Every January, I have a chunk of time off during PLU’s “J-term” schedule where I’m not teaching any classes. For years, my parents have been talking about wanting to go to Iceland, so we planned a trip together with Jenn and Casey! We had a really wonderful time during our 10 days there.
Some of the things we learned:
- Travel in January isn’t bad (it could’ve been – but it wasn’t this time). My Southern-California friend Juliana laughed when I told her this, but the weather was “good” at mid-30’s to 40 F without snow or rain most of the time we were there! Traveling at this time had other perks, like no/few lines at touristy spots, plenty of places to stay, and cheap flights!
- There are many, many hot springs in Iceland. We visited the famous Blue Lagoon and had a great time there; we also visited another more rural natural spa further north and had an equally great time for a lot less money!
Some of the highlights (I’ll try to organize these in line with the photos):
- Beautiful paper village displays in Reykjavik airport.
- Hofoi House: built in 1909 and one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Iceland. It was originally a French embassy, and also the site of the meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that marked the end of the Cold War.
- Grotta Island Lighthouse.
- Listvinafelag Hallgrimskirkju: uniquely architectural church.
- Christmas decor: Christmas is a huge deal in Iceland! There are decorations up for months beforehand and weeks afterwards! Beautiful paper lanterns, string lights, Advent candles, etc. up in every window, and Christmas trees strung up on the sides of buildings. They also have fireworks celebrating the 12th night of Christmas.
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
- Little details you see popping up again and again – horseshoes above doors for good luck, and black ravens, also for good luck.
- Rutshellir: one of 200 little man-made caves used to store produce (this one was for hay) throughout Iceland.
- Skogafoss waterfall (Iceland is the land of waterfalls!).
- Mom’s tacos. Food is VERY expensive in Iceland. It’s common place for people to pay $40/person at an average restaurant, not including appetizers/desserts/etc. We bought all of our food at the public market there called “Bonus” and made our own!
- The little coastal town of Vik with the often-photographed red-roofed church.
- Skaftafell glacier – this was so stunning. We got there just as the sun was rising and it was breathtaking.
- Fjallsarlon glacier – the largest glacier in Europe. Can you see Casey in this picture?
- Skalholt Cathedral – a pretty Lutheran church in Selfoss.
- Kerid – a volcanic crater along the Golden Circle. We wouldn’t recommend seeing this one in winter – it was $30 to get in, and wasn’t too exciting frozen over.
- Geysers in Geysir – we learned this is where that word originated!
- I love Icelandic fashion! Lots of cool, muted colors in wools, linens, etc. So cozy.
- Gulfoss waterfall – also part of the Golden Circle.
- We had fun sampling and purchasing some goodies at OmNom chocolate factory. We tried different raw cocoa beans from different areas – Aaron’s favorite treat was a chocolate/licorice malt ball which we learned is one of the most popular flavors in Iceland.
- Beautiful storefronts.
- Translations – Icelandic is definitely the first language there!
- Perlan glacier museum – this had all kinds of fun, interactive displays and information sessions.
- I didn’t get any pictures of this, but the Icelandic horses were pretty much the cutest. Very furry, and with such a funny prance as they walk.
We weren’t able to see the Northern Lights, which was the only big disappointment of our trip. We stayed up several nights and were checking the hourly predictor-map – it has a cool numbering system that tells you how likely you are to see the lights from different places in the country, but with no luck!