Day 1 – South Coast
Blue Lagoon – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – Westman Islands – Skógafoss Waterfall – Solheimajokull Glacier – Plane Wreck– Dyrhólaey – Reynisfjara – Vík
I remember little of the early first morning, just driving along what looked like unsightly, gigantic, plowed up black fields covered with no other vegetation but khaki-colored moss.
The whole area of Reykjanes Peninsula is one large lava field, including the Blue Lagoon, one of the best hot springs in the world.
Reykjanes is a volcanic region in southwest Iceland about 40 minutes from Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, and since Keflavík International Airport is located here, Reykjanes is the first stretch of Iceland most people see.
From here, there are two ways to head – either up to Reykjavík and the surrounding areas, or down along the Ring Road to the South Coast, the most visited part of Iceland.
And that’s where we’re headed, too, leaving the capital and the nearby Golden Circle, Iceland’s most popular tourist loop, for the last day.
The first stop we make is the famed Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located a 15-minute drive from the airport, the mecca for all Instagramers, bloggers, vloggers with their filtered pics.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the country’s most popular attractions – 80% of all tourists make their way here. (Sometimes, going to a tourist trap can be fun. Especially when you need a boost of energy after a night spent at the airport.)
After paying an insane entrance fee of 50 euros each (and that’s not even including the towel which is another 5 euros!), we go in. I’m thinking a small, intimate spa, a secluded pool occupied by a handful of people, but get a complex so massive, it houses a hotel, several restaurants and a steaming geothermal power station in the background that supplies the spa with the water (the Blue Lagoon could definitely be labelled as the most useful geothermal liquid waste!).
A good thing we got here as soon as it opened – if we didn’t, we would get trapped in a typical tourist situation that looks like everyone’s getting together in a big, blue hot tub.
Rolling our bodies around in the warmth of the volcanic water (with white clouds of steam rising up from blue pools closed in by black lava), we’re crawling on all fours in the healing mud (and ending up with hands full of people’s hairs).
On the plus side – the entry fee to the Blue Lagoon and the other spa pools in the country is the only entry fee paid in Iceland. All the other natural sights, including glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and volcanic areas, are free to enter.
For some, the Blue Lagoon’s high prices are worth it, for some not; there are similar places in other parts of the island (like Mývatn Lake) that are cheaper.
With pruney fingers and all fatigue melted out of our muscles, we head down south, ready for the long day ahead. South Coast is the most populated and visited part of Iceland, unlike the vacant expanses of the East, North and the Westfjords.
The car we got is the smallest car we’ve ever picked up (even for me, as a European). We dish out €470 for 7 days and say thank you.
We take out our tourist road map and look at it – South Iceland extends from Reykjavík in the west to Jökulsárlón National Park in the east, over a distance of about 400 kilometers (250 miles). Might sound like a bit of a stretch the first day but we’re full of confidence (and the sun doesn’t set until midnight, right?).
The next stop we make is Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, a 60 metres (197 feet) tall waterfall by the Ring Road. It originates from the volcanic glacier of Eyjafjallajökull (yes, the same volcano whose eruption in 2010 shut off European air traffic and triggered off the Icelandic tourism boom). Seljalandsfoss is one of hundreds of waterfalls Iceland has – a ‘foss’ rushing down a gorge is the country’s most notable element.
Visible from across the beach right down the road are the Westman Islands, or Vestmannaeyjar. Westman Islands are an archipelago of 15 islands and 30 rock stacks that got their name from the area’s first settlers, Irish monks, or ‘men from the west.’ The islands are famous for having the world’s largest population of nesting puffins in summer.
After another 20 minutes down the Ring Road, it’s time to make another stop.
Considered one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls (here we go), Skógafoss rushes down in a 15-meter (50-foot) wide and 60-meter (200-foot) high curtain of water. It generates a huge amount of spray and mist that create single and double rainbows on sunny days (as not seen in the photo).
For dedicated hikers, Skógafoss is the start of a popular 1-day hiking route, filled with lunar landscapes, volcanic ridges and canyon waterfalls. Called the Fimmvorduhals Hike, it passes between two giant glaciers, the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and the Mýrdalsjökull glacier (try to say the names fast).
