It was -10 degrees celcius, and I was standing outside, shivering in my bikini. I hadn’t gone insane; I was about to bathe in the famous geyser pools of the Blue Lagoon.
Imagine Narnia with hot tubs, and you’ve got the Blue Lagoon – a geothermal spa situated near Keflavik Airport, Iceland. Bathing in steaming pools amongst the falling snow at Christmas was a truly surreal experience. Despite the icy atmosphere, the spa’s waters were warm and relaxing. The lagoon is also renowned to be rich in minerals, which are good for the skin. Mine certainly felt softer when I left!
The city of Reykjavik, Iceland, is an attraction in itself. We stayed in the Hilton, which was close to the city centre and decorated with upside-down Christmas trees. On arrival, we were greeted with steaming mugs of hot drink and cookies. Each night, one of the 13 Yule Lads would leave a treat in our hotel room. From Icelandic folklore, the Yule Lads or jólasveinarnir are the country’s equivalent of Father Christmas. Instead of one fat bloke, however, they get 13 friendly trolls!
Shopping isn’t the main attraction in Reykjavik, although there are lots of places to eat. One which stood out for me was “Sjavarkjallerinn”, Icelandic for “seafood cellar”. Fresh fish took pride of place on their menus, but I was intrigued by the whale burgers. Always keen to try new cuisine, I was delighted to discover that whale is a delicious meat – not too dissimilar from beef, in fact. If you do want to take part in some festive shopping, there is a lovely Christmas market in the town of Hafnarfjordur. There’s also a festive-themed museum, all the more christmassy amongst the winter landscapes!
My favourite part of the trip was a bus tour of Iceland’s stunningly beautiful geysers. Despite the blistering cold, the excursion was a hugely enjoyable experience and the views of the icy waterfalls were unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
Forget Christmas Day, the 23rd December is a big deal in Iceland. Known as Thorlaksmessa, the day is celebrated with a vast variety of activities. Party with the locals drinking jolaglogg (mulled wine), take part in some last-minute present buying and sample the traditional putrefied skate… if you’re brave enough! With all the festivities, it’s no wonder the country was voted CNN Travel’s top Christmas destination in 2010.