Iceland, with its close proximity to the U.S., Canada, and mainland Europe, is an ideal location for travelers of all types—from experienced globe-trotters to first-time international tourists. The nature is inspiring, the people hospitable, the city entertaining, and the culture a distinct and diverse conglomeration of Scandinavian, European, and North American influences. Pablo Juarez, a native of Ottawa, Canada, returned to Reykjavík for a second time this winter, after a memorable journey to Iceland last year. An explorer who has spent the last fifteen months sightseeing and working across the globe, Pablo has found both of his trips to Iceland incredibly worthwhile and the sites he’s seen here like nowhere else in the world.
Journey to the North
On his first trip to Iceland, Pablo endeavored to balance his time between city life and seeing as much of the countryside as possible.
“I’ve actually been traveling for fifteen months, did a working holiday in Australia, and have just been checking out cool places all over the world,” he says of his extensive travels. “I’m only here for a few nights this time around. When I was here last March, I took the Golden Circle tour, explored a little bit of the South Coast, drove up to Akureyri [often referred to as the northern capital of Iceland] and saw some of the sites up by Lake Mývatn as well.”
Lake Mývatn is a biologically-productive, geothermal lake near the volcano Krafta that is surrounded by otherworldly, photogenic wetlands—a must-see location for lovers of unique and mysterious natural beauty.
“Lake Mývatn, and the region around it, is amazing. It’s like the land of nowhere,” he recalls. He also recommends renting a car and driving up north to Akureyri, less for partying more for sightseeing: “The city a bit smaller than Reykjavík, so obviously the night life isn’t as notable, but the landscape around it is just unbelievable.”
Top on his list of all the sites he’s seen in Iceland is the impressive waterfall Skógafoss, one of the country’s largest waterfalls, with a width of 82 feet (25m) and a height of 200 feet (60m).
“It’s a beautiful location, where you can see and take pictures of double rainbows (on sunny days),” he says, smiling.
The magnificent waterfall, which is located along Iceland’s South Coast, has made cameos in numerous films and music videos, most recently in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, as well as a Justin Bieber’s video for “I’ll Show You.”
Pablo intends to stay close to the capital this time round to get to know the locals and the culture better.
“I’ve done a glacier trek and other touristy things as well, but on this trip, I’ll be spending most of my time hanging back in Reykjavík because it’s such a cool city,” he explains, reclining in his chair at a table in Loft Hostel. “The locals are really friendly and everyone seems to speak English really well,” he reports. “Like in a lot of Scandinavian countries, the people here are really warm, and I’ve always felt really comfortable and welcomed here in Reykjavík.”
Although his current stay in Reykjavík will be brief, Iceland nevertheless stands out as one of Pablo’s favorite vacation spots.
A traveler who once found incidental global fame after tennis star Eugenie Bouchard took a widely-shared and broadcasted selfie with him, he urges others to put Iceland at the top of their lists of places to see: “Whether it’s winter or summer, come check it out. The landscape is something you’ll never find anywhere else, with its hot springs, its waterfalls, its mountains—it’s just boundless. Come enjoy the culture in between taking your excursions. It’s an amazing place.”