A subtle fog lifted as we made our way from the airport to the capitol of Reykjavik, Iceland. Craggy lava fields covered in deep green moss emerged from the mist, the rugged shore peppered with harbors and bobbing boats came into view. A large golf course appeared in stark contrast to the texture surrounding of the meticulously manicured greens. Kristina Ashkin and I stared at the landscape as the rain dissipated and the splendor of Iceland began
to reveal itself to us, knowing we were in for a journey of a lifetime.
The Capitol: Reykjavik
The cobblestone streets of Reykjavik are a perfect groundwork for the charming architecture of downtown. Historic buildings join new, sleek architecture in an appropriate yet chic intersection of past and present. Extremely walkable, we decided to explore the city on foot, marveling at the cute shops and cafés, hotels and historic buildings. Opting for lunch near the heart of the city, the offerings were profuse: Iceland is known for their culinary excellence. Everything from 5-star dining with regional delicacies of whale and puffin to more approachable international fare can all be found within the same block. We couldn’t bring ourselves to try the whale or puffin, but the Döner Kebab I had was fantastic. Sipping an Aperol Spritz in a Parisian-inspired café, Kristina and I took in the afternoon people watching as visitors and locals alike traversed the streets.
Beserker Lava Field Hike
Our first day-long outdoor adventure was in Grundarfjörður, a small coastal town notable for not only its stunning scenery but as a filming Location for movies and TV shows such as Game of Thrones and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Kirkjufell mountain was instantly recognizable right off the harbor. We took a bus to the lava fields for a hike, the local legends were explained to us about this particular spot: in the 10th century, two Swedish berserkers (warriors) were working for a farmer, one of which fell in love with the farmer’s daughter. Fearing the berserker but not wishing his daughter to marry, the farmer devised a plan to grant his daughter’s hand in marriage if the berserker could complete the impossible task of creating a road through the lava field in one day. Enlisting the help of his fellow warrior, the two worked at a frantic energy and completed the task. Stunned, the farmer still did not want his daughter marrying the man and lured the two berserkers into a sauna he had built to rest their tired muscles. In their weakened state, the farmer trapped and killed the two men, burying them on the site. Long thought to just be a legend, bones of two Swedish men of a large stature were found and verified anthropologically that the legend was indeed, true. Despite the gruesome tale, the hike itself was beautiful and well worth the trek. Stopping by a placid waterfall after the oceanfront hike all but washed away any memory of the betrayed berserkers.
Island of Heimaey: PompeIi of the North
My favorite part of our journey was the fairytale-like island of Heimaey. Soaring, emerald green cliffs that jut out of the cerulean ocean into bright blue skies and are speckled with roosting seabirds and are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Opting for a jet boat tour of the island, Kristina and I donned our rubber ocean suits and strapped into our seats. With typical congenial Icelandic hospitality, our tour guide explained the history of the island, how a volcanic eruption in 1973 destroyed half of the town (many buildings are frozen in time and half-submerged in sooty black lava) but how no one was killed; due to a storm the night before, the fishing fleet was able to evacuate all. Playing music through an impressive speaker system while jetting around the island makes us feel like we had our own movie score, flocks of sea birds and adorable puffins took to the skies. “They’re like little rocketships!” Kristina beamed as a fine sea mist covered our faces.
Non-stop flights on Icelandair
Getting to Iceland was surprisingly easy with a direct flight from Denver to Reykjavik. A cab ride from the airport to downtown made for a seamless experience.
Windstar Cruises is an excellent way to see a lot of the country without having to spend hours driving the interior of Iceland or flying/ferrying to Heimaey. The ease of having our suite with our layers of coats, hats, and luggage all within our boutique cruise ship made for a wonderful escape.