right around new year’s day, 2011 (about a year and a half before this adventure began), i won a sweepstakes contest to win a trip to iceland. i was naturally ecstatic about this development, as i’d been dreaming about the country for years. about two and a half years ago, i went on said trip. however, after my return the photos i took never really surfaced anywhere and weren’t really shown to anyone… because at the time, the trip was not my idea of an ideal vacation. it left a bad taste in my mouth and a chill in my bones.
to be fair, there were circumstances unrelated to iceland (see #5 in this post) that were happening in my life at this time, but also, i chose to go to iceland in APRIL. my travels (because they generally free of cost) were restricted from high season and holiday periods. but still, i was thinking, “oh gee, i bet it will be so beautiful and springy in mid-april!” WRONG. april in iceland is WINTER, plan and simple, and i was treated accordingly with some lovely freezing temperatures and snow. so please, do not go to iceland in april unless you love winter. did you know the “first day of summer” in iceland is also in mid-april? i’m not kidding– it’s a national holiday!
although there were things about the trip i would do differently next time, there were so many things i enjoyed and that bad taste i spoke of earlier has long since melted away.
i LOVED being taken around the eastern coast by two icelandic guides as part of my trip winnings. i was fascinated with visiting the reyka distillery, meeting the kind owner, and actually seeing the lava rocks distill the vodka before my eyes. i loved all the geysirs and thermal hot-spot areas i visited. the view of the snowy esja mountains from my hotel room at the hilton nordica was spectacular. and i rode icelandic horses through a volcanic field! before heading out: blue lagoon– an experience like nothing else. the foodie scene in iceland is fabulous and have had some of the best dishes of my life here…. including mink whale. sorry vegan friends. the freshest seafood around and killer coffee to boot– with the weather as it was i spent a lot of time in cafes. i loved the friendliness of the locals… and of course because my travel interest lies greatly with northern european islands, it was a fascinating time.
get ready for this photo intensive post! because i finally have a free hour or two, rare these weekdays.
fishing boats at the harbor
i saw deerhunter play at NASA (R.I.P.) during reykjavik mess festival and it was AMAZING!
view of the mountains from reyka vodka distillery– home of the most delicious vodka one can taste
view from my hotel room, at the hilton nordica
the guinness house, where i had a pint! took this photo for alex.
damn, they was some good hot dogs! at the famous pylsur stand
views of the city…..
my favorite, cafe loki where i bought loki tea (THE BEST most magical tea ever) and where i ate….
a traditional icelandic lunch: fish spread on toast with a soup…. followed by loki tea(!!!) and a small piece of rotten shark. the older waitress looked on as i tried it and seemed a bit disappointed when i didn’t.
cynthia at gulfoss waterfall
some geysir action– where the name geyser was came from!
above photos were taken at thingvellir national park– home of the very first parliament, possibly ever. this area is a very sacred place to icelanders and also happens to be where the tectonic plates of the earth divide between the americas and europe!
a windy cold reykjavik day
inside 12 tonar record shop– one of the coolest i’ve been in with friendly staff and plenty of listening stations! not to mention coffee! the man at the counter urged me to stay for awhile and listen to some records. i love that. also KEXP memorabilia was inside a glass case near the entrance. COOL!
on an icelandic horse. did you know once an icelandic horse leaves the country, it can never come back? in this way they keep their unique horses purebred.
icelandic horses have what is called the fifth gait that is unique to their breed because of the musculature. all other horses can only move in four other ways. i wondered if i would experience this fifth gait… and i did at the very end of the ride! i almost felt as though i would fall off, but the horse took care of me. i do love that about riding horses– the connection you make with the animal.
outside the blue lagoon ready to enter! and swim around for hours with mud on my face. (what? it’s what you do at the blue lagoon!)
iceland was NOT what i was expecting. i was an avid consumer of iceland’s genius tourism campaigns (you could sell an icelander a trip to iceland with a campaign this good) and my personal experience wasn’t quite exactly like the magical times they depict on their website. this may have to do with going in wintertime, though.
iceland sort of reminded me of alaska… with rocky moon-like fields instead of forest. the same bleak white skies, the corrugated metal houses, the ever present seascape. i would definitely like to return someday, but this time either in july (high season, best possible weather) or in october (iceland airwaves!). although my heart firmly lies with scotland (on another north atlantic island), icelandic culture is absolutely intriguing and it keeps me thinking of this strange icy magical island to the north.
update: we made it back in a month long trip, august 2016 and it was everything i hoped for! check out the iceland trip posts here.