“I’ve walked a lot in the mountains in Iceland. And as you come to a new valley, as you come to a new landscape, you have a certain view. If you stand still, the landscape doesn’t necessarily tell you how big it is. It doesn’t really tell you what you’re looking at. The moment you start to move the mountain starts to move.”
~ Olafur Eliasson (Danish-Icelandic Artist)
Iceland has been on my ‘Must Travel To’ list for years. My mother was stationed there during her military career; it was actually her first 15-month assignment away from home. Any time anyone asked her about the place, she said it was beautiful, and was worth the trip.
Now I’ve found out she was right. Iceland was absolutely breathtaking, from the landscape, to the people, I loved it all – this will definitely be a country that I come back to more than once.
This trip came about after talking with a great travelling buddy of mine, Katie. We’ve taken a few trips together now over the years and at the end of 2015 we both had mentioned we wanted to do Iceland one of these days and would love to go with each other.
Well – around the same time a mutual friend of ours was married and one of her friends met Katie and expressed an interest in visiting Iceland as well.
Kismet? You bet it was.
So like all people with a common goal, we decided to visit the country together the last week in January 2016.
Of course the day we fly out, there is a Snow-pocalypse on the east coast, but we all made it on time and in one piece to Reykjavík! We decided to use AirBnb for our accommodations and the little apartment we found about 40 minutes walking from the city center was adorable. Our host was amazing and even made us breakfast!
Our first day there, we just spent getting our bearings, since we rented a car, and we decided what we wanted to do on which days. The very next day we woke up early to get into gear for our snorkeling tour of the Silfra. We booked this tour with dive.is (https://www.dive.is/). They have many different tours and are a reputable company. If you go, see if you can get Alexi as your tour guide, he was awesome!
So the Silfra was created when the two tectonic plates – European and North American – pulled apart – eons ago. There is a lake not far from the Silfra and when the plates pulled apart, water began to trickle into the location. The water is the purest water around, having been filtered for 70-100 years through lava rock.
Anyway long story short, the snorkeling was amazing. The water is super clear; you can literally see everything under water. The rock formations that were created were stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera that could last in the water. Let me forewarn you, the water is cold. And it’s not a little cold; it’s a lot cold. The temperature of the water all year long is between 2 and 4 degrees Centigrade, which roughly translate to between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit (I think). I think I’m going to invest in a goPro plus an insulated case for my next trip so I can take video.
After the snorkeling tour, we commenced on our own tour of the Golden Circle. Here is a brief on the circle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Circle_(Iceland). I think we hit all the major spots in the circle. The park itself is gorgeous and many more sites to see, not just these. I will return when the weather is better to do some hiking.
The next day we walked from our Airbnb into downtown Reykjavík and took a free tour of the city, after stopping by the Hand knitting Association of Iceland and picking up some awesome Icelandic yarn and sweater patterns. The tour was really good! Our tour guide was great, he told us about the history of the city and of Iceland and imparted a lot of cool local knowledge. Here is the link to sign up for the tour: http://www.freewalkingtour.is/. It is free, but they do ask for a monetary tip at the end. You can basically give how much you think the tour was worth.
After a mini break we took the car on a ten-hour day trip, to see the cute town of Vik and the black sand beach, and also Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Our day started extremely early and we drove (well Katie drove, I was the navigator) through crazy snow, and dark roads to make it to Vik when the sun rose. As we approached our destination we had to stop and pet the Iceland ponies we saw – they were too cute to pass up.
Not long after our pony stop, we reached Vik and the black sand beach. It was absolutely beautiful. The black sand was so soft; our boots literally sank down into it. The roaring of the waves and the wind was all you could hear as the waves crashed up along the beach. I could have stayed there just watching for probably a good hour or so, but after a quick lunch in town we pushed on to the glacier lagoon.
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is made up from the long glacier that stretches along the tops of the mountains in Iceland. The lagoon was formed from the glacier on one side breaking apart and then the water from the ocean meeting and eroding the glacier even more, causing pieces to break apart and flow out into the open water. If you do nothing else, make this trip. There are no words to describe how amazing this place was. It’s definitely a place I’ll return to again.
On our last day in Iceland, we headed to a Geothermal Power Plant called On which powers Reykjavík to get our nerd on, which was pretty darn cool. Then we drove to a little fishing village where we wanted to eat lunch, but found out the restaurant was closed for the season and wouldn’t be opening for another week or so. Instead we stopped in another village and had some pizza, which was very good. After that we found a lava tube that was along the Ring road (literally a road that can take you all the way around Iceland) and decided to go down and investigate as much as we could. Getting down the huge snowdrifts was a challenge, but once we did, the cave was pretty cool.
During this entire time we tried (and failed) to see the Aurora Borealis. It was extremely elusive for us, though a couple of people we met and talked with had seen it before we made it to Iceland. Our final morning we tried to see it again, but just wasn’t happening for us.
Oh well – there is always next time. 🙂
So this concludes my trip to Iceland. It was awesome and I’ll definitely get back to this land of awesomeness when the weather is a little warmer and I can see more.
Until next time!