The two most commonly said phrases in Iceland: “Where are we?” and “Wow!”.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed to have been able to see a lot of this Earth we all share. I got to go on the most amazing trip of my life in May. My best friend from high school, Abby, studied all last spring semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. It started off as a joke when I would tell her that I was going to visit her. I had said the same thing about visiting her at Indiana University but I hadn’t made it those 1,000 miles so it seemed far fetched to travel over 5,000. Before I knew it, somehow I had a flight leaving Houston, TX to Copenhagen for the last week she would be studying there. We started planning this trip and looking at where we would travel. We really wanted to go to the South of France but tickets were crazy expensive because we would be traveling the same week as the Cannes Film Festival. Then, me, Abby, and her roommate Katie found CHEAP tickets to Iceland and decided to go for it…and I’m so glad we did.
After a couple days in Cope, we were off to Keflavik, Iceland. A two hour flight there and then a two hour wait for our rental car later, we were headed to the Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. I immediately learned that everything I knew about Iceland was a lie (that Greenland is ice, and Iceland is green). Iceland is ice too and the only green you see is moss. Bringing me to my first point: “Where are we?”. Iceland’s landscape is the strangest/coolest/confusing combination of extraterrestrial sci-fi movie worthy scenery and gorgeous natural wonders. Iceland is on top of two major tectonic plates that are drifting apart (the country actually grows two cm a year!!!). These two tectonic plates make Iceland one of the most volcanic regions in the world. What looks like grass in the picture below is actually lava rocks covered in moss. On the trip we described it like driving a rover through Mars to the beautiful ice topped mountains far off in the distance.
If you are on a short trip like we were with only two full days to travel here are my list of must sees/dos:
The Golden Circle is just a portion of a longer week long camping excursion more adventurous people than us go on. It’s the single most humbling experience. On that trip, I realized how small we are. Any tectonic related formation you can think of all happen within a couple hundred miles of each other. One stop, you will see two huge waterfalls, the next a geyser, or a volcanic crater. If you were to add one thing to your bucket list, it would be this drive.
Iceland has tons of geothermal spas because of the natural heat from the Earth’s core. Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. It is a luxurious spa heated by the nearby geothermal power plant. The water is a creamy, pale blue from the silica and sulfur and is known for its healing power. It is so relaxing to just float in the hot water with a silica mask on. This is a MUST MUST do.
At Downtown Reykjavik’s center is Reykjavik Cathedral – this MASSIVE church with a steeple you can see from miles around. Because Iceland is overcast for the majority of the year, Downtown Reykjavik has made it a point to bring as much color and culture as they can to their town center. The whole area is riddled with adorable coffee shops and art galleries. There is also a must-see pub for any fans of the Big Lebowski out there. This is the biggest understatement in the world but…my uncle is a Lebowski enthusiast (he’s going to laugh when he reads this… he has a tattoo of The Dude that he won for free at Lebowski Fest). Even if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s worth going just for the burgers.
So there’s my short list of what you MUST do if you ever make your way to Iceland. One day, I want to go back to see the Northern Lights and the black sand beaches in Vik. Where have you traveled? We’d love to hear!