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Solo Trip to Iceland 🇮🇸✈️🌏


It was a personal ambition of mine to visit 30 different countries before I turned 30 years old.

Despite Covid-19 hindering my plans, I was finally able to achieve my target in June 2023. Another solo trip away meant that Iceland became country #30.


Reykjavik instantly became one of my favourite places.

There's just something inexplicably mesmerising about it. I can't liken it to anywhere else I have ever been - it's wonderfully quirky and unique!

If Reykjavik were a person, he'd be that effortlessly cool emo lad in your class who just does his own thing and literally does not give a shit about fitting in. He's different - not at all like anyone else - but everyone likes him, even the 'popular' kids. Kinda' like the guy being described in Avril Lavigne's song Sk8er Boi.

While the main reason for my visit was the Midnight Sun Half Marathon, I was lucky enough to do some real 'bucket list' things in Iceland. I saw dolphins in the wild, rode Icelandic ponies, and swam in the Blue Lagoon.

But despite all of the cool stuff I got up to, one of my most treasured memories from the trip was simply sitting on the coach between stops on the Golden Circle tour. Strangely, it was the time I felt most connected to and enthralled by the landscape: one of the things that had drawn me to the country in the first place...


***


The sudden rain battered the coach like a defiant scatter of pellets.

Beyond the window, the emerald peaks glistened and shimmered in the downpour, standing proudly against the grey sky.

Somehow, the rain just suits Iceland. It showers the land in a sparkling sheen, illuminating the intensity of its dramatic palette.


The dancing hands of the mist grabbed at the coach as it wound deeper into the Icelandic countryside. The landscape blurred in and out of vision.

I sat - knees pulled up beneath me - torn between the pages of my Icelandic folklore book and the scenes happening before my eyes.

In that very moment, you could have told me there were dragons circling the skies above, and I'd have believed you.


The folklore tales birthed from the very land afore me echoed wonderfully inside my head.

Despite being almost 30 years old, I was absolutely glued to the window, combing the passing lava fields for trolls and giants.

When we finally arrived at the Gullfoss Waterfall, I sought out sprites within the nooks and crannies beneath the cascade, studying each rock for barely-visible footprints.

Was that a flash of the sun's reflection portrayed within the luscious depths of the waterfall, or was it the faintest dash of tiny wings?


Iceland made me feel like a child again; my curiosity at the world multiplied, my senses heightened.

How brilliant it was to simply believe.

How sublime to feel the magic around me.

Magic - and the fragile art of allowing it to wash over you - is a freedom and a bespoke nostalgia in itself.


***


The Golden Circle Tour -


Is it worth doing? Yes, yes, and 100 times, YES!


The Golden Circle tour takes in three major natural beauty spots: the Thingvellir National Park, the Strokkur Geyser and the Gullfoss Falls.

The tour generally takes 8 hours and covers approximately 300km. It is a lot of driving, but it's honestly worth it. As I mentioned above, the journey between the stops is very much a part of the experience and allows you to encounter the staggering rawness of Iceland's countryside up close.


All three stops absolutely blew me away.

I cried at the Strokkur Geyser. It was as though it had a life and personality of its own!


The Gullfoss Waterfall is hypnotizing in its beauty. Just five minutes in its company will put all of your worries into perspective. I stood watching it for what felt like an age; I couldn't take my eyes off it. The sheer power it possessed was captivating.

A thought suddenly struck me: this waterfall would always be there, just doing its thing, no matter what was going on in the world, and no matter what I was currently worried about. It made me feel strangely liberated.

Nature is one of our only constants in life, and it's a privilege that deserves to be preserved.

Renting a car and driving the Golden Circle yourself would be a good option and give you more freedom in terms of how long you choose to spend at each spot, but you would miss out on the commentary from the local guides.

The weather in Iceland can also be really unpredictable and changeable, so you may want to bear this in mind if you decide to drive. I personally wouldn't have liked to navigate my way through that thick fog up in the highlands.


There's a famous expression in Iceland: 'if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes!'


Gullfoss Waterfall is out of this world.


🐴 Horse riding at Ishestar Stables -


A morning at Ishestar was a definite highlight of my trip.

As a lifelong horse lover, riding an Icelandic pony has always been high up on my bucket list.

I was matched with ' Frozen Rose,' who I instantly fell in love with.


