Iceland – An easy 4 day itinerary for first timers

Iceland – An easy 4 day itinerary for first timers

Iceland, the land of Fire and Ice

Plus waterfalls, volcanoes and more Game of Thrones settings than you can shake an ice dragon at.

Whilst this beautiful country has exploded in popularity as a tourist destination in the past few years, it still remains off the radar for many travellers and holiday makers, which makes now the perfect time to discover this unspoilt gem.

Highly deserving of it’s bucket list status, we chose Iceland as the perfect place for a short stay in between our time in Mexico and Asia, to experience something totally different and because, well, we’d always wanted to go. Usually we like to spend as long as possible in a country to fully immerse ourselves but Iceland actually lends itself nicely to short visits. While we can’t wait to go back and see more, four days allowed us to see everything we wanted without being too full on. Plus, Iceland is definitely NOT a budget destination, with food, drink and accommodation particularly pricey.

Icelandic horses are then cutest!

 Iceland is a horse lovers paradise!

However, it can all seem a bit overwhelming when you first start to investigate a trip to Iceland.

When to go, how much should you expect to pay and what’s the best way to get around are all questions we had when we started planning too. Plus many more!

The itinerary we ended up doing worked a treat so we wanted to share it as a suggestion for how to spend a really good four days in Iceland. As first timers, we managed to enjoy all the main attractions in the south without killing ourselves trying to stuff in too much. Next time we go (and there will definitely be a next time) we’ll look for more off the beaten track places to see, but for our first time, sticking to the main tourist sights was perfect.

This guide is designed to help you plan your first trip to Iceland by sharing how we did it and some of the costs. Of course you can adapt and switch things up to suit your own needs but hopefully you will find it helpful, at least as a starting point. We researched hard and read many articles and blog posts before going to ensure that our time in Iceland would be as awesome as possible. It’s thanks to all the people who took the time to write about their experiences that we were able to plan the perfect itinerary and had the most amazing time. We hope that this guide might do the same for you, inspire you to go to Iceland too and help with planning your perfect trip.

 

Travel Tip: Book in Advance.

Because of it’s popularity, demand outstrips supply for accommodation in Iceland. Which means high prices and not a huge amount of choice (especially if you’re on a budget). Even when we booked 6 months in advance many places were already sold out on Booking.com. Don’t leave this one till the last minute – plan ahead

BONUS – Use this link for Booking.com you’ll receive 10% back. You’re welcome.

 

 

You can stay on a goat farm in Iceland

Stay on a goat farm at the Skálatjörn Guesthouse. We’re not ‘kidding.’

 

When is the best time of the year to visit Iceland?

 

We went in mid September which is considered shoulder season. It’s a great time to go as there are less tourists after the peak summer months, the weather is still fine and it’s the start of Northern Lights season, yay!

We were really lucky with the weather as we had sunshine every day, temperatures around 10°C that dropped to just above freezing at night. We didn’t have to contend with any rain or icy roads, nor did we experience any of the high winds that can assail the island. Be aware that the weather can be highly changeable and plan accordingly. 

Iceland black sand beach in the sun

Beach days are still possible in September, although swimming is optional.

 

Another consideration when choosing time of year to visit are the daylight hours. In September it’s dark by 9.30pm and light at 7.30am so you get lots of daylight hours for exploring but it’s also dark when you want to sleep. If you go in high summer there are only a couple of hours of darkness, which can make sleep difficult for some people. Similarly in mid winter, darkness prevails which limits your activities.

 

Getting to Iceland

 

Several budget airlines now offer routes from the UK to Iceland. It’s an easy, direct, three hour flight and the time difference is only 1 hour, so there’s no jet lag to factor in. We flew with Wizz air from Luton airport to Keflavik and paid around £100 each, return.

We love budget airlines because you can choose what extras you want to pay for and what to leave off. Just be careful to read the baggage policy! We opted to just take hand luggage as we prefer to travel light and save pennies. Wizz Air only allows you to take one piece of hand luggage each onto the plane, unless you pay for a Priority ticket ie no handbag/laptop bag. We got around this by taking one small day bag, which we just stuffed into one of the main carry on bags whist boarding, then got it out on the plane.

