Travel Iceland, Part I: You're Hot and You're Cold

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

There’s something whimsical about this land. Mountains, black sand beaches, waterfalls around every corner — it looks like a picture out of a fairytale. I am utterly in love with this magical land, and here’s why.

For the most part, Iceland always makes me feel at home. The local people are so lovely, you can’t help but befriend a few. And then you go to sleep at night and realise that the sun never truly sets in July, and you feel like you’re on another planet again. Iceland is a place where fire meets ice. Literally. Because they have volcanoes hidden under massive glaciers. No, I haven’t seen a volcano yet, and I doubt I will, because let’s be honest — they’re rather scary things. But I have seen some pretty neat sights — from glacier lagoons and hotpots, to driving up and down mountain roads between fjords to reach the Easternmost settlement in the country. It is otherworldly, to say the least. 

For a first time visitor, the area around the capital, Reykjavik, is already astonishing — weird lava rock formations covered in soft moss cushioning and soil that is almost black in colour. Suddenly you get a whiff of cabbage farts. It’s disgusting (at first at least), until you know where that comes from. The aroma that makes you wiggle your nose comes from natural hot springs, The Blue Lagoon resort being the most notorious of them all. There the water is milky white and incredibly warm, putting the muscles [you didn’t even know you had] at ease. Plus, you can get a free mud mask. Elsewhere people call them hotpots — every pool has at least one hot pot, which is kind of like a hot tub… but hotter and naturally heated. I love going there, especially after a long, exhausting day. You do have to hydrate yourself properly before and after, because hot water works like a sauna, and you don’t exactly want to shrivel up like a raisin.

They have these hotpots in the nature, too — they are usually called geysers and they are scorching hot. I don’t recommend touching those, but you must have a look at least. The most famous being Geysir, after which all other geysers were named, apparently, is a must-see place. With little geysers bubbling around it, the big geyser shoots up hot water every 10-15 minutes or so. Nearby is Gullfoss, the Niagara Falls of Iceland, sitting like a staircase in the Hvita river canyon and making a lot of noise. The enormity of the waterfall is astonishing to me, because it makes me feel like a puny human. The water’s brute force is enough to swipe away rock and create a canyon. Compared to that, any human activity seems minuscule. That is something that stands out all over the island — it feels so untouched by human activity, to a point where a town of 1000 is considered a relatively big settlement. Sometimes the only signs of life you see for miles are sheep and tourists. Tourists and sheep. For miles. 

This untouched corner of the Earth offers a plethora of amazing views and activities. It is possible to see the entire island in about a week, if you wanted to. There’s something for everybody — you can take a day-tour around the Golden Circle, go on a roadtrip with your mates or do something more extreme, like ATV tours, helicopter rides, glacier hiking, or even whale watching. My most extreme encounter has been a motorboat trip on a glacier lagoon, Jökulsarlon. There’s something about fast boats and ice cold water I don’t particularly enjoy — but it was tons of fun. I even managed to see a piece of glacier breaking off with a thunderous noise, splashing into the icy water below. In such moments you forget that there is time and space, and you simply stare in awe. You stare in awe.