It doesn’t sound particularly inviting. Iceland. It conjures up hazy ideas of a lifeless land, uninhabitable, and harsh at the best of times. But it seems that somehow this arctic island has become the must visit destination in 2015. Images of the captivating landscape have found their way to our consciousness in the ever present search for somewhere more beautiful.
Iceland is by all descriptions a land of great extremes, notable in the constantly changing landscapes. From lava fields to lagoons. Black sand deserts to untamed mountains. Waterfalls and glaciers. You can surf cold, wild waves and warm up in natural hot springs. It’s essentially a one stop shop for everything one could want in an adventure.
It doesn’t take long to fall in love with this country, the landscape sings on the plane journey in. No doubt you will be bound to Reykjavik, the small capital. Reykjavik appears to be a mess of too narrow streets, miss matched houses and uniquely Icelandic shopping. For such a small place it seems incredibly chaotic. After 7 nights in this city I was wooed by the offbeat locals, the lazy mornings and amazing coffee from Reykjavik Roasters, the ocean/mountain views, a bizarre mix of city/seaside vibes and one of my favourite hostels to date; Kex (complete with beautiful bartenders, delicious beer and ‘free bread’). Alongside the notion of a truly wonderful place Iceland also attracts a fantastic genre of traveller who made my time here all the more fantastic.
The only way to see a country like this is by car, and, if you get a group to split the costs of hire it will also work out significantly cheaper than the commercial bus tours.
Yes, the Golden Circle is amazing. In the mere half hour drive out of Reykjavik you will find your jaws dropping as postcard perfect mountains dominate the landscape, dotted with Icelandic horses and weather worn homes. The first stop, the tectonic plates seem eerily prehistoric and you can sense the earth, in a way that gives it life but is simarly changing, destructing. The Gullfoss waterfall is spectacular in its power. Water constantly pounding down the two tiers, deafeningly dropping to its escape in the canyon below.
Make a side trip to the ‘Secret Lagoon’, to bathe in the balmy waters nestled amongst rolling hills in the middle of nowhere.
Blue Lagoon is even more stunning in real life, and in my mind best enjoyed on a grey day, where the water takes on a dull milky blue from the dark sky, making dismal beauty against the sharp, black volcanic rocks. It’s captivatingly beautiful, as the cool air from the dash in is instantly forgotten by the perfectly warm mineral rich waters (that somehow work wonders for you skin and wreak havoc with your hair). Yes, Blue Lagoon is laden with tourists, but as I’ve travelled more I’ve come to appreciate the gentle hum of adoration that these places command, they are touristy for very good reason.
My personal favourite, and true sense of Iceland came from driving the route 1, south bound. You will in every sense chase waterfalls, they are countless spouting from the rugged mountains that tower above from the northern side, to the south endless ocean. This road is the true definition of a changing landscape, that can only be seen to be believed. The Vatnajökull glacier soon appears, ice and white sky blending boundaries of where the earth and sky meet, making you feel incredibly small. Glacier lagoon is too extreme for me to believe it real. Countless icebergs floating ever so slowly to their demise in the ocean just out the way. They constantly move, turn and break, a haunting soundtrack in this ever changing pool of glowing blue, and zebra striped wonder. The beach just 2 minutes away presents spectacular as a graveyard, where these hunks of glacier slowly melt, the bright white disappearing into the broody black sand in spectacular contrast.
Another eery sight is the Sólheimasandur plane wreck, weather worn to beauty, this slowly rusting wreck sits perfectly on the barren black sand beach, devastatingly beautiful in melancholy.
I can only say after 8 days in Iceland that I have only ever so slightly tasted what this place has to offer, and leave knowing that it will not be too long before I make my way back, to explore the full force of Iceland, the most beautiful place I’ve experienced to date.