Nostalgia swept through me as I was reading through my old posts. I was collating all my blogs for a complete list of all posts I've written, and I felt like it's time to write about my favorite country so far.
I'm not a traveler by profession but during my vacations, I've travelled to over 15 countries so far. It's a significant number for me, as I have never stepped outside my home country or climbed an airplane until my early twenties.
I've city-hopped through Europe, spent many weeks on the islands of Hawaii, and traveled as a solo female through Bolivia. I've seen snow-clad mountains, hiked in wet rainforests, saw schools of fish in black-sand beaches, walked on melting glaciers and watched fierce waterfalls. The more I see of the world, the more I love it, and the more I want to see it. It's a never-ending cycle.
But, there's always that one place which touches your soul more than anything else. The one place that you can't believe was real. The one place you long to get back to. To me, that place has been ... Iceland.
And the reason for it is simple. It's the most beautiful country I've seen, period. It's hard to quantify beauty, but I'll still do it. Iceland ia a country where every nook is a wonder and every drive is a delight. It is poetry in motion. It's a place that seems like it was designed after Mother Nature decided to go wild.
My first introduction to the craziness of Iceland was when I saw the geysir Strokkur from up close. To see the earth throw up fountains of warm water in periodic intervals was pure joy! But the real wonder was what came up next - the amazing Gulfoss waterfall. To see such a stunner from so close was almost unthinkable, my brain just exploded. My experience until then had been witnessing a lot of hype, a lot of tourists, and a lot of waiting to see a little beauty of nature from far away. But here, clearly the reverse was true. I was totally unprepared to see something like Gulfoss when we parked our car in an almost empty parking lot. I was wondering if we were at the right place, but the loud sound of water as soon as we got down from the car made it real. Unforgettable experience!
The next day, we drove through an isolated green valley and ended up at Landmannalaugar, famous for it's rhyolite mountain peaks. My memory of Landmannalaugar is sitting inside the warm hot spring on a valley located in the midst of the beautiful mountains and enjoying the nature surrounding us. Once again, it was light on tourists, and heavy on raw, unfiltered beauty.
One of the most incredible experiences I had in Iceland was seeing Dettifoss. I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real, and I still get jitters thinking about it. The raw fierceness you get to experience seeing these falls is one of a kind. And beyond Dettifoss was the horseshoe shaped Selfoss Waterfall which was truly mystical. We were the only people during sunset at Selfoss and it was a surreal feeling having the entire experience to ourselves. I would've gladly paid money to see these falls, but there was no charge. It almost felt like I was cheating, seeing these places for free.
It would be amiss if I don't mention Westfjords on a Iceland blog post. The desolate ruggedness of Strandir Coast made me understand how humans have had to adapt to survive here. I have a much greater appreciation for the resilience of humankind after visiting this place.
And to see the sunset and moonlight at the same time from a geothermal pool (Krossnesslaug) at the end of the world felt like magic.
Travel expands our minds and helps us get a better understanding of the world surrounding us. Iceland did that to me ten-times over. I got a crash course in geography, geology, science and history during my time here. The pure air, untouched glaciers, and ever-evolving land underneath gives a fresh new perspective of life on earth. And I haven't even mentioned the cute sheep, handsome Icelandic horses and the lovely puffins.
I know Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to travel to, but I will say this, it IS worth it. The time you spent here will provide memories for the rest of your life. It's been two years since I've been there, but I still haven't gotten bored of watching my pictures at Iceland. They feel so unbelievable. After you see Iceland, you'll definitely feel that the most beautiful place you've seen is behind you. Don't say I didn't warn you. :)
A key thing to note is the number of tourists in Iceland have increased exponentially over the last few years. If you do go, make sure you leave the country untouched, i.e. leave no traces behind. This is extremenly important, to keep the raw beauty of Iceland intact. This will enable our future generations to enjoy Iceland's beauty as we did, so it is crucial to leave it untouched.
PS - I tried to go light on pictures for this blog post, but still ended up posting more than what I wanted. That's what Iceland does to you ;)
So that's my most favorite country in the world in a nutshell. I hope to see it again some day.
What's your most favorite country in the world, and why do you love it?