight and got a transfer to the Blue Lagoon en route to Reykjavik where I would be staying. I really recommend this as it’s half-way there so you don’t need to waste time during your holiday to drive back out there. I used FlyBus which was great.

Blue Lagoon 2

The Blue Lagoon was really something else. I changed into my swimming gear and did the mad “omg it’s so cold out here” dash from the lovely warm building into the water.

Blue Lagoon 1

It was fantastic. I waded around (it’s fairly shallow, but enough so you can submerge your body) and just relaxed. It was cold and windy outside but deliciously hot in the water. It’s probably hot tub warm, though I found an area which was SUPER hot (it’s clearly marked as a hotter area so there’s no danger of accidentally going there). There’s also an area where you can put the white silica mud on your face and body. Lots of fun, though I did get my arm stuck when I foolishly tried to fish some out without using the special ‘stick thing’. It was one of those panicked moments where I tried to pretend it wasn’t stuck so no one would notice but at the same time try to desperately free myself.

A few tips if you ever plan on going there:

  • Take a towel, your swim gear and flip-flops with you (you can upgrade your ticket to include a towel, bathrobe and slippers but it’s over £7/10$).
  • DON’T get your hair wet as the water is so full of minerals it will dry it out (I read this beforehand luckily).
  • I took my waterproof iPhone cover so I could take photos easily without worry.
  • Be prepared for naked bodies in the changing room. Europeans are quite “free”. There are changing rooms but only a small number.
  • They have shower gel and a strong conditioner there (if you did get your hair wet).

Then I showered and got dressed (naked bodies ahoy!) and got my transfer to my AirBnB in Reykjavik. At this point I was beyond hungry as I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast (which was around 10am). By the time I got to my accommodation it was almost 7pm and I was HANGRY. I won’t lie, the choice of restaurant was more on “what’s closest” than any other value. But it was a great choice! (And TripAdvisor is so handy to do a very quick check). It was a restaurant called Meze which was Turkish/Mediterranean style.

I wanted to try to eat as much Icelandic food, and different food, as I could on the holiday. I also decided fairly early on not to worry about cost (to an extent obviously!) or about being particularly healthy. This holiday was about relaxing in every sense of the word.

Meze Reykjavic

I had a cheese platter (halloumi, feta and mozzarella) to start, followed by a lamb shish kebab for main and a melt-in-the-middle chocolate cake for pudding. OK so Turkish food isn’t exactly Icelandic food, but I was keen to try the lamb as it’s well-known that Icelandic sheep graze relatively freely and are hormone-free, meaning the meat is of fantastic quality and the animals had a happy life.

But I will stress that Iceland is not a cheap place at all. An average three-course meal was around £35/$54. To get a main course cheaper than £15 was rare.

The next day I’d planned to do a three-four mile run. Sadly there are no parkruns in Iceland, though I can attest to some fabulous locations where they could easily have them!

Reykjavic running

I scientifically tested how cold it was outside by sticking my hand out the window. It wasn’t too bad so went with shorts but wore a long-sleeved top (which later felt far too warm). I had a very vague idea of where to run as I’d Googled some routes beforehand, but I knew I wanted to get to the Hallgrimskirkja church as it looked so awe-inspiring.

Hallgrimskirkja run

Running so early in the morning (well, 7am) meant the streets were clear and there was no one around to get in my photos. It was very calm and peaceful, probably because they all went to bed about 5am judging by the sounds outside my flat. Reykjavik is also surprisingly hilly as you come away from the coast edge!

As I had a kitchen in the AirBnB I decided to save money (and time) by buying oats and milk and making porridge in the morning. I love my breakfast so I didn’t mind. It also meant I could sleep a bit more.

My plans for my first day was going on a tour of the Golden Circle. I used the tour company Iceland Horizon, which were fantastic. I was in a mini-bus with about 10 other people and our tour guide was both interesting and funny. I met a Portuguese girl and a Canadian guy around my age who were both solo travellers as well so we instantly bonded.

The Golden Circle consists of the national park, Þingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss, and the geysirs Geysir and Strokkur on the valley of Haukadalur. We also saw the Faxafoss waterfall too.

