Favorite Trip of 2012 | Iceland Yoga AventureBy
2012 has been a breakthrough year for SolYoga Trips, adding fantastic new destinations and incredible new teachers. We’ve created yoga retreats around the world and have been featured in the National Geographic Traveler as well as the Travel Channel UK. So what was our favorite yoga retreat of 2012 you ask? It’s always a toss up, but there was something outright extra special about our Iceland Yoga Retreat this past year.
Iceland isn’t your typical yoga retreat, we move from the south, to the city, Reykjavik, to the north west, Snaefellsness, staying in 3 different hotels in 9 days. But the thing about a unique yoga retreat, is that you get an experience unlike any other. And that we did. Our tradition is to go to the Blue Lagoon immediately after landing, it’s the best way to arrive in Iceland and recover from an overnight flight. Our driver/guide, Siggy, who ended up being an unexpected highlight took us to a scenic viewpoint on the ocean, to a walking bridge between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and to a spot where the steam and mud was boiling out of the ground. Needless to say, we didn’t waste any time getting to understand what Iceland was all about.
In the south, we started the retreat by hiking out the door of our hotel, for an hour as a group to a hot springs river where we bathed until we were pruned. The perfect break in the middle of a hike. Our hotel, Frost and Fire was perfectly located on a river with natural hot tubs called hot pots and a natural (absolutely incredible) steam room, just feet from the banks. Available anytime, many mornings and nights were spent going back in forth between the hot pots, steam room and cold water plunge of the river. Hveragerdi, the town we stayed in, has steam coming out of the hills and the people there use it to heat and cook, both of which we fully experienced. Some retreaters even tried their hand at cooking an egg at the steam vent located in the parking lot and we all ate an entire meal prepared cooked by the earth. Can you believe we get to practice yoga every day on top of all this?
The rest of our stay in the south was filled with epic moments including walking on a glacier, playing in the wind on a black sand beach at the very southern tip of Iceland, walking behind a gigantic waterfall and enjoying a delicious traditional meal in a small fishing village in the middle of nowhere.
The middle portion of our trip is one of excitement, eating, shopping, music loving and inspiration. There’s just something about Reykjavik that invites you in. It’s not a sucking in like most city, it’s like a genie telling you that you have a million little wishes if you choose to accept them. It feels like home to us now, after 3 years of getting to know the streets, the people, the restaurants, the music and the magic of it all. Besides a wonderful sightseeing tour – (not something we usually do, but it’s worth it) where we saw Gulfoss, an incredible waterfall, Þingvellir where the first parliament of Iceland was located and where you can walk through the continental divide and Geysir, a geyser that’s way more faithful than old faithful – everyone was pretty much on their own to explore the amazing city. It gives people time to decompress from the group and tap into the feeling of independence of solo traveling that makes us somehow feel more connected to the rhythm of things. But to be honest, everyone usually chooses to eat together, go out together and do other things together, because after three days – we’re all family you know?
My favorite thing to do in Reykjavik is to come into a cozy cafe from the brisk air outside, sit down with a coffee and write my life away. Hemmingway once said that Paris is a place where you can think your thoughts out to the end. I say that Reykjavik is a place where you can think that anything is possible at the end of the street. Our hotel, Odvinse was absolutely fantastic, and although I always prefer to stay in Forsaela Apartment house, for a larger group Odvinse is definitely a winner. Far enough away that it’s quiet, it was just a block or two from the very center of the city. Plus we saw Bjork at the cafe across the street, which is never a bad sign.
Our trip to Sneafellness marked the last section of our journey and was full of unique adventure, moments to remember and stories to tell our children. On our way there we stopped at an artist’s house in Husafell to look inside his studio and the small church and to take an epic hike up a ravine speckled with blueberries. We practiced yoga outside before the hike which really grounded us into the experience. At the top of the ravine was a waterfall with glacial runoff that some brave souls ventured into. We also stopped at the most powerful hot spring in Europe where steam seemed to endlessly devour us.
Our favorite part of the journey begins when we arrive at Hellnar. It’s almost as if the first two stops are full of learning and transformation while the last stop is simply filled with wonder. Wonder that can only be understood after the first two stops. Hotel Hellnar is perched at the far tip of the Snaefellsness peninsula, between the North Atalantic and the snowcapped glacier. The beach is lined with lava rocks covered with the softest moss on earth, presented in a series of rolling hills that you could walk through for days and still feel like you’re in a fairytale.
On our second day in Snaefellness we drove to the other side to visit the town of Stykkisholmur. On the way we stopped at a shark “museum” where we tried fermented shark, an Icelandic delicacy. There we learned how it was made and why. In Stykkisholmur we shared cake and coffee and headed home, but first one more stop at a hot spring pool that our wonderful guide Siggy hadn’t been to in 40 years, since he was my age at the time, 27. It was almost like I could finally see Siggy as his spirit, unmasked by his age, or anything else really, because I could see myself in him and he in me. 40 years since he had last dipped in the those healing waters at the base of a mountain where a glacial runoff forms a waterfall. He told us stories of camping there when he was a boy and you could see him reliving his early years. These hot springs, though not fancy like the Blue Lagoon, have something special about them. I truly believe that they have a magical life giving power that has kept Siggy so young all these year. With only 1 of the hot pots working, we successfully crammed 15 of us in one tub while a few of us played in the pool.
The last day of our trip was unreal. Here is an excerpt from some I wrote about it at the time. “Yesterday we listened. It was one of those days that is marked by such a unique fullness that you no longer need to search for anything. After a morning yoga class and wonderful lunch we hiked along the coast, swam in the North Atlantic on a black stone beach, played in a singing cave and ran down a mountain through lava fields filled with soft moss and as many wild blueberries as we had time for. Time stopped and life started beating by the ripeness of blueberries and the speed of our feet. Our destination was a blurry line of direction and distraction. After a delicious meal and restorative yoga class we were gifted an hour of the most spectacular show I’ve ever seen, the Northern Lights. We spread out in a hay field and instead of finding cows, quite literally I began to hear a series of “wows”, over and over and over again until the lights died down and it was time for bed.”
Join us this year as we head back to Iceland in September with Aarona Pichinson.
>>>Ready about our trip in National Geographic Traveler
>>>View more pictures here: Iceland 2012 in Pictures
>>>Find out more about Aarona Pichinson