Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Travel Experiences: Iceland's gems (Pt 3...the secret)

When I started writing about my travel adventures and food in Iceland, I promised I would let you in on a little 'secret'. It's not a big secret, but not many people know about this place and it's a little gem where most tourists don't bother to venture to whilst ticking off their lists.

The said place is called Seljavallalaug, a swimming pool built in 1923 for the purpose of providing a place for locals to learn to swim. It's beautifully nestled between a narrow valley by the Eyjafjallajokull mountain, and is mostly maintained by the villagers nearby. It was terribly covered in ashes after the 2010 eruption and the volunteers did an amazing job in restoring it. It's actually built right next to a rock and the water comes from a natural hot spring nearby (so warm!!). It's free and there are little dressing rooms next to it, although they're not the cleanest but are convenient. There are no showers but it all adds to the wild nature feel of it all! All you have to do when you get there is be respectful, not drink alcohol and enjoy yourself.

Whilst driving in the direction from Reykjavik (Road 1) and towards the Golden Circle, you will need to turn into road 242 called Raufarfell. It will be right after the small waterfall. Keep driving until you see a sign that says Seljavellir and continue up the road until you find a parking space on the rocky end of the road (and past some people's houses). If you see a new swimming pool obviously ignore it and go past!

From there you need to walk towards the mountain and the little stream that you can see sticking out of it. Keep walking for about 15-20 minutes and go past the water tank, and you should see the swimming pool around that corner. Whilst walking you might feel like you are in the wring place or just not reaching the pool but just keep going and you will see! The stream is on the same route and it's all a little rocky but a fairly easy walk for anyone...just be careful where you step due to erosion. Good luck!

Photo taken by my friend Anna Asthildur

Once you park near the houses, start walking towards the water trail

Keeeeeeep walking and walk past this massive tank...

And ta-dah! You're there! 


Travel Experiences: Iceland's gems (Pt 2)

This is a continuation of my three posts about the wonderful country that is Iceland. Check out my sightseeing recommendations here, and directions to the 'secret' swimming pool here. Hope you have fun and enjoy your visit! In the meantime, take note of some of Reykjavik's best foodie spots...

Hamborara Bullan
Best burgers in town - very famous and serve good old dirty burgers with chips by the harbour.
Geirsgata 1

Check out my post about the new-ish London branch which has been getting rave reviews since its opening (Tommi's Burger Joint).

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur
Another famous tourist spot where you can have a nice Scandinavian hot dog...but you must ask for 'everything' on top!
Tryggvagotu 1

Fairly new, very American but nice cafe and restaurant for breakfast and lunch or just a good smoothie.
Austurstraeti 9

One of the best restaurants in the country, serving everything from delicious lobster soup, steak and sea food to whale and puffin as some unusual dishes to try. It's more of a high end restaurant but great if you want to splurge a little on your last day.
Bankastraeti 2


Puffin and whale!

Svarta Kaffi
One of my favourite places...they serve hearty home made soups INSIDE huge pieces of bread. YUM!!
Laugavegi 54

A lovely cosy cafe with a great atmosphere. You will find this place fills with locals day to night drinking coffee, tea and beer and enjoying a good book or just chilling with friends on one of the big couches.
Adalstraeti 7

Kaffismidja Islands
Regarded as the best coffee in town, this cute little vintage style cafe is owned by two ladies that actually roast the coffee right in front of you! The warm, friendly atmosphere and endless smiley faces will make you feel at home, whilst the sound of coffee roasting and laughter will make you feel very, very comfortable! Their coffee is sourced ethically from farmers in Colombia and Nicaragua, and you can pick from three different brewing methods.
Karastigur 1

A cool little bar on 2-3 levels where all the trendy kids hang out (unless I've missed out on the latest trends...). The music is always great and the drinks flowing...you'll lose yourself in good company and won't be able to tell the time if you visit during the summer when the sun never sets! For real!
Bergstadarstraeti 1

Some images from Cool Hunting, Trip Advisor, Grapevine and Martin Kelner


Monday, 30 December 2013

Travel Experiences: Iceland's gems (Pt 1)

Finally I come round to writing this post...considering the fact that I have lived in Iceland for over three years and visited over six times whilst living somewhere else, it's about time!

It's a stunning country with some of the most beautiful sights of nature I have ever seen, and I would highly recommend a visit. Even if you just go to the city of Reykjavik, you will thoroughly enjoy the cute little colourful houses, cosy cafes with fantastic drinks, fun nights out and delicious food.

Whether you have four days, a week, or longer, I thought I would share the best places to see and eat (Part 2) from a local's perspective. I'm even going to let you in on a little secret...if you manage to find it when you're there that is! ;)

LENGTH OF MY 'STAY': 3 years +
BEST EXPERIENCE: Swimming in the 'secret' pool built into the mountain...Seljavallalaug
BEST FOOD: Lobster soup
INTERESTING FACT: Icelanders truly believe in little mythical elf creatures...They build little houses and churches for them and even halt building projects in case they disturb their habitat!

The Golden Circle (Geysirs, the Gullfoss waterfall, The Thingvellir National Park, the Kerid volcano crater, and other sights)
A fairly simple path to cover, the golden circle is around 300km of pure nature and is a must-see when in Iceland. You can do this in one day and with one of the many tour companies, or with your own rental car (recommended). You will be able to see the famous Geysir that erupts every 5-10 minutes, the huge Gullfoss waterfall (and a few smaller ones in between), Thingvellir National Park (where the earth split), and you will be able to walk inside of an inactive volcano crater. Pretty cool, right? If you have your own rental car, you would be able to stop whenever you like which is a bonus.

