Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón is a glacier lagoon located about 200km east of Vik. It is a stunning landscape; the glacier is melting into the lake, which is at sea level so the ice drifts out to the ocean and then is washed back on to the black sand beaches!

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It really was a beautiful place. There are boat trips that go out on the lake but we were too early in the season and they hadn’t started yet.

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IMG_0327The road from Vik is the main ring road and was in good condition. The drive brings you through the desolate lava fields of Eldhaun, a remnant of the enormous volcanic eruption in the 18th century. There are lots of other places to visit off the main road (such as hiking in Skaftafell) but we ended up spending so much time in Jökulsárlón that we didn’t stray off the main route though there were still some nice stops!

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This was one of the most incredible places that we saw in Iceland and was worth the day round trip from Vik and is a must see if continuing your journey east!

 

Cilian and Chloe

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Iceland: Itinerary

One of our favourite trips of the last few years was our  week  in Iceland in April 2016. It is a stunningly beautiful county, with an interesting history and everyone was warm and friendly. We did get very lucky with the weather – it was cold but clear skies on all but one of the days – that day the rain and cloud cover was so heavy that the stunning vistas we had enjoyed from the car for the previous few days were entirely obscured. This is our general outline of the trip with a  few more posts to follow.

Flights: We flew from Dublin direct to Keflavik Airport, which is about 40 mins drive  south of Reykjavík, with WOW. They charge for large carry on as well as hold luggage and we got one of each bringing our total to €660 or €330 each. The flight was only 2 and a half hours and we were met by our car hire company at arrivals.

Car Hire: We booked with Greenmotion through rentalcars.com at a cost of €382 for the and our pick up was straightforward, their lot only being a short drive away. Our first, and one of only two negative experiences of the trip, occurred with the negotiation of the excess fees, which was both stressful and unexpectedly pricey. They required a deposit of ISK290,000 – about €2,500! We also didn’t upgrade our excess cover (partly because a chunk of the money we had planned to use was now tied up in the car deposit). This meant that we couldn’t leave the car at the airport with the keys in (the lot wasn’t open for our early morning flight), so we had to get the car back the evening before we left. The deposit is mentioned on the Greenmotion website in fairness but wasn’t in the rentalcars confirmation.

There was also a lot of emphasis on the possibility of damage to the car due to Iceland’s extreme weather conditions. It really is an incredibly windy place and there is a chance of volcanic ash windstorms which can cause damage to the body work – I have rented cars all over the world and this was the first time I felt nervous leaving with a rental car!

Greenmotion advised us to check http://en.vedur.is – the national weather service updated regularly – which was incredibly useful and reassuring – as we said we had great weather when we were there and the bad day was wet and cloudy but no doomsday ash! I dropped the car, unscathed thankfully, to the Greenmotion Reykjavík office on the Saturday. I did have to wait for a while as an unfortunate Chinese man was trying to sort out the issue with his car that had been damaged during his trip. One of the car doors had been caught in a gust of wind – the door had bent back on itself and one of the windows had smashed resulting in few thousand euro worth of damage. I felt very sorry for this poor guy and it showed that their scaremongering wasn’t entirely about getting us to pay for extra insurance!

The guy behind the counter was very pleasant and dropped me back towards my hotel which went some way to assuaging the general unpleasantness of the initial rental experience. He told me that every kid in Iceland learns to always hold the car door when it’s opening and closing as the wind is so powerful and gusty.

So if you’re going to rent a car make sure you’ve read all the small print! I’m not sure if the excess is worth it if you’re appropriately cautious but always hold the car door!

Driving in Iceland: We were in a Hyundai i40 and it drove just fine. Driving is on the right side of the road. There is a main ringroad which encircles the entire island and we never ventured too far from that. Some of the inland roads were still unpassable when we were there and there are plenty of 4 wheel drive only areas but we stuck to the main arteries and the driving was mostly pleasant. There is a huge tourism industry but we went in a relatively quiet month and at times had the roads to ourselves. There are lots of speed cameras about and these were well marked. The landscapes were otherworldly and by driving ourselves we got to see a huge amount in a short space of time.

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Accommodation: We booked everything through booking.com.

Fossatun Country Hotel: We stayed one night in this lovely chalet style accommodation for €85 which included breakfast. The rooms were warm and clean and overlooked a beautiful river. There was a hot tub which we enjoyed under the stars. There was a lovely dining room and the hosts served a very pleasant dinner as they played their collection of vinyl records!

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Hotel Gullfoss: One night with breakfast cost us €118 and though half the hotel was under construction our room was clean, warm and the restaurant was nice.

Grand Guesthouse Gardakot: Our room here was lovely and cosy and there was a gorgeous living area with cooking facilities (which we only used the fridge to keep a few beers cold!). A delicious breakfast was served around a big communal table where we met the other guests. Two nights cost €290 so it was one of the pricier options but was only a short drive to Vik.