Always check how much extras will cost you when comparing flight prices. We only took hand luggage, our own snacks and refillable water bottles but did pay for seats together.

It's easy to fly to Iceland from the UK

Do you prefer the window or aisle seat?

 

 

What’s the best way to get around in Iceland?

 

There are no buses or trains to help you get around Iceland and taxi’s are very expensive. There are plenty of tours that you can book on to see the main sights but we found the best way to experience Iceland was to hire a car and drive.  Without doubt, hiring a car is the best option for getting around because you can set your own pace, stop where you want and save money on tours or taxi’s.

Trust me, the landscape changes around every corner which means you’ll want to stop and get out A LOT.

Another cool way to get around is to hire a camper van but we prefer to have a proper bed to sleep in and also need wifi to work.

hiring a car in Iceland is the best way to get around

Hiring a car allowed us to discover some unexpected gems

 

We hired a small, 1.2l automatic which was fantastic for our trip as we weren’t wanting to go off road and we stayed around the warmer south coast. If you go during the winter or want to go up into the mountains you would be better off with a 4x4 and snow tyres. Make sure you have adequate insurance as potential damage from sand, ash or gravel are real possibilities. It’s also not uncommon for strong winds to gust and cause damage to doors when getting in and out.

 

Iceland roads are not very busy

 Highway 1. Traffic really isn’t an issue in Iceland

 

Don’t let that put you off however. Just make sure you have the right vehicle for the type of trip you’re doing and you read all the fine print for what you’re covered for and take out extra cover if necessary. We didn’t experience any issues at all on our trip and once I got used to driving on the wrong side of the road (Icelanders drive on the right hand side, the UK on the left!) it was really easy. The roads are well maintained and largely empty.

Indeed, outside of Reykjavik there is barely any traffic, just miles and miles of mostly empty roads.

 

Travel Tip: Use SkyScanner to compare car hire rates.

Not only useful for comparing flights, SkyScanner also does a handy car hire comparison. We ended up booking with Avis as they gave us the best deal and we didn’t have any problems. Always take pics or video of the car when you pick it up and make sure you check the damage on the report matches the car and report it if it doesn’t.

We paid £205 for a 1.2 litre automatic VW Polo for four days on a ‘full to full’ petrol policy. We only needed to fill up once and petrol prices were comparable to the UK, around £50 for 3/4 of a tank.

 

 

What are the main attractions to see in Iceland?

 

Here is a map of our Iceland itinerary. Click on it to view in Google and see each of the tourist spots, where we stayed and the routes we took each day. As I said at the start, as Iceland ‘first-timers’ we wanted to see the main tourist attractions so we planned our itinerary around the Golden Circle and the south coast. We weren’t disappointed with anything we saw, even with our expectations high, Iceland still blew us away. 

 

 

 

 

Our 4 day Iceland Itinerary

 

Below is a break-down of our 4 day Iceland itinerary to help you plan your own trip:

 

Day 1: Arrival and Blue Lagoon

Arrived at 9am at Keflavik International Airport

Collected hire car, drove to supermarket and stopped for lunch at a cafe near the airport.

25 min drive to The Blue Lagoon for the rest of the afternoon

Short drive to Grindavík and overnight stay at Anita’s Guest House

 

Day 2: The Golden Circle

Set off early along the coast road and join the Golden Circle route, stopping along the way to look at horses and views

Thringvellir National Park

Geysir hot springs area

Gulfoss Waterfall

Drive back south towards the coast to our accomodation for the next two nights, Skálatjörn Guesthouse goat farm

Keep a look out for the northern lights!

 

Day 3: The South coast and Vik

Head east along the south coast towards the town of Vik

Urrioafoss waterfall

Skogafoss waterfall

Arrive at Vik for lunch – we ate at Sudur Vik and can highly recommend!

