In this article I have interviewed Sibeal about amazing Iceland: what do to, how to get the most out of your time there and what not to miss. Be sure to follow her blog and Instagram for the most beautiful pictures from Iceland.
Where are you from and what are you doing now in Iceland?
I’m Irish, originally from Co Waterford and I live in south Iceland, right in the middle of the Golden Circle. About 1000 years ago there used to be a lot more Irish here, mostly women actually and they say that if you’re an Icelander with red hair you probably descended from an Irish slave and who was brought here by a Norseman (Viking). I’m a photographer and travel blogger and I spend as much time as I can capturing this beautiful country.
What do you like most about Iceland?
Oh there are a lot of things: the beautiful landscapes, I love how they change during the seasons, especially now the winter is here and we’ve snow. I really like the people too – they’re very laid back and have a dark and sarcastic sense of humour that I love. And it’s more relaxed here. You’re expected to be able to look after yourself, the nature is wild and it’s a lot less ‘nannied’ than other countries, I really like that.
Could you make me a 5-7 day program to include all the must see places?
You will probably start or end your trip with a day in Reykjavík and I would advise walking around the city as it´s quite small and compact. There are some good walking tours you can join and be sure not to miss out on Hallgrímskirkja, the city’s most famous landmark with a statue of Leifur Eiriksson outside, stroll down to Sólfar, also known as the Sun Voyager, and stroll around the harbour area. Austurvöllur is a small park which is the perfect place to laze away a summer’s day reading a book and people watching. The National History Museum is excellent, especially if you have kids – there´s some interactive stuff and worksheets for them, and the Punk Museum and the Icelandic Phallological Museum are good for those looking for something a bit quicker. If you’re going out in the city definitely download the Reykjavik Grapevine´s Appy Hour app with all the cities happy hours – beer is super expensive here! And be warned locals go out late and stay out even later!
The main attraction for me is the nature and I would head out of the city as soon as possible – you have so many options the only problem is deciding which to choose from. An iconic thing to do is drive the ring road but if you only have a week I think you wouldn’t get to appreciate many of the places so it’s better to go slow and enjoy each place very well.
The Golden Circle is the top of everyone’s list. It does get busy but if you visit in the winter months it´s quieter. You can easily spend a day just at the main sites like Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir National Park where you can go snorkeling in the Silfra fissure between the American and European continents, or take your time and spend a couple of days here as there´s also a few lesser visited little gems like Bruarfoss, Faxifoss and Kerið – my local volcano! There´s a couple of geothermal pools around here too like Secret Lagoon and Laugarvatn Fontana if you want to relax after a long day´s sightseeing.
Then head south and catch some more waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss, where you can walk behind the waterfall (it does get muddy – be prepared!) and hidden a little bit further up the road, Gljúfrabúi. Further east you will see Eyjafjallajökull, which shut down Europe when it erupted a few years ago, and then Skogafoss. Finish your day at the black sand beach of Reynisfjara with it’s famous sea stacks – just be really careful and don’t go near the water’s edge, the waves are really unpredictable and people have drowned here.
Now you can choose to go further east and to the famous glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón or head back west at a leisurely pace. I really recommend driving the coast road between Selfoss and Grindavík where there´s great seafood restaurants, stormy beaches and beautiful lava fields. And if you booked in advance you can stop off at the Blue Lagoon for a well earned soak in the warm waters.
What tourist attractions in Iceland do you think are a bit overrated?
I don’t necessarily think they’re over-rated but a lot of the places in south Iceland, especially where I’m living now like Geysir, Gullfoss and further south like Vík and the black beach at Reynisfjara get very very busy – which kinda puts me off. I actually didn’t go to a lot of these places until I had moved here! One time I went to Gullfoss after midnight in November to photograph the aurora borealis, there was lots of snow, unfortunately the lights weren’t over the falls like I had hoped but it was still gorgeous and I had it all to myself which was pretty sweet!
The Blue Lagoon is the most famous of Iceland’s geothermal pools but for locals it’s quite expensive and you need to book weeks in advance. Most Icelanders go to their local pools which are really cheap (about 1000ISK for a one time visit but you can get 10 visit cards for 5000ISK) and it´s a good place to meet the locals. Or there’s always the Secret Lagoon, Laugarvatn Fontana, Mývatn Nature Baths – loads! Just make sure you pay attention and follow the Icelandic rules about using the pool and shower before you go in.
Follow Sibeal on:
- Blog: http://sibealturraoin.ie/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SibealTurraoin/
- Instagram: instagram.com/sibeal_turraoin
- Pinterest: pinterest.com/sibealturraoin/