Why you should stopover in Iceland on your way to San Francisco

Direct flights are the way to go. Why add on hours changing planes when you don’t have to. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I changed my mind.

Why? Last month Icelandair launched their new flight to San Francisco from London’s Heathrow airport with a stopover in Iceland for few days included in the price. In effect this was a two-country holiday.

This is how I spent my time in the land of the midnight sun.

The Blue Lagoon
The misty, blue waters of the Blue Lagoon are heated by the earth itself and look dazzling against a back drop of black lava mountains.
Though these waters are fantastic for your skin, it’s not so easy on hair. We were told to douse our hair in (the supplied) hair conditioner. So, I hung up my fluffy dressing gown, kicked off the supplied flip flops and made my way in. The water eventually reaches shoulder height(ish). I had a token for a drink and swapped it for a Prosecco at the water-side bar.

Then a wade through the warm, opaque water to other side for a Silica mud mask, designed to “make you look younger”. Then later, I was back for an algae mask to “make your skin soft”. By the time I left, around two hours later, my skin felt and looked pretty good.

Thankfully, on site is the Lava Restaurant dishing up tasty grilled beef, lamp and fish.

Snorkeling at Silfra Fissure
Snorkelling through calm, clear waters at Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park is a joyous experience but what blew my mind was that the rocky formations in the canyon were the result of the movement of two tectonic plates of America and Eurasia – and I was floating through them.

The blue water, though initially chilly, is so clear that visibility is up to 100 feet. I was able to see the nooks and crannies of the rocky formations and purple, pink and brown colour scheme beneath this underwater kingdom. Incidentally, there’s no wildlife to see, just nature’s handy-work.

The tour lasted around 40-minutes and the idea is to float rather than swim. All the gear is supplied and sized by a very supportive team though the suit was pretty tight and felt constricting but did the job of keeping me dry.

Afterwards, I was given hot chocolate and biscuits to round off the experience.

Whale watching on board a cruiser
A cruiser (courtesy of Artic Adventure) took us out into choppy seas (yes you may get seasick) but the vision of puffins bobbing on the water and Humpback whales majestically popping out of the water seemingly unfazed by the vessel, makes up for the somewhat heady experience. I must have had five sightings in just two hours. Watching them is awesome as they reveal their white undersides while diving in and out, arching their long dark body.

Snowmobiling along a glacier in the midnight sun
I was so pleased to have the opportunity to go snowmobiling on Iceland’s Langjökull Glacier. After a few minutes of tuition I started the engine and in a snake-like formation followed the guide along the glacier. The snow seemed to stretch into the eternal and looked beautiful under the dark orange hues of the midnight sun. Yes it’s a four-hour drive from Reykjavik but it is a sensational experience and you’ll see lots of fantastic scenery along the way. Don’t miss it.

Fact File
FLY: Icelandair flies from London Heathrow to San Francisco. The fare is £447.80 per person return including all taxes, fees and charges (price is based on travelling in September 2018). passengers are able to stopover in Iceland on their way to San Francisco for up to seven days for no extra fare price.

STAY: Hotel Marina Iceland is a funky, open plan hotel with decent sized rooms and comfy bed. Double from ISK 17,850 / £126 per night

EAT: Kopar restaurant located by the pier Reykjavik offers fine dining in a friendly environment. Enjoy Beef, salmon and seafood.

Lindin restaurant in Laugarvatn has lovely location by a lake. The owner is a happy sort and offers a vibrant welcome. The smoked Arctic Char was amazing. There’s also reindeer burger with fries on offer.

Block Burger is a plain and simple juicy burger joint and bar. Great to down with a beer.

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