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Summer Into Winter

Ice, Snow and Sunset. Iceland 2019.

From mid-July to early October, the weather here in Bellingham and the Pacific Northwest comes pretty close to ideal. Warm, dry, balmy, and sunny days, dramatic sunrises and sunsets, snow lingering on the far, high peaks, and (so far) no record breaking heat that can’t be offset by a few fans around the house. Ideal!

Flowing Ice! Gullfoss , Hvita River, Iceland 2019.

But perfect can mean many different things. If you love cold, ice and snow, then winter in Iceland might be picture-perfect for you? Join me, Stephanie, our daughter Danna, and her now-husband Cameron as we travel back in time (December 2019) and from summer in the Pacific Northwest to dead-of-winter in this Nordic Island located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Artic Oceans.

Reykjavik North. Iceland 2019.

We visited Iceland because winter is our favorite season, we wanted to visit white snow, blue ice caves, and black sand beaches, and to see the northern lights in the Artic sky. Throw in a few glaciers, icebergs, and volcanoes and hot springs just for entertainment. In short, we were following our usual search for uniquely beautiful places with few people.

Black Sand & Blue Ice. Jokulsarlon Glacier, Iceland 2019.

And, as with every trip away from home, we wanted to meet local Icelanders (Íslendingur- a man from Iceland in the court of Norway) and learn about new cultures and traditions. Given that this trip was over the Christmas holiday, we were especially interested in a country that believes in thirteen trolls instead of Santa Claus. These trolls (Jólasveinar), their mother, the ogress Grýla, and the legend of the “Christmas Cat” make for some interesting but maybe less-than-jovial holiday traditions.

Storm Approaching! Reynisdranger Cliffs, Iceland 2019.

We also wanted to meet a nation of people that live in an area where 62.7% is tundra, where 55% of the nation believes in elves (not believing can bring about a lifetime of extremely bad luck), and everyone (doctors, politicians, and celebrities) go only by their first name. They sounded like, and turned out to be, our kind of people!

Ice Cave Melt! Svinafellsjokull Glacier, Iceland 2019.

It was winter, so much of Iceland was off-limits due to snow, ice, and high winds. And since we only had a week on this first trip, we were limited to Iceland’s southern coast, from the capital Reykjavík to the natural harbor and fishing village of Höfn, six hours to the east. But between these stops, pure magic! Waterfalls everywhere, black sand just past the small fishing village of Vik í Myrdal, the Svínafellsjökull glacier, and the mystic combination of black sand and blue ice at Jökulsárlón just south of Vatnajökull National Park.

Ice, Snow and Sunset 2. Iceland 2019.

It was a huge agenda for a week in Iceland, but Cameron was driving, and we would not have missed anything. So, back in Reykjavík and preparing for our flight home, we found ourselves in a small, local restaurant having dinner with a menu of Harðfiskur (dried fish), Hákarl (fermented shark), and Brennivin (meaning burnt wine and also called the Black Death) the national drink that is only made in Iceland, and only at one distillery. I think I prefer turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and apple pie.

Basalt Sea Stacks and Shorebirds. Reynisdranger near Vik i Myrdal, Iceland 2019.

If you have plans to visit Iceland, we can definitely recommend the southern coast. But we hear that Iceland’s Eastfjords with its jagged coastline of fjords, reindeer, mink, puffins, and artic fox, is also amazing and we can’t wait to go back to see this area. And Northern Iceland! The Land of Fire and Ice, with active volcanoes, and more thundering waterfalls and bubbling hot springs. And the magical, remote, and summer only Westfiords region with its untouched landscapes and spectacular cliffs and coastlines!

You get the point, Iceland is amazing. Our winter trip was just the tip-of-the iceberg (sorry) for exploring this wonderful country, and there is so much left to see and explore. Can’t wait to go back, especially in the summer to see a different side of the rivers, rocks, mountains, and coastlines of this wonderful land.

A Slippery Slope! Winter in Iceland, 2019.


· Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers.

· Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island. It is Europe’s second-largest island after Great Britain. Ireland is third.

· For additional wonderful images of Iceland (including Eastfjords), visit my friend John D’Onofrio’s website. John is a great photographer and editor of, and mastermind behind, Adventures Northwest, a quarterly magazine (print and online) dedicated to the exploration and appreciation of the magnificent landscapes of Cascadia.

· It’s a theme! My last blog (River Time) talked about the Numumbi, or little folk in Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River, in 2021 I talked about Sipapu, the Southwest Hopi word for the portal through which Hopi first ancestors entered the present world. Iceland has its Huldufólk, hidden people and supernatural beings that live in nature (as well as elves, trolls, and ogress’). No matter your destination, it is good to know the local and historic folklore – if for no other reason than to have someone to blame when your photos don’t come out, your truck breaks down, or something else goes haywire!

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Laura Brauner
Laura Brauner
Aug 19, 2022

As usual, your gorgeous photos accompanying your travel experiences make your "blog" one that I truly enjoy reading/following. 💜

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