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Written by Sindhuu Govindarajan on June 14, 2016 Share on

The Icelandic Saga

‘The Land of Ice And Fire’ as it is referred to – Iceland, makes you feel like you have to live up to it in order to deserve to experience it. I am not a religious person, but my time in this country made me understand for the first time the difference between a religious and spiritual experience. It made me want to cry with joy and thank someone up there that I was deemed deserving to experience this country. The sights make you go weak in your knees and the people make you wish that you could steal their spirit in this birth and be born an Icelander next birth. I may sound like a fool saying these things but the overwhelmed feeling has refused to leave me even though it has been 3 months since I returned. SO much so that I have not had the courage to write about it or narrate it to anyone as the nostalgia makes me tear up even in private. Also because of the fear that nothing I say or write will ever do justice to the real experience and the idea of doing injustice to such a pure entity like Iceland, was unimaginable for me. I have finally decided to face up to the fear not because I feel I will do justice to it but because I hope that this outburst will aid in alleviating my nostalgia a bit at least.. The least I can do to minimize the injustice I may potentially do is to keep my words to a minimum and let the photographs do the talking.

While the expeditions and  landscapes was the day part of the story, the other side of this beautiful story were the nights spent Aurora hunting, scouting for cheapest food deals available, amazing cooking once in a while, relaxing in hot pools and drinking away to glory.

Reyjjavik and Reykjanes Peninsula

The city of Reykjavik rebels at every corner to not be called a city because of the overdose of natural landscapes – The Hallsgrimkirkja Church, the view of the city from top, the seaside walk to the harbor along the gorgeous cliffs, the Harpa concert hall by the sea, the quaint cafe by the harbor, the vibrant night life, the golden circle drive comprising the Thingvellir park with the Silfra intercontinental dive site, the mighty Geysir, the even mightier Gulfoss. And, of course, our cozy cottage where we ate delightful home cooked food made with delightfully cheap deals bought at Kronan super market (The joy of cheap food in Iceland is unimaginable!)

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The Hallsgrimkirkja Church- Its’ unique architecture is inspired from the basalt columns found on the Icelandic coastlines; Another theory was that it resembles the keys of a piano

Grafitti on every wall competing with the stark whiteness of the snow all round

South and East Iceland

The road from Reykjavik to Hofn via Vik, along the Vatnajokull glacier is filled with something magnificent every 100 m that it is worth spending an entire vacation just on this route.

It begins with the magic canyon which is aptly named so as it looks likes a rocky mountain from outside but a little deeper exploring suddenly reveals a hidden waterfall inside through a small cave entrance in the canyon. The sudden discovery of this hidden waterfall and the splashing of its water on your face as soon you walk through the cave entrance is delightful in a childlike way.

A few hundred meters from this magic canyon is a waterfall which is the only waterfall in the world behind which one can walk -Seljalandsfoss

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It almost feels like a see through curtain behind which one can walk and see the falls both from the front and back. It becomes that much more special in the winter as the entire path up to the back of the falls is icy and slippery making the end result of catching the beauty from behind that much more worth it.

Just when you think you have seen all the beautiful waterfalls of Iceland, the next one hits you right on the main road- Skogafoss (It means the Forest Waterfall)

Just when your eyes get adjusted to the stark whiteness of the water, the snow and the icy routes to each of these falls, next comes an expanse of pitch black- Vik’s Beach with pitch black sand and jet black basalt columns with gigantic smashing the columns.

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A night with the Artic Princess

She was beautiful. She was elusive. She was magical.

People traveled long and far to spend a night with her and even after that they would have no idea how many nights they had to wait or how long each night they had to wait before she decided to give herself to them.

We were but a miniscule part of this large zealous fan group who had been fantasizing a night with her for several years now. With this hope we began our journey and left our homes wishing fervently that she would deem it fit to spend at least 2 mins of at least 1 night with each of us. Every day, we keenly followed the rumors of the town as to where she was for the following night and traveled there looking for her

One such night when the whispers and rumors were the strongest, we traveled to wait outside what they claimed was her home from 10 pm onwards. It was pitch dark and we could see nothing but were sure that if she came out, the darkness would get engulfed in her glow in a single second. We waited with bated breath. 2 hours passed and we were freezing in the cold at -10 degree Celcius. 4 hours passed and our fingers and toes felt lifeless with pain, but we knew we had traveled too far and waited too long to lose this opportunity to spend the night with her. 5 hours passed and we thought our ears were frozen enough to break if someone flicked them.

And then suddenly, from behind the mountain we saw a faint glow of a green robe. We stopped breathing. We were hoping against all hope that tonight will be our night with her and this was not a trick our mind was playing on our eyes. Oh god, the green glow was getting stronger. It was getting bigger. Oh god, she was getting closer. Our cold vanished and our bodies warmed in her glow as she got closer to us. She stretched her hands and suddenly the whole sky glimmered in her greenish glow. And then she did the most breathtaking thing ever- She danced her famous dance! We were truly blessed. Not only had she deemed us fit to give us a glimpse of herself, but had decided to seduce us with her dance. Her dance lasted for the next ten minutes with varying intensities and the heavens basked in her glow.  Greenish robe with intermittent red swirls, one minute here and the next second there, we were turning in our place and running everywhere she called out to us, like a mad mob.

