2015 was supposed to be one of the better years for seeing the Northern Lights. Therefore we planned a 4 day trip in March. Expecting spring weather, we spent 4 days driving and walking in endless snow and ice in Iceland instead. Although unexpected, it was a magical experience with lots of snowy roads and frozen waterfalls. Unforgettable was a walk on the phenomenal Sólheimajökull Glacier, and finally on our last night, a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Iceland’s Golden Circle
An endless white world of waterfalls, snow and ice
The next morning we get up early as our plan is to drive the full Golden Circle today. Our first stop is the Gulfoss waterfall, in the very eastern part. It is surreal to see the waterfall, covered in snow and ice and we walk around in the snow to take pictures. After that, we stop at the geysers and continue our trip in the white wonderland to Thingvellir National Park. This is Iceland’s first National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thingvellir (or Pingvellir) is where the first settlers put down their roots in South Iceland in the 9th century CE. Thingvellir was then named as the first assembly and in 930 it became Iceland’s – and the world’s — first parliament. We check out the Viking Congress sights. Nature and history at it’s best.
Dressed to kill
On our way back to the hotel, we stop in Selfoss for dinner at the restaurant Tryggvaskali. We are hungry and enjoy the wonderful food, my favorite is the lobster soup. This is our third day of sampling Iceland’s lobster soup and I can’t get enough of it. After returning to the hotel, we take a glass of wine with us to the hot tub. We soak, sip and stare at the sky, hoping tonight we are lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, nature is again not on our side and the sky stays covered in clouds.
Hiking a glacier
The next morning we have an early start again as we have booked a guided hike on the Sólheimajökull Glacier with Icelandic Mountain Guides. I am super excited as this is something I always wanted to do. We follow directions to the parking and arrive in an empty lot. It is still snowing and the visibility is poor. We fear that they have canceled the tour, but after we wait for about ten minutes two more cars show up. Finally our guide also shows up. He hands us our harnesses, crampons and icepicks and explains what to expect. He points out that it is safest to walk on the areas that are icy blue and not covered in snow, as you never know what is underneath the snow and you can easily fall into a ravine. And off we go, the six of us following our guide in single file.
Ice caves and tunnels
Once we start walking, the skies start clearing up and the visibility is better. We stop at the first big ice sculptures. They are truly beautiful and I can’t believe we are actually walking on a real glacier that is an outlet from the big main ice cap Mýrdalsjökull. Next we go through several ice tunnels, it is exciting and a bit scary. We climb higher up for better photo opps. I feel like I am in Disneyland for adventurers. Its cold, but that adds to the magic. After three hours, we return to our car, an amazing experience richer. On our way back we make a short stop at the spectacular Skógarfoss waterfall.
Standing on two continents
The next morning we check out of our hotel. On our way back to Reykjavik, we stop one more time at Thingvellir National Park. On our first day we completely missed that this is also the place where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. It’s the first, and probably the only time that I am standing with one foot on one content and the other on the second. We learn that you can snorkel and dive between the plates. But not today, we will have to come back on a warmer day.
Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights
Reykjavik is a small and walkable little city. It has the famous church right downtown and nice little stores and restaurants. Our mission was to sample lobster soup and hot dogs. The best lobster soup was at The Seabarron and the best hot dog at the hot dog stand right in town. The hot dog there, with the crunchy onions is by far the best one I have had in my life. Iceland, the land of endless snow and ice is a little gem of a country that I highly recommend. I will definitely go back and try it a different season to experience the difference.