Iceland in February
Really…I never had Iceland on my radar, and especially never considered it as a February vacation. My ideal get away when it is cold here in the Midwest is warm sunshine, ocean, beach, drinks with umbrellas; you get the picture. However, an opportunity arrived in my email that invited me to travel along with other travel agents to come explore this island. Once my interest was piqued I decided to go see this magical place that boasts the chance to see the Northern Lights. Iceland did not disappoint. It is an island of sharp contrasts, from active volcanos to some of the largest glaciers all within driving distance from one another.
The Blue Lagoon
I flew from New York to Iceland and was surprised that it was only a 5 hour flight; we arrived early in the morning Icelandic time and hit the ground on the go. We stopped at a restaurant for a buffet breakfast on our way to a place called The Blue Lagoon. Magnificent comes to mind when I think of The Blue Lagoon, it is a geothermal spa that is one of the most visited sites in Iceland. Visiting The Blue Lagoon after our flight was a treat; the natural water stays at a temperature between 98-104 degrees filled with algae and minerals which cause the water to look blue. I actually never wanted to leave this beautiful relaxing place, but the tour dictated that we move on to a city tour of the capitol of Iceland, Reykjavik.
We stayed in Reykjavik the 5 days we were there and toured each day in a different direction. Some of the sights we saw were geysers, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanic fields, beaches, and museums.
Reynisfjara Beach even in winter time was breathtaking because you have volcanic rock formations spilling into the ocean, waves crashing on black lava sand, and a very short distance away was snow covered lava rocks. It felt like my eyes and mind couldn’t take it all in. Here is a picture of the beach, but as usual pictures do not do the landscape justice.
Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
Another highlight was attending the Fakasel Horse Show. Before going to Iceland I knew nothing about Icelandic horses. I love learning new things when I travel. The Fakasel Horse Show uses multimedia and special effects along with exhibition riding that tells a story of the Icelandic horse uniqueness along with some Norse mythology. The Icelandic horse is purebred and of a smaller size and has 2 additional gaits not seen in other breeds. This horse was brought to Iceland by Norse settlers more than 1100 years ago. No other type of horse is allowed in the country and once an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it can never return. The show was fascinating as it taught us about Norsemen and how the horses were used for sheep farming and are still used for that today along with racing and showing.
Fakasel Horse Show, Iceland
Lava Tube Caving
Another highlight of mine, and I am surprised by it as I am claustrophobic, was to experience lava tube caving. These caves are created by the hot lava that is ejected from a volcano and burns a trail down the hills and across the fields. To get to the lava tube, we walked thru a field and suddenly came across a small hole in the ground, I don’t recall how it was first discovered, however now tour groups can explore in the lava tube caves. To get into the cave you shimmied down a small ‘tube’ which reminded me of the enclosed slides you would see at a waterpark and then when you get to the end of the ‘tube’ you can stand up and walk around inside a cave. It is narrow at times and you need to bend over quite a bit and at one time even crawl to keep going, but then you get to a spot that opens up again. We had hard hats on with lights so we could see, and at one point we all turned off the lamps and it was the purest darkness I have ever seen, or not seen, as it were. As always, once I experience an activity that makes me nervous and I survive, I am happy that I did it.
The Northern Lights
One of the reasons people visit Iceland is in hopes of seeing the Aurora Borealis, more commonly referred to as the Northern Lights. On clear winter nights, sightseeing trips are organized around this spectacular—though fickle—natural phenomenon. The ideal location for sightings varies and tour group leaders are skilled in “hunting” the lights, finding locations where conditions are best for seeing them on any given night. I admit I too wanted to see this wonderful colorful show in the sky, but it was not meant to be for me. This gives me good reason to once again visit Iceland in the future, “The Land of Fire and Ice,” with long summer days and short winter days. I found Iceland to have breathtaking landscapes and pristine nature unlike any I have seen before.