This April, one of my dreams came true. With one of my college roommates as my adventure partner, we boarded a (cleverly branded WOW Air) flight to Iceland. For the next seven days, we explored the southwest and south coast, covering 800 miles of this awe-inspiring north Atlantic island.
I will attempt to stop myself from regaling you with more information than you ever wanted to know about this splendidly isolated country—its history, language, culture and people are so fascinating—but it’s really hard! It is a place so visually rich that you very quickly run out of adjectives to express just how spectacular it is. Around every bend (of which there are many) in the road is something more incredible than before. You are left speechless by its beauty, its vastness, its mind-boggling contrasts. Deep, dark night skies covered with bright flashes of the Aurora Borealis. Jagged, black, volcanic rock covered in soft, rolling, brilliant green moss. Geothermally heated, therapeutic, turquoise blue waters juxtaposed to freezing, raging, thundering, white-watered rivers. Flat coastal farm land abutting the base of sky-high, glacier covered mountains that might blow their tops any day. I could go on and on. Sorry, I’ll stop.
Colors, creativity and ingenuity are everywhere in Iceland. Given its hard-scrabbled history, fierce independent streak and proud cultural identity, this is no surprise. In addition, Icelanders love winter, but they can be long, dark, cold (though no colder than New England), snowy (though usually less so than New England) and gray. To compensate for that, Icelanders get creative. Inspired by many things including their surroundings, sagas, and history, the country is awash in handicrafts, art, design and performances. In Reykjavík, the capital city—with a population of only around 120,000—there are 31 museums, 38 music and theatre venues, 18 galleries and eight cinemas. Houses are painted and roofed in a rainbow of colors. Buildings are thoughtfully preserved and designed to echo history and landscape. Public art is everywhere. Neighbors get together to ask local artists to paint murals on the sides of houses, buildings and garden walls. Graffiti appears to be encouraged (and commissioned). Celebrating art and culture is part of the Icelandic way of life.
To be surrounded by such natural wonders, creativity and appreciation for art was extremely refreshing. I realized while in Iceland I felt really happy, clear-headed and inspired. I was soaking up amazing energy from its sights (and sites), images, sounds and people (Icelanders really are the happiest, friendliest people on earth). It is one intriguing place (I haven’t even touched on the elves, trolls and hidden people or the food) that I hope to revisit over and over again. I’ve already started making a list for my next adventure to the aptly nicknamed Land of Fire and Ice.
Be sure to add Iceland to your bucket list. It will be worth every króna and vacation day!