Iceland is for (Nature) Lovers

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A rugged island nation with 40,000 square miles of arctic fjords, boiling hot springs and stunning cliffs, Iceland offers spectacular scenery and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.

With only six days of vacation to spare, my boyfriend and I worried that we wouldn't have time to get a real sense of the country during our August trip. However, with some careful planning and a little luck, we saw and did a great deal.

Due to the cost and hassle of domestic flights within Iceland, we decided to stick to exploring the west side of the island. We flew into Reykjavik, the funky capital city, rented a 4x4 and headed north.

Since many sights are only accessible by unpaved roads, a four-wheel drive is necessary. We cruised around the Snæfellsnes peninsula, taking in the dramatic coastline on one side and the verdant, glacier-capped mountains on the other. Along the way, we stopped periodically to stroll the ancient lava fields and hike up volcanic craters.

A ferry took us from the peninsula to the sparsely inhabited West Fjords, where we explored the rugged beaches and came feet away from puffins nesting on the cliffs.

Circling back to Reykjavik, we encountered the only crowds we saw outside of the capital at the Thingvellir National Park. Lying at the boundary of two tectonic plates, the park boasts deep crevices filled with the impossibly clear fresh water that only frigid water temperatures can produce.

Visiting Iceland in the summer precluded seeing the famous Northern Lights. Still, after a long day’s adventuring, watching the sun drop behind a mountain at 11 p.m. from the porch of our grass-roofed wood cabin seemed like a perfect consolation prize.