as one of the main reasons we went to iceland was to celebrate my mother’s birthday as a family (which luckily happened to be directly after iceland airwaves ended), i started thinking of something memorable we could do together. one of the first thoughts that came to mind was a day trip to viðey island.
you may remember how much i like tiny islands? having been to flatey (which is only just a tad bigger) in the west fjords on my last trip, two years before.
it is really not often talked about, but there there are a handful of tiny islands in the kollafjörður
bay (of which
viðey is the largest) and a ferry landing just a short drive from the very center of reykjavik to this special place, making it a very cool thing to do if you want to get a dose of beautiful nature but also want to stick around reykjavik. during the winter, the ferry runs only on weekends, but as we were celebrating on a sunday, it was a perfect thing to do.
not to mention, the weather was the best we had experienced all week! i have repeatedly got lucky with the weather in iceland it would seem, seeing temperatures of up to eleven degrees, sunny and absolutely no wind that november day on
after the very short (five minute) ferry crossing on the first crossing of the day (13:15), we trekked almost all over – up and down the small hills that speckle the island, across the grasses that are golden in the winter, me paying extra special attention to what plants covered the ground (mostly grass, moss, and dormant crowberry and caraway).
my brother had mentioned the other day wishing he could visit one of iceland’s famed black sand beaches, so imagine our surprise when we came across a beautiful one right on little
viðey! i was stunned, not having expected to see a sandy beach at all! “there’s your black sand beach, dave!”
at one point, we stopped for a family photo (first photo of post, above) as we had all donned different colored flannels under our coats as a fun birthday celebration thing. it turned out ridiculously epic, especially with the gorgeous towering mountains immediately behind us, seeming so near. the trip was mostly about reykjavik, but viðey instilled us with a sense of awe and getting closer to this beautiful nature.
viðey is an island of peace and art (below, my mother with a column from richard serra’s work áfangar – milestones). there are opportunities for enjoying the unique natural landscape, but also a rich cultural program throughout the year. it had been inhabited since the mid 18th century and farmed since the early 20th century. there was a harbor, fish processing, and a full-scale dairy farm providing milk for the inhabitants of reykjavik, up until the early 40′s when the fish processing plant when out of businesses, all islanders moved away, and was completely uninhabited by 1943. you can explore many of the old ruins and sites of interest in the east part of the island, where the old main road led from the ferry landing.
if you had heard of
before, you may know about the imagine peace tower… or do you?
i’d been wanting to visit even before my very first trip to iceland as soon as i heard about the foundation of the yoko ono imagine peace tower there. yoko ono chose this place to build her tribute to john lennon and his mission of peace out of everywhere else in the world because she felt a profound sense of peace when visiting
viðey. the peace tower is lit (by a high-powered beam shooting from the tower straight into the sky) only between october 9th (john lennon’s birthday) and december 8th (his deathday) every year (as well as a couple of other important days) so i couldn’t help but feel so fortunate to visit during this narrow window.
then i realized – doh, it’s day time! we won’t be able to see it! just to visit this peace tower felt really powerful in and of itself. to read the messages of peace on white ceramic tiles, to be there with my family and during this time of unrest and fear our world is in. it felt really important to be there.
“I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet and give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion. Let us come together to realize a peaceful world.”
“Imagine all the people living life in peace” – John Lennon
i can’t believe we had a few hours and still weren’t able to cover all of
on foot! there are a couple of houses on the island – one or two private properties, a community building in an old school house open in the summer only, and viðeyjarstofa (main house, built in 1755 as the residence of the famous icelander, skúli magnússon) open year round with a fantastic cafe with a delightfully nordic interior we sat in the front room with the last beams of daylight shining in on us from the window, sipping hot chocolates and coffees and listening to rather delightful sounding 1970’s era icelandic folk and pop on the stereo, feeling so happy and thankful.
we caught the sunset on the cruise back to the city, and later that evening after walking back from dinner in the city center, i saw them! – the beams of light from the peace tower pointed straight up into the clouds.
this trip, to be all together in a place so important to me, was just beyond words! if you enjoy islands, ferry rides, beaches, exploring, quiet, and want to get out of reykjavik and into nature for the day, i can’t recommend a trip to viðey more. it completely surpassed my long-held expectations.