As someone well past my 50s and a seasoned traveler, my trip to Iceland was one of those rare occasions when I felt I had landed on a different planet — literally! I’ve explored my fair share of Earth’s corners, but Iceland was out of this world. No wonder they film fantasy movies like Star Wars and Game of Thrones in their unbelievable landscapes; I half-expected to encounter a troll under my bed.
Iceland is a land of striking contrasts and jaw-dropping natural beauty. It’s a place where volcanoes brew beneath your feet, geysers shoot scalding water into the air, and glaciers stretch out like frozen oceans.
The capital city is surrounded by colorful façades, neo-gothic churches, hilly streets, and a touch of Viking je ne sais quoi… It’s the world’s northernmost capital, and home to architectural wonders like the Harpa Concert Hall and the imposing Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral. Reykjavik was my starting point to explore this expansive island. At the car rental, my partner and I were warned about the winds when driving in the country, and they weren’t kidding. Iceland’s relentless gusts made sure my thinning middle-age hair was swirling in every photo!
And photos I took. Iceland’s countryside is incredibly photogenic with its sprawling landscapes, dramatic skies and red roofed farmhouses sprinkled here and there. Horses and sheep roamed in expanses so vast, you would think they were wild. Iceland is, in fact, one of the least populated countries in the world. The countryside was so remote that finding a cup of coffee felt like a quest of epic proportions but, when we found one, it was delicious, just like their food.
Iceland’s culinary scene was a wonderful surprise and their commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients ensured memorable experiences. Bryggjan Cafe, in Grindavik, serves a lobster soup that’s a taste of heaven, and their fresh fish fillet with sweet potato fries is a dish you won’t soon forget. The geothermal activity in Iceland also means you can enjoy a traditional meal slow cooked in the ground, known as hangikjöt. How cool is that?
I don’t know about you, but I’m at that point in life where I want to get rid of “stuff,” which means I seldom buy souvenirs; BUT I felt very tempted to get their beautiful sheepskin rugs — a comfy reminder of the wild-looking sheep I mentioned earlier. I also brought back bags and bags of Freyja Djúpur licorice bonbons. They are the most delicious licorice I have ever tried — truly memorable!
Known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland offers the perfect blend of heat and cold. The country’s position near the North Pole ensures you’ll experience chilly winds, which is the best excuse to soak in one of their hot geothermal pools. Blue Lagoon, a massive thermal spa, is an absolute paradise, complete with silica clay masks and glasses of chilled wine inside the pool. It’s a slice of heaven which will ruin all your future spa experiences. Book in advance as it’s in high demand these days.
Between savoring bags of licorice, I explored the Kerid crater, marveled at the breathtaking Gullfoss Falls, hiked through the Geothermal fields of Seltún, watched Strokkur’s geyser perform its rhythmic spouts, and stood atop the continental rift separating North America and Eurasia. In Sandvík, I ventured across the Bridge Between Continents, a 15-meter bridge connecting North America to Europe. My Icelandic adventure came to a close at Fontana Geothermal Spa; with a glass of wine in hand, I couldn’t help but marvel at the extraordinary experiences I’d had in this land of fire and ice.
And just when I thought Iceland couldn’t get any better, nature had one more trick up its sleeve. As my plane soared towards London, the Northern Lights painted the sky in a breathtaking display that left me awestruck and utterly enchanted, making my Icelandic adventure a truly magical experience from start to the very end.
www.so50.org / @so50.fun
Magno, founder of So50.org, curates travel and experiences for adults aged 50 and above. He is passionate about helping people find purpose and seek out new experiences.