Sun-drenched sand dunes lead the way toward the mother of all mountains, Vestrahorn.

I grew up reading Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. I grew up playing Magic the Gathering and Final Fantasy. Watching Star Wars and Excalibur. I grew up on every piece of fantasy and science fiction I could get my hands on.

These were the stories that engrossed me; they had the worlds in which I always wanted to live. Worlds with fantastical landscapes, with dragons and elves and dwarves. They were an escape; but in the end, sadly, I thought they were fake.

But here’s the thing: these stories are not entirely fake. There may not be dragons, but have you ever seen a tyrannosaurus rex exhibit at a museum, or a crocodile at your local zoo? And as for fantastical landscapes, have you ever seen the Scottish Highlands, the “Avatar” mountains in China, or, most dramatically, the lands of fire and ice in Iceland? Because these creatures and these places prove that art and stories imitate life.

When I visited Iceland’s Vestrahorn mountain, I felt like I was in one of those stories, like I was standing right in the dragon’s lair. Iceland, I found, turns fantasy real.

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