“Takk fyrir,” I mumbled quietly as I accepted my passport from the immigration officer. He smiled back at me and nodded, his piercing blue eyes staring back at me. In our 4 AM glory, my sister and I landed in Iceland after a turbulent but painless 5-hour flight. Landing in Keflavik airport, I expected it to be dark outside, like in these gorgeous photos I saw of Reykjavik in the winter. However, I quickly remembered that during the summer, the sun shines 24-hours a day. As we landed, we were greeted by thick clouds and a dusk-like dim light. Gray surrounded us as we made our way to the rental car kiosk, anxious to receive the chariot that we’d be driving around the ring road for the next two weeks.
Walking through the quiet morning streets of Reykjavik, we passed by a small, corner shop called the “Handknitting Association.” Intrigued, I walked into a store filled to the brim with racks and racks of thick, woolen, traditional Icelandic sweaters, called lopapeysas, in all different colors and patterns. The scent of wool filled my nose as I perused the shelves, stacked to the brim with handmade sweaters. I immediately fell in love with these cozy icons, and I ended up bringing home a white and gray, soft sweater that would end up being my adventuring companion.
Together, my younger sister, my lopapeysa and I hiked mountains, explored volcanic beaches, ate langoustine and braved the rainy Iceland water together. I slept with it during cold nights in our tent, and cuddled with it during long drives in the car. My lopapeysa became an integral part of my time in Iceland, so I thought it fitting to take a photo with it everywhere I went.
The result? 19 photos around Iceland featuring my lovely lopapeysa and me. Thanks to my sister, Ellie, for being my tripod and photographic button-presser, even when it was cold and rainy outside.
Iceland, despite its cold weather, is full of amazing wildlife, including reindeer, puffins, seals, and seagulls. It must have been nesting time for the birds because we saw so many while we were there. Scared of the droppings, we didn’t stay too long with these feathery friends, but I was certainly in awe at the number and magnitude of the bird colonies we saw.
There’s also no shortage of powerful and breathtaking waterfalls in this country. This photo was taken at Skogafoss, in Southern Iceland. Skogafoss was one of my favorite waterfalls because of its sheer power. Though it’s neither the tallest nor the most powerful waterfall we saw, I definitely felt that it was the most beautiful.
I’d seen photos and heard stories of a mysterious crashed plane shell in the middle of a black sand beach in Iceland. Naturally, I wanted to see it. So, with our tiny 4-wheel-drive car, we drove out on the sand, parked out car, and walked over a mile to see the Sólheimasandur airplane. It was a haunting site — though no one died at the crash, it was so chilling to see the shell just lying there, abandoned.
Jokulsarlon was a bittersweet place, because on one hand, it’s absolutely stunning – the floating icebergs, the surrounding mountains, the cool shades of blue and purple that dance around the water. But on the other hand, it’s terrifying because this lagoon was primarily caused by global warming. Without this recent climate change, this lagoon would still be a glacier. They fear the next generation won’t even be able to see the icebergs any more.
So many times I would be driving around the Ring Road, and stop by a strikingly beautiful place. Many times, I would see no one else for the surrounding stretches of road, so I would simply pull the car over, hop out, and snap a few photos. This was one scene I couldn’t pass up – it looked like some kind of movie set for an adventure tale. Needless to say the lopapeysa and I had to snap a few shots.
Goðafoss was another one of those waterfalls that just took my breath away. It was a short waterfall but nonetheless very beautiful. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who fell in love with it, because when this photo was taken we were surrounded by dozens of photographers, tripods and all, trying to catch the perfect shot.
Our next stop was Northeast Iceland, and we shot this photo at the Asbyrgi Canyon, a mysterious, perfectly-carved canyon near Dettifoss, Iceland’s most powerful waterfall. There’s a legend that this natural landmark was formed when a flying, 8-legged horse named Sleipnir (belonging to the god Odin) stomped his foot on the ground, thus creating a horseshoe-shaped canyon.
After stopping through Asbyrgi Canyon, we arrived in Myvatn, or “Midge Lake”. Surrounding this area are dozens of cool natural landmarks, including a few giant craters (like Viti Crater, in the first photo), some areas where the ground smokes and melts before your eyes (the second photo), and of course the giant, beautiful lake.
Making our way through the Northern part of Iceland, we were luckily able to catch some of the first clear hours in our entire trip. We stopped for lunch through the whale watching city of Húsavik, then went on our merry way. And, of course, we took plenty of photos in the lupine and on the coast near the city of Akureyri. Akureyri was my favorite city in Iceland, so charming and surrounded by beautiful mountains and stunning wildflowers.
Next a bout of rain led us to Stykkishólmur on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It was fairly gloomy outside, but that didn’t stop us from climbing the giant rock nearby and looking out about the powerful ocean. Plus, while we were there we got to try some of Iceland’s most interesting delicacies, including blue mussels and the dreaded hakarl.
Our last stop before heading back to Reykjavik was a black sand beach, Djupolassandur. An incredibly scenic and lonely beach, there was no one there but my sister, my sweater and I. Surrounding the black pebble plain there are a few stunning black rock formations. If it weren’t borderline pouring outside, it would have made for some fascinating photographs.
On the beach lay the orange remains of a shipwreck that had washed up years before. A lone sign explains the story of the ship, which unfortunately resulted in a handful of deaths. The parts had been left there, on the beach, abandoned, but they now add to the area’s eerie solitude.
And with that, my lopapeysa had traveled all around Iceland. And now she hangs in my bedroom at home, a symbol of one of the most incredible journeys I have been on, and a reminder that I should always return to places that make my heart feel the way Iceland did.