If there are two things that I’m known for disliking while traveling, tourist traps and big crowds top the list. Perhaps that’s why Iceland appeals to me so much. Granted, no matter where you travel there will always be tour buses and little souvenirs. But Iceland offers so much more than the typical tourist hotspot. It’s a unique country where your breath will be taken away by the natural beauty. The culture and the people will charm you and you will leave unbelievably relaxed from bathing in the natural hot springs.
I visited Iceland for the first time nearly three years ago. It was my first solo trip and I knew Iceland was the perfect (and safest) place to visit alone. I took a bus tour around the Golden Circle, walked the streets of Reykjavík and visited the hot pots nightly. When I returned home to Canada, I knew another trip to Iceland was in order. I would often find myself daydreaming about Iceland and I would tell just about anyone who would listen to me how beautiful of a country Iceland is. But since it was my first solo trip, I realized I never allowed myself to fully stop and appreciate every unique detail. I was more worried about finding my way around Reykjavík and the proper showering etiquette at the public pools.
So this past September, I booked a plane ticket back to Reykjavík just four days in advance. This time around, I came armed with a list of everything I wanted to see and experience. I knew what to expect and what I loved—but I also knew what I had missed out on last time. Iceland’s natural wonders are a must-see and the only way to see them is by renting a car or taking a bus tour. Renting a car was an easy decision since it gave me the freedom to stop and take photos—but more importantly there was nothing but the open road, the ocean, lava fields and volcanoes in front of me to explore without anyone else around.
It is rare that my breath is taken away, but Iceland has that effect on me. I had been driving on the Ring Road from Reykjavík to Vík, excited to finally see the black sand beach with my own eyes. The rain was pouring down and the wind was howling. I parked the car and walked down the black sand to the ocean. A small group of people had congregated by the beach but they left soon after I arrived.
The freezing ocean sprayed up into my face and as I turned around to take in all that surrounded me, I realized I had the entire beach to myself. It was a moment I will never forget. The sense of experiencing something so enchantingly beautiful, fully alone is one that words can’t describe. The beach at Vík wasn’t a tourist trap nor were there throngs of tourists posing for photos or little souvenirs being sold. It was just the ocean, the howling wind and I.
Iceland will always be special to me. It is a country I associate with beauty and serenity. I came back to Canada feeling rejuvenated and full of new memories and stories to tell anyone who will listen. It’s a place that with just a short drive away from the city, you can get away from it all and are surrounded by nothing but beautiful scenery. To me, that is priceless.
Laura Nicholson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura is a recent journalism graduate from Ottawa, Canada. In her spare time, she enjoys planning her next trip along with her favorite travel companion, a gnome named Jerome. Laura loves getting lost in foreign countries and would travel everyday for the rest of her life if she could. She writes more about her travels at www.lauraandjerometakeeurope.com