Places

February 21, 2017

Get Swept Away in Iceland

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”

— Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist

Whether you have read The Alchemist, know the story of Santiago and how he pursued his dream or not, you will soon learn that each of these stories is not a fiction, but the truth.

THE ITCH

Iceland was our dream, that one dot on the map where we most desperately wanted to travel as soon as possible. We couldn’t look at any more beautiful pictures on the internet. We couldn’t read our friends’ blogs who were lucky enough to have travelled there. Between the landscapes, majestic horses, cascading waterfalls and black sand beaches so inky dark they looked like a photograph inverted, we felt compelled to finally start planning our trip to this beautiful country of ice, fire and long-maned horses.

Sometimes it happens that when you visit a country, you either like it or not. But that just doesn’t happen in Iceland. The island is usually chosen by those who are already in love with it, like in old times when people fell in love with a pen friend by just looking at black and white photographs. There has yet to be a single soul who has stayed indifferent after visiting Iceland. It happens to everyone and we were no exception.

March in Iceland won’t surprise you with blossoming gardens (actually it won’t ever surprise you with them!), but it won’t be all that cold either. Though, to be honest, the weather never really matters for us and certainly doesn’t stop us from travelling. A real must-do for us was to see the Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) and, according to different sources we had read, the sky in March would still have brilliant, green reflections.

TOUCHDOWN

Upon arrival in Reykjavik, we were greeted by the rep from the car company we had rented with.

Normally we use public transport when travelling, but in Iceland, we would highly recommend renting a car instead. We love preparing food on a gas-burner and singing songs while on the road, but more importantly, we enjoy the freedom of driving wherever and whenever we want to. We made a good use of our Nissan Cactus and thought of it as our home for the next 20 days, stopping to sleep in towns along the way. Some people might consider it trivial, but we appreciate the comfort and warmth — quite important when travelling in the North. The weather in Iceland is changing all the time. 

Icelanders have a proverb: If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will get even worse.

Even though Reykjavik is the capital, it wasn’t a main sight for us and instead of spending time there, we decided to drive directly to the south of the island. We spent the last few days of our trip in Reykjavik on the way back, when we would just sit in a tiny café by the port, eat crab soup and reflect on our trip.

DOWN SOUTH

South of the island is called “The Golden Ring”, where you will find the sites frequented by tour busses. But they are tourist destinations for a reason — there are more than 1000 waterfalls in Iceland or which 16 are the most famous. Standing next to them, you feel their energy and realise how incredibly little you are. Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Dettifoss…you will always meet tourists by these waterfalls, but you can still take in all the magnificence.

Later on, we moved from the East to the Dyrholaey cape on the south. The wind was playing with our car like it was a Ping-Pong ball. Our friends told us to park the car in the direction of the wind so that when we opened the doors, the wind wouldn’t rip them off from the hinges — #1 reason for rented cars being returned. We followed the rules, as it’s better you do so when on the island.

One more rule to follow was to not touch anything — don’t enter the stone circles, don’t move the stones so as to avoid disturbing “the little folks” — it makes them angry. The people of Iceland truly believe in their existence. Many Icelanders and Scandinavians alike believe in “the other worlds” and mystic creatures, even teaching this in the special elves school. You may think it funny but you will feel it yourself as soon as you get to Iceland. Mark my words.

After seeing only horses and people-free landscapes for some time we finally met an Icelander when we went by boat to see whales on the north of the island. We asked him – “What is your favourite place in Iceland?” hoping to add one more place to our must-see list, but he replied “My bedroom! I wouldn’t get out of there for weeks if I could.” With a grin on his face he pointed high up to the top of the mountain, where according to him, the invisible folks lived. We understood that, with a slight smile on his face, he really meant it.

Vík í Mýrdal

In the village of Vik, we met a little 12-year-old girl who came to our camp where we were heating water to cook some couscous with fish conserves (god only knows why we brought these things with us from Russia). This little girl looked like a daughter of a Viking with her blond braids and smart blue eyes—very serious but kind. She offered to lead us to the horse’s stable not far away to meet and pet them.

The next day we came to Vik again, this time missing the young girl but rather meeting her mother, the wife of the Viking — a big, cheerful light-haired lady, who let us take 2 of their horses to the beach to take photos. We must say that the horses of the Vikings have the same character as their owners! With all of my force I was pulling the reins and trying to be serious with this long-maned stallion, but he would not listen to me at all. The Viking’s wife was laughing at me out loud and shouted to me with her powerful voice: “He is playing with you!” “He is mocking you!” “Be stricter with him!” But his black mane made me fall for his tricks again and again.

NORTHBOUND

When we reached the north we came across fumaroles — volcanic openings in the earth which look like water over pouring from a boiling kettle and hit the nose like sulfuric stinking rotten eggs. We were surprised to learn that the water in Iceland houses doesn’t get centrally heated, it actually is cooled down. Rising from the Earth’s depths, water heats every house. If you didn’t mind the smell, you could fully enjoy bathing in the hot water outside. There are plenty of hot springs in Iceland—some of them are paid admission but others, especially those located in the south, are free of charge. Some of the hot spring baths were built by Vikings from roughly hewn stone plates around 9 AD.

WESTWARD

In the west, we saw amazing fjords, the famed black church in Snæfellsnes and finally, the long-awaited northern lights.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Best time to visit Iceland?

If you would like to see the northern lights, it’s better to go there in late autumn or winter. If you are after green valleys and enjoy travelling light, without winter jackets, we’d recommend you to visit Iceland in summer. August is the busiest month — lots of tourists flood Iceland with their pre-paid agency tours at this time.

Where to go on a short timeline?

We definitely recommend you visit the southern part of the island. If possible, start your trip from the west and travel to the south from there. If you have a bit more time, do a full circle, you certainly won’t regret it!

What to take?

  1. Waterproof boots and clothes, which will be useful when you go see the waterfalls.
  2. Don’t forget your swimsuit – you must bathe in an outdoor hot spring and feel the contrast of the hot water and cold weather on your skin.
  3. The gas-burner saved us one morning when the car brake pads got frozen. You can find gas cylinders in every big supermarket.
  4. When it comes to food, you do not have to necessarily carry it with you, however preparing food yourself is a lot cheaper than eating out.
  5. Take with you a lot of pen-drives or any external memory cards etc., as you will surely take a lot of pictures and make lots of videos as well. You might as well get inspired to share your experience with your friends by writing amusing social posts and maybe even poems or verses. I wrote 5 verses during our trip in Iceland.

Iceland frees, gives courage, and infuses with recharged and renewed vitality. It is one of the most special places on our planet.

All of these were so beautiful, like a dream. We are very grateful to have the opportunity to write this article and live through our memories once again.

Warm regards,
Alina and Alex


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