Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice (and romance too!)

PROLOGUE TO PARADISE

Returning from Iceland has rendered me in a place that is exceedingly rare for me…at a loss for words. This otherworldly island in the middle of the sea was so spectacular, I find myself searching my mental thesaurus for the words to describe it and find myself coming up short. It seems almost too cliché to call it “the trip of a lifetime,” but I truly cannot think of any other way to characterize it.

Our journey to Iceland did not begin as most of our travels do – weighing options on our bucket list and researching things to do. In fact, while Iceland had long been on our radar, it was not even at the top of our list. In my mind, Iceland always felt far away and so cold. Whenever we had considered it in the past, it always seemed to fall secondary to warmer European destinations. Thankfully, this trip was dreamed up by others who invited us on their adventure and proved to us that everything we thought about Iceland was wrong and that this was truly place that exceeded our wildest expectations.

Although this blog is generally dedicated to retellings of my travels, this one cannot be told properly without first introducing the people who led us there. Our trip to Iceland was catalyzed by two of the most important people in our lives: Dan and Liz. Since the day we met these two, we have been inseparable and our lives became intertwined in the best ways. Almost naturally, they merged into our extended families, who fell in love with them as quickly as we did. And in turn. they brought us into the fold of their friends and family – who have turned out to be some of the best people we’ve ever known. Dan and Liz have this incredible and infectious zest for life. They’re the ultimate pair who make the most of every day with seemingly endless energy and a social calendar that would overwhelm most. Wherever they go, they bring light to the room and fun is sure to follow. Being the kind of people they are, it came as no surprise to us that they selected one of the most unique and epic places on the globe for their wedding. When Liz showed me the tiny Black Church pressed against the glittering glacial background of the Icelandic peninsula they had chosen as their venue – I knew without any reservations that this wedding and this trip would be something straight out of a dream. And I was right.

While we generally pride ourselves on our creating well-researched travel itineraries, I can take no credit for this trip. Dan and Liz meticulously planned every detail from the moment we walked off our flight, curating a week that was not just a beautiful ceremony or event…but a fully immersive experience for every one of the 16 guests who they brought along for the ride. As a result, this was not only the most beautiful wedding I have ever witnessed, but the best group travel experience of my life and one of the adventures that will live in my memory for a lifetime.

Within minutes of arriving, the infectious vibe of our travel group manifested into a never-ending flow of cocktails and bursts of laughter that would endure the entire trip. The thousands of photos taken on this journey would be outnumbered only by the number of inside jokes that would evolve over our week together. Admittedly, I had always felt hesitant to travel with big groups because of the stress that can accompany so many different personalities and needs. Luckily, Dan and Liz seem to attract likeminded people who share their easygoing and fun nature. Somehow this group didn’t feel large, but more like a group of best friends or family who complimented each other perfectly. It would become a common theme that the amazement of the destinations we visited was only amplified by the company of our fellow travelers – who were the perfect people endeavor this adventure together.

KICKOFF IN REYKJAVIK

Our epic adventure began and ended in Reykjavik. The first pleasant surprise of the trip was that the journey there was incredibly easy. It almost felt implausible that just a 4.5 hour flight from New York can transport you to a place that feels like the topography another planet. Reykjavík is a small city that packs a serious punch of charm. I was immediately taken by the stunning minimalistic architecture, sparkling clean streets, and painstakingly organized infrastructure that felt exactly like what an idyllic Scandinavian country should be. The crisp air was the freshest that had ever filled my lungs. The streets were pained with rainbow colors and lined with inviting coffee shops and cozy restaurants with no commercial businesses to be seen. The clean lines and bold colors of the buildings contrasted perfectly with the shorelines and snowcapped mountains on the horizon in every direction you looked. It made sense why the residents of this city all seemed so tranquil and friendly.

There is no denying that tourism is the primary industry of this country, but somehow the city didn’t feel touristy. Unlike the bustling sights of most European cities, the many visitors seemed more polite and reserved, blending almost naturally with the locals. This resulted in a more authentic sense of belonging – even to those like us who could not have come from a more contrasting homeland.

On our first days in Reykjavik, any jet lag we may have otherwise felt was obliviated by the electric energy of our group finally meeting up for the first time to embark on this journey we had been looking forward to (and buzzing about in our group chats) for months. We checked in and took to the streets of this pedestrian-friendly city, peeking in cafes landing ourselves in several cozy local eateries and bars where we spent hours drinking champagne and digging into the family style dishes which – by the group consensus – was a menagerie of some of the best fish they’d ever had.

