Iceland is often passed through by those in transit to the USA or Canada due to its cheap route fares and proximity to the aforementioned lands. But how often is a stopover turned into a trip in itself? Laura Bartlett tells us about why Iceland has won her heart and how a recent trip there got her more than she bargained for…
If you didn’t have Iceland on your bucket list then stop what you are doing immediately, go and get a pen and write it in capital letters on the top of your list. It wasn’t until I was cruising on a snowmobile over a glacier in the midnight sun that I realised Iceland had creeped it’s way to the top of my bucket list. There is literally no other place on the planet that can give you what Iceland can, but now, thanks to Icelandair, you can get even more out of a trip to the land of fire and ice – like a whole other country added in to the mix without having to spend any more money!
Fly from London Heathrow to San Francisco with a pit stop in Iceland for up to 7 days, before travelling back home for under £500! THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I was lucky enough to fly premium on Icelandair’s inaugural flight from Iceland to San Francisco and what an adventure it was.
What I learnt from my few days in Iceland is that the Icelandic’s are great at absolutely everything! The way they dress is chic yet understated, the food they make could be mistaken for Michelin star when it’s just a local restaurant, and there is so much to do and see that I don’t know why people from Iceland don’t have more arrogance. But that’s not their vibe – their laid back, cool attitude is what will make you fall in love with Icelandic culture.
Arriving mid-week after the short three-hour flight from London, we went straight to dinner at Kopar Restaurant. The food was honestly worth shouting about – from the way they combined flavours and ingredients that you wouldn’t consider, to how the dishes were served as pieces of art on the plate, it was exemplary. What I loved most about this place was the fact that it’s owned by two ultimate girl-bosses! Between them, Asta and Ylfa are experts in food, wine and having a good time.
This was the perfect early dinner before we headed off on our first adventure with Mountaineers Iceland, who were taking us Snowmobiling on Langjökull. It was a bit of a trek to get there, but luckily we had a monster truck to get us through the ice as we sang along to The Piña Colada Song and laughed as the driver had to deflate the tyres to get through the ice safely. Arriving at our snowmobiles, we were kitted out in badass gear to protect us from the cold before getting a short lesson on how to drive them. Then, for the following couple of hours we wizzed over the glacier with the midnight sun beaming on our faces and views unlike anywhere else in the world. There were moments during this that felt surreal and caused moments of reflection, realising how lucky I was to experience something so magical! I could have happily gone home after this point and still been satisfied after such a once in a lifetime opportunity, but luckily I didn’t have to.
The following couple of days in Iceland were spent doing what you have to do when in town, including the obligatory visit to the Blue Lagoon. Be sure to get the VIP package that includes face masks and drinks once you’re in the lagoon – and I’d highly recommend taking a waterproof holder for your phone to make sure you don’t miss the ‘look at me’ shot right in the middle of the steaming water. The Lava restaurant here is also pretty impressive and the ‘Blue Lagoon’ cocktail is a must!
Iceland sits on the top of the Mid Atlantic Ridge. It’s in between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plate which means that snorkelling here is unlike anywhere else in the world. I’m not the best swimmer but even I didn’t have to be exempt from this activity because, once you’re kitted out in the wet suit, dry suit and everything in between, all you have to do is get in the water and let the current take you around whilst the suit makes sure you stay afloat.
The list of things to do in Iceland is endless – it’s a place that has to be seen to believed and one that I can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with. It was also the perfect warm up, or cool down, before the final part of our journey to San Francisco.
America is my happy place so I already knew that San Francisco would be the place for me – maybe it was something to do with the fact that I ended up at an after party being kissed by a local tour guide after my fellow travellers played a funny trick on me, or it could have been down to the fact that I got to do so much whilst in town. Whatever it was, San Fran was the perfect addition to an already amazing trip.
From exploring Muir woods and drinking hot chocolate in the blistering heat, to hiking under the Golden Gate Bridge, cruising on the Hornblower Crusie for dinner, and dining at the Tonga Room where it rains inside and the cocktails will blow your head off, this multi-country trip was something else.
There is only one hotel that you need to know about when in San Fran, Hotel Zeppelin. Perfectly positioned in the heart of all the action, this is a chic boutique hotel with a rock n roll style and a hint of luxury. This is THE place to socialise as the lobby lounge welcomes you with its fireplace which crackles while streamlined sofas are plumped to perfection making you want to hang out with friends until the early hours.
The lead in flight price from London Heathrow to San Francisco is £447.80 per person return including all taxes, fees and charges (price is based on travelling in September 2018).
Flights can be booked at www.icelandair.co.uk – passengers are able to stopover in Iceland on their way to San Francisco for up to seven days for no extra fare price.