Paris. Barcelona. Venice. Rome. Florence. Reykjavik? It’s true that when people turn their minds to the great romantic destinations of Europe, the isolated, haunted plains of Iceland attract little attention. After all, who would want to spend their honeymoon stumbling over mountains when they could be relaxing in a quiet bistro? Well, actually quite a lot of people. For all we tend to think of it as Europe’s Canada – colder, less expensive, nicer people – Iceland is a country built on titanic myths of magic, monsters and romance. In short, it’s a place that’s seeped in a certain sort of romance, and while that may not appeal to the cosmopolitan types, for the rest of us it’s worth a look. Here we give you our quick guide to uncovering the hidden romantic hotspots of this oft-neglected gem:
Catching the Lights
If you think the shimmering lights of Paris are romantic, you haven’t seen anything yet. The aurora borealis is simply one of the most breath-taking natural displays on Earth; an explosion of light that looks like a mythical war erupting right across the solar system. Seen from a warm hotel room on a snowy evening in Reykjavik, they’re powerful, majestic and ethereal. Seen from deep within the Icelandic wilderness, miles from any artificial light, they’re near unbeatable. To see them at their most electric – streaking back and forth across the sky in a dizzying multitude of colours – is to feel the immensity of the universe staring back at you; an awe-inspiring reminder of how lucky you are to be alive at this exact moment in time, staring into the deep Icelandic sky. Romantic doesn’t even begin to cover it.
The Midnight Sun
Alternatively, if snow and cold don’t really do much for you, a true romantic evening can be spent watching the sun as it threatens – but ultimately fails – to set. Midsummer, far to the north of the capital, is a magical time; a time when legends and fairies come out to play. Or, if you’re of a more-rational bent, a time when the sun makes its lonely way across the horizon, only to rise back up before its even set. Sat on an isolated hill, feeling its rays trace across you at 3 in the morning is a surreal experience; realising you’ve spent the whole night together in the company of the most-beautiful countryside known to man is like learning to see the world afresh all over again.
Glaciers and Volcanos
If both of you are ‘active types’ and enjoy desolate, haunting landscapes of ice-scarred beauty, then a trek among the glaciers and volcanos of rural Iceland is a must. From sweeping, sloping whorls of incandescent ice to huge volcanos rumbling across the horizon and belching smoke high into the stratosphere, the country’s geologically-tense lunar wilderness is a treasure trove of sights most explorers would tear their eyes out for (if they lack common sense and a plane ticket). Try visiting Solheimajökull, the home of the sun glacier, or fiery Mount Helka – once considered by the Vikings to be a gateway to Hell. Up here, every landscape you point your camera at is like a key to the mysteries of the sublime.
The Blue Lagoon
Of course, those who enjoy a more-traditional romantic time can unwind in the famous Blue Lagoon, a hot spring coiled at the base of a mountain range that’s even bluer than the Danube. Tourists from all over Iceland, and indeed the world, come here to unwind, soak up some much-needed relaxation time and generally lark about in a stupendously beautiful natural setting. For maximum romance, try coming at midnight during the middle of the summer, when the sun still streaks across the burning sky. It’ll be a moment for the two of you to remember forever.