I’ve wanted to go to Iceland since I saw a friend’s pictures from her trip to Reykjavík a few summers ago. It just looked like a photographer’s wet dream — beautiful, untouched lighting, large expanses of nature, and a lot of really beautiful people (Dean, take note.) Because my flights were funded by the institute, I decided to seize the opportunity to visit the country before I came back to school, and spent two days by myself in Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and home to some fascinating music (Björk, Of Monsters and Men, and of course, the incomparable Sigur Rós).
The old saying goes, “Iceland is green, and Greenland is ice.” Indeed, while Iceland is amazingly green, especially at the tail end of summer, it’s still pretty freakin’ cold. I was not expecting this, coming from sunny and warm Germany, so it was a bit of a shock putting on a winter coat for most of the weekend.
Short plug for the hostel I stayed at, which used to be a biscuit factory in Reykjavík and is now a hostel. Too hipster for words. But because I’m such a wannabe hipster it totally appealed to me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay for the weekend. Tons of young people everywhere, a friendly staff, and — most importantly — a lively bar.
The Golden Circle
I’ve heard that the best way to explore Iceland is by car, and I think that rings true. Unfortunately, I have some turning twenty to do still, and since I’m still nineteen, I am not eligible to rent a car. Plus, my driving skills are so horrendous that this probably was all for the better anyways. So, in lieu of driving around the island, I decided to go on one of those obnoxious giant bus tours to see the Golden Circle, which is a route in the southwest part of Iceland that is home to some really beautiful, natural sights.
Pictured above is the Gullfoss, which is a famous waterfall in the Golden Circle. Though I haven’t been to Niagara Falls, I suppose that some would call this the Niagara of Iceland, which is fitting for the country. Though I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s more iconic or impressive than Niagara (which some people on the tour seemed to think), it was still amazing to see a waterfall up close.
Another highlight: the Strokkur geyser. Iceland is particularly known for its interesting geological landscape, and this was no disappointment. See the upcoming photos for the actual explosion.
Of Monsters and Men, live!
While I was looking up things to do in Reykjavík over the weekend, I happened to discover that there was a free concert being offered in a town not fifteen minutes away from the city, featuring Of Monsters and Men. It was sheer dumb luck that the concert happened on the one night I was in town, but what was even dumber luck was the fact that I managed to find someone to go with as well! I was sitting in a cafe, preparing myself for some fermented shark, when I heard a girl behind me asking where the town of Gardabær was, and after some quick introductions, we decided to go to the concert together.
The night was freezing; it ended up raining part way through so our feet got completely soaked, but it was an amazing experience. It seemed like practically the entire Icelandic population was out there, and it was so wonderful to see the band make their homecoming appearance to such a proud audience. I didn’t understand a single word of what they said aside from their songs, since they spoke in Icelandic, but it was clear that the band was so happy to be performing in their home country, and it was a touching moment to share.
The Blue Lagoon
(Photo by Sarah Ackerman, found here)
Kind of a huge tourist trap, but I had to go. The Blue Lagoon is a giant geothermal hot spring that has been converted into something of a spa, outside of Reykjavík. Not too much to say here besides that it was rather overpriced but a good experience nevertheless.
I couldn’t have asked for a better trip to end my stint in Europe. Iceland was extremely expensive, but completely worth the price, especially because it’s such a rare opportunity to see a country and a people who are a bit of a mystery to Americans (and other Europeans alike, honestly.) Though I would have preferred to have a car and drive around the island myself, I was really pleasantly surprised by the number of people I met at various places throughout the weekend. And that was only a day and a half in Iceland. The next time I go back (and I do hope there will be a next time), it’ll have to be for longer.