Wander around the town then drive back stopping at Reynisfjara black sand beach

Drive back towards our guest house, stopping at Seljandsfoss waterfall as the last stop of the day. We decided to do this one last because you will get soaking wet going behind the waterfall!

 

Day 4: Horse Riding

Reluctantly leave our guest house and the gorgeous goats

Head north back towards Reykiavik

Private horse riding tour at Viking Horses just outside Reykiavik.

Head to our final night’s accomodation Maxhouse Reykjavik

(We had planned to check out Reykjavik on our last night but were too tired after the amazing horse riding)

 

Day 5: Depart

Early check out and drive the 40 mins back to the airport. Return the hire car and fly back to the UK

 

 

Travel Tip: Take snacks

– and tea bags, a thermos flask and reusable water bottles are all a great idea for the road. All the main tourist spots have cafe’s but they are not cheap, think £5 for a small cup of tea or coffee. We went to a supermarket on our first day and made packed lunches most days.

 

 

So what exactly are all these hard to pronounce places we keep refering to?

 

The Golden Circle

The ‘Golden Circle’ as the name suggests, is a 300km popular circular route that is easily accessed from Reykjavik and can be done comfortably in a day. Along this route you find three of the top tourist attractions within close proximity to each other; Thingvellar National park, Geysir and Gulfoss waterfall.

 

Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park

Designated a World Heritage Site since 2004, Thingvellir is celebrated for being the historic seat of Iceland’s parliament from Viking times until 1794. The park is also situated in the inter-continental rift between the Europe and North America tectonic plates. Here you can literally stand between two continents, one of the only places in the world it’s possible to do so.

When you arrive at the visitor centre it’s necessary to pay for the car park (one of the very few places where you have to pay.) It costs about £5 and you can pay easily by card using the touch screens in the toilet building. If you want to go in the exhibition in the Centre you’ll have to pay for a ticket, otherwise entry around the site is free.

It’s worth pointing out that, as everywhere in Iceland, snacks and drinks in the cafe are expensive; £5 for a small cup of tea/coffe for example. We made our own packed lunches and took flasks of hot drinks and reusable water bottles, which you can fill from the tap. It pays to be organised and plan ahead in Iceland, otherwise you can end up spending a lot of money.

We didn’t take any cash with us and had no problems as everywhere accepted card payments.

Thingvellir National Park

Culturally and geographically significant Thingvellir

 

 

Geysir Geothermal Area

About 40 mins further on from Thingvellir is the geothermic hot springs area where you can see boiling mud pits and water erupting out of the earth. The generic word ‘geysur,’ meaning an erupting hot spring, actually derives from Geysir as the one in Iceland was the first to be recorded. Geysir itself has been mostly dormant for many years, leaving the Strokkur geysur as the main attraction, erupting reliably every 10 minutes or so. 

There is a large visitor centre at the site with lots of free parking, a big gift shop, restaurants and toilets.

geysir erupting in Iceland

Strokkur geyser putting on a show

 

Gulfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss (meaning golden waterfall) is one of the iconic waterfalls of Iceland and a vision of unspoiled nature at it’s finest. Fed by the Hvítá (White) river which gushes down from Iceland´s second biggest glacier, water plummets down in two stages into a rugged canyon some 70 metres high.

There are walkways that allow you to get very close to the waterfall and there are many great spots to photograph it from. In the winter these paths are closed when the weather is bad but in September we had no issues.

Gulfoss waterfall, part of our easy 4 day itinerary in Iceland

 Gulfoss waterfall. Worth the drive

Seljelandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls

Two more awe-inspiring waterfalls to see along the south coast, which fit in perfectly on the way to the town of Vik, are Seljelandsfoss and Skogafoss. While there were plenty of other tourists around when we visited (which was at peak time through the middle of the day) it never felt overcrowded and we still managed to get good pics.

Mighty Skogafoss often has the added bonus of a rainbow to add to it’s appeal and at Seljelandsfoss you can climb up behind the waterfall to gain an entirely new perspective. Both are well worth visiting and to give you an idea, we probably spent an hour or so at each.

