Awesome Nuggets: Iceland Adventure Edition

Awesome Nuggets Iceland

Angela Noel

October 15, 2018

What’s an Awesome Nugget? I’ll tell you. It’s a moment of surprise and delight. Just a little moment–or maybe a big one–depending on your point of view. I try and keep my eyes open for these beautiful moments both because they make me happy, and I hope they make you happy too.

Lorna from Gin & Lemonade recently reminded me that it’s been awhile since I wrote an Awesome Nuggets post. She’s right. And thus you have before you, a collection of Iceland-related nuggets. Let us begin.

Iceland Wants You Dead

After an overnight flight, my husband, Paul and good friends, Dan and Jayme, piled into our rental car ready for adventure in Iceland. We had a few hours in the car before we’d reach our AirBnB in Selfoss on Iceland’s South Coast. As we drove, I read Dan’s copy of Rick Steve’s Iceland. We had planned sparingly, preferring instead to follow our inclinations on what sites to see as our seven days unfolded. As a general rule, we like outdoor activities. We knew we wanted to spend our days outside in the volcanic wonderland that is Iceland. But, we didn’t know but soon learned: Iceland wanted us dead.

Seljalandsfoss Falls, Iceland
Walk behind this waterfall, but watch out. It’s slippery.

As I paged through the guidebook I found a section devoted specifically to all the ways to die on the island. I read it aloud as Dan drove. At this point, we’d been awake almost twenty-four hours and knew we had at least twelve more to go to reset our body clocks after the trip from the Midwest to Iceland. “Is this normal?” I asked. “Does Rick Steve always include a section about death in his guidebooks?”

The answer, as you might expect, is no. However, we weren’t worried. Most of us are sane. All of us have life insurance. Adventure awaited.

Rangárþing eystra, Iceland
The end of the second day where rain and waterfalls left us damp, the beauty of Iceland transcends all.
Death Aside, Iceland’s Pretty Great
  • The Hveragerdi Hot Spring River Trail was our first stop after checking in to our AirBnB in Selfoss. Jayme suggested we keep moving in order to stave off the sleepiness from our flight. We were tired, but the hike was just right: vigorous but not overwhelming. The promised “rustic changing facilities” were laughable; so we laughed. We all donned our bathing suits with the help of strategic towel wrapping, shivering in the chill air. But, oh heavens, if you can sit in a warm river after a long overnight trip with excellent friends, you should. You definitely should.

    Hveragerdi River Trail, Iceland
    Paul is already soaking in the warm river, obviously. But I wanted to get a picture before tucking my phone away and joining him.
  • Rainbows! Yes, it rains and sleets and hails all the time, but wait a few moments and everywhere you look: Rainbows! We saw so many by the end of the week, we were like, “Oh, look, another rainbow.” But really–RAINBOWS!
  • You gotta get naked. If you want to visit any of the thermal pools in Iceland (and you should) everyone is required to shower without a bathings suit both before and after enjoying a soak. To me, this is awesome because naked is just naked. Let’s get over ourselves shall we?
  • We stayed at two different and equally fantastic AirBnB places. Both looked out over water. Both were immaculate. And, in both
    Reykjavík, Iceland
    Our apartment in Reykjavík.

    cases, beds did not have flat sheets or a large quilt for a big bed. Instead, two pristine white, single-sized duvets lay neatly side by side on the queen and king beds. So no partner steals the covers! Genius.

