The lure of icebergs and other natural wonders led Patty and John Koehn to visit Iceland, the most sparsely populated (330,000 residents) country in Europe Despite the island country’s chilly temperatures in June, the Koehns found the Icelandic people to be friendly and warm. Residents enthusiastically welcome tourists to explore Iceland’s varied, changing landscape; folklore rife with mystical gnomes; and indigenous recipes that feature lamb and fish.
The couple drove over 800 miles around the perimeter of Iceland, hiking 30 to 35 miles in one week. Patty says the most memorable part of their trip was witnessing the country’s natural, dramatic beauty. She describes the landscape in this way: “moss-covered lava fields, glaciers, volcanoes (one every five years), waterfalls, geysers, sulfur springs, geothermal hot springs, ocean, fjords, and mountains. There are very few trees---many are being planted.”
Other unforgettable sights for the couple were watching whales and viewing stand up paddle boarders navigate around ice chunks.
Iceland is also where the North American and EuroAsia tectonic plates meet. The plates are shifting apart at the rate of 2.5cm per year. Many tourists enjoy the photo opportunity of straddling the ever-widening crevasse between the two plates.
(Left) Patty stands between the North American and EuroAsia tectonic plates. (Right) A view of Thingeviller National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site.
Iceland takes advantage of its geothermal energy, with over 90% of housing and 170 swimming pools heated by this natural resource. The meltwater created by sub-glacial volcanoes provides Iceland with hydroelectric power.
Patty offers mixed reviews regarding local menu items. She said that she “endured” the local delicacy of aged shark accompanied by original Icelandic spirits called Dark Night. However, both she and John enjoyed Skyr (a soft cheese similar to yogurt that is low in fat and high in protein), fish stew, rugbraud (rye bread), arctic char, and Kjotsupa (meat soup made with lamb and vegetables). Patty did offer that the chocolate is “outstanding.”
The Koehns took advantage of extremely low airfares to Iceland. A round-trip non-stop flight between Chicago and Reykjavik may be found for less than $600. But, once on the ground in Iceland, the Koehns followed their guide’s suggestion to stock up on wine, beer and snacks in the airport duty-free shops because of the island’s high food prices.
Patty also advises that most accommodations in Iceland are fairly spartan due to the country’s tourism industry being relatively new. Even so, she heartily recommends witnessing the country’s rare landscape and meeting its friendly, proud inhabitants.
All images courtesy of Patty and John Koehn