Last year for my birthday, my wonderful husband surprised me with a trip to Iceland booked for February. The trip was in the hope of fulfilling my dream to see the Northern Lights. The Tourist Agent told him that this would most likely be the last winter where the Northern Lights could be seen so well. So with joyful anticipation, we patiently waited over seven months for our trip to Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik.
This of course gave me plenty of time to do some shopping for some cold weather clothing. With winter temperatures ranging from around 0 °C (32 °F) to as low as −25 to −30 °C (−13 to −22 °F), having the right winter clothing is essential. Luckily, I already had a very warm down coat and snow boots so all I needed was a few extra things. I bought a few long sleeve merino wool undershirts, thermal socks, leggings, gloves and thermal-lined trousers and a snuggly ‘fur’ trimmed hat. Although I tend to feel the cold quite acutely, I managed to stay warm and toasty for most of my trip even when I was outdoors late at night.
Iceland has beautiful countryside with stunning scenery but Reykjavik itself was not very captivating. There seems to be no graffitti laws and it was everywhere. Most of it was not art, but there were a few who tried.
Food is excellent in Iceland although as you can imagine, a bit expensive. While we were there, my husband enjoyed the traditional lamb soup while I (not being a meat eater) opted for fish most evenings. One of the best restaurant finds was a place that served soup in a bread bowl. This became our favourite place for lunch. Warm, nourishing and delicious soup in a large crusty bread roll!
Iceland is a place where it is worth getting out into the countryside. There is so much breath-taking scenery there but miles away from civilization and so I strongly recommend booking one of the many coach tours. We decided on two tours with Grayline. The coach picks up and drops you off at your hotel or you can catch it at one of their main depots. The views out the window are gorgeous.
The first tour we took was The Golden Circle tour. On this tour, we drove out to Thingvillir National park to see some of Iceland’s greatest natural features. One such feature is the Gullfloss waterfall which of course, being February was frozen over in beautiful large icicles.
The blue-green colour of the ice is due to the blue-green algae which resides in the water.
Our tour guide told us a beautiful story about how the falls were nearly lost to foreign investors who wanted to put up a powerplant and dam the falls. One local woman in the 20th century was so fiercely against these plans that she threatened to throw herself over the falls. Her strong protest also included walking barefoot from Reykjavik to the falls (over 70 miles) proving by her bloodied feet that she meant business. Year after year she fought to protect the falls raising funds for lawyers but it wasn’t until after her death at the age of 87 that the government took over the falls and made it safe.
At Thingvellir, we also saw the spot where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and are drifting apart.
The best part of the tour for me was visiting the hot springs and the unexpected bonus of seeing a working geyser (another one to cross off my bucket list).
The whole area was filled with lots of steaming pools and streams of boiling water and we were warned not to dip our hands in them.
At Thingvellir there was much to see, so I will share more about it in part 2.