We’ve been in Iceland for nearly a week, one of the longest stops we’ll make during this crazy backpacking trip of ours. Reykjavík has so much to offer — beautiful sights line mountainous views and soft blue skies. We’ve also coasted via bus to different parts of Iceland, places with natural beauty beyond what a photograph can capture. And yes, you read the title right. We have to fit everything we want to see within the few hours of daylight! The sun rises around 11 each morning, and sets around 4:30 PM. We usually end up walking back in the dark, but that makes it more exciting. Especially when we come across quaint neighborhood streets or breathtaking new views.
We’ve placed our footprints at the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, hiked our way up the Sólheimajökull Glacier, and stood in front of both the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. We’ve seen the most well-known places in Reykjavik, from standing high over the city in the viewing area of Hallgrimskirkja to watching the light glimmer through colorful windows at the Harpa Centre. We were humbled by the view of the Northern Lights in the night sky. The aurora was magnificent dancing through the air, and we got one of the luckiest views.
We stood in between the tectonic plates dividing the two continents in Thingvellir National Park, where we also almost thought that our tour guide left us behind. A stunning sunrise peeked over the mountains and brushed its colors over the peaceful river trickling below us. We also experienced the Icelandic way of preparing to go into a natural hot spring, meaning getting really comfortable showering with strangers (if you catch my vibe here). The Secret Lagoon was so calming and warm; steam floats off the clear water and forms thick layers in the sky. It was the perfect end to our last tour in Iceland.
We’ve had some pretty interesting experiences so far. Living in hostels is by no means glamorous, but it is definitely a fun time. Resembling a college dorm environment, we share nearly everything — a room, a bathroom, and a kitchen — with a multitude of strangers doing the same thing we are. We’ve conversed with people from countries like Argentina, Latvia and Greece. We’ve gotten (partially) used to falling asleep to the snoring patterns of strangers and waking up to their morning conversations. Brooke and I have been trying new foods, especially chocolates. Some are really good, and others are like tasting a surprise dose of lighter fluid. Our English roommates ended up trying the nasty bar and came to the conclusion that it was actually rum… so there’s that. But we survived a mystery dessert, and that’s all that matters!
My Fitbit has tracked over 20 miles so far, through snow, slush and the occasional rain shower. We’re already getting our money’s worth from our winter coats and gear. Iceland is chilly, but not as cold as the temperatures in Nebraska this week! The wind picks up out of nowhere and can catch you completely off-guard. I’ve almost fallen off my feet several times. Not to mention the crazy Icelandic drivers; getting across the street is almost an accomplishment of its own. The buses have seatbelts but your upper body is usually guaranteed to do some rocking around. It provides for a lot of laughs, believe me. Our late night grocery store runs have led to some relaxing sights as well. Soft, silent snowfall graces the roads late at night and floats through the air almost as if it’s in slow motion. The difference about this snow is that it’s just there, making subtle memories and engraving picturesque moments in our minds forever. It doesn’t impact how we’re getting to work or school, or how we may have to clear off our driveway later. It just lays on the ground beneath our stomping feet, leaving prints across city sidewalks, marking our journey.
Reykjavik is one of those places that is filled with tourists. Everywhere you walk, you hear different languages, and it’s usually a lot of English. The culture seems to be mostly the same; exciting events and booming growth have taken over the city. It adds a homely effect to the entire area. I feel like I am just on a weekend getaway to a city only a few hours from home. We can find someone interesting in the next room over and can run into other Americans on our walk to lunch. We can indulge in some delicious frozen yogurt after walking miles in freezing wind, all while listening to songs we recognize from home. The architecture is bold and designs are modern, providing insight as to how much growth the area has encompassed. There are entire streets lined with construction as well; the whole city is getting ready for a new flood of travelers and locals alike.
Iceland has been nothing short of spectacular. I’m so glad that we decided to begin here, as it is leaving wonderful memories with us. It’s a great place for us to gain our footing of full-time travel and also to learn more about ourselves. I’ve found out that I always need an extra set of gloves and enough music to get me through delayed bus rides, along with many other tidbits. We’ve found hidden restaurants and somewhat mastered how to make the most out of our budget. I’ve also realized that some views are better without photos to prove, like the massive piles of stars shining through the night sky in the middle of nowhere.
People say there’s always a place you come across that makes you realize why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Iceland is that place.