This week we've been talking to Sigriour Heioar about all things Iceland. Being director of sales for Gray Line Iceland, the tour company we use on all of our Icelandandic trips, Sigriour was the perfect person for us to ask about the Northern Lights, what to see and do in Iceland and more.
1. Do you have any top tips or hidden gems that you think anyone visiting Iceland should check out?
As a country filled with the natural powers of over 18,000 waterfalls, spouting Geysers, and Volcanoes, there is truly power in the landscape which takes many breathtaking forms. My personal favourite are all the bathing spots. There are the public pools that are fantastic, the unique spots like the Blue Lagoon and Secret Lagoon. However the ones that are hidden and come naturally from the ground are truly something else… there may not be changing rooms and people can enjoy a soak from where they stand. It is truly my favourite and is most rejuvenating after a nice hike or a day of fun exploring the many beautiful sights in my country. As a big foodie the endless great restaurants, as well as local farm to table experience, is one of the things I love about living in Iceland. I honestly can´t say I ever get anything less than brilliant when I go out.
2. If you had 48 hours in Reykjavik what would you recommend seeing and doing?
48 hours isn´t long for most but being in such proximity to nature I would recommend going on tours, as you can explore the most iconic places during the day and enjoy the culinary scene in Reykjavik where the fish is fresh from the sea and the lamb self-marinated from roaming free in the country side at night.
On the following day I would recommend taking the Golden Circle tour. On the tour you get to visit the UNESCO world heritage site Thingvellir, Geysir hot spring area (Geysir is the geyser for which all others are named) and the Gullfoss waterfall (Golden falls) which is the center of one of Iceland´s most famous acts of environmental activism. Back in the early 20th century, developers wanted to damn the mighty waterfall to generate electricity, but through the will and determination of Sigriour Tomasdottir, Gullfoss was saved. Yes we do have the same name.
On the following day you just can´t go wrong with taking a tour along the South Coast where the nature takes a different turn with stunning black sand beaches along the open Atlantic Ocean on your right hand side and Glaciers and waterfalls on left hand side…it´s a must thing to do.
3. Besides the Northern Lights what one thing do you think every visitor to Iceland should see?
The Golden Circle is a must if you haven´t been. The Nature in all it´s glory and the geothermal power that is literally bursting under our entire Island is a must to experience. Witnessing the geyser Strokkur erupt, you can sense the power released and recharged moments later leaving you to think about what is going on under your feet.
4. What tips would you give to anyone who is visiting Iceland to maximize their chances of seeing the Northern Lights?
The Northern lights are visible when the sky is clear and dark and depending on electrically charged particles ejected by the sun. The best time to see them is from late August through mid‑April. When planning your trip to Iceland I always recommend booking a Northern lights tour on the first night, as it is not a guarantee it´s up to chance. By booking it on the first night you have the option to take the tour again free of charge, at least with my company, the following night and on and on util you see the wonder.
5. Is there one Icelandic dish that you think every visitor should try?
The fish! We have restaurants and chef’s that are second to none and you can´t go wrong simply asking for the catch of day… so many options, different flavors and cuisines. Chargrilled langoustine with butter and garlic is simply my favorite when treating myself.
6. What would you say is the perfect 3 night itinerary for Iceland?
I would say, Northern lights tour on the first night, The Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon tour on the first day, Snafellsnes Peninsula on day two and then the South Coast and black sand beach on the last day. This way you get to see the most highlighted places by day and can stroll around Reykjavík by night.
7. Can you tell us an interesting fact about Iceland that we may not know?
We are a nation of 364,134. Vigdis Finnbogadottir is the first woman in the world to be elected president in a democratic election. We have 24 hours of daylight during the summer time but just 4 in the high winter, There are over 18,000 waterfalls in Iceland. We have 156 words for different kinds of wind and 46 different words for different kinds of snow. We have 269 names glaciers of almost all types. We just had a memorial in 2019 for OK, the first glacier declared lost to global warming in 2019. We do have many other glaciers such as Snaefellsjokull, the entrance to the center of the Earth in Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of Earth (1864), a truly magical place and my all-time favourite place in Iceland. We also have Vatnajokull which is the largest Glacier in Iceland and the second largest in area in Europe. We are an island in the middle of the North Atlantic with endless possibilities.
8. What’s been your favorite holiday experience so far?
As I work in the Travel industry I have been blessed to go to many amazing places. For a holiday I would say the time with my family in the Aldemar resort on the west coast of Greece with Fleetway Travel. It was at the end of May before the ’season’ began and after a long winter. Being from Iceland it has a different meaning. The people were so nice, the facilities amazing and just the most perfect holiday we’ve had. We combined it with a few nights in London as well so the best of both.