I’ve read that 40% of the population of Iceland believes in elves. Reading the stat in a guidebook at home it seemed absurd. But driving through the moss-covered lava fields, with snow-capped mountains in the distance and the odd plume of steam rising from hills nearby, I thought I might start to believe.
The landscape feels medieval, locked in time. That’s the draw for so many productions, including Game of Thrones, that are filmed here. Parts of Iceland were also used by the Apollo crew as training grounds for their lunar landing. Apparently, no other place on Earth could compare as a stand-in for that stark landscape.
I can tell you that, although time seems static in Iceland, the weather is not. It rained. It shined. It froze. It snowed. All in our hour and a half drive from Gullfoss to Reykjavik.
And Reykjavik itself is a gem. It’s a pocket-sized cozy capital whose corrugated iron buildings exude charm in the clear northern light. Strolling up and down the streets, you feel the otherness of a remote and foreign location that can make travel so addictive.
If you think Iceland is magic for adults (it is), then imagine the wonder of a two year old. In Iceland you can learn to swim in a robin’s egg blue thermal lagoon…outside…in winter. Adorably stocky ponies pose along the deserted highway. Snowy mountain peaks, surely the work of Queen Elsa from Frozen, loom large. Massive rushing waterfalls are probably the domain of dragons. And as you watch water erupting towards the sky, you get to learn a new word, “geyser,” borrowed from Icelandic, the closest living language to ancient Viking.
Oh, and don’t forget…there are elves.