The Land of Ice and Fire

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There I was, halfway up a mountain with a magical view of an endless landscape, eating a picnic, and being serenaded an Icelandic love song by a rugged, beautiful Icelandic man.

I had only been in the country for 8 hours.

Iceland, the ‘Land of Ice and Fire’ is not a common travel destination for us Aussies down under. The 35-plus-hour journey, with at least two layovers, is often insurmountable for a quick and easy holiday. But God, is it worth it. Travel becomes easy once you are there, and the never-ending, relentless natural beauty makes you forget the journey all together. Capital Reykjavik is small, yet soul-crushingly hipster and uber cool. Late night bars with unpronounceable names and unpronounceable beers on tap entice passers-by with their slick, yet somehow grungy decor. Art galleries and museums will satisfy your cultural cravings, leaving you feeling inspired and knowledgeable about this far-flung place.

As for the rest of the country, there is a single ring road, route 1, which circles the country. In one go, you could drive around the island in 16 hours. However this is almost impossible, as you inevitably will stop and take in the nature, and the absolute magical scenes of Iceland- and take a million photos of course! As a country with a population smaller than that of Canberra, there is so much soul and culture you wouldn’t guess it. And there are more cars in Iceland than people, so don’t worry about a lack of transport! So pack your bags people of ANU, Iceland is calling.

Now… Back to that Icelandic man. My first day in Iceland I decided to take on the Golden Circle tour with my hostel (=a very popular one day tourist drive to some must see sights near Reykjavik). The trip leader’s name was Daniel.

Our first stop was Þingvellir National Park (pronounced Thingvellir). It’s most famous for being the meeting point between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Hence the many volcanoes, and frequent earthquakes in Iceland! You can even scuba dive down in there! We remained above surface however, and I spent the whole time we were there absolutely gobsmacked by the natural beauty of this place. Beautiful mossy rocks rose high into the air as we walked down a valley to walk through, and over, the winding rivers. The water was crystal clear, and such a deep, alluring blue. Lush, soft green grass covered anything else that wasn’t rock or water. Daniel explained how he played there as a kid, back when Iceland had little to no tourism. “No barriers back then! But maybe a good thing now. I broke my arm here.”

Perfectly satisfied with Iceland so far, I could have gone home then I was so happy. But no, next was the surprise. We turned off the road at a seemingly random point and headed for the hills. A few minutes later we were unloading picnic food, blankets, and a guitar. Due to some roaming sheep, we couldn’t go to the usual spot, but none of us minded walking up a little further. All 10 of us sat happily munching on our food, soaking up the amazing view. Then, Daniel pulled out his guitar and started to teach us an Icelandic song about Hard Fish, apparently a food speciality in Iceland. Then, he sang us some love songs, translating to English as he went. What a moment! It was really magical. An absolutely memorable experience.

What was left of my amazement was blown away at Gulfoss waterfall (Foss is waterfall in Icelandic, Gul is golden). My mind was absolutely dumbstruck. The crashing and powerful falls sucked me in, and their tremendous force was mesmerising. As you walk closer and closer you could see more of what made these falls so amazing. The sun crept behind clouds and peeked back out again, changing the look of the waterfall to such a large extent every time. I had to force myself to put down my camera and just look at the waterfall. Breathing in, breathing out. I got right up close, and very far away, but it didn’t change how small the powerful falls made me feel. Spray gushed upwards many meters into the air, creating a fine mist as you walked by. On my ascent from the falls I looked back to notice a rainbow had formed across and above them. Every single day in the country revealed wondrous natural phenomena like this. It never ended.

When people ask why I want to visit Iceland, this is it: the forceful, unmissable feeling of the sublime. Not sublime as in a really good ice cream, but sublime as in huge and unfathomable, looming above you with such beauty, and creating such an acute feeling of awe. Every day how I defined the word beautiful changed and expanded to take in what I could see. This is what eyes are made for, seeing Iceland.