Located only a few minutes off the main road, Solheimajokull Glacier is the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. It is a part of the larger Mýrdalsjökull Glacier that sits on top of Katla Volcano, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Iceland.
The glacier is popular for glacier hiking and ice cave exploring, and can be easily reached – it’s a 15-minute walk from the parking lot to the edge of the glacier tongue.
To make a stop that is a bit different, head for the US Navy DC-3 Plane Wreck. The DC-3 sits on the black beach at Sólheimasandur where it was crushed after running out of fuel, and where it has been resting ever since 1973, abandoned and exposed to the elements (fortunately, everyone survived).
The seafront town of Vík is the southern-most town in Iceland, and – with 291 inhabitants – the largest post of civilization for 100 kilometers around.
Bordered by a glacier on one side, a river, tuff sea cliffs and black sand beaches on the others, Vík is one of the most picturesque and photographed villages in the country.
Dyrhólaey is a vast, 120 meters (400 feet) long arch of lava reaching out into the sea.
To get here, take Road 218 off the Ring Road, drive to the hill, turn right and continue all the way to the top. Or drive to the end of the road – this lower part ends at a black beach. If the weather is bad, don’t let it get you down – you never know when you run into a drone pilot who misjudged the strength of the wind and is now looking sadly down the cliffs at his crashed drone.
Reynisfjara, the Black Beach, is the South Coast’s most famous beach (it can be seen from Dyrhólaey).
With steep cliffs, black volcanic sands, unique rock formations, moody atmosphere and huge waves crashing on the shore, Reynisfjara is a very popular photo stop and filming location (Game of Thrones or Star Wars were shot here).
Reynisfjara is famous for unusual basalt rock formations that decorate the cliffsides of the beach and are home to thousands of nesting seabirds like puffins, fulmars and guillemots.
By the time we get to Vík, it’s already late afternoon and our odometer has over 230 kilometers (140 miles) more on it. Overpowered by the blackness of the lava fields, the roll of the green hills and the drama of the coast stretching to the horizon, we realize we made a mistake by starting our day by soaking for hours in steaming hot springs after a long flight and a sleepless night. Time to call it a night (a day, actually, as the sun still stands high above); we abandon our plan of making it to the Vatnajökull Glacier, the end of South Coast.
We stop at a gas station (charging Icelandic prices of 215 ISK/$1.80 per liter of gas), get some shopping done at a local supermarket (charging Icelandic prices of 1.600 ISK/$16 for a chicken soup in a box – thank God for our enormous supplies of trail mix), and go into the first house that has a ‘free rooms’ sign on it (charging Icelandic prices of $70 for a room with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities). Guesthouses like this are the most common form of accommodation in Iceland – averaging about $60-$80 per room, they’re cheaper than the more expensive hotel option ($120/night and up).
Sharing a bathroom with strangers is a flat-out nightmare for me. This is how I proceed: I lurk around for a while to make sure the bathroom is empty and I don’t make false sprints for it; I make a sprint for it; I make noise to let everybody know somebody is inside; with shaking hands, I check the shower sink for mounds of hair, the shower curtain for stains of mold and the toilet seat for spots of dry urine; I take care of my business brushing my teeth with a soap, shaving my legs with a Vaseline and combing my hair with fingers because with all the pressure weighing down on me, I left half my toiletries behind. An hour later, with the sun still almost at zenith, I crush into bed, getting ready for the same routine tomorrow.
Day 2 – South Coast
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – Kirkjugólfið – Dverghamrar – Skaftafell – Vatnajökull Glacier – Svartifoss Waterfall – Mt. Lómagnúpur – Jökulsárlón Lagoon – Diamond Beach – Höfn
There’s nothing like getting up at noon when it’s actually only 7 AM!
Our plan for today is to finish exploring South Coast to the Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland’s largest national park and a must-see. I hope we’ll get as far as Höfn, a fishing town in southeast Iceland and the best place to stay before moving on to East. The total distance for today is 270 kilometers (170 miles), plus stops. The sun is out (a rare sight in this land), and the blues, greens and whites are killing.
Good news is that all the sites we plan on visiting today are located right on the Ring Road, or at least within a short drive of it, so no detours to take to get to them.
The first stop is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, a canyon formed 9,000 years ago after the retreat of the last Ice Age glacier. We take this little natural wonder that looks with its steep walls, narrow pathways and a river at the bottom like something out of the Lord of the Rings, like a hurricane!
