In Praise of Wild Icelandic Landscapes

When touching down at Keflavik International Airport, the first striking impression Iceland offered us was it's sheer openness. Everything is so spacious, and upon further research it stands as the most sparsely populated country of Europe as well as the least populous of any NATO member. 

This came as a blessing to us metropolis weary travelers who would rather bump into sheep ten times over before seeing another gadget wielding pair of befuddled city folk like ourselves. 

During our hour long bus commute from Keflavik to Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, we were immediately fallen under the spell of the Dr. Seussian landscapes before us. Everything was a derivative of volcanic activity. There were no trees to be seen anywhere. We were dutifully informed that "If you get lost in a forest in Iceland, just stand up."  When we finally did see an Icelandic forest, there were only about 50 trees that were each four feet tall.

As drought embattled native Californians, another impacting feature of the landscape was the abundance and viability of wild Icelandic water. Geothermal water is a vital energy source here, and massive glaciers with their iron rich run offs occupy a significant surface area of the island. (Trivial Tidbit: Icelanders call/spell their home "Island" in local parlance, so unless you're familiar with this distinction, things can get confusing. Example; Person A: "We eat rotten shark in Island" / Person B: "Which Island??")


The water is so fresh and plentiful that I soon found myself drinking from the unfiltered rivers of the Vatnsnes peninsula (Vatn means 'water' in Icelandic). The only souls I had to contend with for a hearty gulp were the bands of wild horses that came and went as they pleased.

Our time in Iceland was extremely memorable, but the biggest impression made upon us was by the pristine nature and visionary landscapes. Perhaps this is why Iceland's biggest cultural export, Björk, once told her producer that her album should sound like "rough volcanoes with soft moss", or why the epic sound of Sigur Rós is described by music critics as having a glacial quality to it. 

By the time we found ourselves back on the long stretch of coastal road towards Keflavik International Airport, we had developed an affinity for this unspoiled corner of the world that extended far beyond the usual attachment to a new and unusual place. We felt like honorary citizens of an enchanted world -- one forged by the artistry of supernatural forces, and upheld by very distant and incredibly welcoming neighbors

Dennis WalkerComment