Europe, Grindavík, Iceland, Instagram, Reykjavík

Instagramming…Christmas in Iceland – Part 1

April 10, 2014

It was about 8:30 a.m. when I boarded a bus en route to the Blue Lagoon and yet it was still pitch black. The sun would not rise until around 10:30 a.m. I peered out the window, wishing so much to see the new landscape that surrounded me.

I spotted a cemetery and was delighted to discover that Icelanders decorate the graves of their loved one with bright lights. Who knew?

Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” played on the radio, strangely sung in Icelandic by two old men.

It all felt so surreal. I was tired, not having slept during my overnight flight. Coupled with the 4-hour wait for the bus to the Blue Lagoon, I may have been a tad delirious, actually.

This is my first memory of my Christmas in Iceland.

Blue Lagoon

Taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon had been on my travel bucket list for quite some time.  I was the first one off the bus and pretty much ran to the entrance. I was that excited to glimpse the renowned beauty of the Blue Lagoon.

Even better, I was also due to receive a spa treatment and have an in-water massage. There was no better way to start my Christmas in Iceland.

At first glimpse, it was everything I dreamed about and more. Everything was blue, not just the water.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

The massage was an interesting experience to say the least (I’ll save that story for another day) but as expected, the Blue Lagoon did not disappoint.

It was windy that day and absolutely freezing so the water felt like a cozy, warm blanket wrapped around my body.

Watching sunrise over the Blue Lagoon goes down as one of the best moments of my entire life. I mean, just look!

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Of course, I took a moment to celebrate and had a glass of prosecco. Cheers to me, baby. I was in Iceland!

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Leaving the Blue Lagoon in the early afternoon, I finally got my first true glimpse of the dramatic volcanic landscape.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Loft Hostel

I started my stay in Reykjavík with two nights at Loft Hostel.

This was their super cool bar, which was sadly not open over Christmas. I would have loved to have a drink here!

Loft Hostel Reykjavik

They also had this lovely Christmas decoration on their windowsill.

Christmas in Iceland

The view of Reykjavík from the hostel’s terrace.

Loft Hostel Reykjavik

Golden Circle Tour

After getting loads of sleep, I spent my Christmas day taking the classic Golden Circle tour.

This was a typical view as our bus snaked its way along the lonely, winding, snow-swept roads.

Road Trip in Iceland

Stopping for a rest, I was delighted with this cute bicycle decoration.

Bike in Iceland

The rest stop turned out to be on a farm, where they grow fresh tomatoes in a greenhouse.

Greenhouse in Iceland

Another view of the stark, pristine Icelandic landscape near Gullfoss Falls.

Golden Circle Tour Iceland

Then it was time for the real action. Time to see Gullfoss Falls in winter. Spectacular in summer, the snow and ice have their own unique beauty.

Cheryl Howard at Gulfoss Falls Iceland

Later on that day, we visited the Geysir Geothermal Field at sunset.

Geysir Iceland

Stopping to have lunch, I sampled my first Icelandic beer – a special Christmas brew!

Beer in Iceland

I also spied this funny t-shirt in the gift shop. Did I actually have sex with an elf in Iceland? I’ll never tell…

Hipster T-Shirt in Iceland

Café Babalú

It was a huge challenge to find a restaurant in Reykjavik open on Christmas Day. I ended up having dinner at this cute hipster cafe, Café Babalú.

Babalu Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja

Close to the cafe is Iceland’s iconic Lutheran church, the Hallgrímskirkja. My excitement of being in Iceland continued, as I was seeing a building that I’d always fantasized about visiting.

Hallgrímskirkja Reykjavik

The Final Word

My first two days in Iceland were fun and action packed. Stay tuned as I share more about my Christmas in Iceland in the coming days.

Good to Know

  1. Visit the Blue Lagoon upon arrival in Iceland. It’s close to the airport – you can drive there yourself or buy a bus ticket at the airport. If you arrive in the middle of the night, be prepared to wait. The first bus does not depart for the Blue Lagoon until about 8:30 a.m.
  2. If you plan to go on to Reykjavik afterwards, make sure you also book transport to Reykjavik from the Blue Lagoon at the same time.
  3. Visit the Blue Lagoon early in the morning, as there are less people. It gets much more crowded as the day goes on.
  4. Loft Hostel is located in central Reykjavik. Keep in mind that if you go there over Christmas, their fabulous bar will be closed. It’s BYOB if you wish to have alcohol at the hostel. As it was off-season, I scored a six-bunk dorm room all to myself!
  5. I booked my Golden Circle tour through Reykjavik Excursions, one of the few companies operating on Christmas Day. The friendly staff at the hostel helped me secure a reservation.
  6. Most beer companies in Iceland offer special Christmas brews! Drink all of them and go on a do-it-yourself beer tour. Sadly, one beer costs about $10 CAN/US. One way to save money though, is to buy beer at a convenience store and not at a bar.
  7. Hardly any restaurants in Reykjavik are open during the holiday season. Give yourself time to find a place that’s open and if possible, make a reservation. Expect meal prices to be shockingly high and for the bills to already have a hefty gratuity added. Meal options may also be set, leaving you without much choice.
  8. Café Babalú offered a special Christmas menu, but they had run out by the time I got there. So if you plan to eat out, get there early! Also, don’t be late as most restaurants close early.
  9. View all of my Iceland posts for even more stories and travel tips.