As subdued and polite as Reykjavik was by day, I was pleased to discovery that the Icelandic people are more boisterous than you may expect by night. After our fill of homey Nordic food and day drinking, our evenings transitioned to swanky cocktail lounges an exceptional dinners at upscale locations. This led me to my next surprising revelation of the trip: Iceland is a gastronomic oasis. While I’m not a picky eater per se, I’m generally not a huge fan of seafood – so I went in with no expectations of being blown away by the culinary offerings. Luckily for my taste buds (and perhaps unfortunately for my waistline) the food was unique and spectacular virtually everywhere we ate.    Aside from the food, perhaps my favorite moment in Reykjavik was our final night before trekking into wild when we ended in the attack of the Lebowski Bar; a quirky and eclectic cocktail hideaway in the heart of the city which oddly enough was themed around the Big Lebowski.  I was initially caught off-guard by the menu exclusively comprised of wild variations of white Russians, but quickly lost count of the whimsical coco-puff cocktails and espresso martinis we consumed. Before long, our group readily assumed the role of “life of the party” with blaring 80s music rolling into the late hours of the night and ending with a blurry memory of the groom performing a truly unique rendition of the YMCA from atop a table. It was safe to assume this trip was off to a great start.

BLUE LAGOON

I can credit only the refreshing Iceland air for the miracle of waking up without much of hangover on the mornings following our vivacious social outings. After a whirlwind introduction to the capital city, we packed up into our SUVs and the convoy was off to the next destination. After a quick drive, we arrived at the Silica Hotel. This small and exclusive boutique hotel is the on-site accommodation for the famed Blue Lagoon. As we walked into the lobby, I was taken aback by the sheer beautiful and incredible luxury of this place. The hotel had its own private “blue lagoon” of serene cerulean waters which were visible from almost every angle through the floor to ceiling windows of the hotel. The common areas looked like something straight from an interior design magazine with glass fireplaces scattered about and enclaves of seating with fluffy blankets where you could sit in robes and gaze out over the lagoon and rocky landscape beyond.

The Blue Lagoon itself is unquestionably the most known attraction in Iceland, and was expectedly filled with thousands of visitors from across the world. In stark contrast, our on-site hotel just a short walk away was a peaceful and quiet oasis. Our group took up about 75% of all the rooms in the hotel, which made me feel sympathy for the small number of unknowing guests expecting a spa experience and wholly unaware that they would be joined by our vibrant (and often loud) group of Americans. After checking into the hotel and enjoying an expansive breakfast spread, we were given our wristbands which were our “all access keys” to the entire resort complex. We slid into our bathing suits and headed off to the main facility of the Blue Lagoon. After showering and ditching our robes, we descended down the stairs into the almost impossibly large and inviting waters of the lagoon.

Being one of the most publicized travel destinations on social media, the Blue Lagoon was one of those places that I feared would be marred by high expectations. I wondered, “would it be as beautiful in real life as the edited photos of influencers made it seem?” I’m happy to report that the Blue Lagoon, while busy, was just as impressive as I had hoped. The waters, although slightly less blue than they appeared in highly-saturated photos, was a gorgeous milky turquois hue. Famed for its healing properties, the perfectly warm water was packed with minerals and felt almost silky on the skin. Although this was a very spa-like experience, our group would be sure that the day of soaking was not equally accompanied by flowing drinks from the swim up bars. Between cold beers and great conversations in the lagoons, we enjoyed a full regiment of different colored clay masks to lather on. After my face had been slathered with lava scrub, silica clays, aloe moisturizers, and bothered in mineral waters, my skin truly felt the best it ever had.

We spent countless hours soaking in the huge lagoon and floating around to different areas to find the pockets of even hotter thermal water emanating from the spring 2000 km beneath the earth. The lagoon also had swim-up saunas and steam rooms to round out the experience. Between soaking in the medicinal waters and drinking so much wine, we returned to our hotel and I fell easily into one of the deepest and most rejuvenating naps of my life to refresh before dinner.

We slipped into semi-formal dress and returned to lagoon for the exceptional private dinner Dan and Liz had planned at Lava Restaurant. Each course of the pre-fixe menu seemed to top the last. After devouring our incredible meal, we were the only remaining guests in the restaurant, although we had no intention of leaving. As the Blue Lagoon closed, we were able to enjoy the rare sight of one of the 25 wonders of the world by night and completely empty from the dining room views. Although temperature was dropping outside, we felt warmed from the inside out from our wine buzzes as we reveled in the scenery from behind the glass of our heated tablespace where we lingered for hours (likely at the dismay of the staff.)

