With the northern most point sitting on the Arctic Circle and the Mid Atlantic Ridge running the length of Iceland, this land of fire and ice really does provide some of the most dramatic scenery in the world.
I was first introduced to the thought of visiting this island by the cheap airfares offered some years ago from London to NYC, via Reykjavik ! For most taking this hop across the pond from the UK for a long weekend, the thought of a stopover is not an option. In the end, I took the plunge and visited Iceland not really knowing what to expect apart from colder weather than my departure point, being London.
Just 3 hours from Heathrow, a very comfortable Icelandair experience as a reassuring start and we are on the airport peninsula, just 40 minutes from the capital Reykjavik.
Reykjavik’s colouful mix of gingerbread rooftops takes on a Nordic country town feel, though it is quite unique and boasts a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains, a beautiful setting for the city’s 120,000 population and visitors.
It has all the style of a modern European city and comes alive at weekends with a colourful and sophisticated nightlife in a village setting with twilight until the early hours if not 24 hours. The sights & attractions are numerous and first class, the summer festivals are in abundance, while the culinary specialities are Icelandic Lamb and delicious seafood fresh from the clean waters of the North Atlantic, it is truly unrivalled in taste.
For me, Reykjavik exceeded the expectations I had, though I was really here to experience first hand the rugged beauty and natural splendor of this unspoilt and striking island, so it’s time to head out of town.
Standing just meters from a water hole building up pressure as the level rises and pow, the Geyser bursts upwards and thrusts some 20 meters in the air, what an amazing experience, and there’s a whole field of active Geysers firing like clockwork. Coupled with these are the hot springs and mud pools in the same area.
Recently active volcanoes leave you in no doubt of their power and destruction as you stand on lava fields from yester-year. It just feels like you are experiencing life on the moon in this landscape. I’ve never seen anything like it!
The stunning landscape continues to impress with its lake-filled volcanoes and beautiful Gullfoss waterfalls, while Borgarfjordur’s stunning lava-shoreline gives way to the famous Snaefellsjokull glacier with its ‘mystical’ powers. Such a unique country.
My anticipated highlight of the day is indeed quite overwhelming. We are in the historic Thingvellir National Park, standing over the ‘Mid-Atlantic Ridge’ looking down into millions of years of continental plates drifting apart!… think about it, standing and looking down into where two continental plates meet! This place is absolutely extraordinary.
For another amazing day of adventure from Reykjavik, we head for Olafsvik to start our whale watching cruise and I cannot believe the variety of whales Iceland is home to; the world’s largest animal, the blue whale is accompanied by the playful porpoise, orca and minke whales, while dolphins are never far away. What a stunning playground we are privileged to be a part of for such a memorable moment in life.
After such a weekend of intense experiences, en-route to the airport, today we head to the lava fields on the Reykjanes peninsula, the setting for the famous Blue Lagoon. Time to relax, bathing in naturally heated, mineral rich waters, reputed for their healing powers. We cover our faces with the beautifying mud and absorb all that Iceland has to offer, just a stones’ throw from its capital.
A little off the beaten track, Iceland is rugged beauty to the extreme. If you have the chance to include this dramatic country on your travels, you will be highly rewarded for making the effort.