there are places that you travel to that you enjoy. places that are lovely, that are good, that are memorable. places that you saw and liked.
and then there are places that you travel to that consume you entirely. places that capture your heart just as much as they capture your eyes. places that seem to reflect a part of your very soul.
i have only felt that a few times in my life. once in britain and ireland.
and once in iceland.
i honestly didn’t know what to expect from this country.
i knew that i would enjoy it. scandinavia (i should say the nordic countries, as iceland isn’t technically a part of of scandinavia. but, you know, semantics—ANYWAY so scandinavia) has long held an endless fascination and mystery for me. i have studied and loved various aspects of its culture, yet it still felt rather like a stranger to me—perhaps because i had never been to a scandinavian (nordic) country. in any case, i was very excited to go to iceland.
i didn’t really expect to fall in love with the place.
megan and i arrived in iceland late thursday night—or rather, very early friday morning. we were exhausted, but at least our flight had been pleasant enough. i spent the whole of it reading neil gaiman’s norse mythology, which felt very appropriate, all things considered.
after catching a few hours of sleep, we spent the morning in reykjavik. it’s quite a small and quiet thing for being the capital city, which made me like it all the more. we stopped by hallgrÍmskirkja, a very lovely church that has a statue of leif eriksson in front of it (as all lovely churches do). we wandered through shops upon shops, looking at icelandic woolen goods and wooden carvings. we bought books on elves and trolls (which icelanders still believe in, and which made me like them more) and even a copy of the original icelandic sagas. (i’m going to be even more versed in norse mythology once i finish reading it.) and, most importantly, i got THE BEST SWEATER TO EVER SWEATER. it’s beautiful and lovely and icelandic
and i wore it for like five days straight.
(i have a lot of feelings about sweaters, in case you couldn’t tell.)
we didn’t linger in the city for too long, as we were most eager to set out and begin exploring the country. so, after stocking up on the necessities (namely chips and chocolate), we drove out of reykjavik and into the wide expanse of iceland.
we spent the afternoon in the golden circle.
(that’s a lovely image, isn’t it?)
in actuality, the golden circle is the name for the region just above reykjavik, containing many of iceland’s iconic (and perhaps touristy) features.
and it really is very lovely.
like, i don’t even know how to begin to describe the beauty of iceland. it’s wild thing—vibrant and mercurial. the landscape changes as soon as you have a moment to wonder at it. sometimes it’s wide and almost plain-like, which you would believe save for the stark gray mountains surrounding you. sometimes it’s endless and green, undulating fields of bright moss that seems like it should be the land of trolls and elves. and then sometimes it’s hard and black, rocky expanses and beaches reminding you that this is a chaotic place, a place of fire and of ice. and it is not to be trifled with.
(but for serious, i couldn’t let myself think about the volcanoes. the paranoid in me expected them to erupt every second of our stay.)
the nice thing about driving in a country like iceland is that you can stop whenever you like. the roads in iceland are like blockbusters before they shut down—open, that is, but quite deserted. we could have well been the only people in the country, for all the cars we passed on the roads. this made stopping and taking photos and rambling very convenient and very enjoyable.
and on these as-fancy-strikes wanderings, we stumbled upon some hidden beauties. for example, on friday afternoon, we stopped at this lovely mossy field for some pictures. but my heart heard that familiar urging that it does when i’m out in something beautiful—the call that says walk on a little further, walk on until you can’t go anymore, walk on walk on walk on. perhaps it’s the remnant of my study abroad speaking to me, perhaps it’s lady nature herself. i don’t know. all i know is i want to listen.
anyway, i suggested to megan that we follow the path for a little bit. so we did.
and as we went farther down, we discovered an overlook into a gorge, lovely and rocky and inviting. so we continued on again, walking until we happened upon a waterfall, named öxarárfoss. turns out it’s one of the most popular waterfalls in þingvellir, the national park within the golden circle. the more you know.
we saw a fair few waterfalls during our stay in iceland.
however, my favorite was one called bruarfoss. it’s a little less popular than other waterfalls, and a little harder to get to. but i think those qualities just make it more lovely.
