The world-famous Blue Lagoon in Iceland is the most touristy and well-maintained hot springs in the country. Though, if you are expecting a natural pool surrounded by lava fields you will be very much surprised when you arrive. The Blue Lagoon is made up of geothermal waters though there is much more to do there than simply take a dip! The Lagoon itself has been lined with concrete so that guests were no longer stepping on the natural rocky/ mossy floors, there are swim-up bars in the Lagoon where you can enjoy a drink and get your Silica mud mask! The Blue Lagoon also has an onsite spa and hotel with another private Lagoon for hotel guests only! Though, Iceland is famously very expensive, and we found that staying in the Lagoon hotel for one night and then moving to a hotel in Reykjavik for the next few nights was much better value for money! This way we got to enjoy the serenity of the Blue Lagoon and experience true relaxation but did not have to pay the Lagoon prices for the days we went on day trips!
If you want to have a more rustic experience of Iceland’s geothermal pools, then you’ll want to head to Gamla Laugin "Secret" Lagoon - the great thing about this lagoon is that it is totally natural and very rustic but not hard to find as it’s accessible for anyone driving the main path of the Golden Circle and there are new changing facilities here for those taking a dip!
Whilst on our Iceland holiday we decided to hire our own car so that we could drive ourselves around the island easily. On our second day we drove the world famous ‘Golden Circle’, starting in Reykjavik we followed our Satnav’s instructions and headed towards the first attraction, Þingvellir National Park, which is a unique geological area for Iceland as it is where the Eurasian Continental Plate and the North American Continental Plate meet. These two Plates are pulling away from each other which creates cracks in the earth that you can see – there are also large fissures that you can go snorkelling and diving in if accompanied by a professional and with a tour! Þingvellir National Park was also home to the waterfall Oxararfoss that was only a 10-minute walk from the car park! The next stop on the Golden Circle tour is Haukadalur Geothermal Field, which is home to two of Iceland’s most famous Geysers – Strokkur and Geysir! You’ll notice the distinct smell of sulphur or “rotten egg” while visiting the active geothermal areas so be prepared for that! The last of the three major attractions on the Golden Circle is the Gullfoss waterfall which is on the Hvítá river. The falls have a café on site, and we stopped for a bite to eat as we explored the amazing landscape.
While in Iceland we opted to stay for one night in the Blue Lagoon hotel and the next 2 in the Hilton in Reykjavik. The Hilton was a 10-minute drive from the airport and surrounded by city attractions like the Reykjavik Botanical Gardens and Kringlan Shopping Centre. The Hilton had free parking which was a bonus in an already expensive city, and a specialist restaurant VOX that served Nordic Cuisine
After experiencing the wilds of Iceland, we were ready for the change of pace. From Iceland we flew to New York where we stayed in Hotel Edison in Times Square. Staying in Times Square was certainly a dramatic change from the serenity of the Blue Lagoon or the Nordic architecture of Reykjavik however we were in walking distance to most of New York City’s major attractions like Central Park, Broadway, the 49th St. Subway Station and Rockefeller Centre.
On our first day of this New York city break we decided to explore Central Park and after seeing how huge it really is we opted to hire a bike from one of the many shops and cycle round! The bike rental was around $15 a day so very inexpensive, and it included a bike, helmet, map, and lock! I’m still not sure if we managed to make it all the way around the park but we gave it a good go! Whilst cycling round we stopped at many classic New York City style street food vendors that sold hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream and a selection of drinks – I had to try the classic New York ketchup and mustard hot dog! These carts tend to move around so if you are looking for a more permanent food option, you could try the Tavern on the Green that serves an iconic and traditional American Menu or The Leob Boathouse for more formal dining!
We couldn’t visit central park without visiting the Central Park Zoo so before making our way to dinner we stopped by the Zoo to see some of the 130 different species of animals they house there. By far my favourite were the 2 beautiful snow leopards located at the top of the temperate zone – though they love to hide so you might have to stick around for a while to spot them!
For dinner we fancied Italian, and the hotel’s concierge recommended Bond 45 as it was only a minute walk away from the Edison Hotel. The restaurant had a fabulous ambience, and I had a classic margarita pizza with a couple of the bar tenders’ signature cocktails! This really made for a great evening to our already amazing day!
On our second day on our New York and Iceland holiday , we made our way over to Broadway as I was lucky enough to have secured Hamilton matinée tickets! The show was just as amazing as everyone said, and the actors really put their heart and soul into their performance! That afternoon/ evening we wanted to see more cultural sights in New York City, so we headed over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we were able to see all the fabulous exhibits on display – from fashion galleries to Egyptian Art.
On our third day we swapped culture for couture as we headed to Columbus Circle shopping centre where we were able to do a spot of shopping – both for some luxury items and souvenirs! Of course, we couldn’t end a shopping day in New York without walking down 5th Avenue – New York’s best (and most expensive) shopping street!
On our final day of our Iceland and New York Twin Centre holiday we caught the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. We made the climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty and were rewarded with panoramic views of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan’s skyline, Staten Island, and the Verranzano Bridge. From the base to the top was 377 steps and once at the top if you look up you can see and touch the hair of Lady Liberty! To climb the Statue of Liberty we had to reserve our ticket months in advance so be sure to check if there is availability if it’s something you really want to do! The whole trip took around 6 hours from start to finish and after such a long day we decided to get some authentic New York Street food on our way back to the hotel!
The contrast of waterfalls, hot springs and lava fields with towering skyscrapers, amazing food and endless shopping made for such a dramatic and interesting holiday!