Our first stop on the Golden Circle tour in Iceland was the Pingvellir National Park. Pingvellir, translated as Parliament Plains, was the site of the Icelandic legislative assembly between 930 to 1798.
Pingvellir is located 45 km northeast of the capital city of Reykjavík. If you come by car it costs 500ISK (approx £3.60) to park for the day. There’s a charge of 100ISK for the toilets at the Visitor Centre, but entry to the Visitor Centre is free of charge.
We were dropped off at the Visitor Centre and then walked down to be picked up at a parking place at the side of the road.
Close to the Visitor Centre is the Hakid viewpoint.
As you walk down from the Visitor Centre you can see the Almannayja, the fault line between the European and American tectonic plates.
You could easily spend all day walking around Pingvellir National Park.
I was really looking forward to this, I did some horse riding as a teenager and I’d heard that Icelandic horses are very good natured. As I’m allergic to most animals. I took an antihistamine tablet before leaving the hotel.
Upon arrival we had a wander around the stables to admire the Icelandic horses.
Then we were taken to choose suitable attire. I was really glad that Icelandic Horse World provided the gear, as I I thought that we would have to wash all our outer wear which had touched the horses when we returned home to avoid me getting an allergic reaction. We both wore warm all in one padded suits and gloves. It’s mandatory to wear a protective helmet.
I decided that I would need to leave my phone in the locked room at the stables, as I couldn’t risk taking both hands off the reins in order to take photos.
Next, it was through to an indoor riding hall to get some tuition. After seeing my husband (who is much fitter than me) not having the smoothest of mounts, I decided to ask for steps to get up onto the horse.
After a few minutes, we began a horseback trek through the surrounding beautiful countryside, which lasted for around one hour. It was a wonderful experience. My horse was so placid and responsive. I felt quite comfortable back in the saddle, even after a forty year gap.
Prices start at 9500 ISK (approx £68) for a one hour meadow and mountain ride
If you don’t wish to go riding you can book a stable tour. This costs 1500 ISK (approx £11) per adult. Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, are free of charge. The tour lasts around 40 minutes, after which you can stay as long as you like.
We stayed at the Hotel Ranga, in the south west of Iceland, for two nights on a complimentary basis in late October 2016.
The transfer from Keflavik Airport took around one hour forty minutes. As our taxi arrived in the hotel car park, just after midnight, many guests were out at the front to see the Northern Lights. Evidently there had been a good show prior to our arrival, which was fading fast by the time we got there.
If you wish, reception will phone you during the night if the Northern Lights appear. So that you can dash out fast. there are padded suits hanging in the lobby that you can grab on the way out.
There was a tapestry map of Iceland in the lobby.
I loved the Icelandic scene in the painting in the lounge across from our room.
We stayed in room 9 which faced north. There was what I assumed to be Icelandic writing above the bed. I liked the fabric used for the curtains and bedspread, but maybe lighter colours would have made the room brighter.
The bathroom was large, with a jacuzzi bath.
The king size bed was comfortable. The timber clad room was a very pleasant temperature during the day, but we found the duvets a bit too warm during the night. The WiFi was excellent throughout our stay.
All rooms at the Hotel Ranga have French doors leading to a terrace with a bench.
I really enjoyed the hot tub. There are three hot tubs on the south side of the hotel facing the River Ranga.
I laughed when I spotted the bar stools.
I liked the mountain view art in the bar.
The restaurant had ceiling to wall glass on three sides. The breakfast buffet offered a good selection of cheese, cold meat, fish, fruit, cereal and jams. There was a hot selection including scrambled egg, sausage, bacon and beans. You could make your own waffle; the batter was pre-measured in small jugs.
After breakfast on the first day, I had a walk down to the river.
Dinner that evening kicked off with a salmon and pea amuse bouche.
My husband didn’t eat his lightly cured and smoked sea trout starter. For him, the fish still tasted raw. I tried the trout and it was very good.
As I wanted to try something different, I ordered the smoked puffin starter. It was described as having slightly fishy and gamey flavour. I didn’t detect any fish flavour, it tasted like beef to me.
My husband enjoyed his Arctic Char (a cold water fish of the salmon family).
My lamb main course was so good. The lamb was tender and complimented by the pea cream, carrot puree and brown cheese sauce.
My husband’s cheese board was impressive.
My carrot dessert consisted of carrot cake, mousse and sorbet with chocolate crumble.
We hoped that we might see the Northern Lights that evening. As you never know if they’ll appear, we thought that we’d do some star gazing at the observatory in the hotel grounds. We enquired about opening hours at reception, and were told that it opened at 9pm.
