Goðafoss waterfall, Iceland
Goðafoss is one of the hundreds of show-stopping waterfalls Iceland is blessed with. And though it isn't the island's highest waterfall—that would be Morsarfoss at over 240 meters—or most powerful (the thundering Dettifoss), Goðafoss, has, within its swirling waters, its own story to tell.
An Icelandic legend holds that in 1000 CE, a well-respected pagan priest and chieftain named Thorgeir Thorkelsson was tasked with deciding if Iceland was to become a Christian nation or if it would continue to worship the ancient Nordic gods. The peace of the island was at stake, with fierce advocates on each side. Thorgeir decided in favor of Christianity, but with the caveat that those who chose to continue to recognize the old gods would not be punished so long as they converted. This tale, likely created in the nineteenth century, says that after Thorgeir converted to Christianity he returned to his home near Goðafoss and hurled his statues of the Norse gods into the falls, which is said to have angered the old gods so much that they split the waterfall in two. Which might be enough to make one rethink angering them in the first place.
It's said that Erik the Red gave Greenland its deceptively pleasant name to draw unwitting settlers to the snowy subcontinent. The Viking leader wasn't totally fibbing, though: Greenland can turn pretty darn green as aurora borealis gives the glaciers a glow-up.
This verdant display was captured in Tasiilaq, the largest settlement on the island's east coast. Though Tasiilaq is home to fewer than 2,000 people, it's one of Greenland's fastest-growing towns. Plus, regular plane hops from Reykjavik, Iceland—about 500 miles east—add the occasional cold-tolerant tourist to the population.
You don't have to go all the way to Alaska to see the northern lights (they've been spotted as far south as Hawaii). But based on this stunner of a photo, we recommend it. And the farther north the better: auroras are more frequent and intense the closer you are to the North Pole.
This intense aurora borealis was captured over the Brooks Range, the stretch of mountains that forms the North Slope of Alaska. Journey hundreds of lonely miles northward via the Dalton Highway and you'll descend into a vast coastal plain before finally reaching the Beaufort Sea coast, where nothing but icy water lies between you and the North Pole.