Follow Me on Instagram

If you like my photos, follow me on Instagram (@cherylhowardblog) to see updates from my life in Toronto and on the road.

Instagram Travel Thursday

Interested in seeing some other people’s great Instagram posts? Check them here or join in yourself by taking part in Instagram Travel Thursday hosted by Skimbaco Lifestyle.


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22 Comments

  • Reply Charli | Wanderlusters April 11, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    OK so please tell me you bought that Elf t-shirt! Great pics, you’ve inspired me to have a frosty Christmas this year!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 11, 2014 at 2:07 AM

      I did not buy that t-shirt but I should have! It was such a lovely Christmas … and such a great time to visit Iceland. 🙂

  • Reply reeta @houseofanais April 11, 2014 at 4:35 AM

    Lovely photos, Iceland is such an amazing place to visit. The capture of the Geysir is fantastic!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 11, 2014 at 8:48 AM

      Thank you Reeta! I can’t wait to return there someday.

  • Reply Alison Chino April 11, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Um, just gorgeous! Seriously making me want to spend Christmas in Iceland. I mean, if it’s going to be dark anyway, it might as well be glowing blue and beautiful!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 12, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Alison – You totally should! It’s such a special time of the year to be there.

  • Reply Leigh Powell Hines April 12, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I love the way you write your posts, Cheryl. The “Good to Know” section is a great way to put in material from your trips without the post being so wordy. I could take lessons in that. Iceland looks neat, and that t-shirt is funny. The Christmas brew is neat, too.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 12, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      Thank you so much Leigh! Really appreciate your comment as it brightened my day. 🙂

      The Christmas brew was super tasty. 🙂

  • Reply Satu VW / Destination Unknown April 12, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    I have “bit” of an Iceland fever so I wasn’t sure whether I want to look at your post at all… the fever is getting worse (or better)! 🙂 I was hoping to go there this June, but it looks like that trip just might have to wait. I look forward to more of your Iceland stories (what’s up with that massage??), it is such a small but interesting country!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 12, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Hi Satu,

      Well, I hope you make it to Iceland soon. It’s worth the wait. 🙂

      The massage also included a salt scrub which was an interesting (and painful) experience to receive out the freezing cold!

      Cheryl

  • Reply DJ Yabis | Dream Euro Trip April 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Your photos makes me wanna go back to Iceland asap. That sunset photo by the blue lagoon is love.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 14, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      Aww, thanks DJ! That’s an incredible compliment coming from you – I love your photos! 🙂

  • Reply the lazy travelers April 16, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    ummm what a freaking amazing place to be for christmas! love the photo of the candles in the window, but love the close up of the prosecco most of all… xo!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 16, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      Thanks guys! That moment in the lagoon with the prosecco was pretty sweet.

  • Reply Nancy D. Brown April 16, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    Christmas in Iceland sounds fantastic. I want to visit the Blue Lagoon and ride an Icelandic horse. What a trip!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Nancy, it was fantastic! I hope you can make it someday there soon yourself. 🙂

  • Reply Marie-Carmen April 23, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    Oh I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland!
    That sounds like such a great trip! And the blue lagoon seems amazing!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 23, 2014 at 11:30 PM

      Marie-Carmen – I truly hope you get there. It’s one of my favourite countries and so unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. The Blue Lagoon is touristy but it’s still one of those places worth the visit.

  • Reply Jennifer May 18, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    We were in Iceland just after Christmas. We were actually there for New Year’s and it is the best place we’ve ever celebrated ringing in the New Year.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 18, 2014 at 10:30 PM

      It was the perfect place to spend Christmas too.

  • Reply Mary @ Green Global Travel July 8, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Your pictures look so beautiful! Christmas in Iceland sounds enchanting! Wow, thanks for sharing this!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 8, 2014 at 3:28 PM

      It was totally amazing! I almost want to repeat it again this Christmas. 🙂

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