It is 100 meters (330 feet) deep and a little over 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) long. There is a walking path above the canyon with ledges that offer amazing vistas, but as of 2020, most ledges have been fenced off and an observation platform has been put up instead. To reach it, take Road 206 off the Ring Road, and drive for a few minutes to the parking area.
Ten minutes away down the road is Kirkjugólfið, or ‘the church floor,’ an 80 square meter (900 square feet) stretch of columnar basalt formation. It looks like a giant stone floor composed of the tops of 6-sided basalt pillars.
The place is worth checking out if you have time to spare, though it looks more impressive in pictures than in reality.
Another 10 minutes away is Dverghamrar, or ‘the dwarf cliffs,’ another example of hexagonal basalt columns formed by the cooling off and contraction of the lava. It is a good substitute if you missed the basalt cliffs at the Black Beach near Vík.
It’s been a couple of hours now since we started our day, driving along the coast, stopping for views, generally having fun on our ride.
The landscape running by outside the car windows is what South Coast is famous for – mossy lava fields, black volcanic beaches, rolling green grasslands, jagged basalt hills, rivers, creeks, waterfalls and glacier tongues.
A good example is Mt. Lómagnúpur, one of Iceland’s iconic mountains. Towering over the landscape, it can be seen with its 680 meters (2,200 feet) from miles away.
The mountain has a spiritual value – during the country’s settlement, it was one of four guardian spirits warding off potential invasions from the south. Because of that, the hill is portrayed on Iceland’s coat of arms.
Once we get closer to Skaftafell, one of the most visited areas in Iceland, the landscape changes – the green flat coastal terrain turns to black lava fields with snow-capped volcanoes on the horizon and rivers flowing from them to the coast.
Sometimes hundreds of meters high, glacier tongues characterize Skaftafell, once a national park now part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park. Vatnajökull is the biggest of Iceland’s three national parks, covering 14% of Iceland’s territory and holding Europe’s biggest glacier.
The Vatnajökull glacier, or ‘water glacier,’ covers an area of 8,100 km2 (3,999 mi2), an equivalent of three times the size of Luxembourg or Rhode Island. The glacial ice measures 400-600 meters (1,300-2,000 feet) in thickness; it is so large it conceals mountains, valleys, volcanoes and plateaus.
Skaftafell was originally a major farmstead inhabited soon after the settlement of Iceland. In 1362, it was wiped out by an enormous glacial flood caused by a volcanic eruption that swept through the area, decimating the community and rendering the area uninhabitable.
To explore the glaciers, Skaftafell has a visitor’s center that provides information about the hiking trails in Vatnajökull. The most popular activities are ice caving in winter, glacier and ice hiking all year round (Skaftafell is where glacier tours in Iceland started).
Most people explore the trails on their own, but to see some of the big glaciers of Vatnajökull or to hike on one of the glacier tongues, an organized hike can be booked. The trail to Iceland’s tallest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, a full-day hike, starts from here. The visitor’s center is located 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) off the Ring Road on Road 998.
One of the popular treks leads to Svartifoss Waterfall, or ‘the black falls.’ Svartifoss is a 20 meters (80 feet) high fall, framed on both sides by black basalt formations that gave it its name (they also inspired the cathedral’s architecture in Reykjavik).
Seeing icebergs floating in the water is a pretty cool experience.
Jökulsárlón, literally ‘glacial river lagoon,’ is the most famous glacier outlet out of 30 that stem from the Vatnajökull glacier. Known as ‘the crown jewel of Iceland,’ the glacial lagoon is a large lake that measures around 18 km2 (7 mi2).
With a depth of 248 meters (800 feet), it is Iceland’s deepest lake. It developed only about 60 years ago, when the glacier receded from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean; since the early 1970s, the lagoon has increased four times in size and keeps growing.
The lake can be seen from the Ring Road. Thousands of people are drawn to it to watch the icebergs break away from the glacier, fall into the lagoon, slowly melt and drift out to sea. Besides watching free-flowing icebergs from the bank of the lake or exploring the lagoon on boat tours (boat tours only run between April and October), another option is to explore glacier ice caves.
