Iceland, also mystically called The Land of Ice and Fire, is one of those bucket-list destinations always in the back of one’s mind, and believe me, it is one that should be ticked off along the way! It is simply a must-see country, and a visit there will be forever enshrined in your memories!
As an island located north of almost everywhere, it’s not surprising that there’s a certain way of doing things, which may seem exotic or even eccentric to visitors. It truly is a country with an identity all its own.
Travelling to the capital Reykjavik from South Africa is a little lengthy and time-consuming, but flying in over the frozen white glaciers gives one a sense that this journey will definitely be worth the effort. There is so much on offer here in terms of activities, experiences and adventures, which will most certainly take you right outside your comfort zone!
I was fortunate to be able to host a small, bespoke incentive group here in October, and the adventure begins as soon as you exit the airport – when you are slammed with that gust of wind with a -10 degree wind chill factor! Hats, gloves and jackets became of key importance immediately. The airport is situated a short drive from Reykjavik and the countryside offers extreme contrasts of white mountain peaks, a wild and rugged coastline and icy fjords in the distance.
The capital city is small, neat and compact, with many bars, restaurants and venues to enjoy a taste of local specialty dishes and drinks. The group was taken out on their arrival evening by a local guide, who led them down a rabbit hole of tastings and experiences, not all of which were completely enjoyable, but certainly memorable, and much fun was had throughout. Did they ever think they would taste fermented shark, puffin or minke whale? – all available throughout your stay!
Catching a glimpse of the milky-blue water against the black-rock lava fields, it may not come as a complete surprise that the Blue Lagoon is man-made. Runoff water from the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power plant trickles into the lava fields and a blanket of mineral-rich mud lines the foundations of the Blue Lagoon. This creates a heavenly bathing experience with water at a consistently pleasant temperature said to rejuvenate body, soul and skin.
With the opening of the Retreat Spa, another level of luxury can be found here. A new and exciting water-based activity recently opened is the Sky Lagoon. It is a total immersion of oneself into warmth at this stunning, oceanside geothermal lagoon, with the dramatic North Atlantic Ocean stretched out before you.
Feel yourself relax and unwind as you take in the dazzling sunsets and moody skies and, if you’re lucky, the dancing Northern Lights will put on a stunning show. Then, take your relaxation deeper with the Ritual, a unique seven-step experience. Private change-room facilities, champagne on tap, surprise and wonder – make this a visit not to be missed! It’s actually so good I went back a second time!
Driving out into the countryside is always best done in one of the giant super-trucks that are especially designed to traverse what can sometimes be tough conditions. Never mind that it is so much fun and I truly believe no matter what your age, there will be giggles and excitement throughout.
There are so many parts of the island to explore, highlights for my group included the Golden Circle, which encompasses the Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of Iceland’s first parliament and the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world. Founded in AD 930, it is Iceland’s most significant historical site.
Then onto Geysir Hot Spring area with its boiling mud pits and spouting hot springs. For some wet and wild excitement, if the winds are right, you can let the falling water from the mighty geyser give you a good dousing. The day was ended at Langjökull Glacier for another Icelandic adventure, where you have the chance to dash across snowfields on snowmobiles, gazing at the mountain peaks while enveloped in this icy realm. The drive back to the city is a nostalgic one at the close of this incredible day.
Let’s not forget the nightlife in Reykjavik, which, for a nation of just under 400,000 people, is alive, vibrant and catching up with the rest of the world.
And, of course, there’s that night-time phenomenon known as the Northern Lights, best seen between October and March when the days are short, nights are long, and the climate changes allow for this sprinkling of atoms from space and Earth to collide, throwing out a spectacle of green-blue light over the island. Whether you get to see them or not, the expectation itself is worth the night spent hunting!
It is a hard sell as an incentive destination for the local South African corporate due to the cost and actually getting there, but rest assured, take the leap, take your team, and partake in this adventure – you will not be disappointed!
Contact us if you’d like us to plan your next incentive trip to Iceland or anywhere else in the world.