Blown away big time – The overwhelming beauty of Iceland
What is it with this spell that Iceland does to you? My first visit was a spontaneous short trip to see a concert of Sigur Rós in Reykjavík. Little did I expect to be blown away in more ways than one… I became enchanted by the overwhelming beauty of Iceland. It just keeps you coming back for more.
Many visitors to Iceland have experienced the same thing. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been since then. Serious warning: Iceland is addictive! This is my story of how that happened.
Soul-stirring Icelandic music
Sigur Rós has stirred my soul from the moment I accidently stumbled upon them early 2006. Out of curiosity I clicked on a link to a concert they had played in Reykjavík a few months before. I was intrigued by the ethereal sound of their music, so I left it playing in the background for the full length of the gig. Then, at the very end, came the song that truly blew me away. The song that made me an instant fan: ‘Popplagið’ – their epic masterpiece.
It starts off with gently flowing guitar melodies, like a spring shower innocently drifting by. Then it suddenly advances like a distant thunder, slowly building up and finally unleashing into a furious explosion of sound, overwhelming like a lightning storm.
It flooded into my soul and left me in complete awe. Wanting to hear more.
I just had to go & see them live
When Sigur Rós announced they would play a free concert in a park in Reykjavík at the end of July 2006, it triggered me into a spontaneous short trip to Iceland, just to visit that concert.
The geyser at Geysir. The big one to the left is the original, but now Strokkur is the active one.
A trip into the unknown
I had no idea what to expect of Iceland, except for some general characteristics. I knew that Iceland is where the natural phenomenon of the geyser comes from. That there’s quite a large glacier somewhere, and that Reykjavík is said to be a nice & charming town. Other than that, I imagined it to be rather barren & cold – which are not my favourable conditions to be in.
Before the Sigur Rós concert, Iceland wasn’t even on my radar of places I wanted to visit. But the thought of seeing Sigur Rós on their native territory made me go for it with an open mind.
So I decided to book a weekend trip to Reykjavík, and just turn up at this concert in the park. I thought I might as well add a few extra days to explore the surroundings, because I was going there anyway. This would probably be the only time I’d go to Iceland… 😉
Little did I expect to be blown away in more ways than one
And not only by the Sigur Rós concert, which was awesome in itself. All 2 hours & 15 minutes of it, culminating in that mind-blowing eruption of sound that is their epic song ‘Popplagið’. I stood about five rows from the front of the stage, and was blasted off my orange coloured socks by their brilliant sounds.
Sigur Rós @ Klambratún Park in Reyjkjavík.
Colourful & cozy Reykjavík.
Midnight sunrise at the Solfar sun voyager in Reykjavík.
Pleasantly surprised by Iceland
I loved the atmosphere of Reykjavík, the coziness of the colourful corrugated iron houses in the town centre and the beautiful views to stupendous mountains in all directions. And I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t actually as cold as I expected.
Reykjavík nightlife and swimming pools
I went out to a couple of bars with fellow travellers from the hostel, and it rocked! I danced my purple coloured socks off, and walked back along the harbour in broad daylight in the middle of the night. Blissfully drifted around in the hot outdoor swimming pool next to the hostel and soaked myself silly in the Blue Lagoon (still affordable at the time…)
I did a hiking tour in Þingvellir National Park and stood on the edge of where the continental plates drift apart. And even though it rained, it was utterly beautiful.
Þingvellir continental rift. One of those places that makes you feel blown away with the beauty of Iceland. Geological wonders happening right before your eyes.
Intriguing impressions of Iceland
I was intrigued by the luminosity of the light that never really went away, the way the language sounded, and those funny extra letters ‘ð’ and ‘þ’.
And, another thing I noticed: English spoken with an Icelandic accent is one of the sexiest accents I’ve heard. Sometimes I couldn’t help myself asking random people for directions or other information, just to hear them talk. Those rolling r’s just seemed to make me melt like a glacier on a steaming volcano…
The steaming fields of Geysir geothermal valley.
Skógafoss rainbow waterfall.
Way beyond awesome…! The obscure glacier mountain, looming behind craggy hills.
Incredible craggyness & overwhelming beauty
After Reykjavík I had two full days for some further exploring. I rented a car and drove inland to the geyser area & along the south coast to Vík. And got lost in some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.
Surreal landscapes and countless waterfalls
It was full of steaming fields and surreal rugged & craggy mountains, with countless waterfalls tumbling from their hallucinating green edges. I saw a brilliant sunset on a shimmering glacier mountain looming in the distance at half past 10 at night, and I was well & truly blown away.
It was beyond anything I could have imagined or expected beforehand.
Hallucinating red hills.
Hallucinating green valleys.
And no, those colours aren’t exaggerated. It really looks like that in summer!
