When you leave, Iceland leaves with you

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I think about it all too often. Every other week or so, something jams my memory, and nostalgia sets in. It’s November, 2014 and I’m traveling towards a distance island in the upper North Atlantic ocean; ready for mostly anything but mostly, ready to learn something entirely new.

The Iceland that I wanted lies somewhere outside of the range of what I saw, mostly from bus and walking around. I never experienced it like I would have wanted. Still, what I saw and felt were all too momentous to discount. Full of color and light, so desolate, yet with so much energy, it calls me back.

Staying at the capital city of Raykjavik, my tiny hotel room at the Lights Hotel served as home base. From here I saw as much of the southern coast as one could in only a handful of short Autumn days.

The city seemed constantly bathed in crisp, yet smoky light. Being late in the year, the sun rarely rose high in the sky, which made everything romantically stark in its own frigid sense. After a day of walking around the capital, purchasing some Icelandic beer and Brennivín and fighting jet lag, I attempted to retire at the hotel, but nerves kept me from sleeping. An odd anxiety racked my brain the entire trip. I could only think of what was to come. Maybe it was the way-too-delicious coffee and pizza that kept me up…

Hafið Bláa – Blue Ocean and the Northern Lights

Eyrarbakki, Iceland

The next evening was an somewhat unsuccessful attempt at viewing the northern lights. We drove an hour south to Eyrarbakki and a small seafood cafe near the coast called Hafið Bláa. Amidst a few dozen strangers, a large parking lot and the open skies of Iceland rolling hills, I found a bit of myself.

The wind howled, bringing down freezing even further. Hunched over my tripod, I was exhilarated to be here in this place despite the cold. Although bundled up, my toes and fingers became numb, but seeing the stars, northern lights, and even a lemon-yellow moon through the rising fumes of a distant volcano was worth it.

The Golden Circle


One of the most popular Icelandic destinations, the Golden Circle is a combo of several sightseeing spots. I bobbed along via bus to each, soaking in the wind swept countryside. Lush colored skies overhead, light was never the same twice. Gullfoss, an extremely impressive waterfall, Geysir, the largest geyser in Iceland, and Þingvellir National Park, sight of the first body of government and the mid-Atlantic ridge. All with their own unique landscape, and all rushed by too quickly. It felt like I practically had to run to each, take my photos, and remember to breath and absorb each in person.

South Coast and the Town of Vík

Spectacular falls of Seljalandsfoss

A full day of ride and stops, I spent the last time I could with a tour I knew would show me a lot. The day started out rainy and overcast. The fun thing about short Icelandic days is the long dawn and twilight periods. Even though it was mostly dark, a deep blue hue shrouded everything that could be seen. The one thing I learned the most is that even with foul weather, the Icelanders take things in stride; something that made the gloomy forecast all the more uplifting.

basalt columns near vik, iceland

After having the best lamb stew of my life at Vik and viewing the rocky spires of Raynisdranger (below), we quickly stopped at a nearby beach featuring hexagonal rock columns, created when lava is forced to cool very quickly. After that, some of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen…

The behemoth waterfall Skogafoss was quieter than I expected. Most waterfalls I’ve been to feature a roar of water. This waterfall, although large seemed to whisper in comparison. A strange, but relaxing change. Running up to the falls, I protected my camera as best I could, but the mist was unbeatable. I become soaked within minutes. On to the next one, a friendlier waterfall by the name of Seljalandsfoss, aptly nicknamed ‘The One You Can Walk Behind.’ Clever.

I nearly sprinted. With the last light of the dying die, I came to see what I wanted to most out of Iceland. The sun peaked out of clouds, casting sharp contrast of gold and red onto the falls. My camera’s setting were maxed out to take out what little light was left. The visitors around me were scrambling as well. Hurrying to enjoy something is surely an unpleasant paradox.

Just as Iceland called me to visit years ago, so does it call me to view it’s expansive landscapes after the fact. The feelings, thoughts, and moods will never escape me, as it’s impacts are too unique, too pensive, too romantic and dramatic to forget. If you ever get the chance to visit, don’t hesitate. It is nothing like what I’ve seen in my short life, and I have a  feeling, won’t be very much like anything I’ll see in the future.

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