I've been riding since the age of 6, and have visited various stables overseas. Ishestar was most definitely the best. They took such care in asking every single person about their experience to ensure the right horse was given. Believe it or not, this doesn't often happen!

Those who hadn't ridden before were given a full demonstration on how to control the horse.

I was so impressed with the professionalism and care. This really isn't 'just another tourist trap.'


Half way through the ride, the group split into two: those who wanted to take it slower, and those who fancied trying trotting and 'tolting' (the gaint exclusive to the Icelandic horse).

No matter what your ability, you will be catered for and very much looked after at Ishestar.

Riding through the boundless lupin fields with the mountain range our backdrop was comparable to a dream. The scenery that blessed my vision felt as though it was being projected in high-definition. It was so stunning, it almost didn't feel real.

What a way to spend a Saturday morning!


I couldn't not include both photos 🥰


The Blue Lagoon -


I was hesitant about visiting the Blue Lagoon because - as we all know - when it comes to people, I’m a bit of a Wednesday Addams…

My ‘happy’ limit for social situations is around one and a half human beings, so I’m always a bit wary when it comes to well-known tourist attractions.


To my relief, the Blue Lagoon wasn’t actually horrendously busy. I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point, unlike when I visited the Tulip Fields in Amsterdam (an introvert's worst nightmare).

There are ample changing rooms and facilities. I got a space easily, and never had to wait longer than two minutes for a shower.


The Lagoon itself is a relaxing, enjoyable excursion.

Stepping out onto the terrace, my breath was abruptly taken away by the biting Icelandic air.

The serenity of the azure lagoon provided a startling contrast to the rugged mountains. Grey clouds clawed at the sky, threatening to blow great handfuls of rain across the untamed landscape.

I took my first step into the lagoon. Warm water swirled around my ankles, inviting me in further.


As you’re probably aware, I tend to live life at 100 miles an hour and find it hard to sit still. I thought I’d maybe spend half an hour restlessly bathing, before getting bored and slinking off to find food.

As it happens, an hour crept by without me even really noticing, and then another, and another!

There’s something really quite calming about the Blue Lagoon. I floated in the shallows on my stomach, my body emerged in the balmy waters, as the wind whipped refreshingly around my face. The whole thing just felt really immersive. I was blissfully exposed to the elements and to the remarkable nature that Iceland boasts.

Something I didn't know prior to going is that the Blue Lagoon can really damage your hair. The staff informed us of this as we were queuing to get in, and recommended that everyone covered their hair in conditioner and tied it back before entering the lagoon.

... I looked like a bloody boiled egg in a bikini, wading about with my hair slicked back, my rugby-ball-shaped 'ed hanging out in all of its Hey Arnold glory 😅 So yeah, that abruptly put an end to my selfies...!


If you're going to the Blue Lagoon, I would strongly recommend taking sunglasses. The glare from the water is pretty intense. I convinced myself that I had early-onset meningitis, before noting that all of the lifeguards and staff were sporting shades.


Oh, and if you want my advice, steer WELL clear of the cafe. While I knew the food in Iceland was going to be pricey, I draw the flippin' line at paying the equivalent of £22 for a wrap and a bottle of water! I shit you not, £22.

It pains me deeply to disclose that it wasn’t even a decent wrap, either. All of the chickpeas and carrot shreds fell out as soon as I picked it up. I watched forlornly as a chickpea rolled under the table, along with my lifetime savings.


Had to remortgage my house after that wrap. Never again will I moan about the 3p price increase of Aldi crumpets...


The Blue Lagoon - not as crowded as you'd expect 💙


The Perlan Museum -


If you have a spare afternoon (as I did on the day I arrived), you should definitely check out Perlan.

The museum is interactive and educational, whatever your age.

As well as learning about Iceland's rich natural history, you can watch a cinematic Northern Lights display, wander through an ice cave, and design your own cloud (yes it is as cute as it sounds).


My hotel: Eyja Guldsmeden -


I literally cannot fault the Eyja Guldsmeden in any way.

When I walked in for the first time, Mardy Bum by the Arctic Monkeys was playing over the speakers. So far, so good!


The whole hotel was tastefully decorated with a cool boho feel throughout.

My single room was spotlessly clean and super cosy. I honestly had some of the best sleeps of my life in that bed, despite the 24 hour daylight.


Unfortunately, I had a bit of a 'mare upon check-in. I was suffering from a delightful throat-infection-hayfever combo, and had actually all but lost my voice.

