For Christmas I once bought myself something I’d truly wanted for a long time. It was a ticket to Iceland. Running on no sleep, I started my week at geothermal spa the Blue Lagoon. While the temperatures were below freezing outside, it was forty degrees celsius in the water. I floated around as the sun rose and the incredible landscape emerged from the darkness around me.
A trip along the South Coast showed me just how constant the changes in the Icelandic landscape are. Sometimes it looks like another planet. The incredible thing is the lack of trees which means you can see forever in every direction. Without obstacles, the wind is relentless and if you stand still it’s possible to be pushed across the never-ending ice.
When there are only four hours of daylight, the most beautiful thing is that you get to see both the sunrise and sunset every single day. We spent the magic hour on the black sand beach in Vik, where we watched the sun disappear into the ocean while listening to stories about elves, trolls and invisible people.
In the morning we watched the sun rise over the glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón. Icebergs break from the glacier and make the long journey to drift out into the ocean, only to be washed back up onto the black sand shore. The colors and light were breathtaking, it was like walking amongst hundreds of giant gemstones.
The last moments of precious light were spent hiking on Vatnajökull the largest glacier in the country. Wearing crampons for the first time, I cautiously walked across this incredible mass of ice – in fear of disappearing forever. I was amazed at just how far you can see the layers frozen beneath you.
Back in Reykjavik, I ate my way around the city. The Deal of the Century at Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar. Lobster Soup at Sægreifinn. Lattes at Laundromat. Chicken at Sæmundur í Sparifötunum. Waffles at Kaffi Mokka. Súkkulaðimús at Steikhúsið. And last but not least; whale, puffin and lobster at Grillmarkaðurinn.
After three unsuccessful outings I was lucky enough to see the elusive Northern Lights that had been hiding from me all this time. We saw the glow of Reykjavik, the Peace Tower and the aurora borealis moving right before our eyes. While it wasn’t the glowing mass I had expected, it was magical and special nonetheless.
A day of riding beautiful Icelandic horses was then followed by a trip around the Golden Circle to explore Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir National Park. Giant waterfalls, spouting hot springs and a rift valley where tectonic plates collide. Nowhere else can you walk between Europe and America.
The final evening of the year was spent with new friends exploring old Icelandic traditions. We visited one of the many bonfires lit across the city before heading to Hallgrímskirkja, an iconic church for midnight. I have never seen so many fireworks in all my life. Reykjavik sure knows how to bring in a new year. My resolution is to make sure I return.
Taken December 2013. Originally published on Exposure