On a pre-pandemic adventure through West Iceland, Jennifer Morris discovers a mystical land dotted with lava fields and glaciers
I float on my back in the warm water of the canyon bath, staring up at the white mountains and trying unsuccessfully to simultaneously retain the sensations of warmth and cold in my brain. The water may be naturally hot, but it’s January in West Iceland and my non-submerged parts are tingling.
After a blissful hour bobbing around in seclusion – and at one point accepting a dare from my husband Jamie to make a snow angel wearing just my bikini and rubber boots – we make the mad dash to the warmth of the changing cabins, pull on our winter gear and crampons and hike back through the firs.
I come to learn via a second icy trip – this time to the public Gudlaug natural pool in Akranes – that swimming outdoors during even the coldest months is not unusual to Icelanders. In fact at Gudlaug, running down to the beach and submerging yourself once in the Greenland Sea before sprinting back to the warm bath is positively encouraged.
Jamie and I enjoyed our visit to West Iceland oblivious to the havoc Covid-19 would soon bring to the world, but coincidentally it was a trip perfectly suited to social distancing and time spent outdoors – something woven into the Icelandic way of life. I was amused to learn Icelanders often put their babies outdoors to nap, believing in the power of fresh air.