To tell the truth, I wasn’t super excited when Dan told me where he wanted us to travel on our next vacation. Iceland. Dan is the adventurer in our family, always game to zip off to a brand new place and explore. Any country with the word “ice” in its name made me dubious.
To entice me to go, Dan invited my brother Tim, and his wife, Deanna, to join us. With those two along, fun is guaranteed. So I gave a tepid OK, packed some warm woolies and tried to keep an open mind.
I am thrilled to tell you that I was absolutely blown away by this truly magical country, with its staggering, haunting beauty. Our driving odyssey through Iceland’s 190-mile Golden Circle was an adventure of a lifetime. Drinking in the awe-inspiring splendor of this rugged land rekindled my creative fire and renewed my passion for filling my own spaces with beauty.
Here are the things that stole my heart in Iceland…
Located just outside the Artic Circle, Iceland is filled with lava fields, mountains, glaciers, glacial rivers and 30 active volcanic systems. It was like being in a National Geographic nature documentary, with each bend in the road revealing something new to gape at in wonder. But I think my favorite was the waterfalls.
At one point, I counted seven waterfalls out of the car window. The most famous waterfall is Gulfoss, fed by Iceland’s second biggest glacier. We followed the Trail of Sigridur to gain a birds-eye view of this multi-tiered fall, which is topped by a rainbow on sunny days. Another of our favorites was the Skogafoss Waterfall, requiring us to climb 500 steps to reach its top. It was breathtaking for that reason, as well.
Glaciers cover 14 percent of Iceland’s surface, and they are truly a sight to behold. You hear a lot about glaciers melting due to global warming. But seeing it first person made my head spin. We learned that the glaciers are shrinking by a foot a day, as the waves crash over them. It broke my heart.
Iceland is an amazing example of how a dynamic society can thrive, while also preserving the planet. The country runs almost entirely on renewable energy. It ranks first on the Global Peace Index. And, it has been called “the best place to be a woman,” thanks to the country’s emphasis on gender equality.
As we drank in the frozen beauty of the glaciers, this little seal put on a grand show for us, rolling about and flapping its tail.
Deanna fell in love with the Icelandic sheep that grazed in the grasslands. We were told that for more than 1,000 years, these sheep were the unsung heroes of the nation.
Iceland is tundra, and only 23 percent of the island is vegetated. We were so happy to be there in June, when the flowers were in full bloom. My favorites were the Alaskan lupines, a non-native flower that was brought to Iceland in 1945 to help quell soil erosion. They have spread like mad and add lovely color to the vistas.
Through the years, we have loved visiting the grand cathedrals of Europe, with their towering spires, brightly colored stained glass and magnificent statues. But this tiny church, in a Stone Age settlement, captivated me with its purity and simplicity.
The builders used layers and layers of sod on the church’s exterior to keep the worshipers inside snug and warm. Warm is the best word to describe the people we met in Iceland. The island’s 350,000 residents were kind and gracious.
The Island of Heimaey
On our last day in Iceland, we visited the Island of Heimaey, the perfect end to our trip. We joined a small tour of the island and a nature museum, where I fell in love with this little puffin. Its wings didn’t develop fully, so it became the museum’s best ambassador, befriending visitors.
If a trip to Iceland is on your radar, I encourage you to make it happen. I think you will be as blown away by this remarkable country as I was.