I waltzed up to the desk, opened my mouth to speak... And nothing came out. Not even the Phil Mitchell style rasp that had been present a few hours prior.

"What name was the reservation booked under?" The guy on reception asked.

"Cccccccccc BRADLEH!!!!" I wheezed.

"I'm sorry?"

Not as sorry as I am, mate. How am I meant to perform my obligatory first night rap to In Da Club with no voice?!

Just FYI: it's a tradition I adopted when I first travelled solo at the age of 21. I always rap along to 50 Cent's In Da Club while unpacking my case. Usually with a bag of Haribo and some bottled water. Apparently, it's one only wild step away from launching TVs out of windows.

Anyway, I can now report that rapping was a struggle that night.

"Go *cough* SHAWTEH itsye *wheeze* bbbbbbirthDEH!!"


Eating in Reykjavik -


It’s a well-known fact that food in Iceland is expensive, and sweet baby Jesus, I can confirm that the rumours are true!

Plan your budget accordingly so you’re not left reeling (although, tbh, I was fully prepared for the expense, and I still reeled).

You’ll easily put down at least £20 for one main meal, WITHOUT drinks.

Depending on your taste, there are cheaper options, so it’s well worth doing your research. For example, if you just want a quick pick-me-up pizza, it may work out cheaper to grab a few slices from one of the local supermarket hot-counters, rather than forking out on a takeout or eat-in at a main restaurant.


In my personal opinion, some European countries are less equipped to deal with vegetarians. I found this to particularly be the case in Finland and Hungary, and it was one of my main concerns ahead of Iceland.

I needn’t have worried, because Mamma Reykjavik came to my rescue! 😍

I can’t even… Just, oh my gosh. And again, oh my gosh!!! Quite possibly THE best meals I’ve ever had in my life!


Tucked into a cosy corner on Rainbow Street, Mamma Reykjavik is a plant-based culinary delight. Literally everything about it is divine, from the quirky, homely decor, to the delicious dishes themselves.

The staff greet you like old friends and instantly make you feel welcome.

I went twice, and had the dhal, and the Jamaican stew. Both were infused with an out-of-this-world explosion of flavours.

Banana is the ‘secret’ ingredient in the Jamaican stew, which really came through to create a unique taste sensation, and the rich dhal perfectly complimented the refreshing swirl of vegan yoghurt and tangy mango chutney.

The hearty portions of stew come in at just under £20 each, but this is certainly a place where you get what you pay for.

A stew from Mamma Reykjavik feels like a huge, giant, squeezey, comforting hug from your Mum or your bestie.

Jamaican stew 😍


Also… You simply must try ‘Happy Marriage’ cake while you’re in Iceland! If you’re as much of a fan as I am of the humble, old-school cornflake jam tart, you will LOVE this!

Happy Marriage cake is a traditional Icelandic recipe. It’s kind of like the love child of a cake and a crumble, held together with lashings of scrumptious jam.


For an affordable breakfast in Iceland, check out Braud & Co Bakery. There are a few dotted around the city. Unfortunately for my waist line, the closest one to my hotel was a mere 5 minute walk away.

I had Happy Marriage cake for breakfast pretty much every day, and no, I’m not even ashamed.

(I mean, the irony and hypocrisy of me eating ‘Happy Marriage’ cake, really. 😅 Me, the person who split up with their partner just 8 months after the wedding…)


When you scoff down your Happy Marriage cake and then remember that you were supposed to take a pic... No shame whatsoever! 🐖


I'd also recommend trying one of Braud's 'Cretzels,' too.

Is it a croissant?

Is it a pretzel?

Is it both?

Who cares what it identifies as, because it is F-I-T!


Cretzel lovin' 😍


One thing that did leave me stunned was the bloody brilliant price of Icelandic pick ‘n’ mix! £2.77 for a large bag!! And I wasn’t exactly frugal with my choices, either. A hefty jelly worm here, a chunk of honeycomb there… £2.77! Buzzin’!

So, if you want to really eat on a budget in Iceland, grab yo’self a cheeky pick ‘n’ mix.


Oh, and while we're on the subject of sweets... If you're heading over to Iceland anytime soon, I hope you like liquorice.

Iceland is OBSESSED with the stuff. So much so, in fact, that they even invented a chocolate bar filled with it. Don't get me wrong - I love a bag of Allsorts as much as the next person, but liquorice and chocolate? I can't say I was a massive fan. 😖

Even the Icelandic Haribo had a faint aniseedy taste.