  • The Icelandic language is so close to the Old Norse they can read the stories from the 9th century Sagas with the same trouble we English-speakers may have with Shakespeare. In other words, it’s a really really old language that hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s lovely to listen to and though I tried to sound the words out with help from Rick Steve’s instruction guide, it made my tongue feel like it had run the equivalent of a tongue-marathon. So I gave up after awhile. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a delight. And the fact that literally every Icelander speaks English not just like it’s a second language but like it’s their second, FIRST language is also quite amazing.
  • If heaven is a giant, perfectly cooked slab of glistening white halibut then I found it in Iceland. Whilst trying to find a cafe for a quick bite we stumbled upon a restaurant called Surf & Turf in Selfoss with a fresh fish lunch special. You may have heard that food is pricey in this tiny island nation. It is. But for just under $10 we each got a huge plate of perfect fish with root vegetables and a steaming buttered potato. Heaven, thy name is halibut.
  • In other food news, let me tell you about piping hot cinnamon rolls from a bakery called Brauð& Co. Our apartment in Reykjavík was just a few blocks from one of their locations. One day after the four of us had all gone out for a run along the coast, I beat the other three home (because I ran only half of their 11 miles) and thought I’d buy us coffee at the little store across the street. I walked past Brauð & Co and realized Rick Steve had not listed, “death by olfactory overload” as one of Iceland’s dangers. The smell coming from that place made me feel like the cartoon characters whose feet lift from the ground in scent-induced ecstasy. When the rest of the crew returned from their run, I took them to the bakery. The blond Icelander behind the counter, upon hearing how close our apartment was to the bakery promptly said, “Well, you’re f’ed. You’ll be in here every day.” She was right.
  • We went to a thermal bath called Fontana. I soaked in the hot water then noticed a few people submerging themselves in the cold lake adjacent to the geothermal pools. Jayme and Paul dared each other to try it. I went along. To say it was cold would be like calling Mark Zuckerberg “well-off.” But jumping back into the warm pool after a cold dunk felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced–something like when you get a massage and it hurts, but it hurts so good. Jayme must have felt the same way because she said, “I feel so good right now I could kill a rabbit.” Which, if you know Jayme, is both totally funny and totally Jayme.
  • We picked our way on wobbly stones to reach a cavern into which a waterfall with an unpronounceable name meaning “dweller in the gorge” flowed. It was the third waterfall we’d seen that day, including Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss This one, Glúfrabúi, we had to work a little bit to reach. At Skogafoss–because I have a penchant for talking to strangers–I struck up a conversation with someone about the waterfalls in Iceland. This fellow said unequivocally, “make sure you follow the path.” And he was right. We
    Glúfrabúi, Iceland
    This fissure in the rock is the entrance to Glúfrabúi, the dweller int he gorge.

    might not have known to follow the path through the thin aperture of the cavern to reach Glúfrabúi had he not warned us. It was glorious.

  • The clever tagline of 66˚North, a popular Icelandic clothing line, is “Protecting Icelanders from Iceland since 1926.” Since we each packed rain pants, a hat, coat, gloves, and multiple layers for each day’s journey, it’s easy to see why Icelanders need protection from Iceland. There’s a saying on the Island, “petty reddest.” Roughly, it means “everything will work out in the end.” Icelanders are routinely found to be ranked among the happiest people on the planet. And it’s ironically, at least in part, attributable to the weather and the harsh conditions they endure together. I think there’s a certain magic to that worth giving more thought to.

    Blue Lagoon, Iceland
    Paul and I in a rare pretty good photo at the Blue Lagoon.
  • On our last full day, we thought we’d try something different. We’d been to the original Geysir from which all geysers get their name, seen a glacier, and trekked over and under waterfalls. The four of us had soaked in thermal pools and rivers, including the touristy-but-nonetheless-worth-it Blue Lagoon. And we’d all eaten fantastic fish, glorious cinnamon rolls, and some memorably awful ham and cheese sandwiches. We decided to finish up our trip with a  yoga class led by the soft-spoken Klara at Reykjavík Yoga. Offered at a reasonable $20 rate, the class was taught in English to appeal to
    Sólheimajökull, Iceland
    As we walked up to this fact the Sólheimajökull glacier signs warn people not to walk in or around the glacier. No one, even Rick Steve, expects you to listen. But seriously–remember, Iceland is trying to kill you.

    Iceland’s over 2 million visitors. Klara assured us no one would watch when we made the ridiculous face required for effective Lion’s Breath and reclined in Pigeon pose. Yoga was then followed by happy hour and a ceremonial shot of Iceland’s herbal-infused spirit, Brennivín. If any day starts with yoga and ends with cocktails, that’s a good day.

  • We spent seven full days and nights together. We traveled in a car, shared a bathroom, and negotiated who would hold on to the keys because Dan tended to forget exactly which pocket he’d put them in. With some people, it’s just that easy. And that, quite simply, is awesome.

    Iceland pub
    After a happy hour with beers that were only $8 instead of $14, we were, in fact, happy. From left: Paul, Angela (me) Dan, and Jayme.