 

Skogafoss in Iceland

Skogafoss waterfall, complete with rainbow and tourists

 

Vik

The most southerly point in Iceland is the pretty town of Vik and the famous black sand beach and rock formations at Reynisfjara. Easily accessed from Highway 1, if we had more time to explore further around the coast, we would have potentially stayed in Vik. The town itself is quiet and quaint and we enjoyed a lovely lunch at a cute restaurant Sudur Vik.

There were quite a lot of tourists at the beach when we arrived but considering it was mid afternoon, it wasn’t too bad and the beach is pretty vast. Watch out for the ‘sneaker’ waves that come up higher than expected and can knock you off your feet!

 

black sand beach, Iceland

The curious rock formations and black sand at Reynisfjara beach

 

Horse Riding tour

On our last day we headed back towards Reyjavik but rather than explore the city, we went on a horse riding tour in the countryside just outside. The city does have some interesting things to see and most likely we’ll do this next time but we were more interested in seeing Iceland’s natural splendours than it’s urban sprawl.

Horses are everywhere in Iceland. Indeed, they are the only breed of horse permitted on the island and Icelanders are fiercely proud of them. Seeing the countryside from horseback was a truly special experience and probably the highlight of our whole trip. If you’re unsure whether to do this or not, don’t hesitate!

800 year old red lava field from horseback

 

There are many places where you can book a horse riding tour in Iceland. I researched carefully and ended up booking with Viking Horses because of their high rating, and because they offered the option of a private tour. Since Steve had never ridden before safety was especially important and we wanted to ride at a pace he felt comfortable with.

All the equipment was provided and we were given time at the start to allow us to get to know our horses and have a practice ride in the paddock before setting off. The three hour ride saw us go  through forests, lupins meadows and accross red lava rock fields. We even tried the tölt, which is a special kind of comfy trot. Afterwards we feasted on a hearty meal of lamb soup and Skyr (Icelandic yoghurt).

We had an exceptional time with Viking Horses and whilst they weren’t the cheapest, the experience was priceless.

 

The best way to experience Iceland was by horse

The best way to experience Iceland (even if you’ve never ridden)

 

The Blue Lagoon

No trip to Iceland would be complete without visiting the Blue Lagoon spa; Iceland’s premier tourist attraction. Roughly 80% of all tourists to Iceland go to the Blue Lagoon, a staggering statistic. Much is made in the media and by bloggers over whether it’s worth forking out the continually rising entrance fee for, and yet people still flock in their thousands to relax in the hot, milky blue waters.

You can read our take on whether the Blue Lagoon is worth a visit or not here

(spoiler alert – YES!)

 

relaxing at the Blue Lagoon

 The Blue Lagoon. Why wouldn’t you?

 

 

So there you have it. Our full four day Iceland itinerary broken down for you to help plan your own perfect trip. I hope we’ve provided a little inspiration and guidence for you to go and enjoy this incredible country. As always, if you have any questions, just shoot us a comment below or get in touch on our Facebook or Instagram pages.

Happy Travels!

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon – is it worth it?

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon – is it worth it?

Honestly, I was really worried about visiting Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Okay, so it’s one of the 25 Wonders of the World and yes, it’s the premier tourist attraction on the island, is the top of many people’s wanderlust wish-list and hugely Insta-famous. 

But it also attracts a lot of criticism for being over hyped, cliched and expensive. So I had mixed feelings when I booked the tickets online. Could it possibly live up to expectations? Would it be worth the hefty £140 price tag for two basic entrance passes? Yes, that’s £70 EACH, essentially just to get in.

 relaxing at the Blue Lagoon

 

Well since you’re reading this and are therefore most likely interested in visiting the Blue Lagoon, you’ll be pleased to hear that I needn’t have worried. As soon as we immersed ourselves in the heavenly 38 °C/ 100°F milky blue water, I just felt my cares drain away. It was magical! 

