I visited Iceland last December and never wrote about it – or the fact that it is one of the most romantic places I have ever visited; that it is innately romantic; deeply romantic. And that to travel to Iceland in the wintertime is to travel somewhat into yourselves. And each other.
If you go to Iceland in the winter, take a lover. (I do not mean “take a lover in Iceland” – and am certainly not advocating that you find some Icelandic equivalent of a pool boy or some pretty young lass (though there are plenty of each to be found! Iceland is a beautiful country, through and through.) I mean take a lover to Iceland; take your actual, existing lover – the boring, pool-less one who snores in bed – along with you to Iceland and spend your time there alongside them.)
Almost everything in Iceland is set up for romance:
The city of Reykjavik and its quaint little cobblestone streets; the coffee shops and music and good, hearty food.
The hot springs – many with private little nooks and crannies for you to sit together and talk – or “talk.” There are spas adjoining many of them, where you can each be pampered, together or separate.
Even the earth itself is great for lovers. If you are into impromptu, outdoor adventures (and I am not suggesting that you are, or that you should be… just saying “if”) then you will be delighted to find that most of Iceland – or much of it, in any case – is covered in moss so soft, the first time you step on it, you will likely shock yourself with how dense it is. Do not think of the moss that barely covers a rock and feels very much like rock. This is the shag carpet of moss – the bear rug of moss. It is even better than both of those, layered one over the other.
The darkness, inviting you to stay indoors all day and all but pushing you back into bed…
And then, in the very heart of all that darkness: the Northern Lights, which are the crux of all that is wintertime Iceland and the epitome of its romance, in my opinion. I did not even see the Northern Lights when I went, and still I can tell you: the whole ordeal of “going to see them” is innately romantic.
You go somewhere, in the silent solitude and utter darkness of the winter night.
You sit back and you stare up at the sky, and you wait.
And here is the wonderful thing about waiting on the Northern Lights: there is nothing but the moment of waiting. You do not text; you do not email; you do not call up your mom or your best friend or your therapist to schedule another appointment. You do nothing, in that moment, except sit in the moment itself, your face turned up toward the sky, your attention directed upward with it, waiting for the world to show you something magnificent. It is just beautiful.
And, more often than not, you are drinking wine in this moment. Or champagne.
Maybe you brought candy or cheese and crackers along. Or not.
In any case, you sit for a very long time – up to hours, in my case – and you wait. And this is where the magic and the romance lies, where the emotion around it steeps and deepens.
It is the possibility of seeing something beautiful. It is the anticipation of not knowing whether or not you will. It is the simplicity in this wonder; the subdued sense of self and gained grace, if you come away seeing nothing but night sky. Or it is, if you are fortunate, the awe and delight of seeing something like nothing else.
And, if you are lucky enough to have taken a lover, you share all of this moment with them. I can think of very little as beautiful and romantic as this.
There are no pretentions – no money to spend and no showmanship of tuxedoed waiters and $100 plates. (So if that is your idea of romance, the Northern Lights are not for you.) But if you do not need white sand beaches or white table cloths, Iceland is one of the most romantic locations you can visit, and you too will likely see it for that.
Iceland is really beautiful. A place quietly steeped in romance; a place for you to take your love. Or, yes, a place to take a lover.