When we talked to The Blonde Abroad blogger Kiersten Rich about solo female travel and the importance of traveling to find yourself, we just had to ask her what her must-see travel destination is for our readers. And while we weren't exactly expecting the word, "Iceland," to spring from the tip of her tongue, by the time she was done gushing about it, we were completely sold on the idea.
So, Iceland, here we come; and here's why you should go there, too.
Why would you consider Iceland a must-see travel destination for our readers?
Kiersten told us: It is a very hot topic even though it’s Iceland [laughing], but… I think for women, especially for women who want to try traveling solo for the first time – or just go, and you can go with anyone, you can go with your spouse or your best friend or your family – it’s such a versatile destination that’s becoming super accessible.
They’re really promoting tourism there. It’s not the cheapest destination; you know, it’s a Scandinavian country so it’s sort of pricey, but… for women, it’s super, super safe, [and] it’s super easy to get around. You can rent a car, you can take tours.
During the course of the week that I traveled there, I did a Northern Lights tour one night… and I mean there’s just so much there. So much natural beauty. [Plus,] it’s beginner to advanced. I trekked a glacier, and I’ve never put on ice clamps on my feet in my life. You get to have that really adventurous, amazing experience, and you can have your hand held through it if it’s your first time.
Icelanders are so friendly, the food is amazing, the nightlife there is [some of] the best in the world. They have a really cool brunch/coffee scene, amazing shopping — there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
For me, that was such a magical place. It’s where I really wanted to go, visually shocking from anywhere I’ve ever been. You literally feel like you’re on another planet because it’s volcanic but lush, and then it’s harsh but beautiful. You have waterfalls and volcanoes, it’s sort of [like] if Hawaii wasn’t tropical and somewhat cold, it would be Iceland. It’s a really special place, and I’m dying to go back again, so that would probably be my #1 at the moment.
What's something you wouldn't find in the guidebooks that you should go do there?
It's hard to know what's in [the] guidebooks anymore, because I guess I sort of consider myself one. One really cool thing in Iceland – they do Iceland Airwaves. I'm a big festival junkie.
Iceland Airwaves is a really big festival every November. It's kind of where the musicians go to go to a festival. Iceland's pretty small, pretty remote, and you wouldn't realize how many big bands came out of Iceland. You have Of Monsters & Men is Icelandic, [and] a lot of these indie bands coming out [from there]. There's a really cool music scene. You have the hole-in-the-wall venue where you can just stumble upon really amazing music. You could literally be at the festival one day, and the next day, diving into glacial water. It's such a cool place to go to a music festival, that that would be one of the more unique things they've got going on there.
What's your favorite memory from Iceland?
Good question. There were a lot of good memories.
The time of year I went, it was late October, which is transitional – [and] Iceland has the most confused weather next to San Francisco. [laughing] From snowing to summer, you experience all four seasons in a day. And there's a really famous drive you can do in a day called "The Golden Circle." You basically start in Reykjavík and you start driving in this loop, and it takes you to some of the most iconic natural sights on the island. In that course of a day (and that was such a special day), because you really saw Iceland from the window seat of your car... So you start leaving the city first thing in the morning, and it's [clear blue] skies.
We get to the highway and all of a sudden, it's a complete whiteout. Like, dumping snow. So we pull over and as soon as it stops, we windshield wiper [the car] and it's this epic winter wonderland. Everything's white, everything's covered in snow. You see Icelandic horses in the snow, and you're just thinking, How is this even possible?! There was no snow in the forecast. And you keep driving and within half an hour, there's no snow, there's a beautiful lake and green trees and bright blue skies. I'm like "Okay, I feel like I'm in a dream." It was so magical to experience that.
Just in general, without the crazy weather, that's what Iceland feels like. To do that drive in a day and see so many varying degrees of the geography and natural beauty of the island... That was my favorite thing by far.
Well, she's officially convinced us. Whether it's on our own or with friends, we've just gotta go. Care to plan a trip, anyone?