I can’t help but smile now as I pen down my adventures in Iceland as I’m listening to Ludovico’s Elegy for the Arctic, it’s quite fitting.
It was my 30th birthday a few days ago and I wanted to celebrate this milestone by taking it up a notch with my partner this year instead of having an intimate dinner at home with Christmas leftovers.
I wanted something a little awe-inspiring, a little extraordinary from what we do every year. When I looked at the map of Europe, Iceland seemed to be the answer. I knew instantly that it required meticulous planning as we would have poor weather and the holiday season prices to handle. I started putting money aside and making tour reservations as early as April in the year. In a nutshell, this was a remarkable trip and yes, we had a very snowy, white Christmas right next to an active volcano named Katla where our hotel was located.
I have always loved Iceland, not just for its natural beauty from the photos I’d seen, but also with Geography being my favourite subject, I knew that this country was the one place closest to my heart where I could witness geysers, hot springs, volcanoes, glaciers, ice caves and most of all, the place where two tectonic plates of the earth meet. Continental drift as a subject, is very close to my heart as it takes me back to the days where I sat up all night for a science project when I was 14 years old in high school. The plan was to visit the capital (it's only place where the flight would land anyway) and then head out to the southern and eastern coast. I booked our small group tour with Arctic Adventures for this.
Reykjavik: As were there during Christmas, the city, like many across the world was brightly lit up and was very festive. It was dark and stormy when we arrived on Christmas eve. We used the Flybus Shuttle service that took us to Reykjavik’s city centre. Our apartment was very close to Harpa Music Hall.
Reykjavik has a lot of character, every street boasts a series of independent shops, mainly clothes- knits, outdoor hiking wear and gear etc. I bought the iconic handknitted Iceland sweater. This sweater is so symbolic to Iceland, I imagined the traditional patterns being handed down from generation to generation, like a family heirloom. The yarn from Icelandic sheep is unique because the breed has been isolated from other breeds for centuries. All those years of exposure to the sub-Arctic climate has produced wool with two distinctive fibers. There’s warm, soft, insulating fibers close to the body and long, water repellent fibers on the surface which explains why you can wear these sweaters without jackets.
On our way to see the Sólfar (Sun Voyager) a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, which is at the seafront, we stumbled across a bakery Brauð & Co.which is really famous and after trying the snúður - a soft cinnamon bun (much like the Danish Kanelsnegl or the Swedish Kanelbulle) I can see why people would queue here in the freezing conditions. Every bite of the this bun is warming, both to the body and the soul.
Standing tall and proud in Reykjavik’s skyline is Hallgrimskirkja, the modern Lutheran cathedral where there are some striking views of the city and the seafront atop the main tower. This impressive church is visible throughout the city and is one of the prominent landmarks.
Reykjavik is one of those cities in Northern Europe where you can easily just wander and enjoy the million independent shops by the locals without seeing the chains of Starbucks, H & M’s and other brands, much like Helsinki, Gothenburg and Copenhagen. Reykjavik is more special because at every turn, you find something scenic and picture perfect.
There are abundant vegan restaurants here, more of a trend and was a boon to my husband and I who are both vegetarians. A special experience was at a local bookshop where we were offered cognac by the owner to keep warm.
More on this trip coming soon, do have a look at the photos below in the meantime. :)
Rashmi Narayan is a London based freelance writer, currently working in Immigration and International Affairs with a strong passion for travel and food writing.