Iceland’s Wild Landscape, Part 1

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Iceland Photography
Iceland's Wild Landscape

Without a doubt, Iceland is well on its way to becoming a global “It” destination.  It seems that, as of late, Instagram is filled to the brim with one stunning photograph of Iceland after another, and it leads me to wonder if there is any blogger or photographer even remotely interested in travel that hasn’t traveled to Iceland within the past year or two. Of course, it helps that airfare to Iceland has never been cheaper at a time when the last off-the-beaten-path favorite, Southeast Asia, is starting to get inundated with hordes of tourists and Western artists.  (Even so, don’t worry, Halong Bay – you’re still on the top of my list!)  We’re always looking for the next greatest destination, greatest find, greatest hidden gem – and right now, this endless search is leading adventurers of all sorts to Iceland.

I know this because I’ve been guilty of the obsessive Iceland-love myself, and much of my travel writing and photography about Iceland has focused on the nation’s key attractions.  It’s true, I’ll never forget climbing to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church and looking out over the colorful roofs of Reykjavik or watching Strokkur geyser erupt for the first time.  These are experiences that every visitor to Iceland should have, and I won’t stop recommending them simply because they’re getting to be as recognizable as the Eiffel Tower.

Iceland’s purest magic, though, comes through its dramatic, desolate, and unforgiving landscape.  I’m not sure precisely where any of the photographs I’m about to share with you were taken; what I do know is that all of these locations are within ninety minutes of Reykjavik.  And this is the best Icelandic travel advice that I can offer.  Rent a car and just drive until the time change threatens to put you to sleep.  Off-the-cuff adventure is, in my opinion, the point of Iceland.  The following pictures show an Iceland that cannot be reduced to longitude and latitude points on a GPS.

Iceland feels expressly designed for long drives and pulling over to the side of the road for photography opportunities every five minutes.  Iceland is about humility, because I can’t imagine humanity ever managing to tame or completely inhabit this wild landscape.  Hopefully, we all collectively agree not to try.  Right now, Icelandic vacations are becoming increasingly curated.  Large buses bring thousands of tourists to Strukkur and Gullfoss, the main stops on the well-trodden Golden Circle, and the cheapest package available at the Blue Lagoon is roughly forty USD and requires advance booking.  Many tourists are able to visit Reykjavik and the Golden Circle without going anywhere near a rental car agency.  I think this is tragic.

Here’s what I learned about Iceland: if you arrive just to head from your hotel to points A and B before returning to the airport, you will leave with zero appreciation for this great land.  Awe will only happen if you stop and understand that this country can be both violent and beautiful at the same time – nature poses a risk Icelanders live with every day – and as much as I’d like to take credit for the following photos, I can’t.  This beauty – it’s all Iceland.

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Iceland's Wild LandscapeIceland's Wild Landscape

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