For many years Iceland had escaped us whenever we traveled around Europe, two trips we were forced to cancel due to family emergencies, and the first time we tried to go, in our early travel days, we simply weren’t in a financial position to make the trip. Fast forward 5 years and with three cancelled trips to Iceland under our belts, we were beginning to think we might never get there.
We were pleased to discover last year then, that a budget airline was offering flights from Boston to Reykjavik for less than $200 return, how could we possibly resist? Given the amount of time that I had wanted to visit this country, my list of things to do was ready to go, and we booked up the flights and the experiences on the same day. During almost three weeks in Iceland, I ticked off all what I had wanted to see, plus a whole lot more, the country most certainly did not disappoint. Of all the experiences that we had during our time in this beautiful country, these were undoubtedly my top 3.
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Some years ago we heard that in Iceland there was a dive which would see you plunge down below some of the world’s clearest water, and actually be able to touch the edge of two continents at the same time. The location is called the Silfra Fissure and it is the location of a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents. Whilst I had read about this fissure, I had no idea just how clear the water would be down there, over 100 meters of clarity beneath the depths. Of all of the dives that I have completed, nothing compares to Silfra, that feeling of weightlessness and odyssey as you float down through the yawning crevices and discover the bright colors of the coral and of course, reaching out to touch the edge of two enormous tectonic plates. We took a tour from Reykjavik but you could also fly solo on this one and arrive by car, before paying for your dive.
Snæfellsjökull National Park
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Not all great experiences are planned out, and our visit to the Snæfellsjökull National Park was something of a on-the-spot idea. Renting a car gave us a great deal of freedom and from our base in Reykjavik we discovered that the National Park was just under a 3 hour drive away. What drew us here was that we had heard about the existence of a 700,000 year old glacier, sat on top of a stratovolcano, which can actually be seen on a good day from Reykjavik, 120 km away. We only spent the day here, having left early in the morning, but that was more than enough time to see the ancient glacier, as well as being amazed by the lava tubes and lave fields which surround the area. For me Iceland is about the whole spectrum of nature in one place, and this national park is a great place to see it all once. There is much more to do here such as whale and bird watching, as well as two huge basalt cliffs to explore. Sadly we didn’t have time to do it all, but the early get up was more than worth it.
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The showstopper and the main reason for my trip to Iceland was to witness Earth’s very own light show, Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. I have been disappointed on two occasions, in Scotland and Norway when hunting the lights, and I was fearful that I could miss them again, despite their regularity in Iceland. Our first glimpse of these lights came when we were sat in our hotel room in Skaftafell, the national park in the south east of the country, that offers waterfalls, icebergs washed up onto the black sandy beaches, and the tranquil Jokularson lagoon. What we saw during our time with Skaftafell tours, most definitely whet our appetite to get ourselves a front row seat to the main event.
We decided therefore, upon Thingvellir to go and search for the lights, deemed to be one of the best places in the world to see them. This location was perfect, just 33 minutes outside of the capital, we set off around 3pm, with cameras at the ready. As we approached the national park, we stopped at tourist information for some advice on where to go. Whilst waiting to speak to someone, we bumped into a lovely German couple who, like me, had been disappointed twice by Northern Lights experiences. They were hiking so we offered them a lift and we drove on past the tourist information centre for around 10 minutes. The road goes uphill slowly and at the peak there is a place to stop and get a view across the whole park. We sat down and kept warm with some coffee until night fell, and we waited. Within just under an hour, the show began, mind-blowing colors began swirling around the air, greens, reds, blues and yellows, floating in the sky like whips of colored cotton candy. The experience was truly magical, and perfectly capped our trip in Iceland. In truth it took me a day or two to come down from the rush of what I had seen, and to this day it is one of my favorite travel memories.
What would you most like to see if you could go to Iceland? Or have you already been to this majestic country? We’d love to hear your thoughts so please don’t hesitate to get in touch through the comments section below this post.