News Dec 29, 2011

Warming Up Short Days and Long Nights in  Iceland

New York Times author, Seth Kugel, recounts his recent trip to Iceland – see excerpt below.

“It was pitch black at 8:30 a.m. on a frigid Icelandic morning, but at least there was no snow falling. Though cloud cover the night before had scuttled my chance to see the Northern Lights, my plan for a 36-hour road trip from Reykjavik, ending a great four days in Iceland, was in full effect.

I had spent the previous day’s precious daylight hours (about five at this time of year) seeing the geysers, waterfalls and icy landscapes of the Golden Circle, a popular route that loops northeast from the capital of Reykjavik and back again. When the sun disappeared, at about 3 p.m., I headed southeast to the snow-covered coast, skirting imposing mountains to arrive at a guesthouse called Vellir, on Route 219 off the main highway, where I planned to spend the night. I was to get moving before the sun rose, driving the 10 miles to Vik — supposedly a picturesque village of 300 people, black sand beaches and amazing rock formations.

But that morning Vellir’s owner, a round redhead named Sigurbjorg, had put out a breakfast spread for her only guest to buffer the bad news: a gusty snowstorm had hit Vik so badly that school had been canceled, a rare occurrence. But we were so close by, and the weather here was fine, I said.

“This is so Iceland,” she said. “There is a line, and all the crazy weather is on one side of it. If you want to make your plane tomorrow, I recommend you don’t go.”

In Iceland, nature rules. The modest population (about 320,000) mostly clings to the coastline. Stories of reckless tourists being pulled from glaciers or car crashes are proffered as warnings. And things get only more challenging in winter, when daylight fades to a few dusky hours.”

Continue reading here.