This post is written by our guest blogger Ashwini Kulkarni.
Its very difficult to describe a country like Iceland in a few words, but I shall try my best
Iceland Travelogue | Iceland in 5 days
You would think that I am lying if I tell you that I practically did zero research on Iceland before the trip. It was my husband, Sudhindra, who did all the bookings and chalked out the itinerary. So this was one such trip where the beauty of the place unfolded in front of my eyes without me having the least idea what is in store next. And yes! I enjoyed every bit exploring this wonderful country called Iceland.
Located in the North-Atlantic ocean close to the Arctic Circle, Iceland is a country characterized by dramatic landscapes with Glaciers, Geysers, Volcanoes, Lava fields, stunning waterfalls, black sand beaches, geothermal hot springs, bright green valleys, glacier cut fjords, glacial rivers and lagoons.
Iceland is often called “The Land of Fire and Ice” because of the sharp contrasts in its composition. It is a country where Glaciers and Volcanoes co-exist! It is also called The Land of Light and Darkness because long, cold, dark winters with barely a couple of hours of sunlight is compensated by almost 24 hours of sunshine during peak summers.
Iceland is one of the youngest landmass in this world, still growing at a slow rate. Iceland is also at the forefront of renewable energy production, and nearly every home in the country is supplied with heating and energy from renewable energy sources.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the Northernmost capital city in the world. More than half of Iceland’s population live in and around Reykjavik. “Reykjavik” in Icelandic language means “The Smoky Bay”. The earliest settlers who first sailed to this city saw smoke rising from almost everywhere; because of the high geothermal activity here and thus named the city so.
Iceland is the only country in the world that can claim to obtain 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources. Geothermal water is used to heat around 90% of Iceland’s homes. Hot water from the springs is cooled and pumped from boreholes straight into the taps of nearby homes, negating the need for hot water heating. It’s also purified and cooled to provide cold drinking water.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a cool, temperate maritime climate, with refreshing summers and surprisingly mild temperatures in winter. Extreme forces of nature here have created resilient people, where family ties are close, the sense of tradition is strong, and the bond with nature is tight.
Icelanders are working hard on restoration of their green cover which was lost long ago due to extensive deforestation to meet the timber needs. Green and brown mosses extensively cover the lava fields. Icelanders are fiercely protective of these mosses and don’t encourage anyone walking over them since they help in the prevention of erosion of the precious top soil.
Fauna is Iceland consists mainly of farm animals like horses, cows and sheep which we can see in abundance while traveling across Iceland. An occasional Polar bear crosses over from Greenland rarely! Got to know from our guide that there are no snakes, frogs or mosquitoes in Iceland. Dogs are extremely rare too since the country follows very strict guidelines for having them as pets.
Icelandic Horses are famous for its beauty; apart from typical gaits of walk, trot, and canter/gallop, the breed is noted for its ability to perform two additional gaits. This makes it well suited to harsh landscapes. Discovering Iceland on horseback is also much sought after by tourists. Our guide tells us that Icelandic horses come in around 50 different shades! Icelanders love their horses so much that they don’t eat horse meat.
Reykjavik coast is frequented by whales and hence whale watching is also a favorite activity among tourists. Mink whales are common, followed by Humpback whales. Blue whales are a rare sight.
Puffins are sea birds native to Atlantic ocean. These cute birds can be seen in Iceland from April until September. We were lucky to have spotted them during our visit to Vik black sand beach.
Below is our day by day itinerary when we visited Iceland in August 2016:
Day 1: Arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland and getting acclimatized to the place and weather; stock up on grocery to last one full week
Day 2: Since it was drizzling almost the whole day, just spent some time in city center and planning for the next 3 big days!
Day 3: “The Wonders of Snæfellsnes” trip.https://www.re.is/day-tours/the-wonders-of-snaefellsnes
Day 4: “The Golden Circle” tour. https://www.re.is/day-tours/the-golden-circle
Day 5: “South Shore Adventure” tour https://www.re.is/day-tours/south-shore-adventure
Day 6: Discovered Reykjavik city by foot, visiting the famous landmarks like Hallgrímskirkja Church, Harpa, Sun Voyager, Souvenir shops, etc.
Day 7: Bid adieu to Iceland
Of course, driving around in a 4 X 4 vehicle is the best way to explore Iceland since we can choose the places we want to visit and take your own sweet time to move to the next destination
We chose Reykjavik excursions tours since they were child friendly. Most other tour operators do not allow children below 3 years. https://www.re.is/.
Icelandic journey is never complete without mentioning about the Icelandic Sagas and Icelandic Folklore:
The Sagas of Icelanders also known as family sagas, are prose narratives mostly based on historical events that mostly took place in Iceland in the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, during the so-called Saga Age. They are the best-known specimens of Icelandic literature.
Iceland’s unique environment is respectively matched by its distinctive folklore which is rich in tales of aquatic monsters, ghosts, spirits, elves and trolls. During the long dark nights of Icelandic winters, storytelling was the chief form of entertainment with each region having its own treasure trove of colorful legends passed down over the centuries through the oral and written traditions.
Huldufólk are elves in Icelandic and Faroese folklore. Building projects in Iceland are sometimes altered to prevent damaging the rocks where they are believed to live. According to these Icelandic folk beliefs, one should never throw stones because of the possibility of hitting the huldufólk.
Despite today’s globalized world of modern age technology and electronic media, there are ancient folklore beliefs that are alive and well in Iceland. Surveys show that more than half the nation believes in elves and ‘hidden people,’ or at least don’t deny their existence (It’s considered bad luck to do so!).
The Troll army in a souvenir shop
The only down side to the trip was that we couldn’t see the famous Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis can be seen in Iceland from October till March.. After learning of some reports of it being visible in some part of Iceland in mid of August, I was secretly praying in my mind that this spectacular natural phenomenon would put up a show on one of the clear nights when we were in Reykjavik! Very greedy of me indeed
There is an interesting piece of information which our tour guide shared with us about Northern Lights. Seems it is a major belief among Japanese and Chinese that a baby conceived under the Northern Lights will be blessed with very good fortune. So Iceland is one of the most sought after honeymoon destinations for newly wed Japanese and Chinese during the time of the year when Northern Lights are visible
Hope you enjoyed reading about my Icelandic Saga and the virtual tour of Iceland!
References & Additional Reading:
IT professional, currently on a break. mother of a cute & curios preschooler who juggles time between spending time with him and reading. Travel is my passion, which even my husband Sudhindra shares! Together, we have traveled to many off-beat and wonderful places like Norway, Iceland, Maldives, Bhutan and many more. Love writing about my travel sagas to help people experience the place virtually. Looking forward to leave our footprints on more and more places on this gorgeous planet, now joined by our little one 🙂
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