it was rather challenging to find it, though. after parking in a rather snowy and seemingly close position, we decided to walk in the general direction of the fall (at least, the general direction we supposed it to be in). this included climbing over barbed wire fences, trundling through thick mud, and moving (carefully, cautiously) over ice and river. quite a bit of fun, to be honest.
we didn’t really know where we were going, but we could hear the distant roaring of water, so we followed.
and eventually, we found it.
bruarfoss was unlike any thing i had ever seen before. it was, as a waterfall, so impressive and lovely. but the most unusual thing about it was the wide stream of bright blue bisecting the water. the melted glacier water flowed right along with the river, but it made a most unique and amazing thing. and to complete the moment, it began to snow.
cold as we were, we couldn’t help smiling.
before our day ended, we stopped in the geothermal area in haukadalur, where there are, among other things, a lot of geysers. (one of which is called geysir, from which we derived the english word. fun fact of the day.)
as i said before, iceland’s landscape astounds me with its diversity. megan and i had just before admired a glacial waterfall, shivering from snow and biting winds. and now we were standing on warm earth, the scent of sulfur thick in the air. mist and vapor encircled us as we walked around the different geysers and geothermal pools. geysir is unfortunately quite dormant, but we were able to watch another geyser, strokkur, burst through the air.
it was a rather spectacular way to end the day.
early the next morning, we set out on a long drive east. we were going to see the glacial lagoon jökulsárlón, and it was going to take a while to get there.
but i really enjoyed our three-hour drive there. we made several stops to see lovely waterfalls and wide black beaches. we listened to a lot of music and did a lot of singing. in any case, iceland is so gorgeous and varied and diverting, making car rides much more delightful.
we arrived at the glacier around noon. the weather had become clearer and brighter as we travelled east, so by the time we saw the glacier lagoon the day was rather picturesque. jökulsárlón itself was unlike anything i’d ever seen. as we had driven there, we had spotted many glaciers, icy giants hiding between mountains. but it’s something different seeing a glacier so close. the lagoon was brimming with ragged chunks of glacial ice, floating along quietly in the clearest blue water. it seemed so odd that this was a thing that existed, and that i was seeing it.
after wondering at jökulsárlón, we crossed the road to the black beaches of the atlantic coast. the ocean was filled with icebergs, as well, many of which sat on the sand. which made me want to sit on them. so i did. (we both did. megan got her bum wet though cuz she wasn’t wise and didn’t wear waterproof pants.) as you might surmise, iceland has some good ice.
before we were to make the trek back to our hotel, we decided to stop a moment to see fjallsárlón, which is another glacial lagoon like jökulsárlón except smaller and less crowded—mostly because people don’t know about it. the sun was beginning to set and everything was becoming all nice and golden. fjallsárlón was a lovely glacial lagoon. the hills around it were open and vast. it was a bit of a climb down to see the lagoon, which sat just in front of the glacier. i decided to walk down to it, as i heard a curious cracking noise and wondered what it was. (it took me a moment to realize it was the ice. the ice was melting and moving and cracking. it was a little frightening.)
we didn’t stay too long, as we wanted to be on our way when the sun set. but both jökulsárlón and fjallsárlón were awesome, in the original and truest sense of the word. they create awe in me. as does all of iceland.
sunday, our last day, was short and quiet.
we went to church in the morning, but not before stopping by kerið, a volcanic crater lake, on our way. we stayed a moment to admire the scene before deciding it was too cold and rainy to properly enjoy it while wearing church attire.
and then we headed to the airport.
sunday was a bit of a sad day.
in the end, i don’t know how to describe why i loved iceland so much. yes, it’s lovely and amazing and exciting, but it’s more than that, too. there’s a real heart and soul in iceland, or at least one that found mirror in my own.
i want to go back so dearly. i want to move there and become an icelandic sheep herder and spend my days knitting scarves and socks and sweaters. i want to say that i’m kidding about the sheep herder bit, but sometimes i actually consider it.
iceland, you’re lovely.
also, i did make a video for iceland. one of my better ones. it’s got jose gonzalez singing so that’s always good. watch it here.