A Nordic Adventure: Iceland

A Nordic Adventure: Iceland

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

Before you go writing Iceland off as a “do not visit” destination because the name itself indicates that it’s a frigid island with nothing but ice, think again. Adventure awaits the serious traveler in Iceland, but you just have to be brave enough to try it! Call it extreme “touristing” if you will, as there might be an erupting volcano or storm at any moment. How thrilling! Iceland is nature in its purest form, raw and wild. Bust out those thermals and get ready for a trip of a lifetime in this Nordic country.

Since the country is called Iceland, it’s only appropriate to start with at least one ice adventure. I promise, there will be warmer activities later. But for now, let’s focus on an ice cave tour. Sometimes termed the crystal caves, there are glacier ice caves open for exploring all year round in Iceland. From the capital of Reykjavík, you can go on a tour of the Katla Ice Cave. Far from the normal travel experience, this tour takes you into the black and blue ice cave of the Kötlujökull glacier under the Katla volcano. After gearing up with crampons and a waterproof outer layer, you’ll get the chance to marvel at nature in one of its purest forms. Don’t forget to bring a camera and try your hand at the perfect picture view. Chances are you’ll give up on taking pictures and just stare in awe at the beauty all around you.

Another great day trip from Reykjavík is diving or snorkeling in Silfra in Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir is part of a fissure zone in Iceland. It is located on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. What better place to take a dive than in a continental rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates? Here you’ll glide through crystal clear glacier water while viewing mystical rock formations. This geological masterpiece isn’t something you’ll likely ever see again. For those who have no experience, snorkeling is your best bet for viewing Silfra. However, if you’re an experienced diver, this location should definitely be on your bucket list.

Though exploring Silfra is sure to be fascinating, the amount of a marine life available for viewing will be slim. For a little more action in the water, consider a whale and puffin watching tour. Tours are available from various towns along the coast and are a great way to get a little closer than comfortable with various types of whales. Who knows, you just might spot a mink or humpback whale! White-beaked dolphins are also known to make appearances, as well as harbor porpoises and orcas. While the ocean is teeming with these monstrous mammals, the avian population also puts in an appearance. Kittiwakes, fulmar and arctic tern are all in viewing distance along with the puffins. An exhilarating way to spend the day, on the visual hunt for whales and puffins!

After such adventurous outings, consider a more relaxing way to spend your day. Though it certainly isn’t tropical, the black sand beach of Reynisfjara is nothing short of outstanding. The sand is made from lava that cooled when it touched the ocean water and turned black. The folklore that surrounds this area is also fascinating. When you look out into the ocean you’ll notice majestically imposing basalt columns just off the shore. These are called Reynisdrangar and are the remains of large sea cliffs. Game of Thrones fans will note that these pillars were featured in season seven. Legend says that two trolls waded into the water to reach a ship. However, before they could get back to land with the ship, the sun rose and instantly turned them into stones. They will forever remain in the water as a warning to other trolls. Trolls or not, they are a beautiful and dramatic part of the scenery that makes Reynisfjara one of a kind. A day on this beach won’t yield much of a tan, but it will leave you with a sense of wonder for all the amazing natural phenomena this world has to offer.

Finally, to find the most relaxation and calmness, make your way to the Blue Lagoon. Perhaps one of Iceland’s most famous attractions, this geothermal spa has naturally heated milky blue water that is filled with silica, algae and minerals. Fantastic for your skin, the water is a lovely 102 degrees and is a great way to relax after an arduous vacation itinerary.  The water refreshes itself every 48 hours and contains only minerals, no harsh chemicals. For the full experience, book a spa treatment and enjoy even more luxury. Should you want a drink while floating in this little slice of heaven surrounded by black lava rock, just swim over to the bar that is right in the lagoon. Skin products can be purchased before you leave if you are hesitant to leave the magical minerals behind. If you really can’t bear the thought of leaving this wonderland, book a night at the hotel for the full spa experience. But don’t wait, as there are a limited number of people allowed in the lagoon daily.

Have you started looking for plane fares to Iceland yet? With so many rare opportunities on this Nordic island, it’s a wonder that it isn’t completely overrun by tourists. Start packing layers and preparing for the trip of a lifetime in Iceland. Watch out for frostbite, but have a blast exploring and making memories. Who knows, you just might find that the puffer jacket and boot look suits you!  

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