Like many others, Iceland has been on my bucket list for a long long time, so when a bargain offer appeared in my inbox from Superbreak*, a tour operator that I sell, (as a travel agent I get first-hand offers – perks of the job!), I had to snap it up.
Iceland was absolutely everything I imagined it to be and more. It has the most beautiful landscapes and the warmest, most friendliest people you could ever meet. There is a reason why so many people rave about this beautiful country and visitors have flocked in their millions over the past eight to nine years.
*(This isn’t in collaboration or sponsored by Superbreak. As a travel agent, I sell their holidays, but I still paid for my holiday with my own money and they haven’t asked me to write anything on their behalf – I just loved the holiday that much!).
The Superbreak Package
The holiday was for four nights in northern Iceland, in a small city called Akureyri. Flights from Cardiff, four nights bed and breakfast in a 4* hotel, transfers and two tours were included for the overall price of £349 p/p – an absolute steal!
Superbreak is currently the only tour operator that operator in this part of Iceland, with departures from local regional airports. Superbreak is the only operating this break during the winter and there are still some departures left if you wanted to take advantage – visit their website here.
Akureyri is a beautiful small city located in the mid-north of Iceland, right in the heart of a beautiful fjord. Known as the capital of the north, it is less well known and touristy than Iceland’s capital and most popular area of Reykjavik.
As we approached to land in Akyerui, the scenery took my breath away. Icy mountains and glacier rivers stretched as far as the eye could see and the whole landscape didn’t look like it was real. It was the most phenomenal landing I have ever experienced as the runway is set up in the middle of the fjord making it look like you are about to land on the water. A magical and equally nerve racking experience.
Now, the airport is absolutely tiny. I can not emphasise enough just how small this airport was. We were let off the plane in stages as we couldn’t all physically fit in the airport security hall. Once through passport control (the friendliest border control agents in the world), we were met by the wonderful Superbreak reps and then told which coach we needed to get on to take us to our hotel. The drive was only 5 or so minutes – Akureyri really is that small – and we checked into Hotel Kea smoothly and efficiently.
Hotel Kea was located right in the centre of Akureyri and is a modern hotel with a stylish scandi interior. The rooms were on the smaller side but came with everything needed (including hair dryer, towels and a mini-fridge) and the heating was exceptional (an important factor when staying in Iceland!). There are a bar and restaurant on the ground floor with happy hour running between 4-6pm (alcohol is expensive so take advantage of happy hours!). We didn’t eat at the restaurant (the prices were extortionate) so I can’t comment on the evening meal, but the breakfast buffet had a good amount of variation to choose from – they even had a waffle making station, which I was very happy about.
What We Did
Like the rest of Iceland, Akureyri prides itself on its outstanding natural beauty. Akureyri itself is a tiny little town, but the surrounding areas have plenty to keep you entertained.
As part of the Superbreak package, we had a northern lights tour and a full day Lake Mytavan tour included.
On the first night, we were picked up at 9 pm and taken on a three-hour northern lights tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them, but the places we visited on the tour were so remote and beautiful, it was still a fantastic experience. There are opportunities to go out on a private northern lights tour starting from £60p/p, if you didn’t see them on your first night. A few people did this during their stay and on the third night, they saw the most phenomenal light display judging by the pictures they showed us! The night we were going to book our private tour, the weather forecast wasn’t great and the chances of seeing them were low so we were advised not to waste our money. I was disappointed we didn’t just hurry up and book the tour sooner, but it gives me an excuse to go back!
On the second day, we did a whale watching excursion which was £70p/p. The boat was located only a 2-minute walk from the hotel and the tours run daily. We were fortunate to be given a very still, calm day on the fjord and for the three hours, we did spot one young humpback male which we watched breach and feed. We only got to see one whale, but it was still fantastic to witness, in the most surreal landscape. Our guide was fantastic and you can tell he has a real passion and care for these creatures.
On the third day, we went on the full-day tour of Lake Mytavan which was also included in the package. The day started at Goddafoss Waterfall where we spent 45 minutes or so, watching the sunrise over this icy-blue waterfall. It was other-worldly.
Next, we were taken to see some lava-rock formations with our guide telling us folk stories of trolls and elves that live in the rocks. We stopped for lunch at a nearby hotel (lunch wasn’t included in the price), and then visited sulphur mud springs, which felt like they were from a completely different planet.
Our final stop was at the geothermal baths where we could pay £25 p/p for 3 hours. A smaller version of the Blue Lagoon, these geothermal baths were a fantastic experience – and I could have stayed there even longer than 3 hours! We watched the sunset while surrounded by mountains in a steaming hot natural bath, a great end to a whirlwind day.
The last excursion we did was to see Dettifoss waterfall. It wasn’t cheap at £140p/p, but it was seriously impressive. The weather was tough the day we visited, heavy snow and freezing temperatures meant that hiking to the waterfall was very very challenging. I felt like an arctic explorer, wind gushing, blizzard snow and low visibility – I kept having ‘what on earth!?’ moments the whole time.
We also saw a baby waterfall Selfoss, which I actually prefered, the surrounding landscape of icy-black river was, again, another otherworldly experience.
Where We Ate
It is expensive to eat and drink in Iceland, so prepare yourself for that. We were quite savvy, only opting for one course and one drink in the evenings but even that set us back between £20 and £30 per person. I took snacks with us in my case, fearing that I would struggle as a vegetarian but every single place we visited had vegan and vegetarian options – something that I was pleasantly surprised by.
There are a few restaurants in Akyureyi and if staying at Hotel Kea, you are within a 10-minute walk of everywhere. On the plane, Superbreak gives you a booklet which includes tips, excursions and discount vouchers to some of the local restaurants.
We ate at Backpackers Cafe (a cheap hostel/restaurant that sells burgers), Bryggjan (the most incredible wood-fired pizzas!) and Greifinn (a bistro on the outskirts of town which is good for American style food) and Akureyri Fish & Chips (can you guess what they serve!?).
We opted to go to restaurants where we could use the discount vouchers and while the food was certainly worth £20 a head (even with the discount!), it was still enjoyable and we didn’t eat a bad meal while we were out there.
If you are on a budget, stick to just ordering one course, drink tap water and take advantage of the discount vouchers Superbreak offer. Different restaurants have happy hours at different times, so if you like a drink with dinner make sure you know when each restaurants happy hours are.
The currency in Iceland is Icelandic króna (ISK) and at time of publication £1 = 155ISK. We didn’t take any cash with us as we didn’t know quite how much we would need, instead opting to pay by credit card everywhere (we have a card that doesn’t charge for using transactions abroad). We didn’t have a problem with this at all, as everywhere we went accepted credit card.
It’s important to take appropriate clothes to Iceland, as temperatures and weather conditions can change in an instant! There is a saying in Iceland ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’.
As temperatures can reach well into the minuses, it’s good to be prepared. You’ll want a base layer (thermal tops and leggings), a mid-layer (your normal clothes, jumpers, tops, trousers etc) and a top layer (a large waterproof coat, thick woolly socks, waterproof gloves, a scarf or snood and a thick hat). I borrowed our friends’ salopettes which were life-saving, as waterproof trousers are much better than jeans. If you can get some good walking boots that are waterproof that would be the ideal footwear, but anything that has a good grip is ideal. It can get very slippy!
Have I convinced you to visit Akureyri yet? It was such a wonderful taster into Iceland and I would love to go back to experience what else this beautiful country has to offer. Have you visited Iceland? What were your experiences?
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