I have dreamed of Iceland. For years. In the late 90’s, Iceland was getting a major push in PR for tourism. All of my magazines were full of tips & tricks on visiting, and I was intrigued. I tore out pages from magazines, posted them in my art journals, and kept dreaming. There were the geothermal pools at the Blue Lagoon, Bjork, otherworldly landscapes...
Then life happened. My own boutique that I needed to keep a close watch on. And more life. I don’t know why, but I never got there. Until this summer. When one of my best friends was looking for a visit, I suggested that we spend some time there. She was all in. And so off we went. We had spent some time together in London, and met back up again in Iceland. Myself, Robin, and her daughter Elizabeth.
All of the sudden. Whoosh. The airport terminal felt crowded as I arrived in Keflavik , outside of Reykjavik. Whaaaaaaaaat? The country feels like it’s bursting at the seams. When we arrived at the BSI bus terminal (the main terminal in Iceland), and at the major tourist attractions, it felt like the country was having a hard time keeping up with the influx of visitors. In Reykjavik, what I thought would be a town filled with locals, the streets were instead filled with others like us. I was hearing more American accents than I ever do in London. Oops. Have could this have happened? According to one of our tour guides, Iceland was really put on the map after that crazy 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull ... all of the sudden, people were like... “Where is this Iceland? It sounds cool.” According to this article, Tourism went from 464.000 tourists / year in 2009 to the present time of around 2.4 million. Iceland is now asking visitors to respect the country and to take this Icelandic Pledge.
On our second day of traveling outside of Reykjavik, we asked our local guide, Einar to do an ammended version of the popular Golden Circle tour. He was totally game and gave us a few alternative ideas. Since we had already seen a geyser the day before, we opted to change up our route.
We stopped at the tectonic plates at the stunning Thingvellir National Park. As we approached the scenic lake nearby, it felt like the skies were parting and we were coming upon a land far, far away.
Then we saw the parking lot. Filled. It was absolutely gorgeous, but far from the road less travelled. You can see why Game of Thrones used it as a backdrop, but I don’t watch the show and was feeling a bit claustrophobic. Luckily, I’m pretty good at cropping people out of my photos. Almost too good.
See what I mean?
As we got back into the car, Robin turned to us and said... “This isn’t my thing.” I love her. She read my mind, so we worked with Einar and he got us on the road less travelled. “I’ll take you to the glacier!” He said. Hell yeah. Let’s go. Luckily we were in a vehicle that worked off road, and off we went. I knew it was a good thing when he stopped to look at a map. We were definitely on the road less travelled.
The terrain visibly shifted as we travelled on the back roads. Clouds descended onto the volcanic peaks and the green moss started to fade away.
As we approached the glacier, the contrast between stark lava, the white glacier, and a peek of blue sky was breathtaking.
From there, we headed to Surtshellir to see the intense lava caves. Many people hike inside of them, but we weren’t prepared with helmets and proper equipment, so we observed from above.
I’m always a few steps behind, taking photos and soaking in the details ... These beautiful alpine flowers are solid proof that beauty prevails in the harshest of conditions, don’t you think?
As we headed back, we had the option to see the Gullfoss waterfall as part of the Golden Circle tour. Instead, we opted for a lone riverbank, just down from the madness. I’m sure it was gorgeous, but this was just as pretty. And I got a shot of the pretty purple lupine flowers that I had been so fascinated with.
Thanks again to my friend, Robin Holloway for many of these fantastic photos. I’m loving the GoPro, for sure!