Do not miss Iceland! If there is one word that I can use to describe Iceland it would be Majestic. With natural wonders that you may only see here, a people who are naturally friendly and an environment which is revered and used respectfully, there is something for everyone.
Only four and a half hours from New York, we landed early in the morning jet lagged and ready for sleep. We were transported through a snowy, early morning by way of a two lane highway with roundabouts and only a couple of traffic lights until we reached our destination, Grand Hotel Reykjavik (www.grand.is). At 7:00 AM we were pleasantly greeted and told that our room was ready. Upon request, we were quickly delivered some water and outlet converters. Our room was beautiful with hard wood floors and separate covers. That’s right no worries about cover hogs, they thought of everything.
After a short sleep, we headed to Blue Lagoon (www.bluelagoon.com). This is one of the most amazing spas in the world. It is heated with geothermal energy which naturally occurs on this volcanic island. As you soak in the natural springs, you quickly notice that you are surrounded by some of the most amazing snow capped mountains you have ever seen. It is like a winter wonderland but you are cozy in a nice warm bath. The minerals in the water make your skin and hair feel new and you are relaxed to the point that you feel like you are dreaming.
The next day we wake up and head into the center of the city to explore a local flea market. This is a pretty typical flea market that you would find in the USA about twenty years ago. Great bargains, local fashion, jewelry and food vendors. We were told about a must try hot dog stand across the street which Bill Clinton loves. For about $2.50 you get a delicious lamb hot dog with fried onions, mayo and mustard. Who knew a native New Yorker could love an international hot dog so much. This was one of the best things I had all trip.
That same night we were taken out to the snowy mountains to “hunt for the Northern Lights”. Unfortunately our hunt was unsuccessful this evening. There were some bright spots to this tour. Standing out in a snowy field looking up at the darkest sky that you have ever seen stirs something almost primal in you. Second, we stopped at roadside gas station and market to use the bathroom and get refreshments. There, I had a chocolate shake which can only be described as thick and smooth. It is the most delicious ice cream that I have ever tasted.
Day three was a free day. We spent the day exploring the city and debating whether or not to go on the hunt again. We found some amazing architecture which I would describe as simple, practical and unique. Hopping in and out of shops, cafes and talking with the locals, you can tell that no energy is wasted on negativity. Feel free to speak English as almost everyone here is fluent and willing to use their second language. We later stopped in the tour office to reserve our spot on that nights northern lights tour only to return to our hotel to find a message that the hunt was off for that evening.
Day four was the Gulfor and Geysir tour. For me this was one of the highlights of the vacation. In one trip we saw a two continents splitting apart, two waterfalls, geysers, hot springs and a house demolished by a geyser. I cannot even describe what I saw, this is something that you have to see for yourself. It is almost spiritual to experience nature this powerful.
Since our first two attempts at the northern lights were unsuccessful we decided to try one last time on day five. After walking around the city all day, we were picked up that night and told that it looked good. It was the clearest night that we had in Iceland. We were taken to a different location than the first time. We walked over the continental rift to a field for viewing. After two hours of being told that the lights were coming we were told that the cloud cover was not moving and we would go to a different spot. After a quick break at the airport, we were to head back to Reykjavik on a dark road for one last attempt. Almost immediately after turning on to this road, the driver and tour guide saw something in the sky and pulled over to let us out. We got off the bus and a few minutes later the sky opened with dancing green lights. Seeing these lights make everyone, including the driver jubilant with child like enthusiasm. The lights last for about ten minutes and we are back on the bus. We continue down the road a bit before the sky lights up again. At first we were told that we cannot get out, that we have to head back now. The lights got better and better, so the driver was forced to pull over again. Seeing the northern lights is like nothing else you will ever experience.
The next day we departed, taking with us memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.