DIY Travel Shadow Box | Iceland

Last May I travelled to Iceland and I brought back a small collection of souvenirs. Very unique souvenirs I should add. As Iceland’s landscape and natural features were the highlights of the trip, I didn’t want to get any plastic, manufactured and most likely ‘made in China’ souvenirs, but something that would remind me of all the breathtaking wonders of nature I’ve seen over there. So I brought a few rocks from the lava fields around Grindavik and the Geysir area, and a handful of sand from the black sand beach of Vik. These are perhaps not the usual types of souvenirs you would think of, but believe me – they will be treasured more than any fridge magnets I could ever get.


These precious objects inspired me to create a shadow box as a present for the Father’s Day for my boyfriend’s Dad. Knowing that he loves all sorts of rocks, nature’s wonders and adventures, this was a perfect choice! A shadow box with a few rocks in it isn’t perhaps the best present idea for everyone, but for someone who is into that kind of stuff – it’s priceless. It’s all about that personal touch. If you are making the shadow box for yourself or someone who travelled with you, fill it in with any items from the travel you can collect, such as photographs, maps, tickets, coins, notes, souvenirs, postcards, stamps, beer mats, wine corks… The list is endless! You could also use objects like rocks from the beach and seashells, or dried flowers from your recent walk for example.

Tip: If you are stuck for ideas, look up ‘shadow box‘ or ‘travel shadow box‘ on Pinterest.

First things first – what do you need?

A ruler, scissors, pencil, tape…


A shadow box

A shadow box or a deep picture frame to start with. I used simple deep A5 picture frame I got in Penneys, which also started selling cute small shadow boxes so have a look around. In general, the frame is easier and cheaper to get, most of the frame sections in the shops would have that kind of a deep frame in stock.

Background image

For my box I printed out a map of Iceland I found online. I changed its size before printing, so it matched the layout of my objects in the box. I marked on the map where the particular rocks came from and the rift associated with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which marks the division between the European and North American tectonic plates.

Tip: Use a map as a background. It can be the actual map used while traveling (adds to the ‘memories’) or a printed one, even in black and white. Also, photographs, coloured or wrapping paper could work really well as well as a blank background too.



Most shadow boxes come with dividers, but if you decide to use a frame like I did, you might want to add a divider to organise your display. I used a piece of transparent thick foil sheet I kept from a sort of a gift box (that’s when Christmas gift sets come handy). I measured it according to the inside frame, folded, attached to the back of the frame insert using tape and finally sticked the map cut in two halves to it. This way I got this little shelf dividing the space into two.

Tip: You can attach your objects to the background using glue or tape. The reason I didn’t is that I wanted the objects to be easy to take out to ‘explore’ 🙂

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I layout my treasures according to the marking on the map, so it all makes a some kind of a story. For the upper section I used 4 small rocks I collected in the Geysir area. For the bottom one I used 2 lava rocks, and a stone and black sand from Vik. As you can see I used this cute little bottle for the sand, which I got in Tiger (it was filled with glass beads and a part of a set).

Tip: If you can’t find such tiny bottle for the sand, you can re-use a small jar for example (keep an eye for tiny jams in the shops!) or any kind of transparent container.


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My Icelandic shadow box turned out to be a perfect present! I still have some rocks and black sand I kept for myself, so I will be making another travel shadow box soon. And other ones for all my seashells and rocks I collect from every beach I visit… But these have to wait, I dramatically lack free space on my walls and shelves at home at this stage!


I hope this DIY project will inspire you to keep some of your travel souvenirs (especially the found ones!), if not for a gift like here, then certainly for yourself. The memories they bring back are worth it! Best of luck!






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