What to expect when you visit the Blue Lagoon

 

Because it’s so popular and busy all year round, you need to book online in advance in order to visit the Blue Lagoon. Once you arrive and show your e-ticket, you are given an electronic wrist band which allows you to access a locker in the changing area and also to buy any food or drinks whilst you’re there. So no need to mess around with money or risk losing locker keys, which is great. You’ll also get given a towel. Robes and slippers are available to rent as extras, but honestly I don’t think they were worth it for the price.

view from the cafe over the Blue Lagoon

Changing areas at the Blue Lagoon

Once you’re through to the changing area (there are separate male and female locker rooms) you are required to shower without your bathing suit on before you go into the lagoon. The logistics of this are a little bit fiddly, depending on how shy you are. There is one changing cubicle with a door and a shower with a door, otherwise it’s all very communal if you pay for the basic ‘comfort’ ticket, as we did. The more expensive ticket options provide you with your own changing area and entrance to the lagoon with presumably fewer other people around.

What about your hair?

It’s also strongly recommended that you use the conditioner provided in the shower, apply it to your hair and leave it in, before you enter the lagoon. The highly mineralised water can make hair rather crispy so the conditioner offers some protection. I followed this advice and had no problems with my hair after at all (although I wore it up and out of the water for the most part). If you are worried or have sensitive hair then either wear a hat or just keep your head above the water. Worth knowing that there is also a hair dryer just outside the changing room,  if you want to use it after your visit.

Blue Lagoon Iceland entrance to the water

After you’ve showered and put on your bathing suit, I’m not going to lie, it’s an uncomfortable walk out into the cold air and quickly into the lagoon. But the feeling of being enveloped by the heavenly, hot blue water after the cold air is something truly special!

Despite many visitors being there at the same time, the lagoon is so huge, often with mist above it so that it’s easy to find a quiet spot away from the crowds and feel like you have some space. We enjoyed swimming around the whole area, feeling the changes in water temperature and just floating our cares away. 

Having fun in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The basic ticket also includes one complimentary drink which you can get from the swim up bar. No need to leave the water at all! The choices are soft drinks, fruit smoothies, cider or a selection of wine and prosecco. Naturally we went for the prosecco. If you want to order any more drinks you just ‘swipe’ your wristband and you pay when you leave. There is a drinking water fountain in the lagoon too so you can stay hydrated too. For food there’s a cafe and a fancy restaurant, if you really want to splash out.

 

How long can you stay at the Blue Lagoon for?

You book an arrival time when you buy your online ticket so you can stay for as long as you like at the lagoon.  We found that after a couple of hours we were turning into prunes so got out for a bit. You can get in and out as much as you want, or as much as you can stand to, depending on the air temps! There are pegs for towels (or robes) near the entrance and if you misplace yours the staff are on hand to replace it.

No filter travels wearing our silica mud masks at the Blue Lagoon

There’s a waterfall which is fun to stand under and you can help yourself to the complementary silica mud to use on your face. It’s said to be rejuvenating and beneficial to skin if applied for 7-10 minutes. It certainly felt nice and we had lots of fun smearing it on and laughing at how daft we looked. Obviously the Blue Lagoon is insta-heaven so make sure you take a waterproof phone case to get those envy inducing shots! I took my GoPro, which is waterproof, but I wasn’t prepared to test it actually in the water. 

 

Fun Facts about the Blue Lagoon:

 

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal pool, spa and hotel on an 800 year old lava field in the Southwest of Iceland

The 6 million litres of geothermal sea water is totally replenished every 40 hours

The Blue Lagoon is not natural, it’s basically a run off from the geothermal power plant next door

The temperature of the water is around 38°C/100°F – perfect for relaxing in and even when the air temps are freezing, keeps you surprisingly warm.

