My trip to Iceland in July of 2019 was a dream come true for me as photographer and hiker. I had seen many pictures of Iceland, while many were repetitive trophy shots of the same iconic locations, it was obvious Iceland is truly spectacular island. I decided that I would explore as much of the less traveled areas of Iceland as I could to see what hidden treasures Iceland had to offer. As it turned out practically every corner I turned in Iceland had a precious scene, or moment, to entice me into further explorations. Nevermind the lost viking treasure! The diverse landscapes that abound on this geologically active island is the real treasure that Iceland has in store for the traveller.
Exploring Iceland is not without its challenges however! The bulk of the roads that crisscross Iceland’s interior are four wheel drive only roads the Icelanders call the f-roads. In Iceland it is illegal to take a two wheel drive vehicle onto the f-roads. Many of the f-roads have no bridges necessitating river crossings if one is to proceed. These obstacle meant I would need a 4 wheel drive vehicle capable of moderate river crossings. Naturally the Icelanders have risen to the cause and there are many options from four wheel drive cars right up to lifted Land Rover Defenders for rent. I went for something in the middle of the range and rented a four wheel drive SUV that I could sleep in the back of. Not cheap by any stretch but since this would be my accommodations as well it was workable. With the transportation, and accommodation, taken care of I was free to explore all the natural beauty that Iceland has to offer.
I elected to drive the ring road (highway #1) that circumnavigates Iceland and explore some of the f-roads that depart from the ring road as I travelled along it. While many of the big tourist attractions are located along the ring road there are many more less famous wonders to be found on the f-roads. Following the less travelled path has its challenges but there are many rewards to be had as well. Iceland’s geological activity delivers an incredible variety of landscapes for the photographer!
Iceland has a major fault line running right through the country where the North American Plate meets the Eurasian Plate. Plenty of volcanic activity results from this fault line and one can find anything from desolate black lava fields to lush green mossy valleys and mountains. A plethora of fresh water from melting glaciers, and snow melt, contribute spectacular waterfalls, beautiful streams and rivers, and wonderful drinking water wherever you go. The abundant freshwater, and the surrounding ocean, support a considerable variety of avian life including those adorable Puffins. Watch those Arctic Terns!
Icelanders are justifiably proud of their diverse country and will happily expound on the history of Iceland, and it’s attractions, if you show some interest. I uncovered many hidden gems in Iceland while talking to Icelanders from a broad range of occupations. The earliest recorded history in Iceland dates back to about 874 so there is much to see and learn for history buffs as well. While there are is not a lot of wildlife, other than birds, in Iceland there are a lot of domestic animals. Primarily sheep and those cuddly looking Icelandic ponies. Sheep are quite literally everywhere in rural Iceland. I have seen them on top of mountains, hillsides, fields, and on the roads. Drive with care in Iceland as the driver also pays for the sheep in the event of a collision!
Throughout Iceland there are churches in some truly magnificent settings that can be photographed in an almost unlimited variety of conditions, and compositions. With Iceland being an island set into the North Atlantic ocean seascapes are plentiful. Black sand beaches, rugged rocky shorelines, many photogenic harbours, lighthouses, basalt rock columns, waterfalls tumbling into the sea, are just a few examples of the wonders to be found. I encourage anyone to explore Iceland. Skip those overrun tourist spots and checkout what Iceland has to offer. In future blogs I will expound on some of my favourite regions in Iceland so stay tuned!