There you have it. Iceland wants you dead, but it wants you to live a full, adventurous, delicious, rain-splashed life before you go.

Your Turn: Have you been to Iceland? What were your favorite moments in Iceland or wherever you’ve travelled lately?

For more Awesome Nuggets check out this page and share your own.

Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

25 thoughts on “Awesome Nuggets: Iceland Adventure Edition”

  1. What an excellent recap of an amazing sounding trip Angela! I loved it and the happy memories came flooding back from our trip there just a few months ago. An oh so awesome nugget!!

      1. I think the best part was being with our 35 year old daughter for the week and having so much fun together. The scenery was out of this world and it was an amazing place to visit. We loved the horses too!

  2. Sounds like an amazing trip. I haven’t been to Iceland yet but it’s on the bucket list 🙂 I have loved all the trips we’ve gone on. I think Kenya was my favourite as it was a family trip for three weeks to visit a dear friend of mine. To have that much time, see so much, share it with my children. It was such a great family adventure.

  3. The photos are AWESOME! What a wonderful place to visit when you can do all those amazing outdoor adventures. I don’t think Iceland’s tourist ads will pick up on your “Iceland Wants you Dead” motto but it certainly adds intrigue to your travel log. Dásamlegt!

  4. What an amazing experience, and how lucky are you and Paul to find friends that are so easy to travel with! Your photos were beautiful, and your words make me want to jump on a plane and explore Iceland. My parents are actually wanting to travel to Iceland in the next year, so I’m going to forward this onto them. Thanks so much for sharing this Awesome Nugget – it’s truly awesome!

  5. What a perfect round up of a awesome nugget-filled holiday! I’ve been wondering when you’d write about your trip (since you bought those gorgeous walking boots) so it’s great to see how much fun you had!!

    I loved Iceland too…I liked eating thetheavenly halibut and dipping into the hot springs best. I wish we could’ve spent a little longer like you did!

    1. I would go back for sure. Just thinking about the hot springs make me wish I could run out for a soak right now. I suppose I’ll have to settle for a bathtub. Though that doesn’t quite have the same natural joy.

  6. That sounds like an incredible trip. It is a rare and beautiful thing to travel so harmoniously as a group. It helps to have a sense of comedy danger, perhaps!

    1. Yes–comedy/danger is the perfect word(s) for it. At one point I thought we were going to try and ford a bridgless stream even though we didn’t have near the ground-clearance to, you know, not die. Luckily, youtube showed us that we’d better not attempt it! In that case, we laughed at ourselves–and avoided are worst instincts for adventure at the cost of common sense. Thanks so much for reading!

  7. A friend and I spent a week in late May 2016 in Iceland on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We never saw the volcano because of endless rain and fog. We learned about rain that blows at 90 degrees at you, the wind that helps it accomplish this and how you can need a windshield wiper inside your car. Iceland wants you dead. That is absolutely true but we still fell in love with it though I would not say that either of us had a good time at all. We didn’t, but we understood why there were so many refrigerator magnets for sale that said, “I survived Iceland.” I think we want to go back.

    1. What a great story. There is something to be said for an island with such harsh conditions people must work together. Though there are other places with similarly challenging weather/landscape without the happiness effect produced by Iceland. I’m so curious about what makes it a special place. I’m not surprised–even with your rough experience–that you want to return. 🙂

  8. Actually lost count of the times I’ve camped out at the airport, but haven’t made it out yet and I know that doesn’t count. Happy to see your posts again!

  9. This sounds amazing! I’m pretty sure I’d panic over the nudity (for I am a prude, you know:) ) but I love having all those ways to die, and all the extraordinary landscapes to experience. I’ve never been one for the tropics, but I’ll take fascinating ice and fire any day! 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxx

    1. Ice and fire is the perfect way to describe it. I wonder if George RR had Iceland in mind–in fact I think some of the scenes from GOT were shot there.
      It’s definitely awesome. Except for the naked parts, I am sure you would love it. 🙂

      1. I’ve no doubt he did. It always sounds other-worldly. It’s easy to forget how many layers make this world of ours, both the humdrum and the fantastic. 🙂
        Gah, Midwestern pruditude (new word!) and public nudity do not mix! 😛

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