I quickly learned is that it can be all too easy to lose track of the time in Iceland. The sun does not begin to set until about 11pm, so the “sunset” was only just settling in as we wrapped up our evenings and turning in to our hotels rooms around midnight or later each night. Daylight lasting nearly 18 hours has a funny way of tricking your natural circadian rhythm. We didn’t feel tried and almost didn’t register how late it was – which made for extremely long days and late nights which allowed us to pack an unthinkable amount of activity into each day. I can only assume this is why our trip felt like we had been removed from reality for weeks by the time we were done, even though it had only been a few days.

As we were wrapping up our blissful excursion at the Blue Lagoon and just before checking out of the Silica Hotel, I choose to savor the remaining quiet hours of the morning take a dip in the hotel’s private lagoon. It was perhaps even nicer than the renounced main Blue Lagoon with even hotter waters, complimentary floats, clay masks, and a floor of soft silica clay that rejuvenated my tired feet. It was a distinctly special experience, as I was the only person in the large lagoon for the entire time I soaked. I felt so fortunate for the personal experience of floating around in a state of ecstasy gazing out over the rocky lava landscape beyond where another person or building could not be seen for miles. While I was sad to leave this mythical place, my peaceful morning soak seemed like the most appropriate way to say goodbye.

HÓTEL BÚÐIR and THE PERFECT PENINSULA

Again, we headed out into the vast terrain driving several hours through perfectly maintained winding roads on our way to our next destination – the Hótel Búðir. This unique accommodation where the wedding was to occur was situated on the remote edge of the Snaefellsnes peninsula in the furthest reaches of western Iceland. This part of the island-state was among the most untouched locations I’ve ever been, sharing a coastline where the Greenland Sea met the North Atlantic protected by a ridge of mountains leading up to the Snæfellsjökull volcano that loomed in the distance.

I was tempted to sleep on our road trip, but I could never seem to peel my gaze from the windows as we passed by rolling hills with the greenest grass peppered with hundreds of grazing sheep. As we drove through real-life postcard scenery that was unlike any place I had ever been. The single road we traveled seemed to split the landscape in two; out one side was the foothills of rocky mountains and steep plateaus, while the other side was pressed against the gently lapping waves of the sea where wild horses ran along the shoreline. We hardly saw another car or human on the several hour trek, with the exception of a few hikers who stopped along the way to venture out into the wild. This was among the most special parts of Iceland. There were very few “tourist destinations” with lines or entry fees. The lure of this country was the entire terrain itself, which welcomed travelers to enjoy at their own leisure. Aside from small private farms, you could pull over virtually anywhere to explore as you desired.  We stopped frequently along the way to revel in this joy ourselves, making days of traveling feel just as enjoyable as the destinations themselves. The rolling hills transitioned into snow-capped mountains and glaciers as crept closer. As the iconic black church came into view, we knew we had reached our home for the next few days and the excitement of the coming events began to set in.

The Hótel Búðir is the boutique hotel accompanying the Black Church, and was a dream in itself. The grounds looked like an authentic but luxurious Nordic estate. The common areas of the hotel were intricately adorned with fireplaces, libraries, art, and intimate living rooms with velvet couches for congregating. The suites felt much more like guest rooms in a private estate than hotel rooms, They were each gorgeous, boasting different décor and features. We were lucky to have been assigned to a room on the top floor with a private balcony providing the best vantage point of the real showpiece of this accommodation: the views of the beaches and glaziers beyond. Again, our group took up almost the entire property, so it felt like a home-away-from-home that we had all to ourselves. The hotel was truly in the middle of nowhere, with no other homes or buildings within sight aside from the black church. The small staff, who each seemed to work almost every role, were incredibly attentive and kept us filled with incredible food and drinks at every hour.

On our first day, we took an afternoon to stretch our legs and acclimate a bit while exploring the immediate surroundings. We hiked up a mountain stream that led to a waterfall, Dani chased herd of unsuspected sheep through grassy fields, and we climbed down to the rocky beach at the foot of the hotel to get a lay of the land. The expansive landscapes and natural beauty left me in awe and allowed to immerse myself and disconnect from reality much more quickly that I usually do on vacations. After frocking through wild flowerbeds and dipping my toes in the (freezing) waters lapping the black sand beach, I soaked in the bathtub and cleaned up for the formal rehearsal dinner hosted in the dining area of our hotel.

