Part 1 of 6
I am still reeling from my breathtaking trip to Iceland as I just could not seem to get enough of it. My dream is to visit every country in Europe and Iceland was basically one of the last countries I had planned to visit. However, COVID-19 changed my plans so drastically that I ended up visiting much sooner than I expected to. However, I do not regret it one bit!
When my home country Malta decided to open the airport, there were only three countries that I had not previously visited and Iceland was one of them! This, combined with the fact that I managed to find cheap accommodation for less than €100 for four nights and could use my refunds for previously cancelled flights, meant that I could afford to go. It was either now or God knows when!
What impressed me most about Iceland is its nature. Widely known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’, Iceland is home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe and some of the world’s most active volcanoes. Even in the capital city, you’re still constantly reminded of nature. Hallgrimskirkja Church, the tallest building in Reykjavik, looks exactly like basalt columns.
In fact, Icelandic nature is so diverse and beautiful that it has inspired and influenced people for years. And it is one of the few countries on Earth that is not overpopulated and overdeveloped. In simple terms, Iceland is pure and wild! Iceland is magical and a photographer’s paradise!
Speaking of those outdoor landscapes, that’s what drives everyone to visit and with good reason, as it seems like there’s something gorgeous and amazing hidden around every bend of the road. I think we all have a certain level of scepticism whenever we see stunning photos online or in calendars and books.
I personally think some photos are over edited, but in Iceland there’s no need for photo editing – it really is that gorgeous. Whether you stay close to Reykjavik and explore the Golden Circle or venture further afield you won’t be disappointed.
Since Iceland’s is close to the Arctic Circle, the country experiences “white nights” in the summer months due to the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon in which the setting sun doesn’t fully dip below the horizon. This probably explains why I had such fitful nights, although the fact that I felt hot under my thick quilt despite the window being open, might also be to blame!
Few know that Icelandic cuisine has a long history. Important parts of Icelandic cuisine are lamb, dairy, and fish, the latter due to Iceland being surrounded by ocean. Popular foods in Iceland include hangikjöt (smoked lamb), kleinur, laufabrauð, bollur and skyr. The latter has been a staple food in Iceland for over a thousand years. Described as a yogurt and eaten as a yogurt, it’s actually really soft cheese with virtually zero fat (seemingly impossible I know). There’s no looking back after you taste your first spoonful of skyr!
Once you’re there, Iceland is a very manageable place to navigate as a tourist. Many first time visitors decide to stay in the capital city of Reykjavik and hop on a few day trips as time allows. However, there’s nothing like renting a car and getting out on your own. I love the freedom that only renting a car can provide and in Iceland, that freedom is well worth the cost. Plus you save time, money and angst by driving yourself. If you don’t rent a car on your first trip, then be sure to do it on subsequent trips as you tackle other areas of the country.
If you travel solo, as I usually do, it’s pretty easy to find other travellers to team up with you. I used the carpooling website www.samferda.is – it’s a website for travellers who want to split the cost. I was actually surprised at how many requests I had from other travellers to join me on my various trips. That’s how I met Gunta, a very interesting person and freelance photographer, originally from Latvia but living in Sweden, and Marc and Mina, a cute Spanish couple from Barcelona who are currently living in Iceland as Marc has just won a scholarship at the University of Iceland. Thanks for your company and for your patience at all my requests to take photos of me!
Iceland also has the best swimming pools in Europe and a huge number of them at that! They are everywhere, even in really tiny villages, sometimes hidden somewhere in the middle of nowhere. That’s true as almost every Icelandic town and village, no matter how small it is, has its own swimming pool.
What will surprise you is the fact that almost all pools in Iceland are outdoor ones and use natural warm water. This is a consequence of living in a geothermal paradise. Water must be one of Iceland’s happiness secrets. Bad mood? Health problems? Boredom? Appetite for small talk? Hot tubs are waiting for you, just jump inside and soak for a while – relax in Icelandic style.
There are many words you can use to describe Iceland’s scenery and the adventures that await: beautiful, lunar, strange, eccentric, dramatic, versatile. The one word that certainly doesn’t apply is ‘boring’. In fact, Iceland is a place where you will never feel bored as the landscape is changing like mad. In one hour you can pass a volcano, a glacier, spectacular mountains and a lava field.
Even the weather will surprise you every single hour; it’s moody and capricious, only this is constant. In one hour you have a possibility to observe the sun, five types of rain, from drizzle to storm and a calm moment of unnatural silence mixed with shocking minutes of a hurricane wind.
In Iceland you can feel like you’re in a fairy tale. Everything is so marvellous that it seems to be almost unreal, so you will catch yourself wondering: is this real? Icelandic landscape has a very special component; only in Iceland can you take a fantastic stroll through mysterious lava fields of wonderfully, almost unnatural green and super fluffy moss which grows on congealed, cracked lava.
Iceland is also a kingdom of waterfalls. Waterfalls have something in common with pizza – almost everyone likes them! In Iceland you can stumble upon them almost everywhere. There is something for everyone: really tiny, more sizeable, huge and absolutely spectacular – here you can catch a glimpse of waterfalls in every shape and size. What’s more, there are thousands of them. Water, crazy water everywhere!
I must admit that the beauty of Iceland did not fail to amaze me. Almost each fjord, each valley, lake or mountain is like a piece of art. All around amazing, breathtaking views, always unexpected and astonishing. It’s nothing else but a pure perfection created by Mother Nature.
I am sure that when you have finished reading this text, your travel bucket list is going to change immediately if Iceland isn’t there. Oh yes, I can guarantee that Iceland will be your new dream. Start packing – this island will definitely NOT disappoint you!