Woah. where to begin. The easiest way could be to state that Iceland is without a doubt one of the most beautiful countries I have been lucky enough to visit. After two days spent strolling around a freezing Copenhagen and its cutesy architecture, multiple art museums, canal-side cafes, bizzare-ly great meatpacking district nightlife, cool hostels, our flight to Reykjavik was delayed. By five hours. Five. So by the time the plane refueled and landed we arrived in our hostel in the capital city of Iceland at seven am in the morning (seven!!!) all we could do was nap for two hours before heading off to pick up our beloved rental car Frida.
Taking Frida North East we headed for whats known as the Golden circle – Pingvellir national park, Geysir and Gulfoss waterfall. I almost cried when I saw the lake in the rift valley and the sharp basalt ridges split by icy rivers and a small green church. With such a strange primitive, basic and complex landscape its no wonder my photo count at the end neared 2000. Taking the long coastal route and stopping any place we felt like we made our way up to Stykkisholmur and Snaefellnes for what turned out to be marine bird watching (we were the lucky ones who didnt see whales despite a 95% possibility), scrambling up steep volcanic slopes, dipping into our hot tub at night and the first view of the Aurora Borealis. We saw them 3 more times, each time a case of “is it”…”i think it is”…”i dont know”…”wooooow it is”. Easily mistaken for clouds here, but once you’ve got them moving it can be stunning against the starry backdrop.
The journey continued back down along the south coast for tens of waterfalls, enormous glaciers, a giant glacial lagoon with lazing seals, black sand beaches, jagged basalt cliffs, dark and twisted gorges, glaring ice, teeny meandering caves on the turquoise and white glaciers, flat plains of ash broken by drifting rivers and mossy boulders and. . .and. . .and. . .
I couldn’t pick up enough rocks but left (most of) them behind at a stern glance from the sibling (no suitcase space, hand luggage only) and the compromise of a handful of ash from an eruption of Hekla collected on a glacier at the foot of a volcano. The catchphrase of the week became “basalt” thanks to my over-eager enthusiasm anytime it was within range.
It is expensive, but dining out is not to be missed. There is a small seafood restaurant by the pier in Reykjavik where we gorged ourselves on the finest fresh fish I have had in a long time, another restaurant near the church where we chanced upon a food week for a decadent four course meal and a small shack along the south coast which served the most incredible lobster (well langoustine) soup. Best tip is buying your own breakfast, if only to get the delicious rugbraud which only needed a sliver of butter to become the finest dining.
We didn’t manage to stay long enough to explore the whole island and after a day at the blue lagoon (over-rated but very relaxing) we dropped our beloved Frida off at the airport and headed home with heavy hearts. Not a goodbye, only a “see you soon”. I’ll be back.
Do: rent a car, stay in the loft hostel, take long days, stop at every sight you like, eat lobster, stay in local guesthouses to wallow in their excellent hospitality (and the hot tub), visit the warm river, take a boat trip, bring hiking boots, drive out in the evening looking for the northern lights, buy rugbraud, eat the fish, any fish, take photos of everything, wrap up warm, walk behind waterfalls, walk over glaciers, pirouette down icy slopes, climb the never-ending stairs for that view, stroll down the sandy beaches, inhale the fresh crisp air, watch, enjoy and just be.
Dont: not go. Seriously.