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December 13, 2012

My dream vacation in the land of ice and fire

December 13, 2012

I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland.

Yep, Iceland.

Maybe it stems from a brief Bjork obsession I had in college. She’s just so cute, like a loud, strange kitten. In fact, I’m listening to Bjork right now, as I type this riveting blog.

I’m going to share with you, oh followers of ThinkKit, my dream trip to the land of ice and fire!

The trip begins, as one might expect, in Iceland’s capitol city, Reykjavik. By most standards, Reykjavik isn’t a large city, at just more than 200,000 in the metro area. That said, it has plenty to appreciate, particularly if you like water, urban culture and Viking history. I happen to like all three!

While in Reykjavik, I’d be sure to hit a number of the spas. The idea of using geothermal heating (you know, like steam from active volcanoes!) is just mind blowing to me. I need to be as close as I possibly can to a volcano, end of story. Besides, who doesn’t like a good massage? I'd also need to sample the nightlife, which is reported to be quite extensive. More than either of those things, however, I always love to get a close look at local art. There is no better way to appreciate a culture than to sample its art and architecture. Reykjavik has both. Chances are I could do just about everything I want in this bustling metropolis in just a couple of days, then it’s on to the wilderness.

The real reason to hit Iceland is to experience nature. People create a lot of very cool, even inspiring, things.And while much of what we create is quite wonderful, there is nothing as awe-inspiring as natural beauty. I’ve only had awe-inspiring experiences twice in my life, once while hiking the Grand Canyon, and the other while hiking the rim of Yosemite Valley. Truly unbelievable stuff. Iceland is renowned for its combination of staggeringly beautiful earthly features. Very few places give you the opportunity to experience glaciers, geysers, winding rivers, waterfalls, beaches, whales and volcanoes (I have a mild obsession with volcanoes, as well, in case that hadn’t become obvious yet) in such close proximity to one another.

I want to have my mind blown by Iceland’s natural beauty.

From Reykjavik I’d head out to sea to spend a day whale watching. Honestly, the very idea of the ocean, or any very large body of water, frightens me. I think I have a phobia of “big water.” There is so much out there that you just can’t see. I mean shoot, a whale could swallow me whole (completely by accident) and I’d never see it coming! Think about it… it’s scary! But, I’ve never seen a whale, and I’m traveling to Iceland for adventure. There’s nothing more adventurous than tackling your own fears, right?

My next adventure in Of Monsters and Men's homeland would be in Vatnajokull National Park. Talk about a culture that respects nature, this fantastic park covers more than 10 percent of the entire country! More than that, however, is the remarkable diversity of amazing things to see and do. It is here that I'd be most likely to experience a volcano, specifically Askja. I might even be able to take a dip in the small lake in the Askja's crater, which seems like a pretty unique experience to me. After Askja, I'd hike along the glacier laden trails of Skaftafell, where the dramatic landscape has everything from dense forest to rushing rivers to frozen waterfalls. 

I'm sure that after the five or so days of hiking that Vatnajokull would take, I'd be plenty tired and ready to relax some more. This final leg of the Icelandic adventure would be all about experiencing the local culture by embedding myself in a small town. There are numerous villages where tourists rent summer cottages by the week. For my part, I'd love to settle in to a small farming village, somewhere that I could do some light hiking, wildlife watching, and of course, sampling of local fare.

Beer just got legalized in Iceland in 1989, but it has quickly become one of the country's favorite refreshments. I'd love to sample some locally brewed beer while eating fresh Icelandic fish and rugbraud, which is bread that is cooked by being buried underground near hot springs.

Well, that's how I'd end it, hopefully with a belly full of beer, bread and fish, a good book in my hand, a rugged glacier in the distance, and my feet soaking in a geothermal pool. Now I just have to talk my wife into going north for a vacation!

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