Have you ever wished you could go on a trip that would leave you grinning for weeks afterwards and bring out the inner child in you without making the old one housing it creak and groan? If so, I have found the perfect destination for your next trip – Iceland.
The land of the midnight sun is not what you imagine. Okay, it’s a tad chilly in winter but you should get good sightings of the Northern Lights as well as enjoy lots of outdoor fun pursuits however, go in summer and you will be spoilt for choice. Most Icelanders speak English, the food is delicious, the scenery is breathtakingly stunning and the list of things to enjoy is almost endless.
Thanks to Kirker Holidays who organised everything for us, this grumpy old couple headed to Reykjavik in July for a four-day break. I should say at this point, if you do the same, avoid going on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday because this is a town that knows how to party. (Think Magaluf) You will get little or no sleep thanks to the crowds of youngsters up all night enjoying themselves but choose Sunday to Thursday and you will have a different experience.
Reykjavik is not huge and you can easily walk around it photographing all the attractions in half a day. Take a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus or a Segway tour if you do not fancy tackling it yourself but this is a town with tourist information offices on almost every street, so you will get all the help and maps you need to make the most of your stay.
Head to the harbour and book a whale tour or a trip to Puffin Island. We took a Reykjavik by boat tour. They use a small vessel that takes a maximum of thirty-five people. This was an extremely good way to get close to the arctic terns and puffins – binoculars are provided – and learn more about these birds as well as Reykjavik itself.
For those who want more adventure, try a whale watching sea safari on a small RIB – a rigid inflatable boat. This is definitely an exhilarating experience, suitable for all ages unless you have mobility difficulties and back problems. It is without doubt, the best and fastest way to see whales and dolphins and whalesafari.is tours have a 90% success record of spotting whales. When the creatures are tracked down, boat engines and turned off and thanks to the configuration of the craft, everyone on board gets a splendid view. I highly recommend this company and tour. The guides are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and your captain will no doubt ensure you have a fun ride by manoeuvring the craft through bow waves created by other boats.
There are other whale watching companies but expect a longer boat ride and lots of other eager tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of a whale. Sharp elbows are needed to jostle your way to the optimum viewing position.
An absolute must-do is the Golden Circle Tour, preferably in a super jeep. These fantastic vehicles with extra large wheels are used for climbing mountains, going off road and onto the glaciers. Expect a full day viewing geysers (named after Geysir), waterfalls, craters, volcanoes and other outstanding wonders of nature. Superjeep.is has several of these vehicles that each takes up to five people. You can book to travel in a group or do a private tour. A private tour is pricey at about £700 but it is worth every penny and you will have an incredible day.
Visit the Northern Lights exhibition at the harbour where you learn all about them and can even take your own photograph of the lights. There are volcano and whale museums and a free show – How to become Icelandic in 60 Minutes – every evening in the Harpa Concert Hall.
Other exciting options include helicopter trips over volcanoes, descents into a volcano, or even dining in a volcano.
You can also try ice climbing, caving, diving or hanging out on a black sandy beach.
No visit to Iceland would be complete without a trip to the Blue Lagoon to sit in the warm waters. Trips are organised to or from the airport. However, if you are short of time, there are numerous geothermal pools you can enjoy. Indeed, there are a staggering 2,500 swimming pools in Iceland.
This is an activity holiday suitable for older people especially those who enjoy golfing, cycling, swimming, walking and are keen to try out a few other activities such as horse riding on Icelandic ponies – sturdy horses who don’t seem to mind that you have never ridden before. If you are fit, there are endless hiking trails, mountain climbing, snowmobiling, paragliding and even surfing.
Iceland is famous for more than erupting volcanoes and the singer Bjork. For instance, it founded the world’s oldest parliament, has the largest waterfall and glacier in Europe and has a population with the longest life expectancy, which comes as no surprise after you visit this splendid country.
This is a fascinating country with an equally fascinating history. You cannot expect to cover everything in four days but you will leave with deep satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and a desire to return. If you fancy some extreme active ageing, look no further than Iceland for your next trip.
Grumpy rating: a definite 10/10
Mr Grumpy says: “Clean, crisp air. Pleasant and friendly people. Thoroughly enjoyed my day out in the 4X4 super jeep. I could do with one of those pumped up Land Rovers for the pot-holed roads here.”
I say: “Made me feel ten years younger and I am still smiling at the memories.”
Unusual things to do:
Go to the penis museum. The Icelandic Phallological Museum has over 200 items on display including those from whale, mink, and goat along with the crown jewel: a human penis.
Hunt for elves – half of the population believes in elves. Take a hidden world guided tour in Hafnarfjordur, near Reykjavik – or even take a course at the Icelandic Elf School.
Best quote from the trip:
Tourist: “Can I book onto this whale watching trip? You are the captain, aren’t you?”
Mr Grumpy: “Of course I am. Yes, just pop along to the office and sign up.”
Grumpy thoughts are that Iceland is rapidly becoming a “hot spot” to visit, so go sooner rather than later.