Around 9.30pm, we attempted to walk to it. However, the red lights that supposedly demarcated the path to the observatory were so far apart, that I didn’t feel comfortable attempting the walk. My husband walked there alone, but it was locked.
Whilst I appreciate that you don’t want to create light pollution near an observatory, the path needs to be clearer. It might be useful to have a sign in reception informing guests if the observatory is open, as that’s dependent on the sky being clear.
We had lunch at the Hotel Ranga prior to our taxi transfer to the airport. My husband had Artic Char again. I opted for the Baconburger, as I was wanted something to fill me up for the forthcoming journey. It was one of the tastiest burgers which I’ve ever eaten. The beef in the burger was lean. The addition of bacon, fried mushrooms, cheese and bearnaise sauce made the burger too large and heavy for me to safely pick up, I had to use my knife and fork and couldn’t eat it all.
For dessert, we both had ice cream served with almond crumble and berries.
In summary, I really enjoyed my stay at the Hotel Ranga in Iceland. I wished that I’d had more time around the hotel in daylight. On the first day, we were out for seven hours on a Golden Circle tour. On the second morning, we went Icelandic horse riding. Our room was comfortable and cosy. It had a kettle, but I wasn’t in the room long enough to use it at all. The food at the Hotel Ranga was superb. The staff were friendly and helpful.
Hotel Ranga offer a three night Stargazing and Northern Lights Package until 31 May 2017 (excluding some dates during the festive season). Prices start at 942 Euro for two guests in a standard room. The price includes breakfast and a three course chef’s choice dinner every day.
If there’s a place that you need to cross off your bucket list, it’s Iceland. A beautiful country packed with things to see and do, Iceland really does have something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to go on an adventure holiday, a relaxation holiday or a luxury holiday, Iceland has something to suit your needs. Here are three reasons why you should go to Iceland and reasons why it’s the perfect combination of adventure and luxury.
1) A Place of Other Worldly Beauty
There’s something special about the beauty of Iceland, and it somehow feels out of this world. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to report that they felt like they were in Narnia during their Icelandic exploits.
Unlike some of the more developed European nations, the majority of Iceland’s beauty is natural. Everywhere you turn, there are numerous mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields, rainbows and streams.
It’s like being in another world, nut one that’s more beautiful than ours.
2) Geo-Thermal Spas
All of this natural beauty has a practical use, too. Particularly if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday. The Blue Lagoon, a geo-thermal spa on the Reykjanes Peninsula in south west Iceland is perfect for this.
Set against the stunning backdrop of a jet black lava-scape, the Blue Lagoon allows you to bathe, take in an extensive range of massage treatments and enjoy therapies, all while taking in Iceland’s stunning natural beauty. You can organise tours to the Blue Lagoon with most operators, such as Exodus Travels.
3) Culture and History
However, as beautiful as Iceland might be, it’s also steeped in history and culture that’s well worth exploring. After all, it has a cultured European feel and a number of fantastic traditions.
From the well storied history of Viking voyages to the interesting nature of the Icelandic literary tradition, there’s lots to see, do, explore and learn. Iceland is packed with museums dedicated to the country’s history and heritage.
From Viking log houses to the National Museum of Iceland and even the Skogar Museum, there really is something that everyone will enjoy – all while you learn about the country’s rich history.
To conclude, if you’re looking for an adventure holiday also steeped in history and luxury then look no further than Iceland. With outstanding natural beauty aplenty and a plethora of things to see and do, you’ll certainly never be bored.
I spend more time than I care to admit planning trips that I wonâ€™t be taking.Â I get wanderlusty, and so I start searching for cheap tickets to places Iâ€™d like to visit.Â I might not necessarily have the vacation days, but it is still fun to dream.
Iceland has been near the top of my list for quite some time now, but Iâ€™ve never made my way over there.Â Itâ€™s almost as if when I get down to actually planning a trip, it gets forgotten up there in the north.Â It might also have something to do with the fact that there are virtually no trees and it is an island.Â Kind of disconcerting really, but the stories Iâ€™ve heard, the pictures Iâ€™ve seen, they all keep my interest.
But recently, Iceland has been in the news.Â Not necessarily for good things.Â There was the volcano that shut down Europe and led to more travel chaos than I have ever been privy to.Â And then there was the banking crisis.Â Iceland was not alone in hurting, but their monumental collapse became international news.
In spite of, or maybe because of, this news, Iceland seems to have shot to the top of several different lists for top travel destinations in 2011.Â In my planning of trips I wonâ€™t be able to take, I kept stumbling across articles espousing the virtues of Iceland.Â The unique landscape, the natural hot springs, even the volcanoes, and of course, the low prices (turns out that banking crisis may have been helpful if youâ€™ve got the money to travel) all add up to a great destination.Â Not only that, but several different airlines have begun adding flights to ReykjavÃk.