Most glacier ice caves are only accessible from October to March since they melt during the summer months. One of the best-known caves in the park is Crystal Cave, which can be explored from the lagoon.
The icy scenery of the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon was chosen as the filming location of the James Bond films ‘Die Another Day’ and ‘A View to a Kill’, and ‘Tomb Raider.’ Both ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Interstellar’ were shot inside Vatnajökull National Park.
Only a 5-minute walk from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (following the icebergs floating down the river underneath the bridge and into the Atlantic Ocean), is a strip of black sand called the Diamond Beach. Sought by photographers, the Diamond Beach is where big chunks of polished ice get washed ashore, sparkling on the black beach in the sun like diamonds.
Höfn town is where we make our overnight stop. With a population of 2,100, this fishing village is the second-largest town in southeast Iceland. It has a domestic airport, a tunnel, two banks, a swimming pool, four hairdressers, a supermarket, a flower shop, a computer repairs store, a gym, a golf course, a high school with overhead projectors and built-in sound systems, and restaurants and hotels. In July, Höfn hosts a lobster festival called Humarhátíð, which is the cultural highlight of the season.
After cruisin’ the town’s streets like a crew of Italian mobsters looking for fun, we stop outside a nice, modern-looking house. The landlord, a father of two, takes us down to the part they rent out to tourists. He gives us a choice of 2 rooms, collects $100 and leaves (looks like we’ll have no use for the free catalog listing all the hotels and guesthouses in the country we picked up at the airport, after all).
The water has a strong smell to it, crosses my mind when I climb into the shower, the cleanest and nicest shower of all during our stay in Iceland. I turn on the hot tap; it smells like farts! Then it hits me – Iceland, volcanoes, hot springs! Of course! Everybody has a private spa at home! Smelling of sulfur but with a body smooth like that of a baby, I watch with envy the landlord’s family as they run their outdoor jacuzzi in the cold air of the night, splashing about in the steaming water with their kids. Hey, I wouldn’t mind eternal damnation in this kind of hell, either!
Day 3 – East Coast
Lagarfljót Lake – Hengifoss Waterfall – Hallormsstaðaskógur National Forest – Diamond Circle – Dettifoss Waterfall – Ásbyrgi Canyon – Húsavík – Mt. Námafjall – Lake Mývatn
Along with North and the Westfjords, Iceland’s East Coast is one of the less-visited regions (pretty much most of the country seems ignored by tourists). East Coast is home to 16,000 people, 20,000 Icelandic horses and over 50 fjords.
Exploring the East Coast fjords and their rugged coastline is our plan for today. I hope we’ll make it to Lake Mývatn, a volcanic lake in the northeast with hot springs, and to the Diamond Circle loop, the northeast alternative of the Golden Circle.
We have about 360 kilometers (230 miles) to cover. Which might sound like much, but the first couple of hours turn out an easy drive with no stops other than to take photos of deep fjords, endless black beaches and volcanic mountains with ice on top (thank you, Iceland, for having no trees to block the views).
After a while, the rolling green meadows, the ocean waves coming and going at a hypnotic pace, the shreds of fog hovering over the road bring on a sort of meditative mood in us.
Absolutely nothing is going on around, there’s not a living soul in sight, just a sheep here and a horse there, a farmstead with bales of straw scattered around, an abandoned ship, an open-net salmon farm; only silence, wind and space. Would I like to live here? Would I like to be a hermit? The villages look quiet and empty as if no one lived in them, as if Iceland weren’t a big tourist destination these years, as if locals cared little for interacting with a foreign element.
Well, would you, if you had a waterfall behind your house?
Then the Ring Road leaves the coast and the fjords, and heads northwest. It crosses a bridge over Lagarfljót Lake, a glacial-fed lake, the third biggest in the country.
Lagarfljót is 25 kilometers (16 miles) long and 112 meters (367 feet) deep, but it is most famous for its the monster that inhabits it, the Lagarfljót Worm. The Worm is described as a type with many humps, a seal-like head and the length of a bus. It has often been sighted over the past 50 years; in 2012, a video of it was published and considered legit. If you have no luck spotting it, there are still some nice landscapes worth driving the extra 50 kilometers (30 miles) around the lake – to do that, take a detour from the Ring Road, following Road 931.
One of the interesting stops is Hengifoss Waterfall, Iceland’s third-highest waterfall.