Finally she slowed down and let the sky bask in her greenish glow, slowly evaporating and moving away. No, we did not want her to go. We ran behind her but she ran faster. We cried asking her to come back, but she ran faster. We were addicted now. In her final disappearing act, she left us one message- “Come back tomorrow. Come back every night looking for me at where ever you hear I am for that night. Wait with patience and if I deem you fit, I may come spend another night with you”.

We replied – “Not one, not two but we will come looking for you every single night and wait for you every single night hoping against hope that you will deem it fit to spend another one minute with us”

That was the magic of this elusive Arctic Princess named “Aurora Borealis”.

Aurora

The next set of experiences on this route are probably a huge signature of Iceland and for good reason- The Jokulsarlon Lagoon and the Iceberg Beach

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I have saved the best experience on this route for the last- The Ice Cave Expedition (I am not going to attempt describing it or writing about it for reasons only a believer may understand)

The route from the Ice Cave back Reykjavik is when you get a glimpse of the other worldly looking wall of the Vatnajokul glacier. It is for good reason that Interstellar was shot here. Visitors were not allowed to go up the wall in winter because of landslides, but what is the fun without breaking rules  And the result of this risk were some unforgettable views

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Northern Iceland

Northern Iceland in Feb truly stands up to the name “ICE”Land. Start whites with splashes of turquoise in places with hot springs and pools, Northern Iceland was my favorite part of Iceland and my biggest regret as we could hardly get any photos in this part of the trip because of extreme weather (Could not take out the camera in the middle of snow storms & blizzards). The limited photos we managed to click does not do even a 1% justice to the beauty of this place. This part of our trip was definitely the best and that is saying something especially after how spectacular the other parts were.

Akureyri which is the biggest city in Northern Iceland is an elvish looking magical town by the fiord. Ths fiord lends it a long coastline and some amazing night life making it the perfect base to have some adventurous day trips and party hard at nights back in town. We began our experience of the North with an exploration of the town of Akureyri.

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Godafoss

They said you will find a difference between the falls in the north & south. We never understand what they meant until we saw Godafoss- The falls of the Gods. Everything here had an elvish charm to it almost as if somewhere between the icicles of this falls, the elves would peep and play with us to spot them. I am quite sure we spotted one. Otherwise there is no way we would have gotten lucky enough to reach the next destination amidst the dangerously wild weather.

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Dettifoss

The detour to Dettifoss from the main road was 20 kms, but the time it took us to traverse those 20kms was 4.5 hours. After the first one hour our guide told us that no one visits the falls in this season because of the risk of getting stranded in snow storms en route to it. We did not see a single vehicle and after hardly 2 hours, the storm got so bad that our jeep got stuck in the snow. We sat inside for almost an hour before we could progress further. When our guide asked us if we were sure that we wanted to proceed, none of has any doubts about it- Obviously we could not leave Iceland without witnessing the mighty Dettifoss

After 4.5 hours we finally reached a point beyond which we had to trek for 2 kms wearing snow boarding shoes.With snow hitting us hard in our eyes and biting wind chill, we started our snow show hike with the roar of the mighty fall as our sole motivation. What seemed like another hour later, we finally saw the first glimpse of the falls. It was so broad and huge and the sheer volume of the water on it was majestic even though it was partly frozen. While we did not manage to get photographs, the memory of the hike and the final falls is etched stronger in our minds that any of the other experiences.

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After a long hike back and a beautiful drive back along Lake Myvatn we were chilled to the bones and exhausted. After what seemed like 5 hours outdoors in the middle of the snow storm, the prospect of ending a day with a dip in a natural geothermal pool set amidst snowy outdoors was inviting beyond words. The Myvatn Nature baths were a set of hot pools at the foothills of a mountain with snow all round the pools. It looked otherworldly. The biggest challenge was the run from the the change rooms to the pool in swimming costumers and bare feet at -6 degree celcius in snow fall. What fun J We ran so fast and threw ourselves into the hot pool. The hot water, the snowy mountains and the light snow fall on our heads.. It makes me ecstatic to think of it even now. Sadly although the most memorable part of the trip, we had no photographs of it.

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Sindhuu Govindarajan is a traveller and blogger, read more about her travel here!

Are you an intrepid traveller wanting to share your travel story with the world? Send us your story and photographs of places outside India to stories@pickyourtrail.com 

 

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1 comment

  • […] After that day of dashing through the snow, retire back to your very own glass cave and hope to catch the Aurora Borealis riding the northern sky. Settle into your winter’s best with some warm food to keep you company as you anticipate the Northern lights. If you feel adventurous enough, braving the cold, go outside and proclaim your love and hope the Arctic Princess will make an appearance. Sindhuu did – you can read her story here! […]