I was beyond lucky when I visited Iceland. The weather was perfect, and out of all the various tour companies available, I somehow stumbled onto the perfect one: Iceland Horizons. Small, friendly, and intensely informative. If you’re going to Iceland, book with these guys. Our guide, David, make sure we stopped frequently at interesting sites, and tailored each stop to our interests and the weather – putting off, for instance, a planned visit to a waterfall until later in the day when the rainbows would be visible.
While I was in Iceland, I rode Icelandic horses…a particular dream of mine.
My horse’s name was Bangsi, pronounced like ‘bouncy’. It means teddy bear in Icelandic, and that’s what he was. When we stopped for a break, instead of wandering away to graze like many of the horses, he leaned up against me and coaxed me into scratching his chin and face. Not that it took much coaxing!
Icelandic horses have more than three gaits – in addition to the trot, they can also tolt. A tolt is considerably faster than a walk, but smooth as butter. If I ever get a horse of my own, I’ll be very tempted to get an Icelandic!
After the horse ride, I took a bus tour of three major natural attractions. The first, Geysir, was mildly interesting at best. I guess Geisers just aren’t my thing. I did like how the ground in the surrounding areas was so filled with hot steam, and it had a rather wonderful smell of sulfer.
The water in Iceland is just so plentiful. There’s zero reason to ever buy bottled water here. The water from the tap is completely pure, and if you’re used to the taste of chemically “purified” water in the States, the difference is astounding. Hot water flows almost instantly from the taps, too, and it (unlike the cold taps) carries a trace of sulfer. That only makes sense since it comes straight from the hot springs. I love the tap water in Iceland. I missed it so much when I went on to the UK, and the water temperature, quality, and pressure was highly variable and uncertain.
After Geysir, we went to Gullfoss waterfall, which I believe is the the largest waterfall in Europe? It definitely seemed to be. When you approach, there’s nothing but a rainbow, arching out of a hole in the ground.
Then you get closer, and wowza.
There were stairs down to it, and a winding walkway, and every turn you made just brought you to a different, amazing view.
I took video, but it’s honestly impossible to film. There are so many levels, and you can’t see the entire waterfall from any one place.
After Gullfoss, it was on to Thingvellir National Park. Here is the only place in the world where you can actually see the shifting of the earth’s crust. It is part of fissure zone, situated on the teutonic plate boundaries of the mid-Atlantic ridge.
I’ve never been that much into geology, but there is something amazing about standing here.
Thingvellir is beautiful, too. The light is incredible.
You can see some pretty amazing former volcanic activity. These rock walls were formed by volcanoes, but I thought they looked like something from Game of Thrones.
My last day in Reykjavik, I treated myself to some local delicacies. I tried the Puffin and Whale menu. Puffin (in the below picture) is actually really, really good…if you like smoked salmon. That’s pretty much exactly what it tastes like. It has the look and texture of something closer to beef, though.
Whale…well, if I hadn’t known it was whale, I would have thought by the look and taste it was a beef steak! It did have a slightly different flavor, but if I hadn’t been looking for it, I’m not sure I’d have noticed.
The other thing I ate a lot of while I was in Iceland was Skyr. It’s sort of like yogurt, only thicker, with a slightly…sheepish…flavor. It was good, especially the blueberry! I had it every day for breakfast, and sometimes at dinner, too. And frozen Skyr? Delicious!
Would I ever go back to Iceland? Yes. But only if I had a big budget for food, and if I planned to travel outside of Reykjavik. One more thing, if you’re ever in Iceland, buy a Lopapeysa – an Icelandic wool sweater. The wool from these very specialized sheep is very different from other wool, and completely amazing. Once I put mine on, I never wanted to take it off. Light, incredibly warm, and so cozy, they are the world’s most perfect sweater. The shop I bought mine from does mail order, and I just know I’ll be collecting several more!
Also, whoever designed the Icelandair safety videos is a genius.