I had just gotten done traveling all over the U.S. — hiking in Washington State, the Smoky Mountains, eating my heart out in New York City — and then a sailing adventure in Antigua, when I finalized my plan to explore Iceland. It would be my next big photo adventure.
Why Iceland? For starters, I wanted to see this place for myself. I absolutely love hiking and seeing the world, and I had never been somewhere that dense, with such a rich variety of landscapes. I was able to find two travel companions to join me, and we made the trip in early May — not yet tourist season— to avoid mass amounts of travelers.
One of my companions was @Droptheframe — another photographer, eager to shoot just like me. The other was @brittaandersn_, an exceptionally talented artist who specializes in moody landscapes. We all lived relatively close to one another at home, but actually connected through Instagram and learned we were all interested in the same trip!
Once in Iceland, we rented a 4X4 and camping gear, and decided to spend the entire trip camping. We drove the ring road called Route 1; it took us around the perimeter of the country, allowing us to see most of Iceland’s signature locations. Within the first day, we encountered some of the largest, most beautiful waterfalls we’d ever seen in our lives, with some of the bluest, cleanest water.
One of the coolest parts of Iceland is that a huge glacier sits on top of the country, and all of its rivers flow from here as it melts. In the southern most area of the country, we camped on Glacier Beach near Vik. It was an incredible outdoor adventure. We even woke up to reindeer grazing nearby.
In Vik, we walked along the huge cliff sides and saw hundreds of birds all nested along the edges. To explore the shoreline, we rented Icelandic ponies and rode them as we took in the beautiful scenery.
During our trip, the landscape seemed to change constantly from long desert-like roads, to fields of moss-covered lava rock, to huge snowcapped mountains, and then green moss-covered mountains. Visually, it was a photographer’s dream come true.
Once we made it toward the north end of the country, we happened upon grottos of hot springs and geothermal areas, and stayed up until almost 3AM every night taking photos of the landscape. The sun never completely sets during this time of the year, so it was “blue hour” all night long. It’s something you can’t begin to appreciate unless you experience it for yourself.
When we were almost all the way back to the place where we started, we stumbled upon 200-year-old caves formed from a volcanic eruption, with huge icicles covering the ground. We always made sure to see the sights that everyone recommends when going to Iceland, but the most memorable were the places we didn’t expect to find.
Our last few days of the trip, we took to searching for rare gems like Thor’s Valley, and the hot spring swimming pool nestled in a valley.
The final stop was the Blue Lagoon, and it was the perfect ending to a long and exhausting trip. As exciting as it is to explore all these places, we were pretty tired after hiking four to five times everyday for 10 days straight on very little sleep.
One thing we didn’t anticipate was that the entire country was mostly uninhabited, but for good reason. Icelandic people take huge pride in protecting their country’s land. This was probably one of the more humbling things I learned while there.
In the U.S., you can find anything you need, and whenever you need it. But in Iceland, we were more or less on our own unless we happened to be near a town — and they were far and few between. Most of the country’s resources are all imports, meaning they would rather pay more to avoid ruining the beautiful landscape. While in the U.S., you can make a fire in pretty much any campsite you find, Iceland completely bans fires. All of these things may have inconvenienced us in any other situation, but the amount of respect for the environment was commendable. And yet, at the same time, the country has all of the modern luxuries of sophisticated technology, modern buildings, and luxury homes.
All in all, this was a trip of a lifetime. I gained a new perspective on how other people treat their land as well as the measures they will take in order to protect it. I’ve always been conscientious about the environment, but I had never seen a place so untouched. Iceland is purely what nature intended.
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