As we say our final goodbyes to Summer prepare to welcome Winter, you may be thinking of warm destinations to visit this Winter. I, for one, am considering dashing off to South Florida sometime soon to sink my toes in the sand. At the same time, I am looking forward to going north this winter. And, by north I mean Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice. I know, I know, who in their right mind would plan to vacation at the Arctic Circle in January? “Me, me,” (hand raised) and let me tell you why.
Iceland, with its moderate year-round temps (thank you, Gulf Stream) is not as cold in winter as most people think. I had the great fortune to spend several days in Iceland last January and, during my time there, the weather seemed to be the same as it was in Detroit when I left. Like a lot of folks, I had these preconceived notions that I would be outfitted like Nanuk of the North, replete with mukluks, parkas and woolies…the whole nine. And, while I had all of that, I only wore that stuff a couple of days when I knew I would be getting wet from hiking under waterfalls and visiting geysers and such. Most days I only had on a pair of leather rubber-soled booties, a fleece hoodie, and jeans layered over warm sweaters, long t-shirts, wool socks, and leggings. The key is to dress in layers and prepare for any weather.
The days there are sunny and bright, even if they are very short. Daylight in winter usually begins around noon…it was rather strange to walk around in the dark at 10 am. But, oh the sunsets. They seem to last longer and are magnificent, especially viewed from across a lava field. Summer may be the time of the midnight sun, but winter is when the Aurea Borealis decorate the midnight skies with what some consider to be the greatest natural light show on earth! From my base in the capital city of Reykjavik, I traveled throughout southwestern Iceland, which included the Reykjanes peninsula, to get a taste of life in this rugged land full of adventure. Everywhere I turned there seemed to be a site that left me in awe. Beautifully cascading waterfalls, volcano craters, black lava fields, and more amidst a backdrop of snow covered cliffs and glaciers. Standing in a lava-field with nothing but snow and black rock all around made me feel as if I standing on the moon. It was breath taking. One of my most favorite experiences was soaking outdoors in a mineral-rich hot spring surrounded by snowy hills and plains. Iceland is highly geologically active, abounding with active volcanoes and geysers, and widespread geothermal power. As a result the landscape is dotted with many geothermal hot springs most of which are open to the public. Soaking in these hotspots is an Icelandic national pastime and is a great way for visitors to connect with the people and culture of Iceland.
Reykjavik is the only urban center on this island of a little over 330, 000 people. Despite its small size, the capital is very cosmopolitan and offers a glowing cultural scene that can appeal to any taste. It is well-known for its legendary nightlife, including the ever-burgeoning music scene, to some of the world’s top restaurants serving up local delicacies including seafood and Icelandic lamb. During the day you can visit any of the numerous galleries and museums scattered through town, covering everything from famous works of art, to Icelandic history. Mostly everyone speaks English, so there are no worries about not speaking Icelandic or being understood.
Located in the North Atlantic Ocean southeast of Greenland, getting to Iceland is easy. Flights from the east coast of the US take only five hours or so, and flight times from European gateways such as the UK, Norway, Sweden, are as short as three hours. This makes Iceland a perfect destination onto itself or a great stopover point when traveling to Europe.
~Angela, the Travel Diva