By Judy Berland
Everyone often uses the phrase “a trip of a lifetime.” For my husband Rick and I, our recent trip to Iceland was surely that. We worked with Liz Matassa at Pique Travel to plan this two-week adventure in September. It was a perfect blend of activity and relaxation, filled with amazing scenery, great history/culture and foods that could satisfy most any palette (the lamb soup was exceptional and perhaps my favorite!).
We started our journey with a direct flight on Icelandair from Minneapolis. The fact that you can get to Reykjavik in six hours makes this a relatively easy destination to get to (this was our second trip there). With the time change (they’re five hours ahead), we landed in the morning and had our entire day ahead of us.
We spent that first day on our own, walking around the city. Reykjavik is a truly beautiful city, located on the water. Its residents are friendly and welcoming, and the sites are a unique mix of old and modern. One of our favorite sites was the Music Hall, as well as the church (where we were treated to an organ concert).
The following day Liz arranged a full-day tour Kjolur Mountain Road and Skagafjordur. It took us on a drive to the North through the highlands and the middle of Iceland. The terrain was stark – black mountainous desert, yet beautiful. We stopped along the way at Hveravellir, a geothermal area where we sat in the natural hot springs.
We spent part of the next day in Skagafjordur, an agricultural area of Iceland that literally has more horses than people. In fact, we stopped at a local horse ranch and was able to interact and ride the well-known Icelandic Horse (the horses are known for their unique gait and are smaller in stature than many other breeds). We were hesitant to ride at first, but this became one of the highlights of our entire trip. The rest of the day was spent exploring the breathtaking fjords along our drive to Myvatn, another natural springs area.
The next several days we continued experiencing the North witnessing otherworldly landscapes, sputtering mudpots, crazy lava formations, volcano craters, great bird watching and more. We toured the quaint town of Akureyri, often called the capital of the North, before heading back to Reykjavik.
Another element that we love about Iceland, that we wonder if many people realize, is that it’s a great stopover spot for many parts of Europe (especially Scandanavia, the UK and other regions). We added another week to our trip and flew over to Scotland, which could be an entirely separate article! (Highlights included a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train, a ferry to Isle of Skye, a visit to the town of Loch Ness, a night at Fonab Castle and much more!)
To us, Iceland is an amazing and surprisingly accessible destination. Both the southern circle and the northern routes are delightful to see, with many unique experiences to be had along the way. The volcanoes are truly amazing, and we saw them both by helicopter and by hiking. The waterfalls are among the best in the world with rainbows arising every few minutes over the water. So, next time you head to the northern regions of Europe, consider a stopover in Iceland (or a trip there on its own!). It’s worth every minute!
If you’d like to learn more about Iceland, email Liz at LizM@PiqueTravel.com.