Iceland: The land of ice and fire

by | Oct 23, 2016 | travel

Text by Brigitte Mentges
Photos by Tatiana Philitchenko

Roughly 100km south of the Arctic Circle lies the land of Ice and Fire, immortalized in the epic series Games of Thrones. We set on the trail of Jon Snow and the wild tribes amidst ice covered regions and volcanoes, and went off the beaten track to look for puffins nesting amidst cliffs. We saw new life hatching in the form of Artic terns at a biologists’ haven and went to remote villages to look at local horse races. We relished the most delectable langoustines in Höfn, the lobster capital of Iceland and explored the exciting uppity night life of Reykjavik.   Iceland fulfilled all the promises of a land as incongruent as the ice and fire that shaped it millions of years ago.

Cool – is the word most often used nowadays by people to describe Iceland.   It is indeed considered today as the hub of the young, hip, stylishly chichi, natty crowd who are attracted to the numerous festivals that the island hosts, its vibrant night life, and thriving art scene. An architectural blend of glass, wood, stone, and metal set the tone in modish restaurants that reflect a tradition of innovative cooking by the use of pristine Icelandic ingredients.e power of the elements. Perhaps it is this deep cherishing of nature, the respect and fear of it, that compels many to uphold the belief in elves. Elves or the hidden folk, the huldufólk as they are called, are not the green spiky-eared creatures of movies, but according to Icelandic legends people who look just like you or me, that remain unseen and walk in spirit among us. They inhabit stones, rocks and lava fields guarding over the rugged, stark landscape. They can be cunning or mischievous. They can be gentle and caring. They can unleash great disasters or heap people with grace – in fact in a fashion very much like the powerful forces of nature that have shaped the island of ice and fire, this awe-inspiring nature that holds everyone in its ban .

 

Midnight summer is celebrated here by thousands of revellers from all over the world at the Secret Summer Solstice Festival where they rave in 24-hour daylight for the sun never sets. Unique locations like concerts inside a volcano magma chamber and a glacier propelled this festival to the top 10 in the world according to the BBC and the NY Times. But many others like the ground-breaking Sonar Electronic Music Festival, the super hip Iceland Airwaves festival as well as culinary, arts and dance festivals have been attracting over a million a tourists to the country in recent years. For the cool trendsetting crowd Iceland is all the rage
But for all its flash and glitz Icelanders remain very closely connected to nature. Despite the long lightless winter days, nature has been very generous to its residents. The pure and crystal clear water of the many rivers and waterfalls is piped directly into homes, as well as the hot water from the geysers. Geothermal springs provide hot water for the heating of sidewalks, an ingenious idea to optimize snow clearing. Fish stock is plentiful and an exuberant green landscape is perfect grazing ground for the many native sheep and of course the very characteristic Icelandic horse with its small, muscular stature and its very particular gait – fast and so smooth that it seems flawlessly mechanical.   Hot springs are temples of leisure where people can bathe in waters of such vivid, bright, intense blue waters that defy the shade classification of blue. Such colour simples does not exist. Or, it does, but you would need to go to Iceland to understand what blue is.

Icelanders are very much aware of the power of the elements. Perhaps it is this deep cherishing of nature, the respect and fear of it, that compels many to uphold the belief in elves. Elves or the hidden folk, the huldufólk as they are called, are not the green spiky-eared creatures of movies, but according to Icelandic legends people who look just like you or me, that remain unseen and walk in spirit among us. They inhabit stones, rocks and lava fields guarding over the rugged, stark landscape. They can be cunning or mischievous. They can be gentle and caring. They can unleash great disasters or heap people with grace – in fact in a fashion very much like the powerful forces of nature that have shaped the island of ice and fire, this awe-inspiring nature that holds everyone in its ban.

Icelanders are very much aware of the power of the elements. Perhaps it is this deep cherishing of nature, the respect and fear of it, that compels many to uphold the belief in elves. Elves or the hidden folk, the huldufólk as they are called, are not the green spiky-eared creatures of movies, but according to Icelandic legends people who look just like you or me, that remain unseen and walk in spirit among us. They inhabit stones, rocks and lava fields guarding over the rugged, stark landscape. They can be cunning or mischievous. They can be gentle and caring. They can unleash great disasters or heap people with grace – in fact in a fashion very much like the powerful forces of nature that have shaped the island of ice and fire, this awe-inspiring nature that holds everyone in its ban.

More images

Most of these pictures and others are in our Iceland collection.