Our flight to Húsavík is late. There’s a little snowstorm in Reykjavík, maybe that’s the reason for this delay. While we’re waiting, Giuditta and I have all the time to keep on surprising on how here things are informal, sometimes even too much. We’re holding our tickets and they seem more like sales receipts than flight tickets or boarding cards. On them, our names are written in a very singular way: ‘Fransisco Ferin’ and ‘Giulitta D’.
Probably there was a misunderstanding in the spelling of our names when I booked the flight by phone, some weeks ago. They told me that if there had been any mistake, it would have been corrected at the airport, on the day of the flight… in other words, today. Thing is, we check-in but nobody asks us to show our documents. They embark our luggage and nobody asks for documents. When the moment comes to get on the plane, after the weather gets better, nobody asks for documents. Nor our luggage is inspected. What gets closer to an inspection is when a guy asks: “Are you going to Húsavík?”
We answer yes and embark. We’re a bit incredulous. And rebaptized.
Our destination is just 40 minutes away. Húsavík is the town where we already lived for three months last summer. A small town of 2300 inhabitants, squeezed between the mountain in its back, the Húsavíkurfjall, and the sea on the other side, located on the eastern-shore of Skjálfandi bay, just few tens of kilometers from the Arctic Circle. A town which it’s easy, very easy indeed, to fall in love with.
However, I’m sure we’re gonna find a different town this time. In place of the surreal midnight sunset there are gonna be the magic northen lights. The hill behind the city it’s not going to be green and violet with grass and flowers, but all covered in snow. Most of our friends and of the people we met this summer are not gonna be there. Andri, Einar and Þórdís live in Reykjavík now, and like them many others, Icelanders and other people from all over Europe, were in Húsavík just for the summer. The town, surprisingly dynamic and active during the hot season, will probably be asleep under a cover of ice now. The hiss of the wind and the dull sound of footprints on the snow will be the only audible noises walking through the empty streets.
In the meantime, during the flights the turbulences carry on. It couldn’t be otherwise considering the weather and the size of the plane, an aircraft with no more than 20 seats, in which I need to bend my back while I walk through the corridor to not bump my head. I need around 30 minutes to understand that the never ending whiteness I see from my window is not due to the clouds but to the snow that covers everything. We’re flying just some hundreds meters from the ground. The flight takes a bit longer than what was scheduled. We land in Húsavík around 3 p.m. The Sun has already set.
It’s a spring day, year 1999, I’m not 12 yet. An insert of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera is there, on the sofa of my dining room. On the front page I see a wooden house, coloured in dark blue, with a red roof, which seems to be there by chance, on the heads of land that create innumerable small bays, where the bright yellow fishing boat ‘Glaður’ is docked, on a deep blue sea. If everything has its start at a precise moment, that day of the past millennium was, without me knowing it, the moment in which I fell in love with a magic land, Iceland.
Those pages, which had tied my heart, had stayed there for ten years, almost forgotten. Then, one day, by chance, I open that insert again and few weeks later I’m on an Icelandexpress flight. Next to me, Giuditta. We’re really excited. A land I imagine extreme and mignificient is waiting for us. I’ve had more then ten years to model this land in my head. A land covered in ice, cracked by always active volcanos and geysers erupting under your feet. A land beaten by an eternal wind, where women are all blonde and men show off the tipical viking beards and mustaches. Someone wearing the helmet with the two horns, maybe. A land with black bays and sheer cliffs on rough water, where tiny fishing boats are thrown in every direction while tens of whales are breaching and fishermen, calm and relaxed, are eating rotten shark and drinking Brennevin, the ‘black death’ liquor. A land flooded by green moss, inhabited by elves and trolls. A land that I’ve always dreamed to visit, and that now is there.
All of these have always been recurring thoughts at the beginning of every journey to Iceland. This time it’s not different. I’m at Reykiavík domestic airport, waiting for the flight to Húsavík. Near me there’s always Giuditta. We’re not excited like the first time. Many years have passed and 4 journeys made me understand how not exactly all of what I thought before was right. The feeling, however, is the same of the first time. It’s always seemed to me to have lived this land from a long time before I actually arrived here. Every new place has revealed to me with a disarming simplicity, as if I had always known it. Every time I come here, I almost feel like when I go back to my hometown, my Jesi.
Like last summer, this winter we’re gonna stay here for 3 months. It’s our fifth stay in Iceland, the second immobile journey. Again few kilometres from the North Pole, in the extreme North of the country. In Husavìk, the “house bay”. The home of the first inhabitants of the island. The most beautiful town in Iceland. A little bit our home.
