I grew up in Nairobe, Kenya for the first 7 years of my life. Then I moved to San Diego until I was 16. Since then I’ve lived in Las Vegas. Obviously I am not used to being cold. I once had to spend 5 minutes scraping ice off my windshield in Salt Lake City, Utah and decided I could never live there. So why would I choose to visit Iceland in February? Because of all the beautiful photographs of Iceland I had seen – I wanted to take those same pictures. No one I grew up with had ever been inside an ice cave or walked on a glacier or seen the Northern lights.
So I went to Iceland one year ago. Was it cold? Yes, I had never been so cold in my life. Was that photograph during sunrise, with a temperature of 14 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill, really worth risking what I felt like was frostbite? Yes, yes it was. Why? Because I’ll always have that picture. That feeling of ice crystalizing in my veins has been reduced to just a warm memory one year later. Iceland is a land of fire and ice and it’s truly magical. I’d never seen a lava field of moss so wonderfully green after driving through fields of snow. I’d never seen part of a waterfall frozen into icicles. Tea had never been so hot and rejuvenating. A horse had never been so friendly and photogenic. The locals – how wonderful are they to withstand the weather full time and yet offer a friendly smile, a joke, and a list of places to visit with names I can’t pronounce.
My visit through Iceland started and ended in Reykjavik. I spent a few days here. Obvious must see locations are the Hallgrímskirkja Church, Harpa Concert Hall, Tjornin lake, and the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. Off the touristy path is a park called Hallargardurinn with wonderful statues to the side of Tjornin lake. Past Tjornin lake is Hljomskalagardurinn, a bird sanctuary. Still absolutely gorgeous in the winter with snow and ice lining the rivers and determined birds floating along. I visited southern Iceland and spent 3 days around Vik to visit the Jokulsarlon lagoon, hiked around a glacier, and went inside an ice cave. You’ve seen pictures of a person inside an ice cave right? Nothing prepares you for the quietness inside, or that “cold” smell, or that incredible indescribable “ice blue” color. It’s a unique experience and definitely one crossed off my bucket list. I visited the waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, and Gulfoss. I spent the day wandering around Snaefellsness peninsula visiting the black Budir church, the coast, and the possibly over-photographed Kirkjufellsfoss.
Though it’s not quite the center of the Earth, it definitely hit the center of my heart. The delicious food, the ethereal Aurora, the warm hearted and English speaking locals, and those ridiculously amazing unique landscapes – Iceland was worth braving every degree below 75.