Heading into Reykjavik from the airport, I smiled as I spotted a vibrant rainbow in the sky. Little did I know it would be one of a dozen I would see during my week in Iceland. To say that Iceland’s landscape is unique, is an understatement. It’s sort of other-worldly. So-much-so, that Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings was reportedly inspired by Iceland’s terrain and NASA used it as a training location for Neil Armstrong’s first moon walk.
Or at least I think those stories are true…early-on in my trip, one of my local guides told me that Icelanders “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. Although I love that quote, I admit to being a little dubious to everything I was told thereafter.
Perhaps moonscapes don’t do proper justice to the exceptional raw beauty and natural wonders that are found in this fascinating country. The diversity is stunning. Black, jagged lava fields are contrasted with opulent, mossy hillsides and deep plunging gorges. Snow capped mountains loom in the horizon and runoff forms icy glaciers. Geothermal geysers blast into the sky and milky blue mineral spas await eager bathers. After a few days in Iceland, I was smitten. My expectations were blown. I expected striking landscapes, wildlife viewing opportunities, volcanoes and geothermal activity. Less expected, but very much appreciated, were the cultural and historical insights I gained throughout my journey and the hospitality of the Icelandic people.
That’s right – don’t let their seemingly reserved demeanor fool you! There is passion to be found within the 300,000 inhabitants of this Nordic island country. Fact or fiction, I soon learned that Icelanders have a gift for storytelling. I heard fractions of different Icelandic sagas (stories that depict struggles and conflicts that arose within families and societies of the first Icelandic settlers). I’m a sucker for a good story and each saga had me captivated. Combine that with tales of elves and trolls and you have a destination that is nothing short of enchanting.
One rainy afternoon on the Snaefellsness peninsula, I sat in the living room of Ensku Husin guesthouse, drinking coffee and knitting a community scarf that is left out for guests to work on. My host graciously told me the history of the house, which has been in his family for decades. Meanwhile, the smell of homemade seafood soup filled the room and just outside the window, his beautiful Icelandic horse grazed. I felt at home – well, if I lived in a fairytale, perhaps.
Balancing out the more relaxed and cozy encounters in Iceland, was an active and adventurous spirit that is contagious. The high season for hiking and trekking is July through mid-August, but the shoulder seasons can be perfect for less crowds. The choice to get active is entirely up to the individual. A vast amount of beauty can be seen from driving tours, but if you want to view more secluded waterfalls and witness the solitude of small mountain huts and hidden hot springs, strapping on some hiking boots is highly recommended. Summer time offers midnight sun, puffin encounters and the chance of drier hiking. Winter offers the best chance of viewing Northern Lights, orca whales and proper Scandinavian in-town coziness. Iceland really is a year-round destination, it just depends what type of experience you’re going for.
So don’t let the tongue-twisting names, like Eyjafjallajökull (I can’t say it either) discourage you. Be sure to check out GreenSpot’s Iceland itineraries. As always, each trip can be customized to suit your preferences and the season you are traveling in. Customizing your trip is what we do best.