Tourism is now the world's largest industry, figuring among the top five sources of income in almost all the countries of the world. Iceland is no exception to this trend, even though on an absolute basis the number of tourists attracted to Iceland each year is tiny compared with better-known and more popular destinations.

The origins of modern travel to Iceland date back to at least the mid-18th century, but it was not until the 19th century and on into the beginning of the 20th century that large numbers of travellers began to visit the island. Many, if not all, were gentleman adventurers and scholars from the British Isles, and many of them published detailed accounts of their travels.

As remarkable as the sheer number of travellers and the books they produced over a period of more than a hundred years is the outstanding artistic talent that they and their companions displayed. Thus, the books we still have available to us today, in some cases two centuries old or more (and often housed only in university rare-book collections), provide us with a unique and evolving picture - literally and figuratively - of this fascinating northern island.

Travels in 19th Century Iceland is a continually growing source of text and illustrations about travel in Iceland from roughly 1750 until the beginning of the First World War. It includes excerpts from the many books and articles published during a period of more than one hundred and fifty years, as well as on-line images of original illustrations. Where appropriate, too, I have included my own modern-day photographs of some of the landscape scenes drawn and painted by these talented men and women.

You will find some duplication of text and photographs within these web pages; this is intentional so that you can read about themes and places from the varied perspectives -- sometimes quite conflicting! -- of different travellers at various dates, while also having the opportunity to read text from each traveller about the many aspects of Iceland that caught their attention.

If you are interested only in the illustrations, go to A Gallery of 19th Century Icelandic Landscape Art, which in turn will take you to either a web gallery of 64 illustrations, or a slide show (available in various sizes and formats to suit variations in computers and download speeds).
Structure of the Website
The website is divided into six main parts:
  The Travellers
Excerpts of text written by the men and women who travelled to Iceland, accompanied by drawings and paintings published in their accounts.
Aspects of Iceland of particular interest to the travellers, including first impressions of the landscape, dress, rural life, manners and customs, and a special page on the devastating effects of the eruption of the volcano Laki in 1783.
A focus on special places in Iceland: some visited frequently, such as Reykjavík, Geysir, Þingvellir, and Gullfoss; some not so frequently, such as the north of Iceland.
Knowledge of Iceland expanded enormously in the 150 years between 1750 and 1900; this page displays some of the maps that summarize those changes.
  Sources and Web Links
Books on Iceland, a detailed bibliography, and web links.
  A Gallery of 19th Century Icelandic Landscape Art
Photographs on this Site
All of the modern-day photographs were taken by the author of this website, Ed Jackson, during six visits to Iceland between 1965 and 1985. A complete collection numbering almost four hundred photographs may be viewed at A Collection of Icelandic Photographs, while a gallery of large-size versions of about 120 of the best photos is available at Landscapes Of Iceland.
  • This website was compiled and is managed by Ed Jackson. Please send corrections, additions, and comments to
  • Except where noted otherwise, all of the text included on this website is in the public domain or is Copyright © Edgar L. Jackson, 2003.
  • The photographs included on this website are Copyright © Edgar L. Jackson, 2003.
  • The concept of combining text, original illustrations and photographs related to travels in Iceland between 1750 and 1914 is Copyright © Edgar L. Jackson, 2003.
  • This website was updated in January, 2012.

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