It’s beginning to look a lot like Iceland

Iceland is the most underrated country in Europe. Ask anyone their thoughts on it and you’ll probably be met with negative remarks about Björk or their economic crisis.
However, I have never been, and probably will never go, to a more awe-inspiring place. Where else in Europe do you find wild horses galloping across lava fields, or geysers hurling boiling water 50 meters into the air? Iceland’s natural beauty holds the power to enchant the most cynical of travellers.
Last year I embarked on a 7 day tour that took me from Reykjavik, along the south coast, to the end of the road at Jokulsarlon. The trip began at Þingvellir National Park, a world heritage site which is steeped in history, geography and folklore. Here you can walk through the deep rift valley where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates divide. We did so with some caution, unable to shake the irrational fear that they may move whilst we were in the gap.
Viking settlers convened the first government here in 930 AD which gave the park its name; ‘Þing’: parliament and ‘vellir’: plains. Legend has it that after the meeting ephigies of Norse Gods were cast into the blue pool at the foot of the waterfall, giving it its name Goðafoss, ‘Waterfall of the Gods.’
Nowadays, visitors trickle here in small numbers to hear the Norse sagas and toss a coin into the Goðafoss in return for a wish. History and folklore aside, Þinngvellir is ultimate wilderness. The snowy peaks stretched as far as the eye could see, broken only by blue pools, stained with yellow Orange Sulphurous rock; it is an unworldly place.
Travelling further along the golden circle, we reached the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, now famous for the 2010 eruption, and for being impossible to pronounce! We were able to climb the glacier face with pick axes, finally reaching the top of the mountain peak.
Perhaps the most stunning part of our trip was the Iceberg-lagoon called Jokulsarlon. Here the massive Breidamerkurjokull glacier crumbles into large icebergs which float across the Cobalt-blue lake before reaching the sea. The sheer scale gave the whole place a supernatural feel. No one spoke, the silence only broken by the waves, as seals weaved among the ice.
That night, during an impromptu snowball fight back at camp, we witnessed something that every traveller must strive to see at least once: the Northern Lights. Without the noise so many films associate with the Aurora, the sky lit up with dancing green and blue flames. Lasting only five short minutes, the display was not the largest or most impressive as is often experienced in Iceland, but it was enough to stun everyone and make our trip complete.
On our way back to Reykjavik, we paid an essential visit to the Blue Lagoon. Coating your face in the white mud (which turns wind-battered skin to silk) and floating across the warm lagoon is unimaginably relaxing.
The pools are heated by geothermal energy which only adds to Iceland’s identity as the most eco-friendly country on the planet, harnessing almost all of its energy from the geothermal activity.
So what are the negatives? There must be something which taints the apparent magical power of this lonely country. To this, there is one simple answer: the smell of rotten eggs. Everywhere you go you can smell sulphur. A rule was developed that none of us could shower before dinner as they would emerge smelling disgusting and put everyone off their food.
However, it is thanks to the sulphur that we were able to visit the brightly coloured sulphur fields. The growth of bacteria around the vents creates a rainbow of blue and red deposits, which is (despite how it may sound) extremely beautiful. Picking your way through a field of boiling vents of acrid yellow gas may not sound like holiday fun, but no one said Iceland was a typical holiday spot!


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