Iceland is undeniably one of the most beautiful places on Earth. With mountains and towering waterfalls falling from the plateaus and cliffs that scatter the land, it is one of the most formidably natural places on Earth to be in.
Except that my family and I had disastrous luck and happened to be there when remnants of Hurricane Frank or Steven or whatever from the US got swept to Iceland and we didn’t see blue sky for 10 days.
But I know it’s a lovely country because in the one second I saw the sun after a week, it gave me that lovely sunset (the first picture you see above). Then a blizzard came and we had to run down the hill back to our car. Solo driving there is not for the faint-hearted.
Also, I didn’t see any Northern Lights at all. Friends who subsequently went there saw lights dancing in hues of red, green and purple. After 10 days of waking up at unearthly hours like 12am and walking around Reykjavik looking for patches of clear black sky, and staying in the -10 degree weather for 2 hours, I was definitely more than a little upset.
But hey, something to live for right?
Anyway I’m going to be naming some of the awesome attractions that you’ll get to see if you go to Iceland. This is not a comprehensive list.
Pictured above are my two brothers walking between the two tectonic plates (North America and Eurasian plate) at þingvellir National Park. If you do not know by now, Iceland is sitting on the top of Mid-Atlantic Ridge. If I recall my high-school Geography lessons correctly, on the top of ridges there are fissures where lava erupts from the underwater volcanoes. This creates new ocean floor and pushes the two tectonic plates apart at a rate of 1cm-20cm/year.
There’s even a site where you can dive between these plates! But diving in 0 degree water with only a dry suit and the risk of leaks is definitely not worth it in my opinion.
This here, is Strokkur Geyser. It erupts as a rate of once every 3 minutes, climbing up to heights of ~17m. It’s an amazing site to behold. It has a bro right next to it, called Geysir – but it’s now inactive. It was the first geyser described in printed text, and apparently could shoot up to 60m of water in its time. And yes, the word “geyser” derived from The Great Geysir of south-western Iceland.
Note to self – never stand downwind from an erupting geyser. Unless you want to have boiling water sprayed all over you and end up smelling like rotten eggs.
This majestic waterfall my friends, is called Skógafoss. “Foss” in Icelandic means “falls”. One of the largest waterfalls in the country, it has a width of 25m and falls from a height of 60m. I guarantee that you will become very wet on your journey through Iceland as you admire the many beautiful waterfalls in the country.
There’s a small path leading up to the top of the waterfall as well. You can get an amazing view of the surrounding country.
And finally. Probably the highlight of my trip.
I just love watching night lights – and this festive display certainly made up for the lack of aurora for the week.
The funny thing about this fireworks display is…there is no official fireworks display. Every year on New Year’s Eve, the 200,000+ humble residents of Reykjavik gather together in common open spaces across town and release approximately 500 tonnes of fireworks into the night sky. Tourists are more than welcome to buy their own fireworks and join in. Which my family did of course.
And the fireworks were legit. Rockets the size of my arm were being shot off into the air. And by 2355 fireworks were being shot into the air so quickly it felt like ground zero. Flashes of color and the constant BANGBANGBANG and crowds going “woohoo!” It was an extraordinary experience. The whole experience lasted for a good 3 hours. It was magical, and the act of just coming together regardless of race and where you’re from to celebrate that one magical second where the clock strikes 12 was overwhelming.
My family chose to go to the Lutheran church which is designed to like basalt columns in the middle of Reykjavik. It’s name is Hallgrímskirkja. A couple of thousand people were there that night. Please. If you ever go to Iceland for Christmas, stay on for the New Year. It will be worth it. ‘And if you don’t want to join in the festivities because it may be too loud and overwhelming for you, drive to the outskirts of town and just watch the show from afar.
Iceland was amazing. And I’m definitely going to go back. Hopefully this time with much better weather, and greater chances of seeing the Northern Lights.