Nancy Claus travelled to Iceland on a whim. Here’s what she discovered.
All photos and words by Nancy Claus
The band Sigur Rós has stirred my soul from the moment I accidently stumbled upon them early 2006. The song that made me an instant fan was ‘Popplagið’. And the one that definitely confirmed it was ‘Glósóli’.
Out of curiosity, I clicked on a link to a concert they played in Reykjavík at the end of 2005. I had it playing in the background, and it sounded interesting and pleasant enough to keep it going for the full length of the gig. Then, at the very end, came the song that truly blew me away. It started off with gently flowing guitar melodies, like an innocent spring shower drifting by, then suddenly advanced like a distant thunder, changing into eerie chanting, slowly building up to a point where it unleashed 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.
So when they announced a gig in a park in Reykjavík at the end of July 2006, that would be free of charge for anyone, it triggered me into going on a long weekend trip to Iceland just to visit that concert.
I had no idea what to expect of Iceland, except for some general characteristics. That it was where the original natural phenomenon of the geyser was located, and named after. And Reykjavík was supposed to be quite a nice & charming town. Other than that, I imagined it to be rather barren & cold – which are not my favorable conditions to be in. But the thought of going to see Sigur Rós in their native territory, and all I had to do was to book a weekend trip to Reykjavik and just turn up to this concert in the park, made me to go for it with an open mind. And add a few extra days to explore the surroundings, while I’m there anyway.
Little did I expect to be blown away in more ways than one.
Seeing Sigur Rós live was awesome, all 2 hours & 15 minutes of it, accumulating 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 breathtakingly brilliant sounds.
It turned out that the concert in Reykjavík was part of a documentary they were filming, taking them to all kinds of weird off-the-beaten-track locations around Iceland, with exotic names like Ólafsvík, Ísafjörður, Djúpavík and Öxnadalur. There were two more concerts coming up in Seyðisfjörður and Ásbyrgi – but sadly they were taking place just after I’d gone. How I wished I had a bit more time to explore, and to go & see Sigur Rós in the enticing wilderness!
I loved the atmosphere of Reykjavík, the coziness of the colorful corrugated iron houses in the centre, the beautiful views to stupendous mountains on all sides, and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as cold as I expected.
I went out to a couple of bars with fellow travellers from the hostel, and it rocked! 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.
Did a walking tour around Þingvellir, stood on the edge of where the continental plates drift apart, and even though it rained, it was utterly beautiful.
I was intrigued by the luminosity of the light that never really went away, the way the language sounded, and those funny extra letters.
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 so I could hear them talk. Those rolling r’s just seemed to make me melt like a glacier on a steaming volcano…
After Reykjavík I still had two full days for some exploring around. 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.
It was full of steaming fields and surreal rugged & craggy mountains with countless waterfalls tumbling from their hallucinating green edges. As I was getting closer to Vík, I saw a brilliant sunset on a shimmering glacier 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.
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, and on a continuous natural high all the way back to Reykjavík.
Iceland had taken me completely by surprise, and I decided there & then I just had to go back the next year for more.
It was probably the sight of the incredible craggyness of that obscure mountain massif I didn’t even know the name of (and no-one except Icelanders could pronounce anyway…) that did it. And those mysterious island shapes shimmering in the distance just off the coast. The Vestmannaeyjar! I felt immediately drawn to them. I just had to go there. It was like a force of nature that couldn’t be denied.
So I went back in 2007 for a rúntur around the Ring Road. It wouldn’t be the last time either.
The first thing on the itinerary had to be those islands. They were beautiful beyond belief, and I immediately felt this was one of those places I would want to come back to. I bought a card of a painting with a stunning view from the islands. It was that awe-inspiring glacier mountain looming across on the other side. I finally found out what it was called. It had its unpronounceable name written underneath.
A couple of years later – in 2010 to be precise – it actually became world famous 😉