Mention that you are going to Iceland for a vacation and you get quizzical looks or bombarded with questions of why there, of all places. But travelers have discovered Iceland and are flocking there in ever-increasing numbers, and from all parts of the globe.
Sea stacks at Vik
My wife, Niki, and I actually discovered Iceland about seven years ago, when we met our son half way between Maryland and Israel, where he was living. On that trip, we went in August. For each of our days there, we participated in two-a-day adventure tours. Among the activities that we joined were kayaking, horseback riding, white water rafting, glacier climbing, hiking among hot springs, and snorkeling. In addition, we crawled through a lava tube, went whale watching, and dipped in the infamous and crowded Blue Lagoon, known for the medicinal benefits of its mineral waters. For bird lovers, Iceland has many species, including puffins.
In spite of the weather (there were a couple of sunny days), we managed to find more than enough to keep us busy, entertained, enriched, and fulfilled. This trip, unlike the first, had a heavy emphasis on photography. Iceland is a landscape photographer’s paradise, and it did not disappoint us. To maximize our time there, we hired a guide, who happened to be one of the top photographers in Iceland. Although we didn’t get to see the aurora, we witnessed many other wondrous acts of nature.
Flowing Ice at Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon
Rising Sun at Black Sand Beach
Perhaps our highlight was spending hours on the black sand beaches of Glacier Lagoon, where large and small chunks of ice, many as clear as diamonds, others blackened by volcanic ash, washed ashore for us, and others, to play in and explore.
View of Valley and Coast from Cave Interior
Water Melt Roars Through Ice Cave
Because of the high temperatures and the constant rains, all of the glacial caves were closed for normal tours. Yet our guide was able to arrange entrance to a small part of one of the caves. Unlike the more popular caves in which the ice was fairly transparent, ours was more black and gold, due to the amount of volcanic ash that had been absorbed by the ice in that area. The rains also made sure that the waterfalls were fully flowing.
During a normal winter, Iceland would also offer visitors a variety of other seasonal activities, such as skiing, and snowmobiling. The colder weather often finds reindeer grazing at lower elevations. Our last night was spent in Reykjavik, where most of the island’s population lives. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, where you can find shopping, dining, and entertainment until the wee hours of the morning.
We returned home feeling euphoric on the one hand, but cheated on the other. The inability to see the aurora borealis was very disappointing to us, but we promised ourselves to return when conditions, measured by a variety of apps and websites, give us greater odds.
So, do your research, then go to Iceland. If you like adventure tours, amazing landscapes, a variety of geological conditions that lend to the island nation’s mystique, its relatively close proximity, then Iceland is the place for you.
Top Photo: Moonrise at Strokkur Geisir