“10 full days in Iceland? That’s too long, how many waterfalls are you wanting to see anyway?”
Although truth be told I will likely not move to Iceland (I am Brazilian, our kind are not even remotely biologically designed to cope with the vicious Icelandic weather), read along for a few reasons why this freezing cold country stole this beach girl’s heart.
Icelandic landscapes are not what you’d expect
Hverir stinks – and no, I do not mean that as a euphemism of sorts. The place is so disgustingly pungent the smell sticks to the back of your throat and refuses to leave you alone for the foreseeable. Then there’s the flies. Hundreds of them, swirling around and aiming straight for your gaping mouth, ears, nose; anything they get their prickly hands on. And yet, despite the discomfort, I would easily class Hverir as one of my favorite Icelandic adventures – smelly flies and all. Why? Because there is not a single place in the world quite like it.
Visually, Hverir is striking. The blend of ochres and blues, gurgling pools of iodine green and sudden hot gushes of blood-boiling vapor make the place look otherworldly. The colours are vibrant enough to make the place look man-made when it is in fact a fully untouched landscape of oozing earthly chemicals.
People watching at the geothermal area of Hverir is also an activity in itself. The more prepared tourist comes with a pre-bought facial net, not an uncommon albeit incredibly unfashionable accessory that makes your experience slightly more pleasant. You’ll chuckle at how ridiculous they look but soon begin cursing under your breath for not following suit. Others are more concerned with the smell, which luckily isn’t entirely stagnant and offers moments of relief whenever the wind hits. The odor-concerned tourist will likely pull their shirt up to cover their nose, or else pinch it in a futile attempt at holding their breath.
Who knew a place could evoke such a love-hate relationship?
My inner goth really enjoys black-sand beaches
Photographic potential aside, Reynisfjara is the sort of place that not-so-subtly reminds you of the power of nature with it’s thunder crashing waves and jet black landscape. It’s an all encompassing experience; the jittering cold gushes of wind, the roaring waves, the piercing marine smell… One has to simply turn around to then contemplate the large magma rock formations, an impossibly beautiful geometric wall of basalt rocks which cool down in hexagonal towers that serve as nests for the nearby puffins.
But let’s talk about the waves some more, because Reynisfjara has waves so big they have taken people’s lives. The strong undertow and so called “sneaker waves” are a source of much concern, which is why you should never underestimate the sea at this beach. Despite it’s controlled appearance, waves have a tendency to crash far into the shore, oftentimes dampening distracted tourists and in more extreme scenarios dragging them out to sea – making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
I like the thrill of walking on top of an active volcano
In 2010 the eruption of the Icelandiv volcano Eyjafjallajokull caused numerous air-travel disturbances world-wide – enough fuss to make everyone acutely aware of how much of a ticking bomb Iceland can be.
Funnily enough, active volcanoes in Iceland aren’t exactly a rarity, so much so that tourists get to walk amongst sprouting gushes of heat and cooled down magma rocks in several different spots around the country. Although visually not as imposing as other Icelandic hotspots, being able to touch the ground and feel the heat rise from the rocks beneath you is in equal parts terrifying and thrilling.
The best part? There is simply so darn much to do in Iceland that we happened to come across a volcano almost coincidentally – since it didn’t appear on any guide books of sorts. Makes you wonder what other less known attractions we might have missed…
I want to be as cool as Reykjavik’s creatives
Don’t get me wrong, Iceland’s capital is tiny, and unless it’s sunny it also happens to be a little grey. There are, of course, occasional pops of colour, mainly from the low-rise houses and gardens, but all in all the city does indeed look a bit monochromatic.
That being said, I do think there’s a lot of potential to bring colour into Reykjavik as a young creative city. In Laugavegur (the city’s busiest commercial street) there’s a myriad of nordic design boutiques – the sort you find in major capital cities – selling all kinds of design gems. There’s also plenty of small art galleries and coffee shops which serve as hangouts for the local creative minds. If interested in hitting up some of these stops, I would pop by Rejkyavik Roasters, Kaktus or I8 gallery.
It’s undeniable that Iceland has a lot to offer to nature enthusiasts and boho-chic wannabes. In 10 days I managed to visit some of the country’s most prestigious and well known areas, but undoubtedly missed many lesser-known places that I will likely want to visit someday.
So I guess the question is, will you be joining me?