For those of you who don't know, Winnipeg is just an hour’s drive from Gimli Manitoba, a small lakeside town in a region known as the 'New Iceland'. This area boasts the highest Icelandic population outside of Iceland and several travelers who joined our yoga adventure stemmed from Icelandic heritage... we were quick to boast about our connections when we touched down on the magical arctic island (ie Old Iceland...haha).
But even with everything we knew about this amazing country, not one of us was prepared for the warmth of the Icelandic people or the awe-inspiring natural landscape. Every time we turned our heads we spied vast fields of lava or steaming streams or spouting geysers or moss-covered mountains or volcanoes or waterfalls (you getting the picture?). The scenery was stunning and the books, online guides or first-hand accounts of other paled in comparison to the real thing.
Our outstanding Icelandic native guides, Gunnsi and Tyffi, navigated us skillfully and joyfully through the rugged Icelandic terrain. And every time we stopped to view another spectacular site, the sun magically popped out, along with a rainbow or two. We were assured it was the magic of those mischievous Icelandic elves (ha)! As time to board the bus approached, the clouds gathered and the rain poured from the sky... the elves were definitely on our side. We happily dove into the folklore hook, line and sinker!
As we drove through the countryside we were entertained with information, Icelandic sagas and elf stories (a little flattery seems to go a long way with those guys) all in equal measure. Curiously, if we were not with Gunnsi or Tyffi, it seemed to be raining... No amount of high quality rain gear is too much for Iceland in summer! But we were rocking our PrAna Halle pants (both water resistant and quick drying) – guess those PrAna peeps have been to Iceland! These guys were literally the only pants we wore ALL week (long underwear added an extra layer of warmth) and, along with a solid rain jacket, are on our Iceland must-pack list.
Rain or shine, once we touched down we were there to adventure Iceland like Vikings for the week and nothing could detract from the marvelousness of our experience or the food! We were all treated to a crash course of Icelandic cuisine on our most fabulous foodie tour of Reykjavík. No words could prepare us for the delights of that day! Mmmmmm, the rye bread baked in the ground, delectable ice cream made from the same rye bread (seriously, it's delicious!), divine rainbow trout and fish stew to die for... These are only a few of the delicious items and, a month later, we're still drooling. Even breakfasts were a treat: think fresh skyr (Icelandic-style yogurt), bottomless coffee and smoked salmon were some of the highlights. And we'll just mention the cod liver oil shooters and leave it at that (ha).
Sitting back at home it's impossible to pinpoint what stood out the most. We'll all treasure the time spent soaking in the warm and healing waters of the Blue Lagoon and horse back riding at the foot of the volcano. No one will forget the black sand beaches or standing at the edge of the glacier with the black volcanic ash starkly contrasted against the white ice. Our morning and evening yoga balanced our days and integrated each day of wonder; grounding on the mat after visually soaring all day was heaven. Our group of intrepid yogis loved every moment of this amazing yoga retreat Iceland style and returned home with lifelong memories and friends.
Hugs and love, Jan and Shauna and the Yoga Centre Winnipeg Traveling Elves