I know...planking is so 2012

The Blue Lagoon
A wonderful spa experience, the famous Blue Lagoon hot spring is a sight to behold. You can end your Golden Circle trip here and enjoy the blue waters for as long as you want, or have a massage as well. Fairly close to Reykjavik, you can also take a trip to the lagoon another day.

Zara blazer
Topshop shoes
Zara Top
RayBan sunglasses

Hallgrimskirkja church
This is a beautiful church in the centre of the city. You can admire its structure that resembles the basalt lava flows of Iceland's landscape...or go up into the tower for a fab picture of the colourful roofs below.

A structure built on top of old water tanks, this is another great spot for views over the city. It also has a high end restaurant where you can have dinner whilst admiring the city lights. The coolest thing here is that the entire dome actually moves very slowly, so in an hour you'd be looking at the other side of the building.

City centre
This is generally all around the main street called Laugavegur. If you start at the top you can enjoy a slow walk down the street, maybe stop for coffee and a spot of shopping in one of the independent design stores. Once you walk down, you can either turn left by the main road and walk to the nearby lake to feed the swans, or turn right to check out the harbour and take some colourful pics.

Lava horse riding
This is a great relaxing activity suitable for anyone, even children. I really love horseriding through Iceland's nature, especially the lava trails and for 66 euros with IsHestar it's worth a go!

Whitewater rafting
Very self explanatory but just one of the many action packed activities you can do in Iceland. There are a few places where you can book these, and the main tourist board at the end of Laugavegur the main street. It's not cheap but then again neither is anything in Iceland (yes be prepared for this)!

Heated outdoor swimming pools
Icelandic peeps LOVE these pools...they are quite big, they're everywhere and they are great when it's freezing cold outside! Yes, they are outdoors but the feeling of the hot tub is amazing! Only thing is that there is a strict rule that you must shower completely naked before going into the pools...and some foreign tourists might not feel very comfortable with this. Entry is fairly cheap and if you ask a local where the nearest swimming pool is they will point you in the right direction.

This post was getting a bit long so I've split it into three - check out some recommendations for restaurants and cafes here.

The local buses are really good, reliable and easy to navigate (one way fare is around 2.15 euros). Your other option which is what I would recommend if you can afford it, is a rental car. It gives you the freedom you need to get around, and it's the best way to get round the major sights. You won't have any groups annoying you, you can stop whenever and wherever you like, and you will be able to go to my secret spot where nobody else goes :)

You can also buy a Welcome Card if you want to get the best for your money with the bus, and combine entries to attractions or discounts for hotels. 

Laugavagur is the main shopping street where you can buy all sorts of great (and a little overpriced) Icelandic designer items and objects. The adjacent Skolavordustigur street is also great, and leads to Hallgrimskirkja church. There are a few shopping centres but as a tourist I really don't see the point in visiting them so don't bother...

Traditional Icelandic wool jumpers
These are the cosiest jumpers out there...so warm that you wouldn't need a jacket over it even in Iceland. They are a little pricey at £100 but well worth it...this handmade and traditional design will be the best souvenir you can take away with you. They are sold pretty much everywhere so easy to find.

Wearing a traditional Icelandic jumper at Jokulsarlon (James Bond films have been shot here!!)

Jokulsarlon is a little further East and a long drive so might be one for a separate day trip

Ok so here's the big secret...there is this beautiful old swimming pool that is built in the middle of nowhere, next to the mountains (Called Seljavallalaug, built in 1923). It's absolute paradise, and I try to go there every time I'm in Iceland. Not many people know about it, and it's really hard to find as you literally have to park next to someone's house! I will leave you with some directions in my next post and wish you good luck!

Map image from Google

Friday, 27 December 2013

Style: Joy Everley Fine Jewellery

I recently discovered a great little jewellery store just off Carnaby Street. I originally went inside looking for a leaving gift for a colleague, and stayed for an hour just browsing! The prices were so great that I wanted to look at everything and make sure I haven't missed out!!

If you've ever been to Liberty's jewellery department, you will really appreciate the quality, design and prices at this unique family owned business, and you will be grateful to have discovered it!

One of London's gems - an independent shop - it's a rarety to find. Situated on Newburgh Street for over 15 years, the shop has beautiful collections of vintage style pendants, gorgeous necklaces, bracelets and rings as well as some incredible statement pieces.

You can pair any pendant with any necklace or bracelet, and there are some very interesting designs such as bees and flies, as well as dainty designs such as thin rings and tiny acorns as pendants.

The designers also mix silver and gold, which gives some of the jewellery the perfect vintage but modern touch.

This place is perfect if you need to buy a lovely gift for someone but you aren't sure what to get. Whatever you choose will be stunning, and can be fitted to that person's personality. They can also come and exchange anything in the store.

Bee Charm, £49

Fox Charm, £29

"Collections include miniature, detailed animals and spices to combine and layer on charms and bracelents, chunky silver cuffs, gold spiders and beetles, precious creations with diamonds and colour rich gemstones." - Joy Everley

Bunch of Chillies necklace, £205

Check out their Instagram for the latest news and inspiration or visit the shop at

Images from Joy Everley website and Instagram

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