Welcome to Iceland. A tiny place with a big heart. Housing a small population of between 350,000 people and 400,000 people, but home to nearly 2 million tourists every-year, a scary figure that keeps growing bigger and bigger.
Iceland was something just completely out of this world. It felt to me, like going to another planet.
Sparse lava fields, steam gushing and bubbling out of the ground, hot springs, glaciers, ice, ice-burgs floating in the sea and surf, strange rock formations, huge cliffs, dangerous oceans tugging at the coast and even crazier active volcanoes, ever-changing weather systems. It was an incredible experience which I’m sure anyone who has ever been to Iceland will tell you. Not only was the wilderness amazing, but the sweet city of Reykjavik was beautiful, and the people I met along the way were some of the best people I’ve met anywhere. The locals face such diverse conditions – from 24 hours of sunlight, to darkened days, wind that can reach up to unthinkable speeds. Home to a variety of interesting museums, a rich history of vikings, amazing writers, musicians and artists, and a hell of a lot of sheep…. this wonderful country strikes a wildness inside me that I embraced with much enthusiasm!
By far, my favourite part of Iceland was the wow factor, which is around every corner. The untamed wilderness that is hit by the sun as it every now and then breaks through a few clouds, illuminating it in a way that is nearly indescribable (but I’ll try my best).
One of the most popular circuits to do in Iceland is the Golden Circle – due to it’s close proximity to Reykjavik and the variety of interesting sites to see.
I began my Golden Circle tour with a short stop at Þingvellir or Thingvellir – a National Park just east of Reykjavik. It is known for the Alþing (Althing) – which is the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to the 18th centuries – the place where many significant events happened to shape Iceland’s future.
Also an incredible place because it literally sits in between two continental plates. It is a rift valley that was caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates. It is a fairly unique place.
I spent some time jumping around and walking between the continents – am I technically in Europe or America?
Next up was a stop at a geothermal field where the famous Geysir resides. Boiling mud pits, exploding steam and the lively Strokkur Geyser -which explodes with water reaching up to 30m in the air every 7 minutes or so. This area became active more then 1000 years ago and the original and biggest Geyser was Geysir – less active these days, it was the first Geyser described in a printed source and what all geysers are now named after. I had the best soup of my life here, it was truly delicious and just what I needed to rewarm my insides and cleanse the sulphur smell out of my nostrils.
The next place everyone who visits Iceland goes to is the Gullfoss Waterfall. It is part of the Hvita river which is fed by Iceland’s second biggest glacier – Langjökull.
It was a spectacular place – seeing the snow and ice on the sides of the cliff, and the cold, refreshing spray hit your face as it catches on the wind, I definitely could see why this waterfall was a main spot for tourists to experience the forces of nature in all it’s glory – and be reminded of the importance of preserving nature by reading about Sigriður Tómasdóttir’s story where they tried to save the waterfall from being destroyed and exploited for power.
Stopping to say hello to some Icelandic Horses along the way, I ended up at the Secret Lagoon for an hour or so of bathing in the naturally heated hot pool – I think it was one of the original baths in Iceland for the local community. It’s fed by these boiling hot springs that are located around the outside of it. Filled with locals and tourists alike, the atmosphere is relaxing and friendly – I purchased a large cider and sat back and soaked it all in. It even snowed while I was in there… quite an odd feeling sitting in a hot natural bath under the ever-changing weather of Iceland. Even though it was called the Secret Lagoon – taking a look at the pictures, it is so clearly no longer a secret (was it ever?). But it is a great, and cheaper alternative to the famous Blue Lagoon.