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Iceland: Let's party til it gets dark!

ICELAND | Sunday, 21 June 2015 | Views [709] | Comments [2]

Welcome back! I'm sipping a Pilsner in a famous establishment in Prague right now called Mlejnice about to indulge in a beer goulash with cranberries, followed up with a beef stew soaked in plum sauce. So exciting! It's also costing me about $11 USD, and the fact that 20 other tourists just walked in and were told they'd have to wait an hour makes me even more excited about this place! Suckers.

But hold up... can we just talk about this? Look at these photos below? You see that? 3:30 AM! Basically, the sun never went down, and neither did my new friends and I, coining the phrase "let's just pass out when it gets dark". Which, of course, it never did. Which meant a bit of bar hopping and dancing down the main street of tiny Reykjavik, which felt so odd as my circadian rhythm was saying "what are you doing awake", and "why aren't we tired yet"?, and "why are Icelanders passed out on the street when it's still light"? Watching people stumble around in broad daylight at ungodly hours is one of the strangest things I've ever seen…

  

You guys, I spent 5 days in Iceland. ICELAND. Even just typing it brings back awesome memories and makes me want to go back. Maybe I left too soon? Though my bank statement would definitely disagree after what I dropped on tours, lodging, and some amazing souvenirs which included Icelandic wool and volcanic salt. I don't even know what I'd cook with that, but I had to have it! Iceland is REALLY expensive... a beer on average costs about $11 USD. And the truth is, even if you do the country properly by renting a car and driving/camping around for 2 weeks, the whopping price of gas will still set you back a pretty penny.

Traveling in Iceland was akin to being on a foreign planet. The landscapes are incredibly surreal, and change frequently, from volcanic rock leftover from thousands of years ago, to serene green fields filled with wandering sheep climbing local mountains with waterfalls cascading below. And the sunsets! OH. MY. GOSH!

 

One of the items on my bucket list has always been to ride an Icelandic horse. Growing up with horses, I claim to be an experienced rider, though that's always the last thing you want to tell the guide. But I did it anyways, and I have no regrets, because they gave me Bloodsmear, a little brown guy who loved to run. We spent the next 2 hours galloping through gorgeous green landscapes, until a lava rock that was kicked up sailed inches in front of my face, and I decided maybe slowing down would be a good idea. These horses move differently than your average horse, but surprisingly, are very smooth to ride.

After I got back into town, I did a free 2 hour walking tour of Reykjavik, which was actually one of the highlights of my trip! I always recommend doing a free walking tour in every city you visit, because the guides work hard for their tips, and most times, don't disappoint. I learnt about the weird history of Iceland, its notoriously corrupt government, and even witnessed a strike at parliament. The recently retired stand up comedian-turned-mayor of Reykjavik ran for office as a joke, and made outrageous campaign promises, such as making the government cocaine free by 2018. The Icelanders were so sick of poor politicians, that they actually elected him, and he made himself famous by participating in Pride Week every year. (Even the fierce viking statue in front of the prime minister's house still has lipstick on him).

While originally planning to taste whale steak and puffin, upon viewing both the whaling ships and whale watching boats in the harbor, and learning how Icelanders don’t eat either (apparently it’s just a tourist thing), not to mention the puffin population has rapidly declined since tourists were introduced to it as a meal, I quickly changed my mind, opting for fresh fish and chowder.

Another fun fact I learnt was that until World War 2, Iceland was virtually cut off from the rest of the world. With the influx of American and English soldiers, roads, houses, and the 2 airports to date were built, and Coca Cola and bubble gum were introduced. In fact, more Coca Cola is drank in Iceland than any other country per capita, claiming that it reminds people of "the good old days”. Also, beer wasn't legal in Iceland until 1989, so apparently there's a beer holiday every year! 

That afternoon, I headed off to the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa, and one of the most famous natural wonders of the world. I soaked, swam, and sipped a cocktail. Life was good. I also put the natural mud masque on my face, which surprisingly left my skin soft and bright! If you go to Iceland, you should definitely do the Blue Lagoon, but go in the early morning or late afternoon/evening when no one else is there.

The following day, I did a "Fire and Ice" tour, where we started off with a hike down a valley to hot springs, where we soaked in 40 degree Celsius water, then headed off to a glacier, where we snapped on cramp ons, grabbed our axes, and avoided falling through crevices. It was incredible to see how fast the snow was melting, and the guide pointed out that the glacier recedes 500 meters per year. Following the glacier, we stopped by a couple waterfalls to explore and take pictures. The weather constantly changed from dry to light rain. If you plan on going to Iceland, bring a raincoat and maybe even a dry change of clothes for outdoor activities.

The next day, I slept in and did an afternoon Golden Circle Tour of Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the famous Geysir (where geysers get their name from)! This is, by far, the most popular tour of Iceland, and as you can see below, the views are spectacular, and the weather was perfect that day.

On my last full day in Iceland, I crossed another big item off my bucket list: to snorkel Silfra, which is the fissure between the North American and Euroasian continental drift. Basically, I snorkeled between the crack dividing North America and Europe. And. It. Was. Amazing! The tagline of the tour read "It's cold but it's worth it". Damn if they weren't right! You see, the temperature of the ancient glacier water never changes between 2-4 degrees Celsius all year round, which meant I was snuggly dressed in my clothes, a dry suit, thick woolen socks, then another thick rubbery suit, gloves, flippers, and of course, my snorkel. Which meant for 35 mind blowing minutes my hands and face froze! But that was ok, because it was far too incredible of an experience to complain, plus they gave us hot chocolate and cookies afterwards to celebrate. The other cool part about Silfra is, because the water has been filtered through the lava rocks, it's as pure as it gets. We dove and gulped up as much as we could!

That evening, a friend and I walked around town, where I took some incredible last snaps. If you end up in Iceland at some point, I highly recommend staying at KEX Hostel in Reykjavik, a family friendly, and renowned hub where both tourists and locals flock for a cool atmosphere and killer drinks. All of my tourist activities were booked through the hostel, where you can find here: http://kexland.is 

Happy travels!

~ Katie

Tags: daylight, geyser, glacier, hike, hot springs, iceland, snorkel, waterfall

 

Comments

1

Like my blog? These comments aren't going to write themselves, folks!

  dohnster Jun 21, 2015 8:21 AM

2

Love the snorkeling pics!

  Alli Jun 24, 2015 7:42 AM

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