I had dreamed of going to Iceland for my birthday since my childhood and this year was finally able to make that dream a reality! I was travelling between the UK and Seattle and realised that I could extend my trip free of charge. I decided to stay for 3 days and finally experience the culture and beauty of a country I had only ever dreamed of. (This journal is long and very descriptive as it was written for Icelandair about their stopover flights.)
I arrived midday and was taken by bus to my hotel in Reykjavik, I was awestruck as soon as I got on the bus. It was the middle of January and lightly snowing, and I could tell immediately that Iceland was a special place. I arrived at my hotel in Reykjavik, ate some food at the hotel restaurant, and then got ready for my first tour in Iceland: The Northern Lights Tour. This tour was the one I was the most excited for as to me, the Aurora Borealis is one of nature’s wonders of the world, something so beautiful and breathtaking and to see them was the reason why I had dreamed of coming to Iceland.
A shuttle came to the hotel and took those going on the tour to the main tour depot, from there we got on our tour buses and made our way out to find the Northern Lights. I could feel the excitement of being on this adventure rushing through my body. Our first stop was a small farm, they were serving hot cocoa and waffles inside and had a large yard outside where we all went in attempt to see the lights. Unfortunately it was cloudy at this point so most of us went inside to have some hot food and drinks as it was quite cold! The clouds never quite parted at this location so then we went onto the next, to a much more desolate place a bit farther North. At this point our tour guide told us that you can’t always see the Northern Lights with your naked eye, most of the time they are caught only on camera and only if you have a camera that the shutter speed can be changed on. I was devastated when I heard this as all I had with me was my iPhone, I had not even thought about having a good quality camera with me.
We reached our final destination where we had been told by other groups that the lights had been spotted that night. We got off the bus and walked to a small hill where numerous other people were and there they were, right above us, only I couldn’t see them. The people around me were getting gorgeous shots of the lights with their cameras, all I could see was a white streak across the sky. I tried numerous times to get photos with my phone but of course to my dismay, nothing ever turned out. We spent about an hour here while everyone was getting their photos and I was just staring at the sky, my hopes of seeing this beautiful display of lights crushed. We then got back on the bus and began our trip back to Reykjavik. I was heartbroken, I had come all the way here for this and could not even see them. I quickly fell to sleep on the bus as it was past midnight at this point and it had been a long day for me.
Someone cried out and I awoke with a start, “What was going on?” Next thing I know I’m looking out the window at a beautiful display of the Northern Lights, right above Reykjavik. They were dancing across the sky, a picturesque moment of light and color. My heart began racing, this is what I had envisioned seeing since I was a child and watched Balto for the very first time, this was my purpose for coming here, all hope was not lost, I was really seeing them! I went to sleep a happy girl that night, seeing the lights had taken my breath away, happiness flooded over me, I couldn’t believe I had actually seen them and I was ecstatic for my full day of adventures around Iceland the next day.
I awoke first thing in the morning to get ready for my full day excursion around Iceland. The shuttles came and picked up those going on tour and our day began. First was a trip to the Blue Lagoon, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going to this destination as I had heard mixed reviews about it. I knew that it was something special though, and was excited nonetheless. We pulled up just as the sun was starting to rise and as we walked over to the entrance I realised that once again I had stumbled onto something magnificent. This was not just beautiful blue water, it was a geothermal spa, comprised of silica, algae, and minerals, and said to have healing powers and great effects on the skin. There are different packages that you can buy when you go to enter the spa and of course I chose the comfort package which included an algae mask scrub, bathrobe, towel, and champagne (my drink of choice). The temperature outside at this point was around 30°F/-1°C I quickly got from the spa inside to the warm waters of the blue lagoon. As soon as I got in I could tell this water was definitely something special, it was warm, clean, and felt almost silky to the touch, as if you can feel the minerals and silica within the water. I got my algae mask scrub and put it on my face and neck, scrubbing, letting it sit, floating around the lagoon, and rinsing it with the water of the lagoon. My face felt instantly refreshed and rejuvenated. I enjoyed floating and swimming around the lagoon a bit longer, conversing with other travelers and listening to their stories and adventures. Everyone I had met in Iceland I found to be extremely happy and friendly. As I was on a tight schedule it was time to depart from the lagoon, enjoy a bit of champagne, and get on the bus to our next destination.
The next part of the tour was the Golden Circle Tour which began at Þingvellir National Park. Here our tour guide shared with us that most of the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, was filmed here in Iceland. As he told us this I felt instantly connected to that movie, as if I was in it, that this was the secret life of me as it was everything I had ever imagined. I was over the moon with happiness that I had made the decision to stopover here. I was by myself and it didn’t matter, I was happy as could be.
Our next stop was the Gullfoss Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Europe, with lunch at the Gullfoss Cafe (Gullfosskaffi). Not only were the falls another truly magnificent and breathtaking place but lunch was also a special treat for me, I tried my first traditional Icelandic dish: lamb soup, and it was divine. At the Gullfoss Cafe you pay for your meal once and can come back for as many servings as you would like, I only made it to two trips but found it to be one of the best soups I have ever tasted; hearty, full of vegetables, and full of flavor. After lunch I went back to admire the falls for as long as I could before we departed to our next stop, the geysers.
Our last and final stop of the tour was to see Geysir, one of Iceland’s geysers. Another beautiful place in Iceland.
As we made our return journey into Reykjavik our tour guide shared with us many popular places to go in the city for food and entertainment. One in particular that sounded unique to me was tasting whale “moby dick on a stick” as we got back into town it was a bit late but I knew this was going to be my next adventure, hunting down some moby dick. I followed the instructions of my tour guide and walked to a small cafe in the city: Saegreifinn- The Sea Baron, which was also known for its lobster soup. When I arrived I decided to go for the special and try the mink whale and lobster soup. It was my first time having either one of these dishes and I unquestionably agreed with what I had heard, that this soup was good! Whale on the other hand has an interesting flavor, a bit like buffalo crossed with deer, strange but good! This also turned into a community style feast as there were two other groups of people at the restaurant that were intrigued to try whale but were not set on buying it so I cut mine into pieces and gave everyone some and we were all able to share this first experience of eating whale in Iceland together. After the meal I walked back to my hotel, a bit somber that my trip was coming to an end but feeling extremely grateful and blessed that I was able to have this opportunity.
The next day was my departure from Iceland back to the US. I loved every moment of this trip, it opened my eyes to wonders of the world that I had only ever dreamed of. Every moment of this trip was incredible, Iceland is truly an extraordinary and breathtaking place and I now consider it to be my favorite place that I have been in the world! I cannot wait for my return trip to this truly beautiful country. The people, the landscapes, the sights, the healing properties of the Blue Lagoon, the Northern Lights, everything about it is simply magical.