The Golden Circle tour

L-R: the national park, a glacier in the distance near the Gullfoss waterfall, the Gullfoss, a geysir

The tour was great as the guide told us lots about Iceland and the areas we were visiting. I found the random facts the most interesting, such as most of the larger trees in Iceland come from Aspen (apparently a well-known joke in Iceland is that if you get lost in a forest, just stand up, as all the Icelandic trees are tiny. Incidentally a lot of teenagers will earn money over the summer planting trees). In the national park you can see the connecting points for two tectonic plates, the Mid-Atlantic ridge and the North American plate.

The Golden Circle

L-R: The thermally active geyser, the small Faxafoss waterfall, the tectonic plate ridge

We had enough time to look around the different sites and half-way to grab some lunch from a little restaurant en route. I had the Icelandic speciality, “meat soup”. The meat was lamb and it was amazing.

Icelandic meat soup

I’d dressed appropriately for the weather so I wasn’t cold but I was very wind-swept so the hot soup was much appreciated. If you’re planning on doing this tour, wear sturdy boots as there’s lots of walking and a mini-mountain you can climb (I saw a girl in Converses struggling…). The weather in Iceland is extremely changeable. One moment it can be sunny and bright, then the next clouds have come over and it tips it down. Be prepared for all weathers!

IMG_4453

My two companions were good fun to be with and it was nice to turn around to someone and say “this is amazing”. And to take photos of each other as well. There’s only so much a selfie can achieve 😉

The tour was pretty much all day and I definitely felt like I got my money’s worth. I saw so much! I have so many photos it’s ridiculous. I had a lovely cheeky nap on the way back to Reykjavic to rejuvenate myself a bit.

I was fully ready for dinner after getting back and tidying myself up a bit (oh my hair…). I’d done a bit of research before coming to Iceland for some good restaurants but in the end I decided to walk down the main street, Laugavegur, to see what took my fancy. It’s quite tricky when you’re on own as you have no one to discuss with what you fancy eating! I literally could go anywhere I fancied which was both amazing and overwhelming. I knew I wanted something quite big though as I was hungry and was chuffed to find a fish buffet restaurant called Restaurant Reykjavik. It was quite expensive, but for all you can eat fresh and local fish I was swayed! And it looked very posh inside.

Restaurant Reykjavic

I literally tried everything. There was smoked salmon, cooked salmon, herring in several different sauces, pickled fish, ceviche, marinated fish, salted cod, fish stew, shellfish, soup, salad, vegetables, potatoes…so much food!! And randomly a leg of lamb that the chef would calves for you with a delicious red wine sauce.

Again I sat with my Kindle and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Of course there was a pudding buffet as well, and it would have been rude not to have tried some…I had blondies, rhubarb and oat cake and mango cheesecake. Yep I was stuffed!

I was a little concerned how my stomach would react to all this food as I had planned to run 13 miles the next morning (my last long run before the marathon). Because my tour the next day wasn’t until 1pm I could have a luxurious lie-in and a late breakfast. Thankfully I actually felt pretty good the next morning. I woke up naturally before my alarm (which had been set to 8am) and got ready to go.

I was initially nervous about running 13 miles in a new city but because I’d already done one run and lots of walking about I vaguely knew the area. I could run along the coastline quite easily and keep the sight of the church constantly in view which I knew was near where I was staying. Very handy!

Reykjavic running

I felt really good on this run. I listened to a podcast and just zoned out. I felt strong running and didn’t really think about my pace too much, except when I started going too fast. Near the coast it was very flat but it was a bit breezy. The weather was beautiful so I was pleased to whip out my MarathonTalk t-shirt from last year’s Run Camp.IMG_4646

Have you ever been on holiday on your own?

Do you enjoy running around new cities? I found it such a great way to get my bearings and see the sights!

26 thoughts on “Reykjavik, Iceland – part 1

  1. Ermagherd! Anna what an amazing trip! You know how giddy I get about solo travel anyway but seriously – Iceland is right up there on my dream list of places to visit. It sounds like you really embraced it! Great to find a good tour to go on too – think I’d do the same.

