Traveling to Iceland was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. At 16, I have been fortunate to travel to Europe, hike national parks, and explore cities all over the United States. Almost all of these trips have taken place in summer, when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. In Iceland for spring break, not so much. This was a huge change for my mom and me.

My favorite subject in school has always been science, so a land of volcanoes and glaciers and natural hot springs and the spot where North America and Europe come together seemed like a wonderful place to be.

Among all the awe-inspiring things we saw, my favorites were the black sand of Reynisfjara Beach, the Secret Lagoon, and the Northern Lights.

Brielle Tuvim at the Secret Lagoon in Iceland.
Rebecca Barger
Brielle Tuvim at the Secret Lagoon in Iceland.

We set up base in Reykjavik, the capital, and rented a car as small as I've ever been in. But with the price of gas approaching $8 a gallon, the size seemed about right.

Reynisfjara Beach, right outside the fishing village of Vik on the South Coast about 2½ hours from Reykjavik, was absolutely stunning, with pitch-black sand and an ocean-facing cliff of towering stacks of hexagonal blocks of volcanic basalt.  The sea and its currents are extremely dangerous; everyone made sure to stay a safe distance from the waves, which often reached farther up the sand than a tourist would expect. There were also huge rock structures rising from the ocean that attract thousands of seabirds. The entire landscape looked as though it were from a movie.

The Secret Lagoon was one of our stops along the Golden Circle, a commonly traveled sightseeing trip. Located in Flúoir, the lagoon was only a half-hour drive from Gullfoss, a ginormous double waterfall that is a signature attraction in Iceland (and that is  pictured on the cover of one of my dad's Echo & the Bunnymen albums). The lagoon itself is fed by hot springs and is surrounded by rocks and has pebbles along the bottom. The water temperature was perfect, and the steam made for awesome photographs. Compared to our experience at Blue Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon was much more calming, and a lot less busy!

Seeing the Northern Lights had been on my bucket list since I was in elementary school. Witnessing them in person was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined. We took a tour bus out near Keflavik (where the airport is) and parked in the middle of nowhere. At 10:30, the sky was black except for the moon, and we were beginning to lose hope. We then noticed a faint green stripe across the sky. It started to become much more vibrant, with purple on the edges. I was already speechless, but then the lights began to dance. I watched as the green and purple lines twirled around in the sky. They even made a swirl shape that appeared to surround the moon.  It was the highlight of my entire trip, and I will never forget it.

Brielle Tuvim writes from Glenside.

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