While traveling this spring, I had a two-day stop in Iceland that gave me the perfect glimpse of what the country is all about. With a population of just 330,000 people, Iceland is an island just outside of the Arctic Circle; basically a geothermal hotspot with vast mountains, volcanoes, glacier waterfalls, natural hot springs, and open land covered in black lava rocks and green moss.
Our first stop was the Öxarárfoss waterfall in Þingvellir National Park. The glacier water is clear and blue, and creates a beautiful contrast to the dark rocks that it falls from. The Öxarárfoss waterfall is an easy 40-minute drive from Reykjavík, has a convenient parking lot, and is reached by an easy trail hike through rock formations in the park. While not as grand and majestic as some of the more famous waterfalls of Iceland, it’s still absolutely breathtaking.
(Fun fact: A pixelated photograph of the Öxarárfoss waterfall is used as the album cover for the Nine Inch Nails’ album, The Fragile. Had to throw that in as a huge NIN fan!)
Driving through the country is mostly open, moss-covered land and endless mountains. We pulled over at a lookout, and the silence was almost surreal. There was no wind at the time, and no cars or cities or people for miles. It just felt still, and became almost a meditative feeling. After experiencing this silence, I’ve even found myself craving it again!
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa in the middle of a lava field in Grindavík, and is one of Iceland’s most famous attractions. The bright, blue water is always warm, and is rich in minerals like silica which is amazing for skin. People actually travel to the Blue Lagoon from all over the world to treat their skin conditions, like psoriasis.
Although the capital, and largest city of Iceland, Reykjavík was relatively small compared to other European capitals. The architecture of the buildings and streets gave me a typical Scandinavian vibe, with a fun downtown and quiet neighborhoods surrounding it. What I found interesting was the non-existent traffic (how could there possibly be traffic with such few people in one country), as well as the non-existent crime. It is normal for people to leave their houses unlocked, and even leave their baby strollers (baby included) outside while stepping into a store for a quick purchase. One morning, I went to several coffee shops (all of which were closed), trying to find one that was open. Even though they were closed, the doors were open and I could freely walk in. Someone said that they do that in case someone needs to use the restroom, and they don’t worry about theft or robbery because it just doesn’t happen in Iceland.
Luckily the city is very vegan-friendly. My favorite restaurant was Egill Jacobsen, which we visited multiple times. I highly recommend their vegan brunch; which includes tofu scramble, potatoes, mushrooms, chocolate pancakes, avocado toast, and fruit oatmeal. Their vegan sandwich with fries & guac also hit the spot!
Overall, my quick stop in Iceland was the perfect amount of time to get a feel for the country, and left me excited to plan a full trip to explore all that the island has to offer!