Iceland is known as one of the most peaceful places on earth. Leading the way in terms of gender equality, Iceland’s liberal culture makes everything easy for solo woman travellers as well. Its flawless natural beauty, artistic culture, vibrant music scene and the hint of adventure lurking underneath it place it on the top of every globe-trotter’s list.
You don’t have to say that a travel break is what you crave for. Some may like it quiet and serene, but some of you might just have a taste for thrill-seeking.
Under-Water Adventure: Scuba Diving!
What the heck, right? Iceland and ocean-diving do not quite fit. But Silfra in Iceland is consistently listed as one of the top diving locations all over the world, and with good reason too. Wonderfully situated on a tectonic rift, the plates of which grow apart every year, divers have the liberty of floating between the cracks of both the American and Eurasian continents! That’s a pretty neat achievement in one dive. Also, the scenery underwater is quite unlike anywhere else. The crystal clear glacial waters will transfix you into a technicolor haze of its underwater topography
Anyone up for Descending into a Volcano?
Yes, you read that right. Going over and around volcanoes is too mainstream, and Iceland is all about transcending the common. Don’t worry. This is not a suicide mission. Thrihnukagigur Volcano is dormant. All that’s needed is a little bit of cash, energy and a winning attitude. It takes about 45 minutes to hike to the crater, after which you will take a cable lift 400 ft. Down to the magma chamber, and voila! You’re inside the beast. Explore away, mighty warriors.
Of Glaciers and Snowmobiling
Mystics call the Snæfellsjökull glacier a prominent centre of energy, and we are not arguing. When you go snow-mobiling along these parts, you begin to see why. Suit up, get set at the snow-line and go! Take your snowmobile racing along the endless ice-fields and enjoy the breathtaking view around you. Flying between ice mounds, you would feel transported to a different world. Once you’ve reached the summit at a whopping 4,800 ft. above sea level, there’ll be some major eye-candy out there. The entire Snæfellsnes Peninsula will unfurl like a beautiful scroll containing descriptive black sand beaches and gorgeous mountains.
Whale watching in Iceland is truly spectacular. Whales are mystical, curious and fascinating creatures and Reykjavik’s old harbour is brimming with them. Be enthralled at the sightings of minke and humpback whales, harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and various sea birds such as puffins, gannets, guillemots and other seasonal creatures.
Northern Lights Cruise
A brilliant phenomena are the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis and Iceland is just the place to see them. Make sure you choose a considerably “colder” day to go for one of these as that would ensure a clearer sky and thus, better sightings. Sounds like an experience right out of a fantasy movie!
The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon
Visit the famous geothermal spa Blue Lagoon. Drench yourself into rejuvenating waters and let tranquillity wash all over you. Go for a wonderful spa treatment or just stand under the calming waterfall. In the afternoon head on to the Golden Circle- a 300km round trip around nature! Witness the active Geysir, revel in the ferociousness of the Gulfoss Waterfall and visit Þingvellir National Park.
As a solo woman traveller, the number one tip would be to find other single women travellers like yourself, and tag along! In a place like Iceland, you are likely to find them.
Carry layers of clothes with you, even if travelling in summer, which is not exactly warm in Iceland. Carry woollens, mitts, warm shoes and water-proof clothing.
A few terms would come in handy:
Yes = Já
No = Nei
Thank you = Takk
You’re welcome = þú ert velkominn/Gerðu svo vel
Please = Vinsamlegast/Takk
Excuse me = Fyrirgefðu
Hello = Halló/Góðan daginn
Goodbye = Bless
Away from the hubbub of the hectic life you know and smack in the midst of nature is Iceland, waiting to be explored.
Dive into adventure and feel as far away from that work-desk as you want!
Iceland is not the usual travel destination: on this island half the way between Europe and North America, just below the Arctic Polar Circle, all natural elements coexist in perfect harmony. Geysers, volcanos, arctic storms, black sand beaches, midnight sun and aurora borealis… Iceland is the ideal destination for travellers looking for Nature’s highest expression, outdoor activities, but also for those looking for quite and relax.
My journey in Iceland started on a fishing boat in open sea, just out of Reykjavík Old Harbour. While I was waiting for sunset I gave a shot to open sea fishing, but with no much luck. The sunset was awesome, as for the fishes… well, luckily we had other means to feed ourselves.
From Reykjavík I moved further east and lodged in the wonderful Hotel Ranga, in the middle of nothing, with a stunning view from my room over Eyjafjallajökull glacier: an ideal spot to admire the aurora borealis during the freezing winter nights. There even is a special “night call” service in case the receptionist spots the aurora in the middle of the night.
For three days I tried myself in different activities, including a quod trip in Vatnsdalur Valley, an isolated land enriched by breathtaking sights, a four-hour ride through slopes, rivers, swamps, to finally get into cave and warm up around an improvised fireplace.