It measures 128 meters (400 feet), and is most famous for the black basalt and red clay cliffs that provide a backdrop for its cascading waters. It is an hour’s hike uphill from the parking lot; there is another bonus waterfall on the way up. Before heading back, don’t forget to fill your water bottle with pure glacial water!
Another stop could be the Hallormsstaðaskógur National Forest, Iceland’s largest forest.
Iceland is not exactly known for its forests; in fact, there are none (the country was deforested within a century of the first settlers’ arrival who used timber for boats, houses and heating). The forest covers an area of 740 hectares and most of it is birch. Even though the national park is not the kind of attraction you’d go out of your way to visit, you can still spend a nice hour or two roaming it if you have spare time – there are 11 marked trails and an arboretum planted as early as 1900s.
There is an interesting thing to see beside the road – rock cairns. Icelandic rock cairns are piles of rocks originally erected by the side of the trail to show the way. Iceland has an old tradition of building them – the custom goes as far back as the 9th century when the Viking settlers (for the absence of other navigation aids) stacked cairns while exploring the island to find their way back.
back. Even today, cairns can be used as pathfinders in fog or bad weather – that’s why tourists are discouraged from erecting them. Cairns occur not only in Iceland but around the globe – they have been built as trail markers or burial sites by cultures in Ireland, the Andes, or the Himalayas.
Besides seeing sheep everywhere you go (the official people-sheep ratio is 1:100), you can see ponies grazing all over the place.
Oh, hold on – the Icelandic horse may be small in stature and cunning in nature, but it is not a pony! Breeders call them horses even though they stand an average of 14 hands (56 inches) without shoes, which is considered pony size.
Icelandic horses are exceptionally healthy, hardy and long-lived – the average animal lives for up to 40 years. In the winter, they sport a thick coat, which they shed come springtime. Because they have no natural predators (the largest cat in Iceland is the Arctic fox), they are not easily spooked and are very friendly.
The Icelandic horse is also the only breed globally that can perform five gaits (other breeds can only perform three or four). Besides the walk, trot, canter and the flying pace, they can also tölt (tölt is the kind of gait when three of the horse’s legs touch the ground at the same time, which creates a more stable, fluid pace and allows the rider an almost bounce-free ride). Horses’ backs are a popular way to explore the local countryside – horse-riding tours are offered in most parts of Iceland.
A couple of dozen kilometers before reaching Lake Mývatn, we take a ‘little’ detour (of 5 hours) to check out a popular tourist route called the Diamond Circle.
The Diamond Circle is the northeastern alternative to the famous Golden Circle sightseeing route in the southeast. It is a 260 kilometers (160 miles) long trip that normally takes a full day, but we don’t have that much time and do a part of it today, and a part of it tomorrow on our way to North Coast.
The Diamond Circle comprises 4 major sites: Lake Mývatn, Dettifoss Waterfall, Ásbyrgi Canyon and the fishing town of Húsavík. There are two roads off the Ring Road to reach these areas – the gravel Road 864 and the paved Road 862. We take for our detour loop of about 180 kilometers (over 100 miles) the paved road, that runs along the west side of the Diamond Circle’s sites.
Dettifoss Waterfall served as a backdrop for Ridley Scott’s famous science fiction movie, ‘Prometheus.’ It is Iceland’s most powerful waterfall – with a water flow of 183 m3/s (6.500 ft3/s), the falls pump 96,500 gallons of water over its edge every second, creating thunderous plumes of mist visible from several miles away.
Besides the strength, the waterfall is impressive in terms of its scale – it is about 100 meters (330 feet) wide and 44 meters (144 feet) tall. It cascades into Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in Iceland.
The waterfall can be approached from west or east sides – the east side is reached by Road 864 and gives you the bonus of a scenic view down the picturesque Asbyrgi Canyon. The west side is reached by Road 862 and gives you the option of seeing Dettifoss from different levels.
If you visit the east side and have time to spare, you can check out yet another ‘foss,’ Hafragilsfoss Waterfall. Hafragilsfoss is much less visited than the massive Dettifoss. The different thing about it is that you’re standing on top of the edge, looking down from above. The 27 meters (88 feet) high and 91 meters (300 feet) wide waterfall also creates a huge mist, and offers a great view of the 25 kilometers (16 miles) long Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon.
