My first ever trip abroad was a week long holiday to Iceland with my parents. I know, I said the first trip I planned was my Thailand adventure, which is very true. My mum and dad didn’t think a fifteen hour flight with a stopover in Oslo should have been my first experience of flying, so they took me to Iceland beforehand. I certainly wasn’t complaining.
I think it was a good decision, as Iceland is the perfect destination for first time travellers. It’s got a relatively small and friendly population and Reykjavik is a charming and delightful city. Seriously, the country is just so joyful to wander around! Most of the little concrete buildings are painted bright colours, because unlike us Icelanders aren’t willing to live in a grey purgatory, and you get little corrugated iron shacks tucked into corner. My dream home would be something just a little bit unusual or quaint, it doesn’t have to be much. The houses of Iceland fit the bill nicely.
Of course, it’s breath taking geology is Iceland’s main draw. The geothermal activity, geysers, hot spas, volcanoes and glaciers are all as incredible as they seem in the pictures. I will say that you need to be a confident driver to visit Iceland, as the population is so concentrated that you have to drive to get to most of the natural wonders. They also drive on the other side of the road, but luckily there’s really only one main road that goes around the whole island so I think that navigating is fairly simple.
When I first arrived there was ash still coating the land from when the Eyjafjalla Glacier erupted, the jet black lines of the explosion still visible. I was attacked by Strokkur, a nefarious natural fountain geyser that lures you into a false sense of security before exploding right when the wind is blowing in your direction and I even spotted seals having fun amongst the huge chunks of ice while visiting the glacial lake.
It’s such an alien landscape unlike ours, which is old and smoothed over by hundreds of thousands of years of weathering. It’s been millions of years since we saw any volcanic activity whereas Iceland is sharp and rugged, newly broken. The flat land is covered in boulders and rocks thrown out by various volcanic eruptions over the years; moss grows over it in the summer, creating an expanse of soft green fields you drive through without ever touching them. The Icelandic government protects its unique environment with a respect we can all learn from; it’s their main tourist attraction after all.
Part of me regrets that it’s becoming so popular with more and more visitors pouring in each year. If everyone was as respectful of and awed by the natural landscape as I and my parents are then it wouldn’t be a problem, but walking around the glacial lake last year was made slightly less pleasant by the bits of garbage and cigarette butts just chucked around it. Natural landscapes are beautiful parts of the world that we should nurture, cultivate and never take for granted. And in turn should forever be respected as such.