As much as I try to dance around it, there’s one word that’s able to sum up the desolate, snowy landscapes of Iceland in December: magical.
There’s something surreal about being in a place which has no bright lights or big buildings for as far as the eye can see. There’s not much manmade objects in these environments, and in a way, there doesn’t need to be. The strange emptiness speaks for itself.
I have seen Iceland before, but in the summer, when days were long (like, really long) and the ground was green and brown. Obviously I knew that late December would be completely different, but I didn’t quite realise how much I would appreciate every minute of daylight in a place where the sun rose at 11:30am and set at 3/3:30pm. It was almost a tease: hey Kirsten, here’s all this amazingly beautiful scenery, but you’d better make the most of it, because we’re turning out the lights pretty soon.
But the constant low, orange glow of the sun made it even better. The snow was always sparkling with a hint of sunset (or sunrise…) colour, and the thundering power of the waterfalls surrounded by snow and icicles were quite genuinely awe-inspiring. The ability to get up close and personal to waterfalls in Iceland – namely Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Gullfoss – made the experience even more exhilarating. To hear the deafening sound of the waterfalls shooting down only a few metres away, and even closer to the glossy but sharp, hard icicles framing the waterfall… it’s beautiful but dangerous.
I haven’t ever seen something that would most remind me of something so mesmerising but threatening. As a bit of a literature geek, it reminds me of the sirens singing on the rocky shores in Homer’s Odyssey. Or, like in that Indiana Jones film where the beautiful cup is the lethal one.
It just reinforces the “magical” aspect of Iceland: there’s nowhere else I’ve been that seems so involved in mythology and folklore. It fits like a glove. When you hear prior to coming here that this is a nation that believes in trolls and giant cats skulking in the mountains (no, seriously, this is a thing, the Yule Cat), you automatically – especially as a sceptical British girl – think “yeah, right”. But there’s something about this ethereal landscape being so untouched, wild and isolated, plus the Icelandic language has barely changed in centuries. Everything about this country seems almost pure. Maybe that’s partly because I saw it covered in snow, but whereas the snow might suggest purity, the green and volcanic colours of the summer accentuate the country’s ruggedness.
The seasons are so different but ultimately they give a very similar feeling. Guys… I really think that Iceland is magical. And anyone who knows me will understand I don’t use that fairytale word lightly (despite being an avid Harry Potter fan…).