This island country has become a top travel destination and now I know why.
By Valerie Lara
As I sat in my seat on the plane, all I could think was “Wow, I’m actually going to Iceland.” I couldn’t hide my smile and decided to just sleep on the plane because that would make time go faster. I had never been this excited and I was not disappointed. The moment we landed, it was like dropping into the world of Game of Thrones. It was white, cold, and an endless expanse all around. Since my mom and I are not your average tourists, we didn’t head straight for the city. We headed to the rental car station to start our road-trip along the south of the island. As soon as we looked outside, all we saw were fellow tourists struggling against the pounding wind and rain. The man from the rental car told us to postpone our trip but we didn’t listen. If we drove through blizzards we could survive here as well.
Our first stop was Laugarvatn Fontana, a geothermal bath and spa. It’s two hours away from the capital and it gives you a glimpse into what the infamous ‘Blue Lagoon’ will feel like. The spa and saunas have been built over a natural hot spring and look over the lake of the same name. It was a great way to start our adventure.
After a couple of hours, the storm went down and we decided we could start our way to Vik. Vik is a small town on the south of Iceland. It’s one of the few towns between Reykjavik and the Glacier Lagoon. On the way you can stop and see two of Iceland’s well know waterfalls Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. By the time we started our drive it was well into the afternoon so we only got to see the latter and lucky that we did. We arrived at twilight and there was a rainbow perfectly set over the waterfall. Seljalandsfoss is known for being one of the few waterfalls in the world that you can walk behind of. It’s an incredible experience. I had never seen anything like it. It was freezing cold and we were getting splashed by the fall but we didn’t want to leave, but finally the sun set and we were tired. After all, it was our first day.
We arrived to Vik at about 8pm, had some dinner, and crashed in our beds. The next day it was off to the Glacier Lagoon. It was a four-hour drive from Vik but the images we saw were so amazing that we couldn’t miss our chance of seeing it. Driving in Iceland is an adventure all by itself. There’s only one road. Two lanes. And all around it’s black volcanic scenery covered in moss combined with white snow. The closer you get to the lagoon the whiter it becomes. Finally, we arrive at the lagoon and it is breathtaking. Glaciers as far as the eye can see. Uninterrupted. Huge chunks of glacier are all around. It’s unforgettable. While you’re there you can also go on underwater ice cave tours but we had a six hour drive ahead of us and had to leave, so after a hot cup of soup and some hot chocolate, we left. Six hours later and we finally arrived to Reykjavik after making one stop in the middle of nowhere to eat some surprisingly delicious pizza and traditional lamb soup, which is delicious, by the way. It had been another long day and we went right to sleep.
The following morning was THE day. It was the day that we got to go to the Blue Lagoon. This was the place that I had seen and heard of for four years and I was finally going to see it. I’ll never forget the moment I got to walk into its warm geothermal waters. Better than you could ever imagine. It’s the perfect combination. The air is cold but the water is deliciously warm and the sky was bluer than ever. We didn’t want to leave. You get a complimentary mud mask and you can buy drinks like beer or organic smoothies at the bar on the water. You can also get a massage right there in the water and they are heavenly. Most people make a stop at the lagoon right before they head to the airport to fly back home but that’s a disservice. It’s worth it to spend an entire day at the Blue Lagoon. It makes for a perfect day.
The next day was all about Reykjavik. No more driving like crazy, we finally got to walk the city. Reykjavik is where most of the population of Iceland lives and it is impressive. There aren’t huge skyscrapers. In fact, the tallest building in the city is a famous cathedral called, Hallgrimskirkja. With a purchase of a ticket you can ride to the top and get an amazing panoramic view of the capital. The city is full of trendy shops, amazing restaurants, and a surprising amount of hairdressers and tattoo parlors. It’s the perfect combination of modern and traditional.
Two things that one must do while in the capital are to visit the Sun Voyager, a famous sculpture, and eat a hotdog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. That translates to Baejarin’s Best Hotdogs and they really are. Icelander’s love their hotdogs and people from all over the world have come to Iceland just for a bit of this special ‘pylsur.’
After two relaxing days, it was time for our action packed tour on Thursday. We had a ‘Golden Circle Tour’ which consists of visiting the famous Gulfoss waterfall, the Strokkur geyser, and the Thingvellir National Park, where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters per year. Also our tour had an added excursion to Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier. There we got to snowmobile on top of the glacier and had the experience of a lifetime. I’ll never forget the feeling of riding over this glacier. It was beautiful spring day. There were no clouds and the sun made the snow shine in a way that it felt as if you were riding over a cloud. It was definitely the most thrilling and beautiful experience of my life. After our ride, we had a hotdog and slept on the long ride back to our hotel and once again headed straight for our beds.
Friday came and that meant it was the last day of our trip. Luckily, I had a friend I met while I was studying in Japan who is from Iceland and he was nice enough to take my mom and me around the town to experience things only Icelanders did. He took us to a famous Icelandic painter’s museum and his favorite ice cream shop and burger restaurant. He really made our last day in Iceland unique and special. We ended our trip with a comedy show at the Harpa, a famous concert hall, called ‘How to be Icelandic in 60 Minutes’ and a special dinner at the Harpa restaurant. After that, it was time to say goodbye.
I spent a week in Iceland and it was not enough. I didn’t get to see the Northern lights due to cloudy weather but I saw so many wonderful things, that I didn’t even mind. I fell in love with this beautiful country and urge anyone who likes to travel to at least consider this special place because it is worth it. It offers a truly unique and wonderful experience that you’ll never forget.