Because most travelers in Iceland are equipped in Patagonia and hiking boots, it must have been an unusual sight for the staff as our group poured from their rooms and down the staircases in gowns worthy of a red carpet. Before dinner, we all grabbed graft cocktails from the small bar and headed outside to take photos in our formal wear. It was almost like the heavens knew what a special occasion this week was and treated us to the most spectacular sunset I had ever seen. As a local of Florida’s Gulf Coast (which hails itself as having best sunsets on the globe), my affirmation that this was the most impressive sunset I had ever seen is not the kind of praise I dole out lightly. On the ocean side, the sky was pastel with cotton candy swirls blending into the horizon. Then on the other side, it was like the sky exploded with the most vibrant shades of oranges and reds made even more striking against the jagged skyline of snowcapped mountains and glaciers beyond. It was almost a sensory overload to stand in one place where everywhere you looked seemed to be a completely different exhibition of spectacular colors and contrasts. We marveled at the sky taking pictures until the exposed skin beneath my minidress could not bear the biting chill any longer before heading in for our feast.

Our meal at the rehearsal dinner, much like the other food we had enjoyed in Iceland, was nothing sort of memorable. The dining room of our hotel was warm and inviting, with service on par with any Michelin-rated restaurant I’ve been. Rounds of succulent lamb, farm-fresh vegetables, ever-flowing red wine, and beautiful speeches from the bride and groom’s family made for a meal I won’t soon forget. After the dinner, we all settled into cozy corners of the fireside living spaces to sip nightcap cocktails and revel in conversation re-living our favorite moments from the trip so far.

AN OTHERWORLDLY WEDDING

I arose the day of the wedding with nearly the same degree of excited energy I felt the morning before my own nuptials. Dani and I enjoyed a quiet breakfast in the dining nook of the hotel and nestled on a large blanket atop the tall grass outside to drink in a moment of peace gazing at the herds of sheep and seaside below before the craziness of the day began. Soon after, I was banned from my own hotel suite as it was transformed into the groom and groomsmens’ quarters for the remainder of the day. I slipped into a robe and headed to the bride’s suite to commence a day of glam and preparation for the big moment. Thankfully, the environment of the suite was serene and relaxed in contrast to the nervous energy that most brides are known project on their wedding day. The hours slipped away as all the girls sat in the parlor of the suite listening to calm music, chatting, and sipping champagne as we took turns going back to let the beauty squad work their magic. When it finally came time for the bride to slip into her gown, the gravity of the moment all began to sink in. Liz – who is effortlessly beautiful and usually prefers the comforts of yoga pants and messy buns to dresses- looked like an image straight from a magazine in her glimmering couture dress. She slipped away for some epic photos with the groom before everyone reconvened for the main event that the entire trip had been culminating around.  

The weather could not have been more perfect for the occasion. The sun was glowing softly and it was unusually warm as we walked down the short path to the black church (which was a welcome surprise for the girls venturing outside in slinky eveningwear.) We filed into the chapel in pairs, which was so tiny it was almost completely filled by the time the 16 guests in our party took their seats. I’m not usually exceptionally sentimental and almost never cry for happy occasions, so I was shocked when my eyes immediately welled up as the doors of the church swung open to welcome the radiant bride. I looked to the groom standing at the precipice – who put any Tom Ford model to shame in his tailormade emerald velvet tuxedo- and his expression was pure adoration. I felt relieved as I scanned the rest of the guests and saw a sea of eyes equally as misty as my own. The ceremony was short and sweet, but there was something so intimate and special about witnessing this event from such an incredible destination in such a small chapel filled to the brim with people who genuinely loved these two and the bond they shared. I couldn’t help getting emotional at the opportunity to witness the moment and feel the romance that swelled through the room.

After a traditional exchange of vows, this couple was not going to let the moment end without a bang. The speakers boomed  as “Kickstart My Heart” echoed through the steeple as the bride and groom took hands and danced their way back down the aisle emanating pure joy. After nearly ruining my makeup with tears, it was well-needed comedic relief to see the expressions on the faces of the few travelers outside taking photographs of the famed church as the bride and groom ran through the doors followed closely by the rest of our group beaming from ear to ear. In this usually silent and virtually uninhabited place, it was clear that they were not expecting to hear blaring and explicit Motley Crew lyrics and a flurry of elated people cheering as they rushed out.

