As a compulsive traveler, I was long overdue for another new stamp in my passport, so I was honored to be chosen to participate in a travel convention in Iceland. My joy in travel is to arrive in the unknown without any expectations. Yet, as it was February, I did anticipate being confronted by brutal Arctic temperatures. But with Viking heritage in my bloodline, I welcomed the challenge and packed accordingly. Elation began as I flew to the top of the world with Icelandair.
The size of Kentucky, Iceland has a population of 258,000. Seventy-five percent of Iceland is covered in glacier and lava fields. The country has 100 active volcanoes and countless boiling geysers. Icelanders have a remarkably high standard of living with free health care, free college, great social security and all modern amenities. The literacy rate is 100 percent. And despite the climate (or maybe because of it) life expectancy is the highest in the world.
The flight arrived in Reykjavik at 10am. It was pitch dark outside. After a nap in my cozy hotel, I set out to explore the world's largest village.
I found Reykjavik spotlessly clean, and the air offered the purest oxygen I've ever inhaled.
The native tongue is the funniest I've ever heard in the 76 countries I've travelled. I can't pronounce a word. Try this: Äkureyrimývtn Dyrholacy.
As I walked, I saw no homeless on the streets. It is a land of pretty people—GQ Magazine rated the women the most beautiful in the world.
Suddenly, I was engulfed in a white-out blizzard, blind to everything except the headlights of cars swerving. I couldn't even see the sidewalk. Dressed to face the elements, I wasn't cold. In fact, warmed by the Gulf Stream, winter is relatively mild in Iceland compared to Greenland. They say, if you don't like the weather, wait a minute. Just as suddenly, a brilliant sun emerged to clear the sky and expose the surrounding mountains. In an instant I fell in love with this beautiful, rugged land. Memories of Christmas in Wisconsin flooded my mind. I wanted to fall down and make angels in the snow.
I expected Iceland to be beautiful but boring, but the following days and evenings were busy and fun-filled with events organized around the seminar. There wasn't a dull moment what with daytime workshops and excursions, dinners hosted by the different countries in attendance, not to mention dancing to 4am with the locals.
Scandinavian Night featured a smorgasbord of the freshest seafood on earth as well as a special smoked lamb dish. Everything is totally organic and additive free. Underground springs supply the population with central heating as well as heat greenhouses where everything from bananas to roses are grown year round. I've never dined better; however, some foods were odd to my palette, like herring for breakfast, reindeer kabobs and salmon flavored potato chips.
For a taste of adventure, one morning I left civilization in a caravan of 16 jeeps equipped with computerized navigational systems, so I didn't have to worry about crashing into a canyon or crevice. The 4x4 drive tires float effortlessly over the awesome lunar-like landscape of snow and ice. They tell me the new sport here is jeep skiing, where one is tandem-towed behind the jeep like a water-skier to a boat.
Outdoor lovers will never be bored in Iceland. You can experience whale watching, fishing, ski jogging, snow-mobiling, snow golf, snow football, geothermal bathing, hiking fjords and volcanic islands. You can overnight in ice caves or mountain huts, and I don't know where else you could ride an iceberg on holiday. Horse riders will appreciate the Icelandic horse. Descended from Viking breeds that go back 1,100 years, Icelandic horses have a unique gait that can traverse any terrain.
One morning a group of us went to the almost indescribable Blue Lagoon, a huge turquoise oasis of water set in the middle of lava fields and surrounded by mountains. In swimsuits we ran through the snow, jumped in the hot mineral rich water and splashed like children for two hours.
Walking back to my hotel one night, I was startled by flashes of colour radiating across the black sky, brilliant shades of red, white, green and violet shooting miles above the horizon. I have witnessed the Northern Lights in Alaska and Canada, but never anything so humbling as the Aurora Borealis of Iceland, nature's spectacular laser show.
I will return to Iceland in summer to see the midnight sun and whatever else I missed, but the winter wonderland I experienced will be hard to beat. Iceland in winter makes you believe that Santa Claus and Rudolph truly exist.
Solo Travel: Due to its small size and friendly people, Iceland is easy to do on your own.
Getting There: Icelandair serves New York, Boston and Baltimore daily. Excellent value packaged holidays frequently available. It is a 4-hour flight from New York to Rekjavik.
Getting Around: Daytours easily arranged on arrival through hotels. Rental cars, taxis, buses are everywhere.
Information: Iceland Tourist Board
Contact: Suzy Davis, Adventures For Singles.