Transport around Reykjavik -


As you can probably imagine, taxis in Iceland come at a significant cost.

Uber hasn’t quite been established there yet, so the on-tap bargain trips we’re used to in the UK just aren’t an option.


In regards to getting about the city, I found walking to be the best choice.

Reykjavik is cute, compact and safe, and I got my bearings almost immediately. By day five, I felt like a local as I strode up and down the suddenly-familiar streets.

I certainly wracked up some miles during my time in Iceland!


Many of the excursions offer add-on transfers at time of booking, which I would really recommend.

I had read various reviews which warned of the unreliability of some of the main transfer companies, but I didn't have any issues.

Every single one of my transfers was punctual and without the slightest hitch, including my 5am airport pickup.

I used both Gray Line and Flybus.


Take me back!


Is Reykjavik safe for solo female travellers?


In my opinion, based on my own experience - yes.

The centre of Reykjavik is busy, but never overwhelmingly so.

I experienced the city's busiest areas on a Friday and Saturday night, and I didn't see or encounter any trouble whatsoever.

There are bars aplenty, but none of them seem particularly rowdy. There were certainly no drunks spilling out onto the street.


Most evenings, I walked up and down Reykjavik, exploring every corner, soaking up the atmosphere and relishing the 24-hour daylight. I often returned to my hotel way past midnight, and I didn't once feel unsafe. There were always people milling around, whether it was locals walking their dogs, or sightseers like myself.


Icelandic people are exceptionally friendly and quite possibly the most welcoming locals I have ever come across.

No matter where I went, they were always up for a good chat, and it felt as though they were genuinely interested in speaking to me.

From the lads working at the local supermarket where I stocked up on pizza, to the charming gent who drove the bus on the Golden Circle tour, I honestly can't express how nice everybody was!

It wasn't just the locals who made my trip to Iceland feel like a home away from home, either. I met some lovely fellow tourists, such as the Chinese lady who - without saying a word - took my hand and helped me climb down the slippery rocks from the waterfall, and the wonderful couple from Hawaii who very kindly gave me a special shell necklace to take home.

On my first afternoon in Reykjavík, I sat outside the Perlan Museum, admiring the tumbling view of the city fringing the sea below. Reading book in one hand, notepad in the other, I was lost in my own little world.

A lady suddenly appeared at my side and asked if I had Airdrop.

"I saw you sat there and thought you looked really cool, so I took a few photos," she explained.

I mean, I'm not sure 'cool' is the word I'd use to describe a pale English girl with the physique of a stick-insect, resembling a humbug in black and white stripy pants, sat reading a book of Icelandic fairy tales... 🤔

Anyone who travels alone knows what a ball ache it can be to awkwardly traipse round and ask people if they're willing to take your photo*, so this lady was my unexpected hero!

We got chatting. She was from Germany, and had actually recently moved to Reykjavík after travelling solo and falling in love with it.


It's moments like these - tiny connections that probably wouldn't occur if you were already in company - that make solo travel so enriching. Solo travel is as much about the people you meet and the stories you hear as it is about the welcome solitude.


(*Once, Josh and I were in Prague and asked a passerby if she'd mind taking a quick photo of us in-front of the river. She literally just went, 'No.' and strode off! Okaaaaaay 🤣)


The epic picture my unexpected photographer took!


My Top 10 Iceland Moments -


1) Running through the Icelandic countryside during the Midnight Sun Half Marathon (blog coming soon!). 🏃🏻‍♀️


2) Watching the Strokkur Geyser erupt. ⛰


3) Seeing dolphins in the wild. 🐬


4) Seeing the fascinating stature of the Harpa Concert Hall for the first time. 🕋


5) Riding an Icelandic pony through the lupin fields. 🐎


6) Having my breath taken away by the insanely incredible Gullfoss Waterfall. 🌊


7) My morning strolls to Braud & Co. Bakery. 🥨


8) Saturday afternoon: sitting on a bench on the bustling main street, soaking up the atmosphere, while eating a takeout stew from Mamma Reykjavik. 🍜


9) Enjoying the peace inside the stunning Hallgrimskirkja Church. ⛪️


10) Hiking in the dreamy countryside around the Strokkur Geyser.

Cara Jasmine Bradley





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