After the ceremony and still riding high on the wave of excitement, we returned to the hotel for a cocktail hour before entering the stunning private dining room the staff had set up. Perched on the top floor of the hotel, the massive windows provided incredible views as the backdrop for another awe-inspiring culinary experience. The courses were broken up with heartfelt dedications to the newlyweds and eruptions of laughter. Usually, by the time the dessert plates are polished clean, wedding guests know that evening is nearly complete. But our night was just beginning.

In the vast corner of Iceland, there wasn’t a location for nightlife within hundreds of miles – so the hotel created one for us. We followed the staff down a long path though dunes to an isolated section of beach where a roaring bonfire and coolers full of libations awaited us. We were so remote that there was no concern that our noise could disturb anyone aside from the unsuspecting sheep, so they supplied us with a massive speaker and turned over control of the music. The night quickly turned to a chaotic and amazing playlist of songs from every genre as guests called out their requests and we danced barefoot in the sand. It’s certainly not everyday that you see a bride who looks like a legitimate princess in a hand-beaded gown twirling around in the sand and throwing palates into a blazing fire. I lost count of the drinks and the hours as the celebration raged on. Its hard to say what time we left, but that I know that the sun did not set until at least midnight and we remained there several hours after darkness had totally set in and the last bit of wood was fed into the flames. When we walked back to the hotel on wobbly legs, I was not quite ready for the perfect night to end. The bride and I grabbed our friend (who was the only other last-standing girl) and laid in the grass pointing out constellations and planets lighting up the blackest sky until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. The evening was without a doubt the most unique I’d ever enjoyed and will certainly go down in history as one of the best parties of my life.

A POSH POSTGAME at THE REYKJAVIK EDITION

After a reasonably slow start to the next day, we packed back into our convoys and bid our farewells to the incredible Hótel Búðir which had provided us with the stay straight out of a dream. We arrived back to Reykjavik for a day of rest, but the Gutierrez’ weren’t going to let us spend a night without yet another unbelievable experience. Iceland’s capital city had only recently been graced with the opening of an Edition hotel. If you’ve never been, this exclusive collection of hotels is widely-known for the utmost luxury and sophistication for travelers and socialites alike. The gracious couple had arranged for a private party with exclusive use of the entire rooftop lounge and terrace of the Edition. Dressed in our “fierce casual” finest (an inside joke based upon the actual dress-code recommendation of the groom in their incredibly well-thought out itinerary) we kicked back in the lavishly adorned lounge as the staff endlessly circled through with different samplings of exotic bites. Of all the impressive food, I was most surprised to have loved eating reindeer (sorry Santa!)

Reykjavik did not disappoint with another epic sunset display that we used as a backdrop for photoshoots on the private terrace with views of the entire city and the seaport below. The bride again looked like a celebrity worthy of paparazzi in a white jumpsuit beneath a huge white fur. I had to include this outfit detail because it was particularly special for me. My Mom has a beloved and rare artic fox fur coat with a lot of sentimental value which has been in our family for decades, although it’s been tucked away in refrigerated storage due to the rare opportunities to show it off as a Floridian. My parents love this couple almost as much as we do, so my Mom realized what a perfect complement the white fur would be with wedding attire and insisted I bring it for her. She was absolutely stunning pairing the fur with her wedding dress and swanky nightclub attire, and it was so meaningful to me that my family got to contribute the bride’s “something borrowed” from thousands of miles away.

As the night wound down, we reluctantly peeled ourselves away from the opulence of our private evening in the Edition and opted for some much needed rest before another day packed with exploring.

ADVENTURING ALONG THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Thanks two great friends within the wedding party who had previously spent a good deal of time scoping out the best Iceland had to offer over previous trips, our roadmap to the next leg of our adventure was masterfully curated through the Golden Circle (which is the name given to the uninhabited travel of nature sites popular for tourists.) We started our day at the base of the foothills where a steep and winding trail greeted us. Thankfully, we had been well-informed of what to prepare and were told to bring hiking gear, water bottles, and bathing suits. I will admit I had no idea what to expect. We hiked further and further up the rocky path stopping frequently along the way to admire the views from higher vantage points and valleys below (and to make friends with the grazing sheep who allowed us to come surprisingly close.) The trailed passed several craters where plumes of geothermal steam erupted from earth from the volcanic activity beneath, which looked like something you would only expect to see on the terrain of Mars or in a sci-fi movie. After a week of little sleep and lots of indulging, my cardiac fitness was put to the test on the hike that turned out to be several hours of more rigor than I was expecting. However, when we finally reached the end of the path – the destination proved to be well worth the efforts to get there.

