Iceland in Winter

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, my first thought was “I dreamed a friend and I went to Iceland for 5 days.” Then I remembered that we had actually done the trip; it was not a dream, but a dream come true.

The dream actually started more than a year ago when we had seen an Icelandair ad for some low-cost package tours to Iceland to see the northern lights. We weren’t able to get in on the action last year, but when the deal popped up again this year, we decided to go for it!

Here are a few random observations and photos from the trip:

1. I will (hopefully) no longer fuss about the short days in Minnesota during the winter. In Reykjavik in December, the sun rises around 11:15 and sets around 3:15. The twilights preceding those two events, however, are long (and gorgeous), which meant we had a little more than 6 hours of daylight in which to do our sightseeing. It did make for some great lighting, however.

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2.  There are no words to describe the beauty of the northern lights, and photographing them is extremely difficult. This is especially true if you are on the deck of a moving boat. It’s blurry, I know, but here’s proof that we saw them.

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3.  Our trip to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa was on a cold evening, so we floated and bobbed around in a thick cloud of steam. I’m sure the water was blue, but we had no way of seeing that. Watching heads emerging and disappearing in the steam made me think we were on the set of Gorillas in the Mist.

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4.  If you love trees, you might find Iceland hard to appreciate. My mom is a tree-lover, and all she could say when I was telling her about the trip was “No trees? How can a place with no trees be beautiful?” Trust me; it is!

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5.  In a city known for its hard-partying and world-class drinking, here’s what our night out on the town looked like:

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6.  How’s this for the perfect rental car?

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7.  There is something mildly appealing about a country that doesn’t have Starbucks and MacDonald’s.

8.  In 2008, the economy of Iceland, which was based on financial services, collapsed. They are rebuilding it on tourism. I say “hat’s off” to the Iceland Tourism Bureau, because in the middle of December there were tourists everywhere. And from everywhere. In fact, at each place we visited, we stumbled across a bus load of tourists from China!

And finally, here are a couple more of my favorite photos:

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Go here to see more photos on my Flickr page.

And I was right about one thing this might do — whet my appetite for a longer visit. In the summer.

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