This article is about the coldest country in the world, on the Nouche scale, yet makes it to my top 5 most beautiful countries in Europe. I have been constantly in close contact for the whole duration of my trip and had the chance to enjoy its different facets. If you are at all a game of thrones enthusiast, this is the country of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, otherwise known as "the mountain".
A country where you will find nature at its most capricious. The most wowing thing is that this is the first country I have visited where hot water comes straight to the tap or shower without the need for a boiler - How crazy is that ?!
Have you figured out yet where we are going this time around? Okay, it is Iceland!
Getting to Iceland
Reyjavik is only a 3-hour flight from London, therefore going to Iceland can be considered a short trip. Although Iceland is part of the Schengen area, they are not part of the eurozone and the conversion rate is GBP/IKR ~ 165. I use the services of WeSwap while traveling, they provide a multi-currency account with instant and good conversion from your phone. My lack of preparation got me to realise, two days before the trip, that I may have needed a visa but thankfully had a valid one from a previous European trip.
And it was cold as heck! I feel I cannot emphasize that enough. I just could not imagine what sub-zero temperature would feel like, especially when I packed a lot more clothes than I was used to.
Where to stay?
Below are a few photos of the hotel I stayed in. I just loved that the whole building is made of wood logs.
This is just another trip when I was in this fun country for almost a week and simply could not bother myself beyond having a list of places and landmarks to see. I did not even visit the world-famous church of Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja, while I was spending most evenings around it. On this occasion, I was keen to do things specific to Iceland such as ice caving or seeing the northern lights. I was partially successful as the ice caving tour and snowmobiling tours were canceled due to bad weather, however, very lucky to see the northern lights on our very first attempt - I did not know it was that much of a hit and miss to see an aurora borealis, neither did I know that I was less than prepared to go hunt for that natural prettiness.
Okay, everyone who goes to Iceland has pictures of the beautiful blue lagoon. It has become the most recognisable landmark in the country. The blue lagoon is a man-made geothermal spa, in less geeky/nerdy words, it is a spa which uses naturally occurring hot water from below the surface of the earth. The water is a byproduct of the nearby plant and because of the heat and high level of salt, the only surviving organism is blue-green algae, hence the eye-catching colour of the water.
So another planning hiccup, my friend happened to not book his ticket and left it until the very last possible minute, the day before we were about to go to the lagoon. So we decided to just take a chance go still, as at least one of us had a ticket...🤷🏾♂️
Conversation with the receptionist (wearing the biggest smiles we could ever have):
Us: Hi Madam
Receptionist: How can I help?
Us: So we have not plan to book our tickets together and my friend cannot see any availability
Receptionist: I am afraid we are fully booked today
Me: It's my birthday today and it would really suck if I end up going in alone
Receptionist: Well I am afraid I cannot help
Me: I don't mind paying for another ticket even if we do not get an extra bracelet
Receptionist: Okay, I will give you a new bracelet, for free since it's your birthday
Us: You're a star and a half!
Note: The bracelets are just like your tap and anything you purchase at bar is logged against it. You pay on your way out.
Nature at her finest, if you take me out of the picture that is...
Hopefully, Karim will learn to plan or at least book his ticket next time.
To see the northern lights, we booked a tour with Arctic Adventures and were picked up from the hotel in a huge truck but were not remotely ready for what was going happen next...
The inside of the truck...
Conversation with the tour guide/truck driver, at the hotel:
Benny: Are you guys ready (with a surprised look)?
Us: Yes, looking forward to it!
Benny: I mean, is this all you're wearing?
Me: Well, yeah. I have a thermal underneath my jeans
Benny: Okay, look. I am Icelandic and have been doing this for years yet and wearing 3 good layers - I will be also drinking some vodka later too.
Us: (Looking at each other with nervous smiles) God help us today!
Benny: We have some hot cocoa on-board...
The northern lights are a phenomenon I have always dreamt about since my youth and there they were right in front of me. It is very challenging to explain the feeling of seeing something you have been thinking about or imagining for ages!
We really had to put on our bravest faces not to spoil the photo but, God, it was cold!
Called "The Pond" due to its small size, the lake was partially frozen when I was there and people could literally walk on water - Jesus!
Garður Old Lighthouse
While randomly driving around the island, I decided to explore a route to the edge of the land and there was the lighthouse and a very particular restaurant.
I happen to be the only one in a whole restaurant yet it was open.
Thanks to Google translate though, I was fluent enough in Icelandic to order my food...
Geysir, also known as the Great Geysir, is a geyser in - Now what is a geyser anyway? Well, it is another way for nature to show off her beauty and might. A geyser is a vent in Earth's surface that periodically ejects a column of hot water and steam - Amazing, right?
Þingvellir National Park
The park dwells in a valley caused by the separation of tectonic plates, it has rocky cliffs and dramatic features. We initially went to Þingvellir but happened not to know it was closed that day. I still thought I should still enjoy the place from the outside, despite the dark hour.
Second time lucky I guess...
Another amazing waterfall on the island, also frozen when I visited, Gulfoss waterfall is less than 2 hours away from Reykjavik.
Also, Iceland is soon re-opening its doors to tourists so I would definitely recommend planning to visit at some point this year (Covid-19 permitting).
Until next time...