Story and Photo by Lily Hodges
Way up north, near the Artic Circle, there’s a little island hiding some of nature’s best-kept secrets. A former home to the Vikings, Iceland is rich in history and rich in… natural hot springs? That’s right, situated above volcanoes, Iceland is overflowing with steaming hot water and no surprisingly, the smell of sulfur. When a faucet is turned on in Iceland, the first water to come out is scolding and there is never a shortage of hot water for showers, even in winter.
So what puts the “ice” in Iceland? Years ago the clever Vikings named a big, icy island “Greenland” and a little, green one “Iceland” to confuse their enemies. So, contrary to its name, Iceland is not covered in ice but is bursting with flora. Even during the winter season, some of the most pristine and green nature grows, assuming that the rain and snow have stopped and the sun is shining during its short six-hour shift, of course. Nevertheless, Iceland bestows upon its lucky visitors a chance to experience nature as it should be and once was: unspoiled by humanity.
This is where I spent my last New Year’s vacation, in the small, capital town of Reykjavik (pronounced Ray-ka-vik), with the statistically happiest people on Earth. The New Year’s celebration in Iceland is a notorious extravaganza. The night itself is highlighted by the biggest and longest fireworks display I have ever experienced. Flares of colored lights flash for as far as the eye can see in all directions while the streets clutter with exultant locals and foreigners, champagne or beer bottles in hand. But that’s not the end of it. For the following week, the distant crackles of fireworks can be heard at all times and Icelanders maintain a half awake, half drunk, blissful stupor.
For those who need a pick-me-up from the night before or simply an escape from the winter weather, simply turn to one of the many natural hot springs invigorate yourself. The hot spring baths are culturally the Icelandic version of a sauna as many locals visit them religiously. The famous Blue Lagoon, with its brilliant, glowing blue waters is famed for calming all skin types. Go here during a blizzard, as I did, and you get to experience the sensation of fiercely cold air and roasting hot water all at once.
With its remarkable environment and excitement, Iceland is a must see, for nature-lovers and party-lovers alike. The winters boast a booming New Year’s bash, but also consider going during the summer, when the breathtaking scenery can be better appreciated. The next time you are headed to Europe, look into flights that allow for a day or so layover in Reykjavik and don’t forget to pack your bathing suit for the Blue Lagoon— a trip to Iceland is a truly worth it.