Destination: Iceland

The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.
— Stephen Markley

My most recent trip to Iceland was a smack-in-the-face reminder of things that I deep down already knew to be true: people are genuinely kind, the world that we live in is strikingly beautiful, and nature is fucking in charge, hands down.

I had all intentions of making a detailed list of recommendations on where to stay, where to dine, and sites to see, but then I realized you have the Lonely Planet book for that and I'm just not that organized. Allow this post to be an offering of my personal insights and experiences as captured through photography and words. My hope is that it will inspire you to visit this stark gem of a country someday.

In November of 1973, a U.S. Navy airplane was forced to crash land in Solheimasandur. Thankfully the crew all survived, but the wreckage of the Douglas DC-3 remains on this black-sand beach. We drove as far out as we could in our Land Cruiser, then walk-ran the rest of the way on the icy beach to the wreckage—the only refuge from the wind was climbing inside the plane.

In November of 1973, a U.S. Navy airplane was forced to crash land in Solheimasandur. Thankfully the crew all survived, but the wreckage of the Douglas DC-3 remains on this black-sand beach. We drove as far out as we could in our Land Cruiser, then walk-ran the rest of the way on the icy beach to the wreckage—the only refuge from the wind was climbing inside the plane.

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     Many homes and farms are built under active volcanoes, and I guess that makes as much sense as building a home on top of a fault line.

Many homes and farms are built under active volcanoes, and I guess that makes as much sense as building a home on top of a fault line.

During our first night in Reykjavik, our table at this trendy hotel bar was somehow overtaken by local Icelanders. Before we knew what was happening the most famous artist in Iceland was asleep on my lap, a politician had invited us to her home for drinks, and some dude was eating our bread and tapenade. This perfectly epitomizes the experience with the Icelandic folks—family from day one.

During our first night in Reykjavik, our table at this trendy hotel bar was somehow overtaken by local Icelanders. Before we knew what was happening the most famous artist in Iceland was asleep on my lap, a politician had invited us to her home for drinks, and some dude was eating our bread and tapenade. This perfectly epitomizes the experience with the Icelandic folks—family from day one.

After spending the first night in Reykjavik, we drove a few hours to our little Black House where we would stay for the next five nights. The dark cabin sits between the Atlantic Ocean and a once-fiery-now-dormant volcano covered in snow.

After spending the first night in Reykjavik, we drove a few hours to our little Black House where we would stay for the next five nights. The dark cabin sits between the Atlantic Ocean and a once-fiery-now-dormant volcano covered in snow.

The Black House is co-owned and interiorly designed by the renowned Icelandic interior designer Rut Karadottir. The sun has almost set, boots almost snow-free sit at the back door, which peeks out at the high tide. It's only nature's guess when and where the Aurora Borealis will visit.  And then ...

The Black House is co-owned and interiorly designed by the renowned Icelandic interior designer Rut Karadottir. The sun has almost set, boots almost snow-free sit at the back door, which peeks out at the high tide. It's only nature's guess when and where the Aurora Borealis will visit.

And then ...

She danced the most magnificent dance I've ever seen.

She danced the most magnificent dance I've ever seen.

As nature would have it, the rest of the trip was lived at her whim.

"There is no more sagacious animal than the Icelandic horse. He is stopped by neither snow, nor storm, nor impassable roads, nor rocks, glaciers, or anything. He is courageous, sober, and surefooted. He never makes a false step, never shies. If there is a river or fjord to cross (and we shall meet with many) you will see him plunge in at once, just as if he were amphibious, and gain the opposite bank." ~ Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth

"There is no more sagacious animal than the Icelandic horse. He is stopped by neither snow, nor storm, nor impassable roads, nor rocks, glaciers, or anything. He is courageous, sober, and surefooted. He never makes a false step, never shies. If there is a river or fjord to cross (and we shall meet with many) you will see him plunge in at once, just as if he were amphibious, and gain the opposite bank." ~ Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth

This church sits outside of Hotel Budir, situated in a lava field on the westernmost tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. The day spent on the peninsula was an interesting one—driving hours without seeing a soul, the vastness of the landscape hard to comprehend. The sun just went down, it was freezing cold, and there were just a few cars left on the newly dark road. In an attempt to capture a photo of the sunset, we veered off the rode unknowingly into a snow covered ditch. Car after car pulled to the side of the road, but there wasn't much that could be done. A woman with her kids in the car offered to help "push," but the task was greater than her kindness. Finally, after about an hour of trying to dig the car out, an older Icelandic gentleman in an old Land Rover Defender pulled to the wrong side of the road. He took rope from the back of his pickup and tied his truck to ours without speaking a word—we couldn't speak his language, he couldn't speak ours. He put his truck in reverse and took us with him. Sometimes just a look, an act of kindness, a refusal of payment, a hug, and a smile transcend. 

This church sits outside of Hotel Budir, situated in a lava field on the westernmost tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. The day spent on the peninsula was an interesting one—driving hours without seeing a soul, the vastness of the landscape hard to comprehend. The sun just went down, it was freezing cold, and there were just a few cars left on the newly dark road. In an attempt to capture a photo of the sunset, we veered off the rode unknowingly into a snow covered ditch. Car after car pulled to the side of the road, but there wasn't much that could be done. A woman with her kids in the car offered to help "push," but the task was greater than her kindness. Finally, after about an hour of trying to dig the car out, an older Icelandic gentleman in an old Land Rover Defender pulled to the wrong side of the road. He took rope from the back of his pickup and tied his truck to ours without speaking a word—we couldn't speak his language, he couldn't speak ours. He put his truck in reverse and took us with him. Sometimes just a look, an act of kindness, a refusal of payment, a hug, and a smile transcend. 

A snow, wind, and hail storm had us hunkering down for the night. Mother Nature reminded me of our utter smallness in the grander scheme of things with sustained gail-force winds up to 80 miles per hour. Luckily we had all the local ingredients for a traditional Icelandic fish soup and lots of booze.   

A snow, wind, and hail storm had us hunkering down for the night. Mother Nature reminded me of our utter smallness in the grander scheme of things with sustained gail-force winds up to 80 miles per hour. Luckily we had all the local ingredients for a traditional Icelandic fish soup and lots of booze.

 

This about sums it up.

This about sums it up.