Thinking about a trip to Iceland but don’t think Winter is the right time to visit? Our Flightie Rob Stedeford shares his recent experience in this beautiful country and why you need to experience it for yourself (even in the winter):
How do you describe a country steeped in history, from the Baltic to the Americas, blasted by the North Atlantic nearly 24 hours a day and heated by the tectonic currents, ripping the island nation in half? You don’t… You experience it!
I was a bit worried heading to Iceland for a week in December as I am not one to deal with the cold very well. The rumours of whales, sharks and puffins on the menu, led the imagination to a breed of isolated people hardened by the climate. I expected tiny fishing villages with no culture, and paying a hefty penny for any service, amenity and meal.
Not only was I wrong on all accounts, I was perfectly at home in the hospitable nature and warmth shared by everyone I met.
The sun raises a few degrees above the horizon about 10:30 in the morning and skirts the glacier draped mountains a few clicks around the clock before gently crawling away for another 18 hours at 4:30 in the afternoon. It is a blessed warmth and brings to the eye breathtaking scenery of the wide open Atlantic; with snow and ice covered tabletop mountain crags around a protected harbour.
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and holder of 2/3 of the nearly 340,000 peoples in Iceland, is a colourful city. All of the amenities any cosmopolitan city has on display are there, and under the surface this city is fiercely proud of its heritage. The architecture is clean and functional with bright accents and warm interiors.
Whether viewing it from the bell tower of the Hallgrimskirkja (a fascinatingly designed cathedral) or the Perlan (the main hot water holding facility for the city) you are afforded soaring vistas of multi coloured roofs and the sea that brings them life. A day spent wandering the Laugavegur with a steaming cup of the best latte on earth from one of the many Kaffi shops, and shopping for Icelandic wool sweaters (that the people actually wear) or watching the projected images of the daily Yule Lads (from Pot Licker to Door Sniffer to Window Peeper) on the sides of buildings.
The people of Reykjavik are hardy, but warm people. They are genuinely interested when they ask, “So, what do you think of Iceland?”, and are only too happy to assist with directions and pronunciations of the multi-syllabled words. A ‘ur’ is actually sounded as ‘ursch’. Who knew? I was able to confidently maneuver into and through the city with only public transit as I knew anyone there would give me clear directions.
Heading inland from Reykjavik, I was awakened to a very difference experience. It could not have felt more foreign if I was riding alongside Mars Curiosity.
Vast open planes of scrub grass and shaggy horses with stern faces. Soaring cliffs and mountains covered in ice and snow. The horizon peaked with the silhouette of Hekla (Iceland’s most active volcano) and Eyjafjallajökull (the eruption and resulting glacial melt that shut down European airspace). Being awed by the tireless erosion of the Hvítá river creating Gullfoss (Golden Waterfalls) plunging deep into a narrow crack in the earth.
Sunset over the Lake Laugarvatn while luxuriating in the historic Fontana Steambaths. Cheering with delight as the Strokkur geyser blasts a hundred feet in the air every 3 minutes releasing pent up steam from thousands of feet underneath. A rapid fire list of the experiences is really all one can do. The experiences are in my bones, mind and heart. Feeling the raw power of the earth beneath your feet as you watch your bread cook in a hole only a foot deep is something not too soon forgotten.
The ultimate highlight of the trip would be as I left the city for my flight back was a 3-hour stopover at the Blue Lagoon.
Black, broken volcanic rock covered in thick tufts of deep green moss alongside the barren 2 lane highway streaking towards imposing mountains. We knew we were close as a plume of steam ahead of us grew in the sky. The name of the lagoon is no misnomer; the water IS blue. This was the most serene experience of my life. The water is between 40-60 degrees and is filled with silica mud and bacteria to turn back the clock on aging and heal joints, muscles and a stressful mind.
Having my hair freeze solid under the last of the Icelandic sun while drinking a fruit smoothy and knowing I was preparing myself for the flight back to my real life was bittersweet. I would vote the Blue Lagoon as the best flight-prep exercise ever.
I have a heart full of fond memories of a warm people, wonderful food, the best Lattes, scenery and history. I can only encourage more people to check this destination off their bucket list, and add a second visit further down the list.
Looking for more information on travelling to Iceland? Rob Stedeford is Business Travel Consultant at our Library Square location and can be reached online or calling 1-866-275-1150.