Reykjavik – Well, I’ll be totally honest; this was the only location I knew in Iceland before I started planning my trip to Iceland. That said, for obvious reasons I had to start my trip to Iceland from Reykjavik! As most of you would know that it is also the capital city of Iceland. Reykjavik is a unique city due to its fusion of the contemporary and ancient. Charming heritage buildings made of stone and wood are as interesting as the new architecture buildings. The main shopping street is called Laugavegur and the nightlife can be seen here with brightly lit up streets and happening eateries, bars and clubs. Any trip to Iceland primarily revolves around the objective of seeing the Northern lights, which can be witnessed during the winters. Aurora Borealis can be seen from September to April.
The largest church in the country is known as Hallgrimskirkja or atleast that what I remember (please excuse my spellings). It is said to be a landmark Lutheran church. Located at the highest point (trust me you don’t want to know the names here as I bet you won’t remember) in the city, one can get a 360 degree view of the entire city of Reykjavik from the Church. The biggest challenge I faced while planning my trip to Iceland was remembering the names of various locations. Another point for a full view of the city is ‘Perlan’ or ‘The Pearl’ which is ahuge glass dome building over hot water storage tanks. Perlan has a viewing deck, a rotating restaurant, a café and also an exhibition centre.
Reykjavik is also known for the gorgeous views of its landmark mountain called ‘The Esja’, which is actually a chain of volcanic peaks. Standing over nine hundred metres tall, Esja is located at Kjalarnes, around ten kilometres from central Reykjavik. A hike on the mountain is permitted, however, one must check the weather advisory before planning a visit to Esja for hiking. For those who love Museums can choose to visit the National Museum and the Saga museum.
After exploring the city throughout the day, I was excited to see the first glimpse of the Northern Lights. The good part about the Northern Lights is that if the weather is clear, one can spot them from anywhere in Iceland and even from Reykjavik. The best way to witness the Aururo Borealis is along the coast as the city lights are missing there and the coast offers clear views of the sky. The North coast scenic and sculpture walk are a good option for the sighting but Grotta Lighthouse is the most famous viewing spot for Aurora Borealis. I chose the Grotta Peninsula and indeed it was a good choice. I was lucky as the skies were clear and the Aurora was at play. The intensity varies and mostly the sky looks green with the influence of the Northern Lights. I stood there speechless for several moments trying to make up my mind if this was even real or if I was in a painting! It felt bewitching and enchanting and I don’t even have enough words to describe that first glimpse. I learnt that if there is a full moon, it would make the Northern lights appear dim and hence it was important for that perfect view that the night is as dark as possible and there is little cloud cover. It is advised to have plenty of time in hand and plan as per the Aurora forecast and cloud cover forecast that can be usually known a couple of days in advance. Thanks to all the research I did online before planning my trip. It did help me to get the perfect views of my much awaited Aurora Borealis! I personally feel that no trip to Iceland can be complete without watching this incredible wonder of nature. Do remember that during winters the daylight time is very less in Iceland and hence you must check for your dates of visit and plan accordingly.
Still in awe of my last night’s experience with the Northern Lights, I got up pretty early and packed my bags to proceed for Thingvellir. It was going to be another exciting day as I looked forward to see the rift valley that is the separation between the North American and European tectonic plates. Next I stopped at the hot springs of Geysir and also ate there at the Geysir restaurant. It offered freshly baked bread with Icelandic butter. There were boiled eggs and herring along with a glass of the local Geysir schnapps, that was served at freezing point. After visiting the geothermal area of Geysir, I moved ahead another ten kilometres or so to find the gorgeous Gullfoss waterfall. It is undoubtedly an iconic waterfall found in the river Hvita canyon. Even though a part of it was frozen, it was every bit an amazing view of the Canyon and the waterfall. After Gulfoss, my further drive of around four hours brought me to Kirkjubaejarklaustur. Please manage your own pronounciations. I just copied and wrote on a piece of paper, not trying to pronounce it at all. I spent the night ‘here’..haha..
Next morning was my excursion to the Skaftafell National Park, which is approx. seventy kilometres from my previous stay.. you know where else please read in above paragraph. Some years ago this national park became a part of the Vatnajokull National Park. I drove all the way to the famous Jokulsarlon lake. For those who don’t know or cant remember, it is this lake that became popular after the shoot of James Bond’s famous movie – Die Another Day. Europe’s largest glacier Vatnajokull flows into the lake forming icebergs.
Next day I geared up for my return journey to Reykjavik. It was a total distance of approx.. 260 kms which I stretched throughout the day with multiple stops enjoying further scenic landscapes. My first stop was the Skogafoss waterfall which is one of the country’s largest and most beautiful waterfall at a height of 197 feet and width of 82 feet. It is located at the Skoga river and surprisingly one can hear the roaring fall all year through. Crowds are comparatively lesser in winters and snow covers the cliffs. The Skogar village nearby houses the open air Skogasafn folk museum and a transportation museum too. Overall I will say it is a good place for a break journey with a café and a restaurant too. Another popular waterfall lying just thirty kms. ahead from here is the Seljalandsfoss – Waterfall. The significant feature of this waterfall is that it can be fully encircled. It is in close proximity to the ring road due to which a lot of visitors come to see this waterfall.
After a satisfying exploration day of some awesome waterfalls, I finally reached Reykjavik for my final night of stay. Evening was spent mingling with the locals at the cafes and bars and next day I took my flight back home with wonderful memories from an absolutely amazing