ISLAND has been at the top of my wish list since I was 14 and got Björk’s debut album as an Easter present.
Thus began a lifelong love affair Crazy singer’s music and a curiosity about her home island.
So when the opportunity presented itself to be seated on the first direct flight from Glasgow to Reykjavik with Play Airlines, I jumped at it.
It was my first time flying away leaving my husband and 3 year old son alone but as I took my sister in law Lisa with me on the trip I didn’t look back – sorry boys my mum is off to Iceland went .
The airline offers cheap fares, but the trip felt anything but cheap thanks to our extra legroom seats, super-friendly flight attendants, and delicious snacks and drinks, including an Icelandic IPA.
We checked into our Hotel Midgardur by Center. Like many things in Iceland, it was minimalist, functional, and effortlessly cool, and had everything we needed as a base from which to explore — plus a basement spa, complete with an outdoor hot tub.
Our first adventure was a trip to Flyover Island. This is a virtual reality experience that tells you the history of the island and folklore about trolls, before taking you on an airplane tour of the country’s stunning landmarks, from the glaciers and volcanoes to the rugged coastline.
Strapped in, you dangle over a giant globe that broadcasts drone footage of the landscape. As you soar through the clouds, you’ll be sprayed with icy cold water. Then glide over fields of flowers whose air is filled with sweet scents. It was a magical introduction to the country.
We then took a stroll through the waterfront before heading out for an exquisite meal at Restaurant Hedinn. Fresh, local ingredients are cooked to perfection here, like grilled lobster with miso beurre blanc appetizer and cod with fennel, apple and hollandaise. The service was – just like the cocktail offer – much better.
We got in early and prepared to be picked up by Arctic Adventures at 8am the next morning for an 11 hour tour.
First we made our way south through the volcanic landscape dotted with steam vents to see some stunning waterfalls – we actually got to walk behind the cascading Seljalandsfoss waterfalls which I never thought possible in real life.
We also climbed more than 400 steps to reach the top of Skógafoss waterfalls. It was tough on the thighs but worth every stitch as we were literally over the rainbow and spotted a double at the top.
Black Beach was the next stop, where we were warned about the “sneaker killer waves” that attract tourists every year.
The volcanic rock formations were otherworldly beautiful – but we kept our distance from the wild sea and retreated to the café for tea and cake before our biggest challenge – hiking a glacier.
With an experienced team of guides, Lisa and I geared up, including spiked crampons and ice axes, and hiked to Solheimajokull Glacier, where one of the country’s most notorious volcanoes, Katla, hides beneath the thick surface.
It was fascinating to learn about the beautiful flowing river of frozen water flanked on either side by ash and debris from volcanic eruptions. A highlight was when we had the chance to do a ‘push-up’ while dipping our faces in the fresh, clear glacial water and having a drink.
Back on the bus and exhausted, we meandered our way back to the capital. Our driver showed us places of interest before we returned to the hotel for a quick change of clothes. Dinner was at the onsite restaurant and my lamb croquettes, followed by a warming bowl of seafood pasta and some red wine, were the perfect comfort food after our day of adventure.
The next day couldn’t have been better planned – a day at a thermal bath, perfect to soothe our aching muscles.
A car took us to the north of the island, through a landscape much more reminiscent of Scotland, with green rolling hills and rugged coastlines, to Hvammsvik Spa, which was voted the world’s best day out by Time Out earlier this year. Opened in 2022, this geothermal spring is located on the beach and has pools with temperatures reaching 40°C.
As we exited the dressing rooms, the cold and rain hit us, but so did the stunning surroundings – it felt like we were in the middle of the sea.
And as soon as I stepped into a steaming pool, the cold and all pain vanished.
Visitors can swim to a small window for a drink while enjoying the breathtaking view. We spent hours re-energizing in the small pools before heading to the relaxed bistro, which serves delicious, light meals made with ingredients straight from the shore.
I tried the local specialty, Icelandic Seafood Soup. It was unlike anything I’d tasted before — plump shellfish like clams and scallops, along with pistachios and pecans, were coated in a flavorful broth. It was so unusual and warming, the perfect meal for some after-spa pampering.
Soon it was time to tour downtown Reykjavik. The city center is dotted with adorable art and tourist shops and I loved all the street art that brightened up the dull day.
One of the highlights was an impromptu stop at Hús máls og menningar, where we stopped in for a coffee and “accidentally” ordered a beer. It’s a bookstore, cafe and jazz bar all rolled into one – definitely one of the coolest places we’ve been to on our trip.
Dinner on our last night was at Monkeys, a quirky restaurant with dishes influenced by Peru and Japan. There are some amazing features to enjoy, including colorful animal lamps and a champagne train that you can hop on to enjoy a delicious drink.
Sharing dishes, including beef tataki and shrimp tempura, were as exotic as they were delicious.
We made our way back early as we were picked up before 3am the next morning. It was a very early start but meant we were home on Glasgow soil before 10am.
HERE is everything you need to know about traveling to Iceland.
GETTING THERE: A return ticket from Glasgow to Reykjavik costs from £87 per person with Play Airlines. Glasgow to the United States stopping in Iceland is priced from £579 per person and Glasgow to Canada from £466 per person, starting 23 June. For more information, see flyplay.com
STAY THERE: Rooms at Midgardur by Center Hotels in the heart of Reykjavik start from £275 per night. See centerhotels.com
MORE INFORMATION: See visiticeland.com More information about Flyover Island can be found here flyovericeland.com Various tours, including a glacier hike, can be booked at adventure.is and spa experiences are available at hvammsvik.com
The great thing about Play is that you can enjoy Iceland as a short break en route to or from the US or Canada, as you can use the airline’s transatlantic services to New York, Boston, Washington and Toronto, among others.
They say you should never meet their heroes – I still haven’t had a chance to meet Björk in person – but visiting her incredible home is close enough for me.
And while I’ve ticked my “debut trip” off the wish list, I have to go back one more time – because this mom wants to go back to Iceland.
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