Some relationships are meant to experience exquisite places together. And so, after more than a decade of friendship, four school friends, decided to take the trip of their lifetimes. This is dedicated to them. Nikhil, Chetan and Shruti – thanks for being my wanderlust buddies.
Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series often makes you wonder, will you ever be so lucky as to explore in your lifetime, the places he frequents. The closest I have gotten, is Iceland. Iceland is one of those places that takes you on a magnificent journey through earth’s very origins. Active volcanoes, gurgling geysers, mighty glaciers, roaring waterfalls, spectacular landscapes, mystical northern lights, and well, pure magic. Made exponentially more popular by SRK’s ‘Gerua’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘I’ll show you’, Iceland really needs no introduction.
Here are 7 times I was absolutely awestruck in Iceland.
- Witnessing the northern lights in the night sky is a magical experience. Scientifically known as the Aurora, northern lights are an incredible light show caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun’s flare that enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. The lights are seen most brilliantly around the magnetic poles of the northern (Aurora Borealis) and southern (Aurora Australis) hemispheres. The probability of catching these depend on a number of variables. A clear pitch black night sky, no-moon night, minimal ambient light from the city, high solar flare activity etc. are just a few, often making it a rare sighting. We caught them three out of our four nights there, pure luck on the cosmos’s part. A high ISO DSLR captures these lights the best, but our iPhones did an okay job too.
- Majestic glaciers caving under their own weight, melting at an unforeseen pace due to global warming is the pertinent issue of our times. The Vatnajökull glacier is one of the largest in area in Europe with an ever changing landscape. Giant glaciers provide the chance for us mere mortals to walk on its surface using ‘crampons’ which are claw like contraptions for your hiking boots. The glacial ice which forms from thousands of years of snow, gives in to gravity’s forces and flows more rapidly at places cracking and forming crevasses. Ice caves are also formed under the glacier which should only be explored with an experienced tour guide. A must do in Iceland if you are adventurous.
- Roaring waterfalls eroding and sculpting earth in their way will humble you. Melting glaciers give way to some of the most majestic waterfalls in Iceland. While there are numerous waterfalls carving their way to the arctic ocean, the most popular ones at about 200 feet high remain Gulfoss, Skógafoss, and Seljalandsfoss (you can actually go behind this waterfall). On a sunny day, you will witness the most vibrant rainbows dance along its waters, and numerous gulls nesting in its nooks and crannies adding unique dynamism and life to these waters. Hours can go by looking at these falls.
- Black volcanic sand beaches of Vik stand testament to the origins of time. Approaching the calming yet rancorous waves that chipped away at the solid volcanic rock into smooth black sand proves how insignificant your time on earth is compared to all else that goes on. So make the most of each moment. Black rock caves formed by waves ten feet high, fjords and apostles jutting out of the sea don’t seem to care for the pesky tourists’ clicking away.They have stood the test of time. A Polish immigrant waiter outside the little restaurant said, “There is nothing to do here on the beach, it’s very lonely. But it is still a far better life than back home in Poland”. Tourism today fuels a healthy economy for Iceland’s 300,000+ population solely reliant on its many natural wonders.
- Everyday there was a picture postcard outside my car window. Landscapes which stay with you forever. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
- Wild Nordic horses are the gentlest creatures. The best way to experience Iceland is by road. Rent a car and drive away. You will find these patient creatures happily grazing all along the south coast. Stop by, they come towards you in anticipation of a sweet treat. They love sugar cubes!
- Finally, soaking in the geothermal Blue Lagoon Spa, sparkling wine and green smoothies in hand with the Aurora Borealis whizzing at the north pole while your face feels the goodness of exotic silica gel masks is easily among my top 2% experiences in life. Composing that long sentence doesn’t do justice to what it really felt like at the world renowned Blue Lagoon Spa at Keflavik. The mind-numb of walking out into -8⁰C temperatures with just your swim suit on was countered by the fuzzy feeling of gliding into a +38⁰C geothermal lagoon in the middle of freaking nowhere! There is a sense of inner warmth when you suddenly realize that this is the stuff that pure indulgence is made of. Just then the mystical northern lights decide to show up across the pitch black sky with countless stars. While they put up a spectacular performance across the night sky, you can only close your eyes, sigh, and take it all in. It feels purely serendipitous that Blue Lagoon happened just because your return flights were cancelled due to a snowstorm back home. #destiny
The one thing that hit home on this adventure was that no photograph/camera/selfie will ever do justice to a place as beautiful as Iceland. We endlessly try to take selfies and pull our cameras out every second, to capture the moment. For that matter, all the natural/ man-made wonders around the world, don’t care for our obsessive photography. They continue to exist regardless, in some cases, in-spite of it. Our photographs are often a futile effort of holding onto a piece of it all. So the next time you experience pure beauty, take a moment and store it in your mind’s eye, for eternity.
Having said that, all pictures used were taken by a standard iPhone6/7. Most with no filter on. Photo Credits: Chetan, Shruti, Nikhil, and Archana’s phones.