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ICELAND - The land of Ice and Fire

My short trip to Iceland last year and one of the most impressive place i have ever been.

By Phạm Thái DươngPublished about a month ago 5 min read
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Room view at Blue Lagoon

Iceland is a Nordic island nation located on the Atlantic volcanic belt. Known as a destination primarily for adventurous and thrill-seeking travelers, it is gradually becoming more accessible for a wider range of visitors. With a population of just over 350,000 people, one can easily sense a peaceful atmosphere here. Translated to Vietnamese as "Băng Đảo" (Ice Island), its cold climate is offset by an abundance of naturally warm geothermal springs. This is why people often refer to it as the "land of fire and ice."

This country has been a source of inspiration and a natural film set for many blockbuster movies such as "Interstellar," "Thor 2," "Star Wars," and "Game of Thrones." This allure prompted a travel enthusiast and cinema lover like me to experience this famous island with its harsh nature yet breathtaking scenery that many people long to see in person.

The trip lasted just three days, and I decided to explore places that prominently feature in movies.

A Day as a Viking

On the first day, I decided to get acquainted with this country by strolling around its capital, Reykjavík. I arrived and checked into the hotel at 3 PM. In winter, daylight is very short here, with dusk setting in by 4 PM. The first place I visited was Hallgrimskirkja Church. This is one of the most uniquely designed churches in the world and one of the reasons I wanted to explore this place. Inspired by the basalt columns formed by volcanic lava, the church is one of the largest structures in Iceland, standing out in the heart of Reykjavík. It inspired the palace in the realm of the gods, Asgard, in the "Thor" movies. Standing in front of this cathedral, I felt like I was in another world - a world of Norse gods.

By Annie Spratt on Unsplash

An Otherworldly Experience

On the second day, I ventured outside the capital to explore Iceland's renowned natural landscapes - the feature that makes this place feel otherworldly. It's challenging to explore alone due to the scarcity of public transport. Famous tourist spots are far from the city and isolated, not close to any residential areas. There are three ways to experience Iceland: renting a self-drive car, joining a local tour, or booking private tours with Vietnamese expats. Tour prices typically start at 100 USD, depending on the type of tour. The cheapest option is to see the Northern Lights, costing around 50 USD. I was fortunate to meet some Vietnamese expats living here and booked a tour with them.

Midnight Aura

Our group of four began moving south. Unfortunately, the weather was not favorable, with heavy snowfall as soon as we departed. Iceland's weather is harsh and unpredictable. In winter, blizzards can occur anytime, with strong, icy winds. Even on the hottest days of summer, you need a windbreaker when traveling here. Waterproof gear such as rain boots, umbrellas, and raincoats are essential items.

As we traveled along seemingly endless roads, we occasionally saw horse farms. We took advantage of these stops to take memorable photos with these gentle and unique horses. Icelandic horses are purebred and not found anywhere else in the world. They have thick coats and are shorter than typical horses. They are friendly, gentle, and very welcoming. I wondered why these farms seemed unattended.

Gullfoss Falls

Our journey continued to Reynisfjara Beach, the most famous and main tourist spot in the southern region. Unlike typical beaches with golden sand and blue waters, this beach has jet-black sand, making it feel like walking on Mars. According to our guide, this beach was created by volcanic activity. Lava erupted, along with volcanic rocks falling to the ground, cooling, and turning black. The sand here is actually formed when these rocks erode into small fragments. The roaring waves and the pitch-black sand make this place seem like the land of devils and dark magic. Many filmmakers have called this beach the most beautiful natural film set. It has been chosen as a backdrop for otherworldly planets in movies like "Star Wars" and "Noah."

Reynisfjara

However, taking photos here is very challenging due to the strong winds. Just standing for 10 minutes can make your face feel numb, and the salty sea breeze makes the cold even more biting. The waves here are also very strong and potentially dangerous, so visitors must be very careful and avoid standing too close to the water. Reynisfjara is beautiful, but "enjoying" it is quite difficult.

Iceland is incomplete without its "specialty" - ice. We set off for the glacier and the diamond beach. The diamonds here are actually giant icebergs that wash ashore. When sunlight hits them, they sparkle and shine like enormous diamonds. It was truly impressive to stand next to and touch these natural ice blocks, which were sometimes larger than myself.

Northern Lights Midnight Adventure

Icelanders strongly believe that every mountain, river, and even rock is a disguised elf hiding its true form. Almost every tourist spot is associated with at least one legend about elves. Locals share stories about elves and trolls, considering them shy creatures that can only be seen if you believe and are fortunate. We were guided to places resembling elf shapes. After hearing these mysterious stories, even looking at the clouds, I felt like I was seeing these mythical creatures.

Impressions of Iceland

In just three days, I formed several impressions of this country. Food and consumer goods are very expensive, especially fruits and vegetables, due to the high cost of living and harsh weather conditions. Therefore, to fully explore, you should prepare a generous budget to enjoy your vacation comfortably. Restaurant meals are costly, so many tourists opt for fast and convenient food available at supermarkets.

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

Skyr yogurt is a must-try for most visitors. It is similar to Greek yogurt but thicker and more delicate. This high-protein food, made using a traditional recipe, helps Icelanders endure harsh winters. Icelanders are so proud of this dish that they always say, "You can't imagine an Iceland without skyr!"

Icelanders are not curious and highly respect visitors' privacy. At first, they might seem cold and distant, but if you ask them something, they will immediately smile warmly and help you thoroughly, explaining every detail. Even after I had the answers I needed, they would still worry and ask repeatedly if I was sure before leaving.

Jökulsárlón

In winter, snow falls continuously. If visitors do not have shoes with good traction on snow, they can easily slip because many famous tourist spots require climbing. Many tours refuse to accept guests without anti-slip shoes.

There are currently no direct flights from Vietnam to Iceland. If you want to explore this country, it is best to include it in a European trip or transit through countries like the UK, France, or Germany. Iceland is part of the Schengen area, so you only need a visa to one Schengen country to visit.

photographytravel
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About the Creator

Phạm Thái Dương

Everyone has their own story, and I invite you to explore mine.

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