Iceland is the hot new celebrity holiday destination, so join Emma Watson and Beyonce for a fire and ice trip of a lifetime
It’s only a three-hour flight to Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik, but it really does feel like a different world. A 1998 survey found 54% of the population believed in elves, but with bubbling volcanic lava pools, breathtaking black sand beaches and geysers shooting boiling water before your very eyes, it’s easy to believe you’ve stepped into a magical land.
And the celebrities have quickly caught on, making Iceland the latest must-visit A-list destination. Chris Hemsworth shot Thor 2 here, Russell Crowe and Emma Watson filmed Noah amidst Iceland’s dramatic backdrop and Tom Cruise called the country ‘absolutely stunning’ during his time making Oblivion.
So, aside from the chance to spot the odd Hollywood star, here’s five more reasons to go to Iceland…
1. Bathe in the Blue Lagoon
Iceland is powered by thermal energy; it provides heated water and electricity for homes and also therapeutic hot pools like the famous Blue Lagoon. Located just 15 minutes from Keflavik airport, so it’s the perfect place for you to either start or finish your holiday with a memorable soak. The temperature may be below freezing, but once you get into the 35 degree waters, you can revel in the experience of being in a bikini surrounded by snow. Don’t forget to try a local mud mask – accompanied by a glass of pink fizz from the swim-up bar. Oh and you never know you might swim by Beyonce and Jay Z who popped in for a plunge during their visit this year.
2. Watch the Northern Lights
There is no sight more spine-tingling in the natural world than the Aurora Borealis, known as the Northern Lights. Add in the opportunity to do so in a hot tub with a glass of champagne in hand, and there really is no better way to witness one of the world’s wonders. Experience all this at Hotel Ranga, the best place to view the famous phenomena caused by gaseous particles colliding with those thrown out from the sun high above the Earth’s surface.
Just two-hours drive from Reykjavik, the 4-star hotel’s remote location means there is no light pollution to interfere with your Northern-Lights spotting. The hotel reception will even give you a call should the Aurora appear while you are sleeping. The best times of year to see the Northern Lights are between September to mid-April.
3. Wonder at a waterfall
Using Hotel Ranga as your base, you can tour Iceland’s famous Golden Circle, taking in the marvels of Mother Nature’s handiwork. We’d recommend striking out on your own if a bus tour is not your thing. Even if at first you don’t feel confident driving on the other side of the road, traffic outside of Reykjavik is virtually non-existant, meaning you can travel for miles without seeing another car. We covered the fantastical Gullfoss waterfall and Geyser, the home of the original spouting hot spring in one day. Look out for the rainbow over the falls, on a sunny day. You really do feel like an extra in a Lord of the Rings fantasy film.
4. Go on a super-jeep adventure
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to ride around in a monster truck, this is your chance. The Icelandic terrain can be so inhospitable to ordinary vehicles, that the only way to see some of the most breath-taking sites is to climb aboard an Iceland Super-jeep. Tour operators like Discover the World, who offer complete self-drive holidays around Iceland, can organize day-long drives which transport you to glaciers and volcanoes, including that of Eyjafjallajokull, which erupted in 2010 and caused worldwide air disruption as a result of the dense ash cloud it spewed into the atmosphere.
Although expensive – the Eyjafjallajokull Super-jeep tour and hike costs £131 pp – it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s utterly exhilarating and a must-do for thrill seekers who can’t think of anything better than skidding around on the ice and crashing through frozen rivers.
5. Eat rotten shark
There are some local foods even the locals don’t like and Iceland seems to have more than its fair share of foul and fetid delicacies. The most notorious has to be Hakarl – rotten shark. So potent is the dish, that it must be served covered; in some residential blocks it is an offence to open a tin of the stinky stuff.
So why should you try it? Well, for starters, the locals will love you for it. When we asked the Head Chef at Hotel Ranga to prepare a few Icelandic delights for us, he and his entire waiting staff came out to watch us give it a go, like we were taking part in our very own version of an Icelandic bushtucker trial.
Yes, it is gross and tastes like you’re eating something that’s been marinated in petrol, but it’s all good fun. We were also served ram’s testicles, an entire sheep’s head, puffin and reindeer. The latter of which was very tasty, despite the fact our inner child was protesting at eating one of Santa’s sleigh bearers.
Need to know:
A three-night trip to Iceland with Discover the World, including two nights at Hotel Ranga, a trip to the Blue Lagoon and a tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle costs from £559 per person, exlcuding flights.
Flights to Iceland cost as little as £49 per person for a one-way trip on Wow Air, not including taxes.