Ásbyrgi Canyon, or ‘the shelter of the Gods,’ is part of Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, that extends from Selfoss waterfall in the south to Ásbyrgi in the north. Both canyons were formed 2,000-8,000 years ago by gigantic glacial outburst floods so powerful, they excavated the canyons within a few hours.
Ásbyrgi is a horseshoe-shaped depression of 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) in length and 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles) across, that boasts enormous cliff faces that reach up to 100 meters (over 300 feet) in height. The canyon’s bottom is a forested valley – in the middle, there is a rock island 25 meters (80 feet) high that divides Ásbyrgi in half. The views over the canyon from the unpaved eastward Road 864 are spectacular; many of the park’s hiking trails are on the side of the paved westward Road 862. There is a visitor’s center for information and maps.
Called ‘the whale watching capital of Iceland,’ Húsavík is a small fishing town, regarded as the best location to go whale watching. It has a picturesque wooden church from 1907 built in the Swiss chalet style; only 2 other churches in Iceland are built in the same style.
The last stop we make before we wrap the sightseeing up for today is the Mt. Námafjall/Hverir area, located a couple of miles outside Lake Mývatn.
Mt. Námafjal is a high-temperature geothermal valley with steaming fumaroles and boiling mud pools. Called ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ and compared to Planet Mars, the Námafjal moon-like landscape is what everyone has in mind when visiting Iceland: bubbling holes, boiling craters, gurgling mud cauldrons and sizzling fissures, all enveloped in a strong smell of sulfur (like walking on Earth 4 billion years ago).
The orange/yellow colors of the area stem from sulfur which the Icelanders used for gunpowder.
Wooden walkways make it easy to get a close-up look at this energy in action that escapes from a depth of 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) where the temperature is 200°C (almost 400°F). There is a scenic lookout area up the hill for even more views of the whole field and the surrounding valley.
Lake Mývatn can be seen from a distance thanks to clouds of hot steam rising in the air.
Mývatn Nature Baths are called the Blue Lagoon of the North. The baths consist of several outdoor areas with blue water, brought through boreholes from the depth of up to 2,500 meters (8,000 feet); the hot water is mixed with cooler water to create a pleasant bathing 36-40°C (97– 104° F). The entry ticket is ISK 5,700 ($46), and in the summer, the baths stay open until midnight.
This time we skip it and splurge by getting a spa hotel right on the lake. The hotel is full, but we’re offered a room (a suite upgrade, actually!) in the part of the hotel that has just been finished and hasn’t been opened for business yet (we even get a discount since we’re the first guests in it).
And it shows. The bathroom is missing a door, the French windows have no coverings, and the bed mattresses stand leaning against the wall. The receptionist is surprised to hear that, but being the good soul she is, she brings sheets for us (even an extra one for the windows), helps us put the mattresses up on the bed, and even gives us as bonus spa robes for free (we’re smart enough not to complain – the alternative is sleeping on spa mats down by the creek).
Happily enjoying the hot water in the largest of the several hotel spa’s natural pools, we don’t even mind cramming in it with a Finnish couple on a honeymoon trip. Politely, I congratulate the bride on her baby that – judging by the size of her bump – is about to hatch out soon. Do Finnish women still give birth in saunas? I ask. No, they don’t, she says. They give births in hospitals now.
Day 4 – North Coast
Lake Mývatn – Víti Crater Lake – Hverfjall – Dimmuborgir – Skútustaðagígar Pseudo Craters –Goðafoss Waterfall – Akureyri – Trollaskagi
So far, so good. The driving is fun, the car holds, we get a place to sleep every night, we’ve been able to stick to our plan, and best of all – we even lost weight!
Our driving plan for today is split into two parts – the first part is exploring Lake Mývatn, the second exploring North Coast with Akureyri town and Trollaskagi Peninsula. The distance to cover today comes down to some 380 kilometers (240 miles), not counting stops. Shopping and eating will be done in Akureyri, located 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Lake Mývatn, sleeping wherever the night catches us (ha)
We’re lucky – even though it’s summer, there are no ‘swarms of midges dancing in the air’ the lake is infamous for (Mývatn translates as ‘Midges Lake’ for a reason). Midges are non-biting flies that gather in huge numbers when they mate – they’re said to rise out of the lake in such quantities in the summer they darken the sky.