    Also, you should totally be a travel blogger (so many travel blogs are just lots of pretty pics and no real advice/recommendations) but this was epic! Looking forward to part 2 😉
    Cat recently posted…September in Review: Sharing My Journal Entries…My Profile

  2. I’ve never holidayed alone or been to Iceland but this post is making me want to do both! I’m definitely planning some travelling next year so this will be on the list!!
    Looks like you had an amazing time, can’t wait for the next post!
    xxx
    April recently posted…Illness! (Marathon Tuesday)My Profile

  3. Oh wow! Iceland looks amazing! My husband really wants to go next year to see the Northern Lights, but also to see the scenery – I am so impressed, it looks gorgeous. I’m glad you had a nice time, it sounded actively relaxing!
    Steph recently posted…Home sweet homeMy Profile

  4. We went to Reykjavik a couple of Decembers ago – and had a lovely time. We found a brilliant fish restaurant that did wheat-free batter (Yum!), and wheat free onion rings (I was stuffed). And visited the cathedral, and walked out on the ice on the lake, and generally enjoyed ourselves. And the yarn was wonderful – I’ve made a glorious warm cardigan. Lopi is so toasty and snuggly.

    I went to Naples on my own about 8 years ago, and that was grand. Wandering round Pompeii and Herculaneum, sticking to my own agenda (I didn’t manage to get up in time for breakfast *once*), and generally decompressing. I think it’s something everyone should do at least once in their lives!

    We’ve tended not to take running gear with us for weekend breaks – but this might change. I have a sneaking suspicion that the tightness of this year’s Boston Qualifying times means that N will want to do a second marathon before April (he would have snuck in by 12 seconds, which is a bit tight…).

  5. You’re so brave. I have no idea how anyone can befriend and talk to people they don’t know, let alone go on holiday on their own. The scenery looks incredible and how cool is is to have that route on your Garmin? That would be one for Garmin Connect, that’s for sure. I wish I had half of the sense of adventure that you do. I just find it inconceivable and amazing all at the same time.

    I find countries like Iceland so much more interesting and appealing than generic hot countries with less character. I hate lying on beaches tanning etc. so that might be why…exploring such a beautiful country through running sounds ideal…I would definitely get lost at least once though.
    Jess recently posted…Redcar Half Marathon 2015 ~ 1:36:35My Profile

    • Honestly it was hard. I enjoyed the company of the people I met, but by the end of the day I wanted to be alone again. The girl asked if I fancied going to the flea market with her but I was tired and needed “me time” so left her to it. I do find it exhausting to be around people I don’t know very well.
      I absolutely cannot do beach holidays. I can barely do beach days!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…A few reflections – and I’m strangely OK!My Profile

  6. I didn’t realise you had gone alone- well done (hope that doesn’t sound patronising). I am so excited to go there, but I am a bit worried about finding vegetarian food, although I can always fall back on buying some bread from a supermarket and having a picnic.
    Excellent work on the runs too- what brilliant mapping skills, or something 🙂 I like running in new places but get so worried about getting lost so would only do it somewhere I knew well, or somewhere easy like a straight out and back route.
    I’ve only been on day trips on my own- although I was talking the other day about how when I was 16 I went to the V festival at Leeds, meeting up with my friend from Scotland- how on earth did we do that without mobile phones?!
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Track stars!My Profile

  7. Amazing photos! I love hot springs so Iceland definitely appeals for that reason alone. I have been on a few trips on my own and actually really like it – the worst thing is telling people that I’m going alone and getting the looks / comments but I always enjoy myself and never feel lonely! x
    LilyLipstick recently posted…Seoul SnapshotsMy Profile

  8. I have never been on holiday alone before but reading your recap has made me seriously think about it. Dan is off on three stag dos abroad next year and I’m already a little jealous of the adventures the guys are planning. Time for a bit of traveling myself I think. Obviously I’d see if I could tie it in around a race! I seriously feel so under travelled right now though!
    Iceland looks amazing and like you had loads to do. A shame your friend couldn’t make it but it looks like you managed to have plenty of fun on your own anyway.
    I am all about trying local foods when I go abroad as well. It’s part of the experience for me.
    Mary recently posted…Rejected by the London MarathonMy Profile

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