Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

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A great film about how traveling through Icelandic nature looks and feels like

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • In perspective Notice Benn in the upper left frame of the picture. All photos in this article are stills from his film.

  • The heat within Geothermal colours of the landscape.

  • Monochrome The simple palette of some parts of Iceland.

While many foreign tourists come to Iceland in hopes of seeing the northern lights, very few end up making an actual movie about their adventure. However, Benn Berkeley, an adventurer and what is called a heimshornaflakkari in Icelandic, literally a “world-corner-wanderer” (another entry into our list of Icelandic words and phrases!) came to Iceland last fall to look for the northern lights, was so blown away by everything else he found, he decided to make a film about the experience. 

The film, called “See The Light”, a travelogue about his adventure across Iceland in September and October, provides an interesting perspective of what traveling through Icelandic nature looks and feels like. We contacted Ben to get to know what it is like to travel in Iceland, what surprised him and to ask whether he had any tips or insights for other travellers.

See the Light - Trailer from Benn Berkeley on Vimeo.

Came for the Northern lights, found rainbows and waterfalls
Ben tells us that his original plan was to see the northern lights, which he had never seen.

"Many times I have seen images of the Northern Lights and I have heard countless stories about them but I had never seen them with my own eyes. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I gave myself three weeks to go and find them. This was the basic idea of the film and originally it was just going to be about the Northern Lights."

While Ben tells us he did get to see the Northern Lights, and that they did “utterly blow him away”, he was no less impressed with Icelandic nature and geology.

"Having never been to Iceland before I had no idea how majestic and beautiful the country was. It completely took my breath away and, although I still wanted to see the Northern Lights I couldn't help but get distracted from Iceland's raw beauty."

One of the things which impressed Ben the most were all the waterfalls and the rainbows, which accompany waterfalls (and the pretty much constantly changing weather, with endless alternation of short rain showers). This led Ben to wonder whether Iceland shouldn’t be renamed The Land of Rainbows:

"I've never seen so many waterfalls and rainbows in my life. If Iceland was ever renamed then the 'Land of Rainbows' would be apt."

berkeley_journals_vic_beach.png

Black sand beaches At Vík village beach  South Iceland.

Unpredictable weather, howling winds and cold are all part of the charm!
Ben travelled around Iceland in September and October, which he tells us is a nice time to visit.

"There was still plenty of daylight and not a lot of people. It was right at the end of the season so the weather was a little more fickle but I embraced that and think I experienced every type of weather there was!"

In fact, Ben advices tourists to embrace not only the experiences of the spectacular view, but also the weather:

"Pack clothes for all weathers - the weather can be fickle but with 'bad' weather comes incredible experiences, like the countless rainbows, incredible atmospheric mist and howling winds that truly make you feel alive." 

berkeley_journals_spring.png

Dipping in At the geothermal caves and fissures in the Lake Mývatn area.

Don’t rush, take time to truly enjoy the experience
Asked if he had any tips for tourists Ben stressed that you should not rush or try to do too much. Rather, you should take our time to get to enjoy the experience he argues can be almost spiritual:

"I visited Iceland for three weeks and even then it just wasn't enough time. It is so diverse and rich with incredible natural wonders that you'll need to take as much time as you can to visit. If you can only spare 3/4 days then be prepared to make another trip to Iceland. Try not to cram too much in at once, enjoy and embrace where you are and take the time to be in awe of what you are seeing.  …  It truly is a magical country. Without getting too spiritual about it, there is definitely a unique energy in Iceland that I have never experienced anywhere else. The only way I could describe it is that it felt like the country was alive and breathing."

Some words of advice and tips on spotting the Northern Lights
“I was really lucky and saw the northern lights of four occasions. The first time I saw them I was in the highlands, in the middle of nowhere, by myself and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The clouds parted and they unleashed the most mesmerising display in the night sky. You do have to put in the effort though - I would sleep in my tent and wake every so often to check on them. Doesn't sound hard but when you're cosy and warm in your sleeping bag it difficult to go outside in the cold. But when it's on, I guarantee there will be no regrets. A thermos of tea was my secret weapon.”

Ben adds that you should “Pay close attention and respect to the advice of the tourism board, mountain guides and safety.” 

berkeley_journals_tent.png

Enjoying the light Embrace yourself for cold nights if you plan to stay in a tent in the autumn or the spring.

Remember: There is virtually a zero chance you will see the Northern Lights during the summer, when daylight lasts throughout the night. During other times of year your chances are pretty good. The Icelandic Met Office offers an Aurora forecast, where you can check for cloud cover, sunset and sunrise, and the likelihood of spotting the Aurora. 

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