Greatest Hits: Iceland Getaway Skip to content

Greatest Hits: Iceland Getaway

This is the third book by renowned Icelandic photographer Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson that I have reviewed, the other two being The Little Big Book About Iceland (2009) and Icelandic Horses (2008).

However, most people probably know Sigurjónsson’s photographs through his wildly popular Lost in Iceland (2002), Found in Iceland (2006) and Made in Iceland(2007).

For a long time I thought the title of this book was actually Iceland Gateway and found it fitting because it’s a good introduction to Iceland for people who don’t know much about the country: a greatest hits photographic collection.

All the main tourist attractions are included, the Golden Circle with Gullfoss waterfall, the erupting hot spring Strokkur in the Geysir area and Thingvellir national park.

Then there is the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Dettifoss waterfall in the north and the Blue Lagoon. And loads of pictures from the colorful Landmannalaugar region in the southern highlands.

The special features of Icelandic landscapes are all included: fire meets ice, moss-covered lava fields, columnar basalt, multicolored rocks and vegetation.

Most of these photographs are taken from a common angle, but some show often unnoticed details or are taken from the air, uncovering strange phenomena and color patterns.

These include the “Dead ice kettles east of Mýrdalsjökull glacier” p. 161, “Eystri-Rangá river, south Iceland” p. 193 and “Dynjandi in Arnarfjördur” p. 30, the greatest waterfall in the West Fjords, which is shown from a different angle than most pictures, highlighting colorful mountain sorrel that grows alongside it.

All of the photographs in this book are strikingly beautiful, documenting the versatility of Icelandic nature. Looking through it, I’d like to visit every one of these places.

While I’ve already been to some of them, including “Skógafoss waterfall in the river Skógaá, south Iceland” p. 34, others are new to me.

For example, I did not realize that “Hornbjarg, the northernmost tip of the West Fjords” p. 158 was really that steep and that the view of the endless ocean from the top of it was that amazing.

I would therefore consider this book as a tourist handbook. In 221 pages, readers can get to know Iceland through Sigurjónsson’s fantastic photographs and enjoy them as spreads without the interruption of long captions.

Then, after every 18 pictures, there is a spread with thumbnails and longer captions, explaining where each picture was taken, what is special about that place, how it formed, etc., which special emphasis on geology.

Iceland’s geological history is explained in further detail in an epilogue by Sigurdur Steinthórsson, while the book opens with an address by author of Dreamland Andri Snaer Magnason, conveying his passion for the country and his interest in preserving it the way it is.

On page 219, there is a map of Iceland showing where each photograph was taken, so readers know where they have to travel if they want to see the photographed locations with their own eyes.

I really appreciate the long captions and the map because that’s what I felt was missing from Sigurjónsson’s Little Big Book About Iceland.

However, the map also reveals that the photographer focuses on certain areas while leaving others out completely. Most of the pictures were taken in the southern highlands near Landmannalaugar.

Then there are many photographs from the southern shore and the West Fjords but only one from the Snaefellsnes peninsula, one in the northwestern region and only a handful in west, northeast and east Iceland.

I understand that a limited number of photographs fits into one book but to really be a “greatest hits” book, which I feel is what it aims to be (even though the title isn’t Iceland Gateway, as I first thought), photographs should be spread out evenly through all regions.

It’s not like there is nothing to photograph on the Snaefellsnes, Tröllaskagi or Langanes peninsulas.

I also have the feeling, same as with the Little Big Book About Iceland that although the book is new, it contains old photographs to a large extent, for example judging by the clothing of the people pictured.

It’s not a fact that the photographer is trying to hide—he clearly states that the photo of the “Blue Lagoon” p. 22 is the old lagoon—and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as although Icelandic landscapes do change more rapidly than in most other places, they usually stay the same over only a few decades.

However, I also have the feeling that Sigurjónsson sometimes “recycles” his pictures in that he uses the same pictures in different books with different themes, although I’m sure he has a varied enough collection to not make his books repetitive.

Even so, it might not be necessary for people to possess all of his Icelandic nature photography books. I would, for example, recommend Iceland Getaway over The Little Big Book About Iceland.

Despite its few flaws, Iceland Getaway is a truly beautiful photography book and, although it does leave some regions out, it also serves its purpose as a tourist handbook. It’s a great introduction to Iceland but also interesting to people who know the country well.

Published by Forlagid, Reykjavík 2009. The book is available here. Email [email protected] if you have any questions.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir

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