From lava caves to hot springs, Iceland is cool way to kick off summer vacation


ICELAND — It was July in Pelham, and most kids were at camp, the pool or the beach. But my family went to Iceland, where the temperature stays around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Of course, it’s hard to tell what’s day and what’s night when the sun “sets” at around 11:30 p.m.

The weather changes very often in Iceland. One minute it’s raining, the next it’s not. It was hard to guess what would happen next. One way Iceland is totally different from New York is that you can go for miles and miles and miles and not see a single building. The only things you see pretty much wherever you went were mountains. There was so much empty space. In Pelham, you can’t drive for less than half a mile and not see a house or shop.

My amazing vacation in Iceland started on July 11, in the capital, Reykjavik, which has a population of about 120,500 people. New York City has almost 70 times that amount with around 8,300,700 people. On our first day in Iceland, we went to see Strokkur, an active geyser that can shoot its boiling water 60 feet in the air. The next town we visited was called Gullfoss, where we went to see a massive waterfall with the same name. It was so big and powerful that even though it seemed like we were standing pretty far away, we were so close that we almost got soaked. We also went horseback riding in Gullfoss, and we learned that Icelandic horses have two more gaits, or different ways of walking, than the horses that we have in America. We got to try one of them, called a tölt. It was really, really bouncy.

Our next stop was Húsavík. One of the things we got to do there was go whale watching. We waited and waited for a long time, but we didn’t see anything. Then finally, at the end, we saw a big humpback whale. It got really close, and even flipped its tail and jumped up a little. It was really cool. After that, we went to a hot spring. It was really warm compared to the windy boat ride.

One of the last towns we visited was Viðgelmir. Probably the coolest thing we did on our trip was hike in a cooled lava cave. In the cave it was almost three degrees Celsius, and pitch black. Without our helmet lights on, our eyes would never adjust. No matter how long we waited or how much we tried, we could not see until we turned on our lights. It was amazing. Another cool thing about the cave was a story of a Viking woman who used to live in the cave. When she was living in it, there was still warmth coming from the hardened-but-still-cooling lava. From fossils left in the cave, archaeologists could guess that she would steal sheep from local farmers and bring them to the cave to eat. I thought it was pretty cool that a Viking woman could find and survive in a lava cave.

My vacation in Iceland was so amazing and so different. There were so many things I never would have known if I hadn’t come to Iceland. It was tons of fun!