On a huge off-road vehicle – the wheels were taller than me – we arrived at the bottom of Eyjafjallajökull glacier, the one involved in the 2010 Eyjafjöll volcano eruption. The feeling was like being in a sci-fiction movie, surrounded by lunar landscapes. There was no trace of life forms, neither human nor animal. The only noise came from the wind and the glacier that, although unnoticed, is in perpetual movement.
To catch a full sight of Eyjafjallajökull – Europe’s largest glacier – there is nothing better than a tour by helicopter. It doesn’t come cheap but it’s fully worth it: flying over the huge glacier and arriving over the black sand coast and the rocky cliffs over the Atlantic Ocean is an unforgettable experience.
Renting a car, instead, is a great way to explore Iceland on the road: in two weeks you can cover the whole island’s perimeter along the legendary Highway One and check Iceland’s most charming spots. But don’t forget to pack up all the necessary gears: as for myself, I dug in millet’s and Blacks’ websites and found all I needed to stay warm outdoor, and a great North Face bag for my adventure travels.
My journey ended in spectacular way with two waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Gullfoss, two unmissable natural marvels: the perfect ending for such a great adventure.
In the Southern Lands – or Suðurland – one of Iceland’s eight regions, a small village called Vík í Mýrdal is located. As for the last statistics, the village counts 291 inhabitants.
There are not many highlights in the village itself, beside maybe a restaurant close to the service station – which is always full, being it the only one around – and a small white wooden church with red roof, a characteristic style for Iceland’s holy buildings. But Vík í Mýrdal’s strategic position along Road 1 (Hringvegur), at the feet of the glacier known as Mýrdalsjökull, make the village a necessary stop to visit the region’s natural attractions, as Dyrhólaey, Mount Reynisfjall and Reynishverfi‘s black beach.
Dyrhólaey is a promontory with steep walls, up to 115 metres high. Under this peninsula lies the huge lava arc its name comes from. On its top a lighthouse has been built in 1927 with the largest lens of all of Iceland’s lighthouses.
East of Vík í Mýrdal rises Mount Reynisfjall, about 340 metres, whose slopes end directly in the sea not far from Reynisdrangar, three basaltic rocks which are the remains of a larger coastline eroded by the Atlantic Ocean.
A more romantic explanation for these rocks is given by the legend of two giants who, trying to take ashore a ship at nighttime, have been caught by the early morning sunlight and transformed, along with the ship, in the rocks we see nowadays. The three of them have a name, which are: Skessudrangur, Langhamar and Landdrangur.
A small road starting from Vík í Mýrdal – not too hard to walk through – will get you on the top of the mountain to enjoy a fantastic view over the legendary rocks and Dyrhólaey promontory.
At the beginning of the mountain there are some basaltic columns shaped like an organ pipe which end at the black beach called Reynishverfi and form the large cave known as Hálsanefshellir, one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. The whole area is crowded by puffins in summertime and is therefore an interesting spot for birdwatchers.
Jökulsárlón is Europe’s largest glacial lake, an unmissable destination for any traveller in Iceland. It is located south from Vatnajökull glacier, about 80 kilometres from Höfn, if you are arriving from Reykjavik. At the beginning of summer, when the daylight is almost endless, the sun brightens the bay, making Jökulsárlón a huge water mirror and its quite waters strengthen the feeling of perfect simmetry.
Travelling on Highway 1 (Hringvegur) from Vík í Mýrdal you will find the lake on your left. Stop just after the bridge and enjoy the magnificent view over the bay, with the glacier in the background and its long tip diving in the water. For an unforgettable experience it is possible to take a trip on the amphibious boat which allows to slalom among the lake’s icebergs.
A local guide tells the visitors the lagoon’s history in perfect English, how it was created and a lot of interesting facts and figures. Every year almost 70.000 passengers take a Jokulsarlon EHF ticket – the company runs the sailing in the lagoon since over thirty years – and share this place’s incredible atmosphere.
I visited Jökulsárlón at the beginning of June, when Iceland is almost non stop under the sun rays. My opinion may be affected by the season I experienced, as it happens to all of us when visiting a new place. But in Iceland changes in weather conditions are truly remarkable. Locals use to say: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.”
During one week I had several sunny days moving abruptly to thin rain for a few hours, just to allow the sun back shortly afterwards. I loved these sudden changes in Iceland, its crazy weather is part of the country’s charm. Its an intrinsic feature, just as the unmoving silence, the moonlike volcanic landscapes and the Atlantic Puffins.
Talking about Jökulsárlón, another charming feature is its variability: I saw many pictures and every time the icebergs would form a different pattern, sometimes there are more of them, some others less, some times they are bigger, some others smaller. Every visit is a new discovery.
A reason more to get back in this wonderful country.