Iâ€™m always a little skeptical when it comes to top ten lists.Â I like to stray from the beaten path every now and again.Â But what happens when the path less taken becomes the beaten path?Â Regardless of the rankings, Iceland is still on my list.Â And Iâ€™ll continue to plan trips that I might not take.
So what do you think? Will Iceland be on your travel itinerary this year?
Iceland is transforming from something of a mythical “far away” country to a place that many tourists are heading towards – recognising that it’s home to incredible landscapes, waterfalls such as Gullfoss and an interesting culture. The country still has a small population and most of them – around 200,000 people – live in or around the capital city of Reykjavik.
The bay in Reykjavik
If you’re heading to Reykjavik but are scared of the cost, you might be pleased to see that the prices are relatively reasonable – much better than I’d expected, and I presume due to Iceland’s unfortunate economic troubles. So here is a list of hotels in various price ranges in Reykjavik, with the prices given being the lowest prices available for double rooms on a weekday night in April 2011. All these hotels scored at least 80% on verified guest ratings.
Reykjavik budget hotels
Centerhotel Klopp (80% guest rating, Â£43) is, as it’s name suggests, in the centre of Reykjavik, just a street back from the main shopping and eating zone (and directly opposite a bar which can be noisy – so just join in!). It isn’t huge with just 46 rooms; some of the rooms have bay and mountain views.
The Fron Hotel Reykjavik (82% guest rating, Â£47) is even more central, directly on the main shopping street of Reykjavik, and a convenient place to stay if you are planning to take various tours around Iceland as many of the tour companies use the Fron as a pickup point. The onsite restaurant is Mexican (why not?!).
CenterHotel Thingholt (84% guest rating, Â£62) is a stylish hotel with trendy design and decor, also located centrally in downtown Reykjavik. It’s even got an onsite jazz club.
Reykjavik mid-range hotels
The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica (86% guest rating, Â£70) is a little way out of the town centre but offers a free shuttle service and is a modern and clean hotel. It’s also a popular choice for business travellers.
The Odinsve Hotel (80% guest rating, Â£68) is quite small with just 43 rooms and is located close to the theatre,Â city hall, the cathedral and opera house. Although like many Reykjavik hotels the rooms are quite small, lots of previous guests have commented on the comfortable beds making up for it.
City Hall Reyjavik
The Centerhotel Arnarhvoll Hotel Reykjavik(82% guest rating, Â£65) is a couple of blocks from the main shopping street, includes a restaurant and a sauna and some of the rooms have views over the water.
Reykjavik high-end hotels
The Hotel Bjork (82% guest rating, Â£95) seems an appropriate choice for me since it shares its name with one of Iceland’s most famous exports, singer Bjork – but as far as I can tell is unrelated! While it is slightly further than some from the centre it is still within walking distance and it’s clean with good facilities and an onsite restaurant.
The Hotel Reykjavik Centrum(88% guest rating, Â£80) is very popular amongst previous guests and has a convenient central location, as the name suggests. It’s clear, offers a reasonable inhouse breakfast and is situated in a relatively quiet spot.
The Hotel Holt (88% guest rating, Â£120) is at the pricier end of Reykjavik hotels but comes extremely highly rated by many guests. It’s beautifully decorated, has very friendly, attentive staff, and the hotel restaurant serves excellent food. It’s centrally located but in a quiet street.
Last but not least, the Hotel Borg(84% guest ratings, Â£95) is art deco style and a little different to the standard hotel, and is still centrally located, looking over Reykjavik’s central square.
Are you making plans for travels in Europe and can’t make up your mind where to go? Why don’t you choose something different this time. Let me suggest one of Europe’s outposts; Iceland and Reykjavik.
If you go to some of the official sites about Iceland you will find all the information you need about where to stay, where to eat, what to see, so instead I’ll take you on a winter walk in this charming, different city of Reykjavik. Let’s call it a window safari.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. With fewer than 125.000 people, it is a small city, and it takes only minutes to walk from the city center out to the areas where people live in small, colourful villas. The area around the main church Hallgrimskirkja (The Hallgrim Church) is my favorite area. And to look at the charming, often whimsical way the inhabitants decorate the window, I don’t think I am the only one doing “windows safaris” :-)
It was January when I did my walk, and many of the windows still had lights left over from Christmas, or to enlighten this dark season.
When you have seen enough, or may be rather when you want to see more but need a break, let me recommend Cafe Loki, close to Hallgrimskirkjan. Buy a skyr cake with your coffee and enjoy the view.
Follow this link to find more posts from Reykjavik and Iceland.