There’s a myth that Iceland got its name because Viking settlers didn’t want people flocking to their verdant island. They wanted to make sure that their descriptor for the place would deter interlopers and visitors.
In reality, however, according to the Sagas of Icelanders, a Norwegian named Naddoddr was the first Norseman to reach Iceland, arriving in the ninth century. During the one summer that he stayed there, he was surprised by the fact that it snowed during that season. He thus designated the location Snaeland (Snowland).
Following Naddoddr, Gardar Svavarsson, a Swede, arrived. He called the region Gardarsholmur, which means Gardar’s Isle.
Then, in about A.D. 870, Norwegian Viking Floki Vilgerdarson came to Iceland, looking for a place where he and his people could thrive. Unfortunately, his daughter had drowned en route, and then all of the livestock he and his group brought along starved to death. The sagas say that a despondent Floki climbed a mountain and saw a fjord (Arnarfjordur) full of icebergs, which led him to give the island its new and present denotation.
So, in truth, the notion that Iceland’s Viking settlers chose the name Iceland to discourage oversettlement of their green isle is nothing more than a good story.
It’s essentially elemental
Despite the outsize role that ice has played in the country’s naming and history, it is by no means the only natural element in Iceland. In a landscape that is constantly being shaped by the weather and the raw forces of nature, waves pulse against rocky shores; clouds push themselves over mountains; rivers punctuate mossy, emerald-colored valleys; passages pull you behind massive, resounding waterfalls; and icebergs and glaciers glisten in pale blue.
Today, it doesn’t seem like the tall tale about how Iceland got its name worked—in even the smallest measure. The nation’s wild nature draws millions of visitors every year, and the eight-minute film below illustrates why. Titled Elements of Iceland, this astounding video takes you on a virtual tour through the staggeringly beautiful terrains and heart-stirring vistas that characterize the country.
The film’s creator, Stefan Forster, captured much of the footage you’re about to see by drone. He’s arranged his images into three chapters: Moss, Sand and Rocks; Glacier and Ice; and Water and Coast—a fitting way to focus your gaze on the individual elements that form the almost overabundance of natural phenomena found in Iceland.
It’s entirely engaging
In a land that has some of the most awe-inspiring geology on the planet, it’s no wonder that Norse mythology and Viking folklore are still very much alive in Iceland, and that elves are still respected. When you live in a physical environment that appears to the senses to be magical, enchantments then infiltrate all the other aspects of everyday life.
So, take this opportunity to spend a few moments with Iceland’s unearthly beauty. I’m sure you’ll find this engaging, elemental land beckoning you.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,