The Northern Lights, glaciers, the Blue Lagoon — you might be surprised how otherworldly beautiful Iceland can be.
For a first trip abroad, many people choose something comfortable — a beach resort on some tropical isle, or a tour of the churches and museums of Western Europe. Not Lindsay and Shaun.
They took what they’re calling their “babymoon” — one last jaunt before their son is due — to Iceland.
Here’s the first of a series of Iceland posts from my interview with Lindsay and Shaun. –Wally
Why did you choose Iceland?
Lindsay: It was really me who chose Iceland. I was going there regardless if Shaun went.
Shaun: Lindsay said, “I don’t give a shit if you go. If you want to go with me, great. It’s my trip — and don’t complain about the flight. I can’t have any stress.”
Lindsay: A lot of bloggers have been putting out a bunch of images and travel advice, and it was beautiful scenery. It was exotic. This was our first trip with a passport. I wanted to go somewhere cool and unique and not where everyone would expect us to go. Somewhere where it was also very safe.
What about the cold factor?
Lindsay: I don’t like heat, and Shaun doesn’t either. It was 40º to 45º the entire time. It was awesome. No humidity. We were like, this is the best vacation weather ever!
How would you describe the landscape?
Shaun: It felt extraterrestrial. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was watching the sun set and then turned and saw a second sun rising over the horizon. You could easily travel there to film some alien planet.
Lindsay: The whole place is covered in volcanic rock. All black, and then moss grows over it. And there are volcanoes everywhere, but they don’t look like volcanoes. They just look like mountains.
To be honest, what also drew me there was the Blue Lagoon.
What’s the Blue Lagoon?
Lindsay: It’s actually not natural — it’s manmade. It’s a giant lagoon hot spring and it’s iridescent blue. It’s so crazy-looking and amazing.
Shaun: I believe it’s heated by a geothermal plant. They filter water in, and it’s recycled out every 48 hours. It smells like sulphur. Everything around it steams, and there are lava rocks all around.
Lindsay: It’s a giant spa. There are little caves and bridges you can swim under. There’s a swim-up bar. And there’s mud mask stuff you can just grab and put on everywhere.
And we got the special in-water massage.
Lindsay: It was awesome. You float on this yoga mat thing, and they cover you with a warm blanket and massage you.
Shaun: This was my first professional massage.
The strangest part is that when you’re sitting on top of the water for a long period of time, the warm water has gone away so you start to get a little cooled off. So they’ll take the bottom of the mat, and submerge it three or four times and you go down with it, and you’ll warm up that way.
Everyone tends to go to the Blue Lagoon when you get off your flight on your way to Reykjavik, ’cause it’s like a 50-minute drive from the airport. It could be a nice way to relax after the flight.
What were the locals like?
Lindsay: Everybody speaks English. They have to learn Dutch, English and Icelandic, and they mainly speak Icelandic to each other. But with anybody they thought was from another country, they almost always spoke in English. Good English. It was really easy to get anything we needed.
They are really nice, friendly people. It almost felt like it was a small town — and it kind of is ’cause it’s a small country. People say hi to each other.
How’s the economy in Iceland?
Lindsay: Their unemployment rate is like 2%, and our tour guide said it went up to 26% when the recession hit. Tourism brought them back. He said that a lot of Icelandic people forget that because it’s kind of a hassle for them right now to have all these tourists. It’s dramatically boomed for them. They don’t have the infrastructure for it.
Shaun: It’s their second-biggest industry right now. It’s fishing and then tourism. Every single person we talked to mentioned that they don’t have the infrastructure for tourism. And we were like, “Oh, we know a whole bunch of people who will be here next week!” Apparently the Kardashians are there right now.
What was the most beautiful thing you saw?
Lindsay: Definitely the Northern Lights. I cried when I saw them — they were so beautiful. I wasn’t expecting to see them because it was the end of the season. We went on April 9 and the end of the season was on the 19th, and our first tour was canceled.
And then we saw them, and it was a blip for a second, and it wasn’t even that bright. But I was crying and saying, “They were so pretty!” and Shaun’s like, “I’m a little underwhelmed.”
And then they came out like crazy — they were all over.
Did you do a tour?
Shaun: We were on a boat ride. They took us out into the harbor and then the lady who was telling us the story about the Northern Lights, it was almost like she summoned them: “The Northern Lights have appeared!” over the loudspeaker.
Then she introduced some guy who came on reading poems about the Northern Lights. At one point, he broke out into a song like it was a rain dance.
Lindsay: He had a terrible voice.
The lights went on for an hour. It just got better and better.
What did the Northern Lights look like in person?
Lindsay: That’s hard. They are green — but not as bright as the pictures show them because your eyes can’t perceive that color as bright. They dance, but they’re so slow. Fading in, fading out. Almost like blobs of light in the dark night.
Shaun: They’re kind of like wispy clouds.
Do you know how they’re created?
Lindsay: The easiest way for me to explain it is that it’s when the sun flares and hits the atmosphere, this is the reaction: the Aurora Borealis.
I thought, I’m never going to see anything this beautiful again.
What was the coolest experience?
Lindsay: Aside from the Northern Lights, it was being on the glacier — even though it was very treacherous getting there.
How was it dangerous?
Lindsay: We took a jeep tour, so there were only six people for 10 hours. Our guide took us around the Golden Circle, which is these four specific stops everyone sees in Iceland that are very touristy but beautiful.
A lot of people go to see a glacier. Well, we got a tour specifically to ride and drive on the glacier. I sat in the back. It was very bumpy — I was hitting the ceiling. I was like, this is not good for the baby. So finally I moved.
When we got there, we were going to snowmobile on the glacier, and I thought, I probably shouldn’t.
But our guide took us on a private tour. Literally, this jeep is like a monster truck. He drove it straight up the mountain, and had to go back down in reverse because he couldn’t get to the top.
What did the glacier look like?
Lindsay: It’s a giant mountain of white. There was nothing for miles and miles, and there was hardly anybody there.
We also got to see the glacier river — beautiful.
The country has way more water than they can even drink. And it’s all naturally filtered through the lava rock. So it’s the cleanest, best-tasting water ever — and it comes right out of the tap.
What was the worst thing about Iceland?
Shaun: The hot water smells like eggs.
Lindsay: It’s all sulphur, so when you’re showering it smells like rotten eggs. That was the only downside.