“They say if you don’t like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes”.
Never have truer words been uttered.
I’m not going to lie to you, I spent a lot of my time in Iceland with a face like this:
Having just been soaked by the warmth of the geothermal geysers, this is me at the more pleasant end of the scale that represented the times I fell victim to nature during my stay. In a country where sheet snow can turn to piercing blue skies quicker than you can learn to spell Reykjavik, knowing best how to handle the weather is all part of the acclimatization process.
When traveling in Iceland, you’ll soon learn that spare socks are basically a matter of life and death (kind of), there’s nothing embarrassing about over-sized waterproofs, and rocking up into a restaurant in snow boots goes way beyond a fashion statement. Complaining about the weather as a tourist is a rite of passage, but knowing exactly where to go when mother nature goes off kilter could make or break your trip. From cosy bars to steaming hot springs, here are just a few of my favorite ways to warm up in and around Reykjavik.
Nothing warms the cockles like a stiff drink. Reykjavik is home to a vibrant and ever-growing drinks scene, where mixologists all over the city are shaking things up (sorry) with funky cocktails to go head to head with the already established microbrewery scene.
In fact these days, the nightlife in Reykjavik could easily rival that of any mainland European city when it comes to diversity, especially considering the city's size! I'll admit it now; having always been a wine drinker, Iceland helped me to discover beer and I may have drunk far too much as a consequence. But who can blame me?
The array of options on offer is mind boggling, with the city boasting everything from whisky bars for those with more refined palates, to establishments selling their very own Icelandic version of the hallowed Pina Colada. When in town, my favorite was hands down the Kaldi Bar. This is where you go to sample the locally brewed beers that Iceland is most proud of, with eight guest brews alternating at any given time. I’m a ‘pubber’ not a ‘clubber’, so if like me you’d prefer to be somewhere relaxed, homely, laid back and devoid of thumping tunes that stop even your internal monologue doing its job, give it a try.
a) You like movies, specifically those featuring a man that goes by the name of Chuck Norris
b) You find the process of dining out laborious
You might be thinking “that’s me alright, but there’s just no place for me in this world”. False.
Reserved for the Chuck Norris-aficionado and located at the heart of the city’s center, what some might consider a tourist trap serves as a light-hearted retreat for others. When the weather turns rotten, moral can run low, but what better place to go for a pick-me-up than a restaurant that thrives off jokes (albeit only comprehensible to the Norris fan) and a laid back, fun environment in which you can enjoy a beer and a burger?
It’s effectively basket food, but nothing says ‘cheer up, it’s just a bit of rain’ like free wi-fi and a myriad of Chuck Norris facts.
Perhaps the least obvious and most British suggestion when it comes to tackling the weather in full force is to get out there, stay strong and pretend like nothing’s wrong. Iceland is of course famed for its geothermal activity, and retreating to one of region’s hot springs or thermal spas is the ultimate way to get up close to nature and embrace Iceland’s unpredictable weather.
Sundhöllin is a public pool in the heart of the city that’s home to two thermal hot springs, serving as a peaceful refuge amid the urban tones of the city. I love a good thermal pool, but the problem for me is always getting out. It's always colder than when you got in, and this was no different. For the easily swallowed fee of around $10, I actually ended up spending the best part of an entire afternoon splashing around here whilst the skies did what they had to do, before then resuming play. But for those of you who are thinking bigger, your minds have no doubt wandered towards what is one of Iceland’s most symbolic attractions; The Blue Lagoon.
It’s big. It’s blue. It’s beautiful. And most importantly, it’s really quite warm. There’s something quite special about feeling cosy and safe beneath the water and kicking back as your hair freezes and snow falls gently around you. One of the highlights of my trip, the attraction is worth the hype, and should be hailed as the perfect way to combat a less than pleasant afternoon! Although one thing I will say is to turn up early, as by the time I arrived I had to join a queue which was operating on a one in, one out basis - although you'd never know from the above photo.
Find Blue Lagoon Tours here.
Of course, nestling yourself in the quiet corner of a coffee shop next to roaring fire is one option, but this is Iceland - a land of adventure! Much like the PE teacher you hated at school who remarked “no it’s not too cold for class and you’re not going inside, you just need to get moving”, I am going to advocate that you beat the chill through some good old fashioned thrill-seeking.
The landscape is epic and, in fact, it’s the addition of natural gifts like snow that actually enable certain types of exploration. So, it’s all about layering up, manning up and heading outside for any one of the adrenaline-fueled activities on offer to get your heart racing and the blood flowing.
I tried a spot of glacier hiking spliced with some climbing, which I’ll admit, as somebody who gets out of breath heading up the stairs, was tough at points. But there is a world of outdoor activities to try that will ensure you beat the chill, from snowmobiling along the rolling peaks of snow, to afternoons spent caving! Of course, you can always a hire a snow jeep and stick the heating on!
All photos from Backpacking with Bacon