When my mother announced the family would be traveling to Iceland for Christmas my stomach dropped. A California girl, the mere thought of Iceland(!) during wintertime (!) made my toes curl, but there was no getting out of it. My family exclaimed, “It will be fun!” and “We’ll have a white Christmas,” but what they really meant was “Suck it up.”
Three days before Christmas, we landed in Iceland. Just stepping onto the jetway, I could feel the frozen air seeping into my pores. It was hard to be excited for this “White Christmas” when my toes were turning into popsicles and I hadn’t even spent 2 minutes there. But what could I do? Nothing. So I bucked up and struggled to pull my suitcase through the snow that covered the parking lot.
That first night was not warm in the slightest, but I made it to the next morning with all ten toes intact. That first day, my family decided to explore the streets of Reykjavik, so I pulled on two pairs of pants, three sweaters, and three pairs of socks to walk the frozen city. I expected to return to the apartment with only eight toes and a grumpy attitude, but I was wrong.
Once we reached the main drag of the city, I realized why we wish for a “White Christmas.” The rooftops were brushed with glimmering white crystals and the cobblestone streets were paved with the falling snowflakes. The main street’s strings of lights dazzled each passersby and as we continued to walk up that main street Laugavegur, I became more in awe of the Hallgrímskirkja church watching over us at the end of the road, its spire forever pointing skyward. We didn’t buy anything, nor did we eat at any of the restaurants on that day, but I discovered that maybe this trip may not be so bad after all.
The city was by far one of the most beautiful I have seen, but my favorite moments in Iceland happened outside those cobblestone streets. The first moment was on a Golden Circle tour. We traveled to the Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir hot springs. These natural wonders are absolutely breathtaking, but even more so was the following snowmobiling. After driving through the snow for almost two hours, we arrived at the top of the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull. There, we snowmobiled for half an hour to the edge of a valley to look at the view. In every direction the landscape was pure white, and as the sun lowered, orange and pink reflected off the snow crystals to create a sunset with colors I had never seen before. My whole body was smiling, even my cold toes.
My second moment was when we went “Into the Glacier.” To get to the Langjökull glacier, we had to travel in modified Russian military vehicles to the entrance, and upon arriving, we (of course) were in the middle of a blizzard. Stepping out, the headlights of the trucks were the only things I could see, everything else was wrapped in a white blanket, but it was in this moment, that I realized how big nature really is. I was a mere speck in this whirlwind and once the blizzard died down, I saw the beautiful landscapes stretched out before me. Like the sunset, I will always remember the view in that moment.
A few days later, I returned home with ten pink toes, a new attitude, and most importantly, a new perspective on just how unexpectedly wonderful the cold parts of Earth are.
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