Water comes from 6.500 ft/1981 metres below ground where the temperature is a scorching 240°C/464°F

You don’t need shoes in the Blue Lagoon, the floor is smooth rock and quite pleasant to walk on

It’s possible to get a reservation for an in water massage, if you book in advance. There’s a separate roped off area next to the main pool for treatments

 

Getting to the Blue Lagoon

Getting to the Blue Lagoon is really easy since it’s only a 25 minute drive away from Keflavik International Airport. For that reason many people go on the first or last day of their stay in Iceland. We arrived early in the morning from London and went straight there for the rest of the day. It was a great way to wash away the stress of an early morning flight! It’s possible to stay at the Blue Lagoon Hotel itself but we stayed 10 mins away in Grindavik at the lovely Anita’s Guest House, for a fraction of the price via Booking.com.

You can get 10% off at Booking.com using our referral link here 

Blue Lagoon

 

I hope this blog post has answered some of the questions you might have had about visiting the Blue Lagoon. Okay, so the locals don’t go there as it really is just for the tourists. Icelanders prefer to use the much cheaper, naturally occurring hot springs that are all over the island. But even so, for us first time geothermal pool users wondering is the Blue Lagoon worth it, the answer is a resounding YES!

Do you have any questions about the Blue Lagoon? Do you agree with us or do you think it’s over-rated? We’d love to hear what you think, tell us in the comments…

If you want to read more about our Iceland trip, including the route we took, check out our blog post Iceland – an easy 4 day itinerary for first timers

The Kings are coming!

The Kings are coming!

The Spanish really know how to draw out a holiday.

First, it was Christmas then New Years and finally this week, the Epiphany or ”Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages” which in English means “The festival of the three Magic Kings”. Which means that it’s felt like the Christmas holiday has gone on for way longer than we are used to in the UK.

Reyes is celebrated on 6th January and celebrates when the Kings or Wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Traditionally this is the day that Spanish children receive their gifts rather than on Christmas Day. Although, I’m reliably informed by my younger students that they are allowed to have some presents on Christmas Day too. Just as well. Can you imagine if kids in the UK had to wait two weeks after breaking up from school to get their presents and then go back to school the day after getting them?!

As ever with these things, we were keen to witness what Reyes in Valencia entailed and headed into the city last night to catch the action. We pitched up in time to see the finale of the parade in front of the town hall in the main Plaza de Ayntamento. It was a spectacular affair which had started at the port about two hours earlier and moved slowly through the city under police escort, surrounded by an army of kids. Finally, the kings entered the Plaza in full convoy with guards, dancers, torches, chests of presents, all solemnly carried by King’s servants.

Despite the fact that we had been told how much bigger Reyes is in Valencia then Christmas, we were still surprised by the party atmosphere and buzz in the city. We had a great night AND we get to have ‘Christmas Day’ for the second time today.

Albufera – Day trip from Valencia

Albufera – Day trip from Valencia

Well worth a visit if you are in Valencia is the area just to the south of the city known as Albufera.

Albufera is a large freshwater lagoon separated from the Med by just a couple of sand dunes. It has been designated as an important wetland area and provides sanctuary for millions of wetland birds on their migratory routes to Africa. Being a bird person I was a little disappointed not to see more exciting/exotic birds then the mallards and herons that abounded. However it was still delightful to see them and I wonder if a trip during the breeding season in spring might not be a better time to visit if bird life is what you are after.

boat ride at Albufera

boating through the reeds at Albufera

Very easy to get to by the frequently running number 25 bus from Colon for €1.50 per single ticket, it takes 30-45 mins and you can even take your bike on the bus if you want to experience the nature reserves and various cycle routes.

If you get off the bus at Gola de Puchol, you will see the gaggle of boatmen on a jetty waiting to take visitors out on the lake for a 35 min tour for €4. Apparently the sunsets over the lake are particularly lovely and we are definitely planning on going back to do this next time, who doesn’t love a sunset crusie? The towns in this area El Saler, El perellonet and El Palmer are worth a visit too either for the beaches or to sample the region speciality dish, paella! During the summer the many campsites along this stretch play host to the throngs of holiday makers seeking relief from the heat of the city so I imagine it gets quite busy. We went in October when the weather was perfect and it was all very quiet.

