Iceland. Land of Fire. Land of Ice

“Iceland is not a destination, but an adventure”

Iceland has been on my bucket list for the longest time. Having heard (and seen photographs) of its rugged landscape and sharp contrasts, where fire and ice co-exist, where dark winter nights are equipoised by summer’s midnight sun, where nature’s extreme forces are considered to be a gift to humankind, where boiling mud pools, spurting geysers, gigantic glaciers and rainbow-ringed waterfalls are almost everywhere.

I am here! And I cannot wait for my adventure to begin…

I, along with five friends, collect our vehicle, a Hyundai Starex (6-seater) from the Keflavik International Airport and proceed to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.  The drive is approximately 40 minutes.

The air is crisp and the temperature is 2C. It is hard to tell if this is actually Spring because the weather is quite chilly.

Reykjavik is a small city with a treasure trove of sights. The population is only 120,000, yet it has a pulsating heartbeat. It is dotted with colourful houses, orderly roads, delightful cafes, picturesque landscapes and the friendliest locals. And it is not hard to navigate our way in and around Reykjavik.

Rising above Reykjavik’s modest skyline, the Hallgrimskirkja is the most iconic national landmark in this city. This stunningly beautiful church rises 74.5 meters  above the skyline, and its architecture is inspired by the Svartifoss, a black waterfall in South Iceland. The church is dedicated to the most renowned sacred poet of Iceland, Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614–1674), who wrote Iceland’s most popular hymn book: Passíusálmar (Passion Hymns).

But once inside, it is almost like a sigh of disappointment, because apart from the spectacular, vast 5275-pipe organ, the interior is quite plain.

And one of the popular things to do is to ride the elevator to the very top of the church and take in the panoramic view of the city below.

Located in Sæbraut near the conference center Harpa in downtown Reykjavík, the Sólfar, or Sun Voyager, a sculpture of a Viking ship and a tribute to the sun, representing the discovery of uncharted territory, progress, and freedom.  Across from the sea, Mt. Esjan makes a beautiful backdrop for this Sun Voyager.

Sólfar, the Viking ship

Right in the middle of downtown Reykjavik is the Tjörnin pond which is more like a small lake actually. And it is teeming with the friendliest of ducks, swans and geese that come waddling up to you for crumbs. The entire lake is beautifully framed by the Reykjavik City Hall and distinct coloured houses.

Tjörnin pond

Reykjavik’s old harbor is now quite an attraction. It is the colour and the absolute cuteness that makes this site worth a visit.

Reykjavik’s old harbor. Photograph by Claudia DiSalvo

No visit to Iceland is complete without a dip in their world famous geo-thermal pools and we have saved the best for last! Almost next door to our hotel, the cozy, comfortable Northern Light Inn  is Iceland’s most famous geothermal hot spring, the Blue Lagoon, one of the 25 Wonders of the World, and I truly believe it.

It’s raining large drops of ice as we make a quick run from the vehicle to the Lagoon and get processed for admission. Then after changing into our bathers we make a dash into the bubbling, steamy lagoon. Ahhhh it is heaven! The temperature above my neck is -2C while the rest of my body is 40C.

The Blue Lagoon

This Lagoon is huge and holds nine million litres of geothermal water from the depths of the Earth! It has a unique composition of active ingredients: silica, algae and minerals and the water’s distinct blue colour comes from the sun’s reflection off the silica. My gosh…this is such an invigorating feeling and my body is simply loving this. Oh…the red wine, served at the Lagoon-side bar just makes this a perfect day! Yes, I did opt for the silica face mask that is an option with the entrance ticket.

Back at the homely Northern Light Inn we dine on the most delicious ocean fresh fish, free range lamb, geo-thermal vegetables, home baked breads and cakes.

Tonight, unfortunately the weather report does not predict any sightings of the Northern Lights. It has to be cold with a clear night sky and well… as they say better luck tomorrow night.

And tomorrow we leave to experience Iceland’s Golden Circle attractions.

More info in detail:

How I got here: EasyJet from Luton, England to Keflavik Iceland. Flight time is almost 3 hours.

Vehicle hire from Reykjavik Rent-a-Car picked up from Keflavik International Airport

Our accommodation for the night is the Northern Light Inn http://www.nli.is/

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