Iceland: a surreal summer

Photographer Dan Annett is entranced by the waterfalls and wildflowers of Iceland without the ice

‘Look out of the window,’ the pilot tells us as we approach Reykjavík. He seems relaxed about it, but there is a volcano erupting just two miles from the airport. Perhaps this is what we expected from The Land of Fire and Ice. 

Rugged, brutal wonder. Geysers blowing. Lava fields. Steam rising from luminescent blue lagoons.  

Iceland is all these things. But, come the summer, it is also a place of midnight sun and wildflower meadows, beautiful waterfalls and volcanoes. A place of open roads, epic emptiness. A place to load up and head east along the coast road, with the wild Atlantic Ocean to the south and astonishing ever-changing landscape to the north. 

We stop at towering waterfalls surrounded by luminous green fields, black volcanic ash beaches with puffins nesting in the cliffs, huge seemingly endless ancient lava fields covered with fluorescent moss where, off in the distance, we can see the peaks of volcanoes and the white shimmer of glaciers. 

We stop for hikes and find ourselves on top of the world, literally. Huge wide-open spaces are filled with wild flowers and the sounds of bird calls – Arctic terns and oystercatchers. Purple-flowering gorse and heather line the trails and babbling brooks.

We reach the Skaftafell glacier and hike up to the base of the glacier itself. I first came here 25 years ago as a young photographic assistant and it is distressing to see that over the years it has retracted a staggering amount, nearly half a mile up the valley and a good 30m in height. 

On the way back, we see towering geysers that shoot water 30m up in the air and bubbling hot springs, part of a landscape that is always changing, always epic. Driving across an island like this, with its cinematic colours, its astonishing contrasts, its moon-like wonders, is to be transported, almost Alice-like, into another realm. It’s easy to see why they believe in elves here. 

Follow Dan on Instagram: @danannettphotography; danannett.com

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