Overall a very pleasant day trip for the cost and effort

When in Rome…

When in Rome…

I’ll confess I had visions of romance, sophistication and if not warm, then at least warmer than the miserable cold and grey UK winter when I booked our visit to Rome. This was one of our first ‘holiday’ type trips away together so I had high expectations. Unfortunately for us there was an uncharacteristic cold snap across Europe while we were there and Rome experienced some of it’s coldest weather for many years.

 

chilly at the colosseum

Chilly at the Colosseum

Of course, we hadn’t packed our ski wear and even wearing layers of every piece of clothing we had brought was still not enough to keep us from being uncomfortably cold whilst outside. And most of Rome’s delights are outside. Aside from the screaming pain of chilblains in the hotels shower though, there was a lot to like about Italy’s premier tourist city.

drinking water fountain in Rome

One of the few free things in Rome – water

Normally we shy away from being tourists and we wanted to experience the city as much as possible like locals. This was not to be unfortunately and to some extent our experience was spoiled by the constant feeling of being ripped off and paying the ‘tourist trap’ prices. Hard to stomach when you are used to paying the lovely low prices of a city like Valencia. However, ‘when in Rome’, we decided to suck it up and just accept that all that history comes at a (high) price. To give you an example, we stopped for a coffee and tea in the centre between the Trevi fountain and the Pantheon and paid €11, ouch. It’s worth knowing the the water in the drinking fountains around the city is free and completely fine to drink. Top up your bottle whenever you see one to keep hydrated and save a few pennies.

icicles at the Vatican fountains

Don’t be deceived by the blue sky!

Like many people that visit Rome we were only there for a few days and wanted to cram in as much as possible. There is so much to see in this city that its really impossible to feel like you can do it justice in such a short time without feeling like you are just ticking off the sites. Be prepared to do a lot of walking and wear comfy shoes is my main tip. How I longed to wear that gorgeous dress and skip down the streets in stilettos to get that perfect Insta pic. Reality – wrapped in every piece of clothing I owned, hat hair, cold chapped face and sore feet. Kudos to those Insta girls!

There is a metro system but it isn’t the best and only takes you so far. No matter where you stay you wont be near all the top attractions. Tip for buying metro tickets – instead of queueing (which can be for a while if you go at a busy time of day) for the ticket machine (we found there tended to only be one machine working at a time and it only ever accepted coins) you can also buy tickets from the little kiosk booths within the stations.

The attractions

Trevi fountain

Trevi Fountain

Our itinerary for 4 days of sight seeing looked like this;

Day 1 – Roman ruins – Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Forum
Day 2 – Getting religious – St Peters Bascilica and the Trastevere district
Day 3 – Staying central – Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, Pantheon
Day 4 – Awe-inspiring art – Vatican museums and the sistine chapel

 

view from St Peter's Bascilica

St Peter’s Basilica – the view is worth the climb

This itinerary worked quite well and kept us busy without being too exhausting. Even being in Rome during low season it was busy and we queued for over an hour for all the main attractions. Definitely purchase tickets in advance where possible and check the opening hours, days and any special event days for St Peter’s and the Vatican museums especially. Even getting there early and queuing for over an hour we just managed to sneak in to see the Sistine chapel before it was closed for a special event!

We enjoyed meals out each night in the area local to the hotel and the food ranged from good to excellent. We didn’t have any bad meals but we found the prices and quality variable. For example, our favourite place served a starter of bread and oils, large pizza, wine/beer and coffee for €10 each. Tasty and great value!

Overall we really enjoyed our trip to Rome and it was great to see the amazing attractions but we wont be rushing back. There are too many other places to see on our travel list!

We flew from East Midlands Airport to Rome Ciampino with Ryanair in Jan 2017. 4 nights at the 4 star Hotel Mondial cost us €439 through booking.com. We choose the hotel because it was only 150m from the nearest metro and a short walk from the main train station which is where the buses drop to and from the airport. Overall we were very pleased with the hotel and the location.

Pro’s – The history, the monuments, the architecture, the food…
Cons’ – the prices, queues and in January, the icy weather!

*All opinions expressed in the post are our own and it contains no affiliate links

 

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