Iceland: A Descriptive Essay

Iceland: A Descriptive Essay
My friend Josh and I didn?t say much as we loaded our luggage into the rental car at Keflavik Airport. We?d just landed in Iceland, and already we were silenced by the landscape. ?It looks even more amazing in person!,? Josh said as we took it all in.

Since we met during at a gathering at an old friends? house, Josh and I had dreamed to traveled extensively through the world together, from the canals of Venice and Amsterdam to the mountains of Austria and Italy, but Iceland was our main place of excitement to visit.
The surrounding lava field resembled something you would only see you in your wildest dreams, with huge moss-covered rocks haphazardly compiled on the ground, and funnels of steam rising to meet low-lying gray clouds in the distance. It was a formidable and alien landscape with no trees, no grass and no shrubs. We?d heard that Iceland was nothing like the other landscapes God has provided for us, and now we could see why.

With the suspiciously simple verbal directions given by the rental car clerk, ?Just follow the road to Reykjavik.? The clerk wasn?t kidding, there was literally one road out of the parking lot with a sign pointing to Reykjavik. Despite the barren landscape of volcanic rock that welcomed us, we were already warming to Iceland.

Iceland has the reputation of being a remote country, but it?s actually North America?s closest European neighbor, located relatively halfway between the U.K. and the U.S. There are many misconceptions about Iceland, and surely the name of the country doesn?t help any. Far from freezing or being covered in ice, Iceland has a relatively medium climate, averaging 60 degrees in the summer and 32 in the winter. We were visiting in April, and the temperature during our stay was around 40 degrees, requiring a winter wear, but far from scarf and gloves-weather.

Jumping on the tourist bandwagon, our first trip was to Iceland?s largest tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon. The directions we received from our hotel?s keeper sounded vaguely familiar, ?Follow signs for ?The Blue Lagoon.?? We drove through grisly lava fields but were getting closer to the wisps of rising steam we had seen from the airport. Suddenly the Blue Lagoon appeared, providing a visual thrill of electric sky-blue water in dramatic contrast with the surrounding black craggy lava hills. If the moon had lakes, I imagine they would look like the Blue Lagoon.

Soaking and swimming in the lagoon for hours on end was an experience all its own. The air was a crisp 40 degrees, the water of the Blue Lagoon was 100 degrees. The steaming water was incredibly relaxing, and packed with mineral salts, silica and algae that are supposedly responsible for its famous healing powers. You won?t find any native Icelanders here, they prefer to hang out in Reykjavik?s seven other geothermal swimming pools.

Thoroughly relaxed and rested after the lagoon, Josh and I were ready to do some sightseeing. We opted to take a self-navigated Golden Circle tour, which showcases many of Iceland?s best known natural wonders in the southwest. The scenery changed dramatically as we drove along with the audio tour. The lava fields gave way to a landscape resembling only pure beauty, green and rolling glacial valleys.

In all my years of dreaming, I?ve never seen an environment as diverse as Iceland?s with such beautiful, sparse, welcoming, frightening, tame and wild which was all there on this tiny island.

Small cottages and farms were spread through out the vivid valley, and herds of little stumpy Viking horses would occasionally cross the street. We soon reached our first stop at Kerio, a volcano that imploded over 7,000 years ago, forming a crater that now has a lake in it. The water doesn?t drain, but instead changes in depth only from precipitation. The water was the color of a green-blue Crayola crayon, and the sloping side of the crater was like old maroon, dotted with dark green foliage. I never knew a crater could be so beautiful.

The next big stop of the Golden Circle tour was Geysir, the place where the word ?geyser? originated. Every six to eight minutes, a geyser named Strokur erupts, spewing boiling water 20 meters into the calm air. That was an incredible experience as I?d never seen a geyser in action before. Josh had the pleasure to have visited Yellowstone National Park, and he felt that even though Old Faithful reaches higher, Strokur wasn?t even able to be described in words.

I was surprised at first to see no guardrails anywhere, just small signs reminding visitors of the obvious need to stand back from the geysers. Iceland, especially the parts that aren?t frequented by tourists, is truly an ?At Your Own Risk? country. You can walk right up to a geyser, swim under a waterfall, scramble up a mountainside and nobody will stop you. Granted, it may be the last thing you?ll ever do, but those with common sense can experience and enjoy the outdoors free from guardrails, velvet ropes, or glass barriers that you might encounter somewhere else in America.

After we were finished with Geysir, we arrived at the highlight of the Golden Circle Tour: Gulfoss, the Golden Waterfall. On a sunny day, rainbows form over the waterfall from the mist rising. Luckily for us, it was more than perfect outside and up above was the most ravishing rainbow any man could lay his eyes on, it was even more magnificent to watch the rushing water fall 100 feet into a mile and a half wide ravine. Once again, we were the only people there, free to watch for as long as we liked, free to stand as close as we felt was safe.

After all our sightseeing during the day, Josh and I made sure we hit the town once the sun set. As widely reported by others, the nightlife in Reykjavik is among Europe?s liveliest. There are more clubs, bars and cafés in Reykjavik than any city I?ve ever visited, and our favorites were Solon, Kaffibarinn, and Nelly?s. There was no drinking age so we helped ourselves to some hefty drinks (of course keeping the consumption of alcohol reasonable).

Many of the descriptions I?d heard about Reykjavik nightlife made it sound a little intimidating, describing it as some high fashion, techno-party parade led by gorgeous Nordic girls, but I didn?t find this was the case at all. Everyone was just out for a good time, and Josh and I fit in just fine. Not that there weren?t plenty of gorgeous, well-dressed blondes all around.

It was in the cities cafés and bars that we met many native Icelanders who all speak English as well as Icelandic and Dutch which was a big help to use since we knew no Icelandic. Cordial and fun loving, they are also socially, culturally, and politically aware. Everyone Josh and I met was interested in hearing about America and how American?s perceived Iceland.

Icelanders are also perhaps some of the friendliest people on earth. More than once, we were approached by Icelanders who recognized us as tourists, as we took pictures and looked at maps, and wished us an enjoyable stay. When we went out to bars, we?d see more kisses and hugs than at a family reunion. I think Josh summed it up best when she said, ?Visiting Iceland is like coming over to see 500,000 of your best friends.?

Our trip was coming to an end, but neither of us was ready to leave at all. We had packed our days with sightseeing, but there was still so much more of Iceland?s unique terrain that we wanted to see. We had a stack of email addresses and cell phone numbers from Icelanders we had met out in Reykjavik, and we felt like we were leaving a group of friends which was the only sad part of Iceland.

Five days were simply not enough to spend in this wondrous, delightful, and vivid country. On our last day, we reluctantly drove our little rental car back to the airport in Keflavik, this time more talkative then ever discussing our next trip to wondeful land of Iceland.

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