Iceland: running, rainbows and revelations

iceland running

I'm just back from 8 days in Iceland. Pam, my best friend since age five, was my travel companion. We've known each other for so long that we're more like sisters than friends.  

We rented a cozy, adorable apartment in Reykjavik with a full kitchen through Air B&B. 


Snaefellsjökull Glacier

Snaefellsjökull Glacier

It was right in the center of town and convenient to all the main highways, and more importantly, bakeries.

Flowers in a Reykjavik windowbox

Flowers in a Reykjavik windowbox

Words are not sufficient to describe the breadth and depth of natural majesty and wonder crammed into a country roughly the size of Ohio. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, fair warning, this post contains lots of them. (Follow me on Instagram to see more images from my trip.)

This geyser (geysir in Icelandic), spouted dramatically about every 5-10 minutes.

This geyser (geysir in Icelandic), spouted dramatically about every 5-10 minutes.

10 random observations about Iceland

  1. I now understand Led Zeppelin's inspiration. "I come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow." Yep, that's Iceland. 

  2. Not many people run in Iceland. I did not do full-on training while on vacation but I did put in some happy miles. Over 8 days, I encountered <10 other runners. One morning, I ran 9 miles, 4 of them in chilly, misty rain, mostly along the sea in Reykjavik. Suddenly, the clouds broke, the sun peeked out from behind the darkness, and I was rewarded with a glowing, golden postcard view – a great metaphor for life's ups and downs.

  3. Rainbows, rainbows, rainbows. We saw so many – maybe 8 or 9 in one day, no exaggeration. 

  4. Weather and landscapes change quickly and dramatically. One minute it's raining, the next it's sunny (hence all the rainbows). You can encounter black sand beaches, glacier-topped volcanoes, and crystalline waterfalls all within a one-hour drive.

  5. People do not use umbrellas. I guess with the changing weather, they don't see the point. During our stay at the White House B&B in Keflavik (highly recommended!), the owner, Hilda, admitted, "I don't even own an umbrella!" In other words, Icelanders are badass.

  6. People live in the moment. Walking down the street, whether in the city or country, you don't encounter folks with their heads glued to their phones or tuning out the world with headphones. (And if you do, they are probably American ;) People interact and are engaged in the moment.

  7. Food is extremely expensive. Take your idea of expensive and multiply it by 4. Think $30 for an appetizer, like beets, at a basic restaurant, or $7 for a bunch of celery in the grocery store. We rented a cozy, adorable apartment in Reykjavik with a full kitchen. Thank goodness we did; we cooked all meals, except one expensive breakfast and lunch out, and we saved a bundle. 

  8. The Icelandic language is impossible. The words are endless. The alphabet contains 32 letters, many of which contain exotic accents. Somehow, your brain smashes it all into one indiscernible, unpronounceable lump. (In case you're wondering, the longest word in Icelandic is Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringafingrafar.)

  9. Scandinavian design serves a real purpose. Staying in our apartment and then the B&B in Keflavik was like living in Ikea showrooms with a beautiful dose of humanity, I have fallen even more deeply in love with the minimalism, utility, and simplicity of Scandinavian / Nordic design. I can see, for example, why white walls and a focus on light is so important in a country that gets only 4 hours of daylight in December and January. The neutral color palettes contrast beautifully with the stunning landscapes you see outside. And of course, abundant geothermal heating and candlelight are yin to the omnipresent chilly weather yang. (I now have an impossible craving to visit Ikea.)

  10. No PDAs. You'd think that, in such a cool climate, everyone would be holding hands and walking arm in arm if only to keep warm. Nope. 

Gullfoss plus bonus rainbow

Gullfoss plus bonus rainbow

Another shot, another rainbow.

Another shot, another rainbow.

Stout Icelandic horses

Stout Icelandic horses

Pam and I jumping for joy at Gullfoss Waterfall. See video for a sense of the experience.

Pam and I jumping for joy at Gullfoss Waterfall. See video for a sense of the experience.


Hiking to Reykjadur hot springs. Going down was much easier than going up (except for the mud). 15% grade most of the way, sometimes steeper.

Hiking to Reykjadur hot springsGoing down was much easier than going up (except for the mud). 15% grade most of the way, sometimes steeper.

Steam vents. Water was hotter than boiling in some places, which included warning signs for the oblivious.

Steam vents. Water was hotter than boiling in some places, which included warning signs for the oblivious.

Channeling our inner Icelandic mermaids.

Channeling our inner Icelandic mermaids.

So relaxed. 

So relaxed. 

One of our favorite experiences: a grueling uphill hike after which we were rewarded with a soak in a geothermally heated mountain stream called Reykjadur ("Steam Valley) in the town of Hvergerdi. The contrast from wearing a warm coat one minute to sitting in a jacuzzi-like stream in a bikini the next minute was ... well .... Icelandic.


No fields of barley here. Lava fields in Western Iceland, plus lichen and berries.

No fields of barley here. Lava fields in Western Iceland, plus lichen and berries.

Sea urchin shell – a pretty contrast against the sooty lava field.

Sea urchin shell – a pretty contrast against the sooty lava field.

Pingvellir Falls

Pingvellir Falls

Calming landscapes everywhere.

Calming landscapes everywhere.

Solheimjokull Glacier, first time I've set foot on a glacier – my favorite experience of the trip.

Solheimjokull Glacier, first time I've set foot on a glacier – my favorite experience of the trip.

I triple-dog-dared her!

I triple-dog-dared her!