Iceland is a mystical country full of tall tales, natural beauty and wonder. Reykjavik, the capital city, falls directly within that description. Having more of a ski town/backpackers hideout type of feel rather than a national city, Reykjavik easily is one of my favorites cities (really towns) in the world.
I don’t know if it was the bearded-mountain-man/granola eating feel to the city or the fact that the population of Iceland is half that of any major city, but Reykjavik is the perfect place to start exploration of one of the worlds best places for natural wonders.
We originally got roped into traveling to the country through a groupon deal to see the northern lights. Sadly those suckers are a difficult thing to track down and only a lucky few get to see the colourful green hues. What we did get to do though was snorkel in arctic temperatures in one of the top 25 diving locations in the world, Silfra in Þingvellir National Park; see what all geysers have been named after, geysir and strokkur; cave underneath the frozen layer of snow and relax after it is all said and done relax in an outdoor arctic spa famously known as ‘The Blue Lagoon’.
Swimming in near freezing water? No problem, just put on a dry suit. Being new to diving, I had no idea that cold, glacier water often has some of the best diving/snorkeling in the world. Created by melting glaciers and cleaned naturally through hardened lava rocks, the water is as blue as the carribean sea. The surreal thing to all of this though is…it is snowing will you are swimming!
Losing feeling in my hands and feet, I was happy to end our 45 min journey and travel on to explore lava caves created nearly 2,000 years ago. Within these crevasses our guide shared some of the folklore of this ancient country. One of my favourites was the tale of the 13 Santa’s or more properly named ‘Yule lads’.
Iceland children do not have just 1 figure at Christmas time, but 13. These little guys are not the benevolent image known today by children, but mischievous trolls that will take you things, leave a potato in your shoe and generally haze you if you have been a bad boy or girl. Utilised a tool for scaring children into obdience, modern Yule lads have morphed into a much nicer version compared to their original creation.
Moving from folklore and freezing tempatures, my partner and I took to the road and drove the famous ‘Golden Circle’. Hitting 3 crucial stops Þingvellir National Park, home to the first commonwealth/democracy established in Iceland, Gulffoss waterfall, and Geysir and strokkur. Geysir was the first geyser to be documented and thus shaped the modern english word ‘geyser’. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, “to gush”, the verb from Old Norse.
Rounding out our adventure holiday, we took a break in one of worlds most famous geothermal spa’s, the Blue Lagoon. Heated by volcanic lava that is circulated every 2 days, the waters contain high levels of silica and sulphur that are meant to be extremely good for the skin, including having the ability to cure skin diseases such as psoriasis.
Aside from the sheer beauty of sitting in warm blue water amidst snowing mountain caps, they also offer in-water massages. Being a bit of a spa enthusiast, I was not going to let this unique opportunity pass me by, so I signed up for the ‘Silica indulgence’. Weirdly floating in this warm water, yet cold air, I will have to say it makes the top 5 of most interesting massages (with the Korean scrub down being the best) – but I don’t know if I would do it again. While the session starts out with exfoliation and ends with a floating message, the cold air (and sometimes cold message oil/exfoliant) combined with the warm water makes the overall experience a bit of a balancing act between shivers and warm relief. However, at the end of the day I was the most relaxed I had ever been and felt the silica had truly done wonders for my skin.
After all our adventuring, exploring and story telling, there is an even better happy ending to the Icelandic trip.
Never could I have imagined such a wondrous journey, would end with getting engaged to the love of my life and fellow travel/life enthusiast. Iceland will forever be one of the most interesting, life changing trips – and I cannot wait to see what’s in store next.