Hallucinating blue ponds at Geysir.
Lost in some weird place again…! 😉
Lost in the beauty of Iceland
When I woke up the next day to clear blue skies & warm sunshine (!) and walked up to the craggy Reynisfjall hill, I was lost forever. I was on a continuous natural high all the way back to Reykjavík. Iceland had taken me completely by surprise.
I decided there & then I just had to come back for more.
The unpronounceable glacier mountain
It was probably the incredible craggyness of the obscure mountain massif with a glacier on top that did it. I had no idea what the name of this mountain was. And even if I did, no-one except Icelanders could pronounce it anyway.
Reynisfjall with Vík in the background.
Pillars coughed up from the sea.
The lagoon behind Reynisfjara.
The islands shimmering off the south coast
I also noticed some mysterious peaks shimmering in the distance, on the coastal plain across from the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. At first I thought they were mountains. But it turned out they are actually islands, rising from the sea like a fata morgana surrounded by misty swirls. And somehow I felt immediately drawn to them.
It was like a force of nature that couldn’t be denied. I just had to go there…
Read more about Vestmannaeyjar (and their fantastic festival called Þjóðhátíð).
Vestmannaeyjar shimmering in the distance… Those mysterious wisps of fog swirling around the island to the left (Elliðaey) are what is called a dalalæða in Icelandic – a spectacular phenomenon to see!
Returning to Iceland – and Vestmannaeyjar!
I went back to Iceland the next year for a complete rúntur around the Ring Road. And this wouldn’t be the last time either. The first thing on my route had to be those shimmering islands on the south coast: the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. It was beautiful beyond belief.
I instantly felt that this was one of those places I would want to return to.
On Heimaey, the main island of Vestmannaeyjar, I bought a card with a view to that awe-inspiring glacier mountain looming across on the other side. I finally found out what it was called – its unpronounceable name was written underneath.
A couple of years later – in 2010 to be precise – it actually became world famous… 😉
So that’s what it is called... 😉
Funny Icelandic words
- Farfuglaheimili: Migratory bird’s home = Youth hostel.
- Þjóðgarður: Community (people’s) garden = National park.
- Rúntur: Round tour; driving (or walking) around from one place to another = Pub crawl.
- Dalalæða: Valley crawler. An untranslatable word for a specific type of fog, slowly crawling up from a valley. Læða is also the word for a female cat.
Icelandic runtúr documentary
The Reykjavík concert was part of a documentary Sigur Rós were making. It took them to all kinds of unusual off-the-beaten-track places around Iceland, with exotic names like Ísafjörður, Öxnadalur and Djúpavík. There were two more concerts coming up in Seyðisfjörður and Ásbyrgi. Unfortunately these were just after I had to go home. I would have loved to stay longer to see Sigur Rós in this enticing wilderness!
(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
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Iceland travel planning
The beauty of Iceland is overwhelming, and so are the amount of sights to see & things to do. If you don’t know where to start, what to expect and how to make the most of your visit to Iceland? Helga Stina is an Icelandic travel planner who knows all about Iceland’s hidden gems and secret places. She can help you unwrap the overwhelming amount of beautiful sights, create tailor-made itineraries, and connect you to locals who offer unique experiences.
Find out more on Iceland Unwrapped by HelgaStina.
Last update: 19 April 2023
First published: 4 April 2017
Enjoying a civilization coffee on a Reykjavík rooftop terrace.
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Sigur Rós documentary
The documentary Sigur Rós were filming is called ‘Heima’ and was released in September 2007. It features several tracks from their concerts in remote places (and Reykjavík), along with beautiful footage of Iceland and its people, and personal observations from the band members. Here you can see the trailer of the Heima documentary.
Sigur Rós Live in Reykjavík 2005 – The video of the concert that initially lured me to Iceland.
The song that started it all. The epic masterpiece. Live at the Reykjavík concert @ Klambratún Park on 30 July 2006. I was in that crowd, tripping out of my orange coloured socks.
It did indeed cause a Natural High. 🙂
This story was also published as a guest post by Stuck in Iceland Travel Magazine (in a shorter version) on 15 August 2016.
More to explore & discover
Vestmannaeyjar – Þar sem hjartað slær (A spectacular island and festival)
Northern lights – Energy from out of space pouring in
Reykjanes – Hidden treasures beyond the barren landscape
Faroe Islands – Atlantic weather systems moving overhead
Island hopping on the Aeolian Islands – A volcanic archipelago
2 thoughts on “Blown away big time – The overwhelming beauty of Iceland”
Thanks for sharing your photos and stories of this beautiful place. I must go and visit.
Thanks for your comment. You won’t regret it if you do – it’s definitely worth the effort. And if you’re interested, you can find find some more Iceland-related stories and pictures on my blog (& more to come!).