2015 was supposed to be one of the better years for seeing the Northern Lights. Therefor 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

After spending an afternoon and morning exploring Reykjavik, we leave on Saturday afternoon for our hotel in the Golden Circle. It’s snowing when we leave and once we are outside the city, its hard to distinguish between the sky, the road and the snowy fields beyond. As a result, everything seems to blend together in one picture of grey and white. The drive is slow going and it takes us several hours to get to hotel Grimsborgir, in the middle of the circle. We have a great dinner in the hotel and afterwards we plan to go to the hot tub. We are hopeful that it will clear up as we are eager to see the Northern lights. No luck tonight though, there are heavy clouds and it continues to snow.

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

We have a good laugh at the Gulfoss falls. Where we are bundled up in our snow gear and boots, there are always certain types of tourist that dress up – or not – for any occasion…

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

We had back to Reykjavik and before checking into our airport hotel, we make a stop at the famous Blue Lagoon. Although very touristy it is a fun experience and our faces feel nice and soft after, which after all the cold and wind is a nice treat. Our hotel offers tours to see the Norther Lights. As it is our last night, we feel we should give it one more try. Totally unprepared, we stand in the freezing cold for several hours and almost give up hope. And then, finally we see a glimpse of the Norther Lights. And although not as spectacular as we have seen in pictures, for us this still feels like the grand finale of a great trip.

Reykjavik

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.

 

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