We found our place on wooden platforms lining the sides of a shallow river that cut through the mountains. The glacial air was brisk, which made me skeptical that I’d be able to endure it in a bikini as I stripped out of my North Face coat and layers beneath. My fears were dispelled as I dipped my toes in the thermal river, which was disarmingly warm. It certainly didn’t look to be so from afar, but the waters were hotter than any hot tub or bath I’ve been. The stream was about knee deep, and we all sat down to submerge ourselves as we popped open the champagne we each stowed in our backpacks. After a while, I was actually thankful for the cold air because the water was so hot it was a refreshing relief to alternate between siting on the ledge in the chilly breeze and plunging back into the flowing river as the hours passed before it was time for the trek back down.

Our most adventurous leg of the journey continued on as we drove on to a tour-de-Iceland of endless waterfalls. In almost any circumstance, waterfalls are impressive. But in Iceland, there were so many waterfalls within view at almost any given time on the drive that it was overwhelming. We stopped first at Seljalandsfoss, which was a series of three particularly massive waterfalls that looked like they were spilling from the heavens above. The misty air from the water pounding the rocks created a haze of rainbows, which was sight almost too perfect to be real. We zipped up our waterproof gear and hiked to a large plateaued pathway that spanned the length of the largest waterfall from behind, making for a viewpoint few get to enjoy. We hiked to the next waterfalls until the cultivation of the trifecta where the bravest of us (myself included, but Dani notably missing) jumped from bolder to bolder and trudged through the stream to actually go inside the waterfall.

The trio of water spectacles at Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúiwas were enough to enstill awe, but our tour was not complete yet. We journeyed on to Skogafoss, which is one of the biggest and most renowned of the waterfalls in Iceland. We marveled at the natural wonder until the mist started to seep through my waterproof coat and we headed back to dry off and continue on to the stunning conclusion of our waterfall-packed excursion of the Golden Circle.

Our day bursting at the seams with activity ended with at Ingólfsskáli; an authentic Viking restaurant in a moss covered dwelling that looked like a structure straight out of the Lord of the Rings. Inside, the rustic doors opened up to a massive wooden dining hall filled with long communal dining tables lit by a massive fireplace with glowing crimson lighting and the pounding drumbeat of eerie paean tribal music which gave off major “Red Wedding” vibes. I consider myself an enthusiast of Viking culture, having an add odd affinity for their incredible history and customs which has inspired me to devour every Viking show, documentary and podcast in existence. Because of my particular interest, this dining experience made me feel like a kid seeing Disney World for the first time. We drank beer from massive horns and ate our traditional Viking meals with rudimentary silverware typical of the time (and I will say that cutting a fire broiled steak with a hand carved spear was not the easiest task.)  It was an otherworldly evening that felt like we were transported in times to days dining in the presence of Eric the Red or Leif Erikksson. After testing all the authentic homespun dishes of Viking villagers of the past, the staff (who were allegedly descendants of Viking tribes and aptly dressed for the part) told tales of their heritage while leading us outside to teach us the ancient art of axe throwing. Axe throwing has recently become a popular in America, and I’ll admit that I’ve never really had an interest. But somehow learning from Vikings and trying it for the first time in the mountains of Iceland felt like a much more worthy experience. I can confidently say that I am hopeless at archery and axe throwing and would make for a less fierce shieldmaiden than I would have hoped, but the entire experience at Ingólfsskáli was unforgettable and a most fitting way to spend our last night in Iceland.

THE FAREWELL TO A NEWFOUND LOVE

After the non-stop activity that made this trip feel like we had been far removed from home for weeks longer than we actually were, we returned to Reykjavik for the final pitstop before leaving the Scandinavian wonderland behind. It was bittersweet as we hugged our traveling companions goodbye and prepared to depart into our next country. Because of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences we shared together, we all went to Iceland calling this group of people friends, but left feeling like we were saying goodbye to family. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that Dan and Liz included us in this extraordinary expedition and allowed us to share in their most special day. I was sad to leave, but so thankful for the unbelievably journey getting acquainted with such a mystical county unlike anywhere I had even imagined before.

After leaving and resonating on the trip, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Iceland should be on everyone’s list. If you enjoy adventure, hospitality, great food, and wild and unspoiled natural landscapes…I can’t imagine a more perfect place to experience it all than in the land of fire and ice.

Iceland, I can promise that you have not seen the last of us!

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