Lake Mývatn is Iceland’s 4th largest lake, created by a massive lava eruption 2300 years ago. It is a protected nature reserve rich in wetlands, birdlife and lava landscapes, that has remained geothermally active until today. The lake is 9.5 kilometers (6 miles) long, 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) wide, and 2.5 meters (8 feet) deep on average, with a coastline dotted with distinct geological landscapes and lava formations.
Pseudo craters, a lava labyrinth, a lake inside a volcanic crater, a perfectly formed old tephra crater – that’s our plan for the morning before hitting North Coast.
The best way to explore Mývatn is by driving around the full perimeter of it. Before we do that, we take a short, 20-minute detour to Víti Crater Lake, a large scenic crater located inside the Krafla caldera.
Krafla is a very active volcano with 29 eruptions so far; the last eruption ended in 1984 after going on for 9 years. The Víti crater, whose name means ‘hell,’ was formed during Krafla’s 5-year long eruption in 1724.
The first stop we make back on the planned route is the volcanic crater of Hverfjall, a beautifully formed, 2500 years old tephra crater.
Stark, with an alien landscape and devoid of any vegetation, Hverfjall’s desolate beauty makes it very popular for hiking – the walk around the crater starts with a 10-minute climb up from the car park and ends with amazing views into the crater and across the volcanic landscape with the huge Lake Mývatn at its center.
A couple of miles down the road is another scenic site, called Dimmuborgir.
Dimmuborgir, or ‘the dark fortress,’ is an area of unusually shaped rock formations, lava pillars, crags and caves. It was formed 2300 years ago during volcanic eruptions that trapped water under lava, and the steam bubbles bursting through the vents created huge lava forms.
Some of the rocks in this lava labyrinth reach 20 meters (65 feet) in height. The site has 3 relatively easy walking routes that vary from 10 minutes to a few hours.
Dimmuborgir is also said to be the entrance to the netherworld, which inspired the name of a famous Icelandic metal band (Iceland has a surprisingly rich music scene – an average Icelander is a member of about 14 bands, usually named after a friend’s dog, a Middle Eastern dish or somebody’s younger second cousin.)
Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters were formed about 2,300 years ago and are the biggest pseudo craters in Iceland.
For a quick visit, it’s a 5-minute walk to the top of the viewing platform. There are marked walking paths to walk among the craters – the shorter route takes about 30 minutes, the longer 1 hour. The craters are interesting to visit, though not all that dramatic by Iceland standards.
Halfway between Lake Mývatn and the town of Akureyri, Goðafoss Waterfall, or ‘the waterfall of the Gods,’ is another stunning waterfall worth a stop.
Goðafoss has historical connotations – in 1000, when the law-speaker made Christianity the official religion of Iceland, he threw into this waterfall his idols of the Nordic gods. The horseshoe-shaped Goðafoss has a drop of 12 meters (40 feet) and a width of 30 meters (100 feet).
The road to Akureyri, the biggest town in the North, runs through long green valleys framed by a line of continuous hills covered with remains of last winter snow.
Soon, an expanse of water appears, and before you know, you’re driving down a road whose course copies the contours of a long fjord. Opening up in front of you are panoramic views of what looks like a huge, motionless lake framed by jagged, ice-capped mountains.
Then a town shows up, nestled inside a park of trees and facing the fjord’s waters. Some huge cruise ships are docked in the harbor, bigger than the houses of the town. Akureyri. What a dramatic entrance! The road keeps running around the rim of the fjord, providing plenty of time to take in the whole picturesque scene.
With a population of 18,000, Akureyri, called ‘the capital of the North,’ is Iceland’s second-largest town (the town’s proud motto is: ‘We don’t all fit into a phone box anymore’). It is in one of the country’s longest fjords.
Akureyri has an international airport and a marine with a cruise port; the town center (or the main street) is very compact and clean and is located only a short walk away.
Some of Akureyri’s interesting places are the church and the Botanical Gardens. The Lutheran Church stands on a hill near the center and has a tall clock face and a staircase that runs up to it. It was designed by the same architect as Reykjavik’s cathedral, and completed in 1940. On a clear day (not like this), the top of the staircase offers panoramic views over the town and the surrounding fjord.
