This shot is from my first trip to Iceland in June 2018. After planning the trip, I mentioned it to my best friend Jamie. To my surprise, as it was relatively short notice, he decided to come with me. Flights were booked, hotel reservations made, and we were good to go.
He was scheduled to fly out of New York to arrive in Keflavik the day before me. Unfortunately, his flight ended up being delayed, so he landed only about thirty minutes before my red-eye flight. We’re both pretty big guys and sleeping on a plane isn’t so easy for either of us. So, by the time we met up at the airport, we had both been up for over 24 hours.
In our pre trip preparation, we both came across some advice to take the bus from Keflavik to Reykjavík, as taxis can be expensive. Seemed like a good idea. After we got our bags, we figured out where to go to buy bus tickets and got in line.
Soon, we found ourselves packed tight onto a bus. Neither of us wanted to put our camera bags in the luggage bay under the bus, so those were on our laps. Now, fully packed for travel, my camera bag is up around 45 pounds. So, not the most comfortable bus ride I’ve ever taken.
About an hour later, we finally arrived in Reykjavík. The bus dropped us a couple blocks from our hotel, which we were able to find without too much trouble. We got checked in and, first things first, found a great little coffee shop across the street from out hotel and had the first of many coffees that day.
After that, we spent the day wandering around Reykjavík, eating and having a generally good time. What we failed to take into account is that in June in Iceland, it never really gets totally dark. So, we ended up being up far later than we expected because it didn’t seem that late.
On the plus side, though, we had plenty of time to discover some really great places to eat. I’ve never really like hot dogs, even when I was a little kid. The hot dogs in Iceland are next level, though. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates from Icelandic to English as “the best hot dog in town,” was made famous when Bill Clinton stopped there.
We also had some rye bread ice cream at Cafe Loki. I know it sounds weird, but it’s some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s made with day old rye bread crumbs that are cartelized and mixed into the ice cream.
Into the Highlands
After finally getting some sleep, the next morning we were on our way out to the Icelandic highlands. Let me tell you, once you leave Reykjavík, as cool as that town is, the real magic of Iceland becomes clear. The landscapes are so beautiful that they almost defy reality. As beautiful as it is, though, there’s something else about this place.
Imagine a place almost crackling with energy. Now, I don’t mean the type of bustling energy that you might find somewhere like New York or Chicago. I mean, literally, energy. The kind of energy you can feel coursing up from the land straight through you. At least that’s how it felt to me. If you’ve been there, or if you ever go there, I hope you feel it, too. It’s something that’s really hard to explain.
We drove and then hiked to the edge of the valley where this waterfall, Háifoss, is located. You have to come right to the edge of the cliff to be able to see the entire height of these falls. As you can see in the image above, I’m looking slightly down at the top of Háifoss, which plunges just over 400 feet! So, this cliff is no joke.
No guard rails. No warning signs. Raw. Untamed.
I mean, this waterfall wasn’t even discovered until the first decade of the 20th century! At that time, it was believed to be not only the highest waterfall in Iceland, but the highest in Europe.
This may sound corny to some, but I believe that, if you allow yourself to be open to it and if you’re lucky enough to bechosen, you’ll feel the energy of this place because there is magic to be found here. I don’t mean just here at this spot, but everywhere, all through this amazing place. And yeah, I mean magic, real magic, the kind you read about in ancient stories.
Almost every place has a myth or legend associated with it, including Háifoss:
“An ogress lived in Háifoss. She lived on trout, which she caught in the waterfall. Once a young boy threw a rock into the river and scared the fish. That night the ogress went to the spot where he was sleeping and tried to pull the boy by his legs out of his tent. His friends pulled him in the other direction by the upper part of his body. After a great struggle, the ogress let the boy go and went away, but the boy was bedridden for a month from this maltreatment”.
Land of the Gods
It doesn’t take much to let your mind wander. You spot movement at the edge of your vision and imagine it’s Odin, wandering these lands collecting and sharing wisdom.
Hearing thunder, you believe that it’s Thor’s hammer crashing down on his foes.
You see a rainbow cross these falls in the mist, which I did, and you know it’s Bifröst, the bridge connecting Midgard, the realm of man, to Asgard, the realm of the gods.
Standing on the very edge of a cliff, looking down at the rocks, the crashing water, the mist, and a rainbow, it’s very, very easy to forget when you are. There is nothing modern around this place. Nothing.
There is, perhaps, an ill-tempered ogress, however. I, for one, didn’t throw any rocks into the water.
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