You can see icebergs in the Antarctic, geysers in Yellowstone, waterfalls almost anywhere, volcanoes in the Russian Kamchatka. You can see whales and puffins in plenty of places, including the U.S. But you can see all of this and more at one time in Iceland.
That’s where I’ve found seemingly endless lava fields covered by moss, red-and-black volcanic ash deserts, rugged basalt terrain broken by ice-capped mountains, glaciers, accessible waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, smoking hot springs and gurgling geothermal areas colored like the surface of Mars, blue fields of lupins and black volcano ash beaches. It’s a photographer’s dream.
And then there are the unique Icelandic horses that roam the island. They were brought by the first Viking settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries. They’re shorter than regular horses but taller than ponies (but would take offense if you called them that). These agreeable five-gait trotters are sturdy and handsome and they are always enjoyable as riding companions.
The best time to travel to Iceland is early to mid July – less rain, more sun, Arctic light, fewer fogs and mists. I don’t think Russian Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky was writing about Icelanders when he said this in his poem “The Pilgrims”: “Their eyes are full of sunset, their hearts are full of sunrise.” But I do know that’s how I felt about its people when I breathed in the red glow of the Arctic sunset. Iceland enriched and elevated me.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times