We exited Keflavik International in a massive storm, one of which they had not seen the likes of in Reykjavik all winter, with hurricane force winds and freezing snow whipping our faces and basically paralyzing them in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” expression. Disclosure here, I am a winter fanatic. As most sane folk from our parts head to warmth and fun in the sun—and having done that many times—we longed to see, to taste, to feel something different, a place which we could barely imagine. We pretty much have fun wherever we are (I like to think we are very adaptable), and the thought of Game of Thrones landscapes, gushing waterfalls, ribbons of neon green auroras, filled my mind for weeks prior to our trip. We had heard that Iceland in the winter was mythical, less touristy, and the weather was not any colder and in fact sometimes warmer than we have in Philadelphia, so we were not prepared for stepping off that plane that dark morning. We basically laughed like two underdressed, travel-weary, “we are insane for doing this” nutcases, trying to find our way through the white-out to the the bus that would take us to Reykjavik, the hub of our 8 day stay in Iceland.
But as they say frequently in Iceland, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes”. By the next evening the snow had melted on the streets of Reykjavik. You heard me, gone. We noticed no one shoveling because, wait for it…the streets are heated! Geothermal, clean energy abounds in Iceland and they have become experts on how to capture and manipulate it. And that is one of the most fascinating and endearing things we found about Iceland (and Icelanders). The island bubbles, steam pours from the ground, and the landscape is constantly changing, evolving, at every turn. We found the people to be just like the terrain—beautiful, eccentric, unapologetic, learning their way in the larger world whilst still lovingly holding onto ancient sagas and traditions. The word we used most was amazing, as we took deep breaths of cool, clean Icelandic air.
For a few days, we walked and explored much of punky, culturally exciting Reykjavik.
We also swam in the touristy but groovy thermal Blue Lagoon.
And then, for three warmer and blue-skied days, headed out via a rented car. First up to the southwestern Snaefellsnes Peninsula, then the must see Golden Circle excursion, and then lastly we headed down south as far east as Vik.
The one thing about Pat and me as travelers—we love to be out on our own, stop where we want to, and take roads that maybe we shouldn’t be on. Sometimes, you can get in a lot of trouble and get your non-SUV rental stuck in the snow. But the Icelandic Rescue Team is very pleasant, if not efficient!
The thing I will remember most about Iceland is the space…so much space…the poetic vastness and quiet, and the feeling you have of being in the right place. And of course, the Northern Lights we were lucky enough to see..bucket list, check! One note about the Northern Lights – although a mission of ours was to see them, we were also prepared for the fact that we may not. People travel to Iceland just for a glimpse of the sometimes elusive dancing lights, and are disappointed when the skies are cloudy and activity is low. Luckily one late night, we were treated to a mind-blowing light show which we will never forget!
Grettisgata 2A, 101 Reykjavik