Skuggi Hotel: This is a modern hotel with stylish bar and lobby area. It was very central and cost us €287 for two nights.

Money: Everything was expensive in Iceland, even by Irish standards. We found a nice pizza joint in Vik which we ate in twice and as the hotels were isolated we ate in their restaurants a few times. 100 Icelandic Krona is about €0.85.

Language: Being a large, fair, bearded Irishman with probable Viking ancestry a lot of the locals approached Cilian in Icelandic but after brief bewilderment everyone spoke perfect English!

Itinerary:

Day 1: After getting our car we drove north, straight past Rejkavik and on to Borgames which is about a 90min drive. We visited the Settlement Centre which had an interesting exhibition on the Sagas that make up so much of Icelandic history. We went to Hraunfossar Waterfalls, where the water seeps out of the rocks, and then spent the night at Fossatun Country Hotel where we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in the distance on our first night!

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Day 2: We left Fossatun and headed East to see the Golden Triangle of Thingvillier, Geysir and Gullfoss. This is often done as a day trip tour from Rejkavik and they really are spectacular. We will post soon about this well worn but well worth tourist trail.

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Day 3: Vik was our destination and we enjoyed the waterfalls of Selijalandsfoss and Skogafoss and the Skogar museum along the way. We stayed for two nights in Grand Guesthouse Gardakot which was lovely.

IMG_0213Day 4: This was a day of a long drive to Jokulsarlon and back to Vik – it was absolutely worth the drive through the desolate yet stunning lava fields and we have a post here about it.

Day 5: We drove from Vik to Rejkavik and this was the day of absolutely awful weather so we didn’t see much en route. It was still raining when we got to the Blue Lagoon but that didn’t stop us having a wonderful relaxing time – despire somebody taking Cilian’s pair of shoes and leaving him with one that was way too small!

Day 6: The sun came out again and we walked all over Rekjavik and we will have a post on it here soon!

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Day 7: Very early morning flight – there was a shuttle bus service from our hotel which got us there just in time after a truly wonderful trip!

 

Let us know if you’re planning a trip – we really couldn’t recommend it more highly as a place to go with some truly unique landscapes and lovely people!

 

Cilian and Chloe

Monart; A Luxury Irish Hotel & Spa Break

We’ve stayed in a lot of high quality and beautiful hotels throughout Ireland over the years but for some reason we had never made it to Monart. That is, until my birthday a couple of weeks ago.

If ever there was place for celebrations, it’s Monart. Set on its own enclosed grounds in the lush Wexford countryside, you’re buzzed in at the gates and met at the door, where your bags are taken and the car whisked away and parked for you. That’s a good start right there!

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At the front is the old stone house- this isn’t used for accommodation but instead houses a selection of sitting rooms and the library.

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Connecting the old house with the new is a glass corridor and then an airy and open foyer where we were checked in with a plate of blondies (like brownies but with white chocolate) to greet us.

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The hotel has lots of very cool touches around the place, including the big tree staircase (above) and this metal horse sculpture:

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And then to our room itself, which was spacious, comfortable and luxurious:

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That bed is bigger than our actual bedroom at home.

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Cilian had remembered to bring Champagne as part of our birthday celebrations and that was there to greet us, along with these fellas, that hung out on our decking, regularly popping up whenever we got back to the room. Very cute.

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We spent a lot of both days at the spa (there’s strictly no photos there so you’ll have to imagine that part), using the pool, the various heated rooms/sauna etc, before getting back massages, which were really good!

Everywhere is set up for complete relaxation- nooks and crannies to chill out in with herbal tea and fresh fruit. The main hotel and spa are wifi free- if you want the internet you have to go into the old stone building for it. It’s quite freeing not having internet access actually. We mostly left our phones in our rooms , except for when I wanted to take photos of food, etc:

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The food in the main restaurant is absolutely stunning. We ate there one night, as part of our package and ate in the bar the other night, which was also exceptionally good. As if we weren’t full enough, we also had afternoon tea:

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And of course, cocktails!!

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We also did lots of walking on the grounds, which are beautiful and there’s lots of relaxing flowing water sounds- this place really is a retreat from the outside world. It’s expected that you wear your robes everywhere (except for dinner), so you can genuinely just lounge around in pure comfort during your stay.

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We got lucky and found a two night midweek special, including one nights dinner and two spa treatments with full access to the pool and spa. That offer doesn’t seem to still be available but there’s other options HERE if you’re interested in checking in and checking out mentally for a couple of days!

We loved our stay in Monart; great food, a relaxing spa, beautiful grounds, a technological detox and luxurious rooms for lounging in.

Have you stayed in Monart? What’s your favourite Irish hotel destination? To the comments!

Chloe & Cilian