Ansel Adams once said: When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
His wise words represent perfectly how I felt, and still feel, about Iceland; the landscape, the animals, the people. That’s why I’ve been putting this off for a while.
This is a place that has to be seen and experienced. But for now, here’s the story of our road trip through the most amazing country on earth.
It was my friend Andrew who first inspired my curiosity in Iceland. He described a country with wild and magical landscapes, amazing people and very talented musicians. Before that, I naively thought that Iceland was just full of ice (I was 20…give me a break). As it turns out, Iceland is green and Greenland is full of ice. :)
So I fully expected to fall in love with the country. But the people, I’ve never fallen in love with a nation of people before. I didn’t think it would be possible. Icelanders are some of the happiest, most genuinely kind, and open people I’ve ever met in my life. If you google “why are Icelanders such happy people” or something of that nature, you’ll see that I’m not alone in this observation.
crazy brave tourist walked to the very edge of this cliff and sat down for her friend to take a photo. I had to look away after I took this photo because I was honestly worried about what might happen if she took a wrong step.
Iceland is famous for their horses, a breed known for its sure-footedness and ability to cross rough terrain. They are smaller in stature but don’t call them ponies. That would offend even the nicest Icelanders. When we get the chance to go back, I’d love to go on a riding trip.
Waterfalls dot the countryside, many from melting glaciers in the Spring & Summer. We visited Seljalandsfoss, on the way to Skogar and Vik. We arrived around 8:30pm but it was still very light outside. There was nearly no one at the site. We climbed up a series of wet wooden steps and behind the waterfall. The sound was thunderous. We were soaking wet but it was incredible.
A waterfall that tumbles into a hidden canyon just down the road from Seljalandsfoss.
We stayed at the Hotel Edda in Skogar for the first night of our drive-around-the-country trip. The hotel is on the site of an old school. It was an interesting place. But where else do you stay in a room that affords a view of endless grass and sheep? The Skogar folk museum is just down the street and we headed there early on day 3. It’s an amazing little spot full of local history & artifacts.
a centuries-old ship used for fishing
Not a bad place to have your car battery die on you. Luckily we got a boost from a kind fellow traveler.
Car boosted, we drove towards the Dyrholaey peninsula known for its black sand beach. It was here that I saw my first puffin.
below right is an Artic Tern. They are everywhere in Iceland, and they like to fly in front of cars.
The Icelandic horses are very friendly and will almost always approach you if you walk up to them.
the Vatnajokull glacier in the distance, one of the largest glaciers in Europe.
Jokulsarlon glacial lake. I’ve seen photos of this lake before, and still I was not prepared for the sight of shocking blue icebergs floating in the lagoon as we climbed over a small mound of volcanic soil after parking our car just off the Ring Road.
I hauled a small piece of iceberg near the edge of the lagoon onto the pebbly shore and broke off a small piece. Then I ate it. I’ve wanted to do that ever since reading about a blogger who did the same thing when she visited Jokulsarlon. Tasting thousand-year old glacial ice was pretty cool. It tasted really clean, and cold.
We stayed in the town Hofn that night, it was also the night we found out our rental car battery was completely dead. Luckily it died after we got to the town. The next day our lovely B&B host called her brother, whose name was Thor, to give us a boost so that we could at least get to the mechanic’s place in town. Again, I was amazed at how willing the people were to help complete strangers. We hadn’t left any accessories on or forgotten to turn off the lights. This could only mean that the battery was on its way out anyway. I silently cursed us for choosing a car rental company that rents 10+ year old cars (car rentals are really expensive in Iceland). But M reminded me that a car battery could have died in a new car too (which we saw at the mechanic’s haha). In the end, I realized that it was really a blessing in disguise because it forced us to ask for help. I’m really terrible when it comes to asking for help. I’m always afraid that I’d be disappointed if I do. This little misadventure forced me out of my shell, just a little, but enough to show me that sometimes you can rely on the kindness of strangers and that feeling vulnerable is not a bad thing, but a part of being human.
Day 4 on our drive up to Lake Myvatn in the north, we saw a reindeer from the side of the road. A REINDEER!!
When I researched our trip to Iceland, one of the many things that surprised me was the mention that hitchhiking is not only common, but encouraged in the country. In fact, it’s practically illegal not to pick up a hitchhiker, whether you are a local or a tourist. The country is very safe, and with very few public transportation options to travel around the country, hitchhiking is not a bad option. We picked up a couple from the Czech Republic who was living in England at the time and on a month long trip in Iceland. It turned out that one of them is a wedding photographer! What are the chances?
M with our friends Bosa & Tereza.
After dropping our friends off at Djupivogur. We continued on Route 1 but took a slight detour at the village of Breiddalsvik and winded our way through part of the zigzagging East Fjords. We turned north again at Reydarfjordur and took route 92. Here’s a fun map. It was along here that I drove through the longest mountain pass I’d ever been through. It was such an eerie experience especially with so few cars on the road. In fact, the tunnel was so long that there were evenly spaced Emergency Pull Over stations and phone stations and markers on the road that informed you how far you were from either end of the tunnel. If it weren’t for the modern technologies inside, you could have easily mistaken it as a Dwarf’s cave from Lord of the Rings perhaps.
Finally we arrived in Lake Myvatn. The area is known for their nature bath, which is the Blue Lagoon of the north. We immersed ourselves in the soothing and steaming bath for over two hours. The air was crisp and cold that night. So cold in fact our hair, eyebrows and eyelashes were covered in tiny icicles.
In the summer, Iceland is the land of the midnight sun.
One of the few sunny days we had while in Iceland. The water was incredibly blue. On day 5 we drove up to Husavik, a small town about an hour north of Lake Myvatn for a whale watching tour. It was awe inspiring watching the gentle giants of the sea diving and swimming.
A humpback whale diving.
Day 6: we drove back to Reykjavik after a night staying in Hvammstangi.
Puffins! They are such endearing little birds. Known for mating for life, and to be a little clumsy.
Six nights and five days was not nearly enough. While we managed to drive around the Ring Road, and thus around the country, in five days, I would not recommend it for anyone else. It was a lot of driving, but since we took advantage of Icelandair’s stopover offer we only had limited number of days this time around. When you are driving that much, you just don’t have as much opportunity or time to actually get out of your car and explore. This is definitely the country to be outdoors.
Being in the wide open, expansive spaces in Iceland, I felt calm, at ease, a deep sense of wonder, and happy. The air was always fresh, cool and clear. I can’t explain that feeling. I read an article while we were traveling from a blogger who, along with her husband, sold everything they owned and are permanently living and traveling in a camper van. She feels that we as humans are meant to be outdoors, and not be sitting in front of a desk all day long. And I believe her.
Here are a few more (random) reasons why I love Iceland (in no particular order):
1. It’s a very safe country
2. There is Wi-fi pretty much everywhere where there is people
3. Almost no need for cash, credit cards are accepted everywhere
4. Widespread use of geothermal energy
5. I love that their language is so ancient
6. Flying Icelandair
7. Seafood is amazing
Dear Iceland, you have captured my heart (like so many before me), I hope to return again soon, and one day, I’d absolutely love to photograph a wedding there.