The Akureyri Botanical Gardens are one of the northernmost gardens in the world, sitting just 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the Arctic Circle. They are home to over 7,000 species of plants (both Icelandic and foreign flora), and free to visit.
When you research Iceland before you go there, the most frequent words used to describe it are ‘dramatic, spectacular, the most spectacular, gorgeous and stunning.’ Landscapes are not just beautiful but stunningly beautiful; waterfalls are not just impressive but like-from-a-different-world; icebergs are not just white-bluish but straight-out electric blue. Every view is breathtaking and unparalleled. Every place you go to a hidden gem, every turn of the road boasts staggering scenery. And the over-enhanced, unrealistic photographs! When we were researching for our trip, we were under the impression that we were going to some ethereal, lofty place hovering in different spheres. Expectations were running high.
To set things right: Iceland is special, except not all that special. If you wanna see glaciers all around, go skiing in the Alps, if perfect volcanos, spend time in Sicily, and as for Vikings – go to Minnesota.
And the weather.
The low-hanging, dark clouds that always seem to head your way; the gloomy skies descending lower and lower until you feel there is no air to breathe; the fog swooping in or just hovering above whenever you take a landscape picture.
The North is a very good example of that.
Driving around Trollaskagi, a remote mountainous peninsula set between two long fjords, is great if you don’t mind the dark, eerie landscape of abandoned hills and lonely promontories, a ragged coastline, foggy valleys, fenced off grasslands, lost-looking farmsteads and fishing towns.
Even the name fits right in – Trollaskagi means ‘peninsula of the trolls.’ The area is so off the beaten track, you’ll hardly ever see any cars around. Actually, you pray you don’t when entering another of the dark, scary tunnels carved through the rock; when the 11 kilometers of the one-way dirt lane, dripping water and mud everywhere have you begging the whole time: ‘please, no traffic.’
Still, the 4 hours and the extra 180 kilometers (110 miles) of the detour are worth it (if only for the enormous joy when you see the sun again).
Perhaps the best example of how the Icelanders sometimes feel about their own land is by visiting the small fishing town of Siglufjordur, Iceland’s former ‘herring capital,’ now a place famous for being the location for the Icelandic crime series ‘Trapped.’
The Herring Era Museum is located inside a set of 1907 restored buildings. It consists of a salting station, a typical fishing boat of the era that can be entered, and a bunkhouse filled with workers’ tools, all portraying the living conditions of the thousands of men and women who used to work here.
Tonight, we’re staying in a campsite-hostel facility, in other words, we’re sleeping in a tiny cubicle with bunk beds. The shared bathroom has no lock on the door because there is no door – it’s just a curtain.
Tonight, I finally understand why we’ve been dragging our sleeping bags the whole time with us – to save money. Iceland offers a unique deal called a ‘sleeping bag accommodation,’ in which you get a bed, a mattress and a pillow but no bed linen. No sheet = $10 off the room price. What a deal! Since most people only stay one night, it makes no sense to change the sheets after every visitor. (Well played, Iceland!)
At least, they’re straightforward about it – I can’t remember the number of times I slept in motels and hotels charging full prices and skipping a guest or two.
Day 5 – the Westfjords
Westfjords – Ísafjörður – Dynjandi Waterfall – Latrabjarg
The Westfjords are located only about a 5-hour drive from Reykjavík, yet they’re Iceland’s most remote area – the northern part of this westernmost peninsula nearly touches the Arctic Circle.
They are sparsely populated — it is just over 7,000 people in an area about the size of Belize or New Jersey.
Visiting the Westfjords requires a lot of driving – the whole jagged peninsula with its many fjords is over 950 kilometers (590 miles) long, and to do it takes about 14 hours (if the weather is good), or an extra overnight stay in one of the local villages. We don’t have time to do that, so we head straight south for the Golden Circle, but we return later on a cruise that makes a full-day stop at the Westfjords, and will explore them.
The Westfjords are very mountainous and off the Ring Road. Local roads include hard-surface roads (Road 61 and Road 60), dirt roads, tunnels and mountainous passes open only in the summer. If coming from Reykjavík, the best option is to take Road 60 and drive around the peninsula clockwise; if coming from Akureyri, take Road 68, which transfers onto Road 61, and go anticlockwise.
Ísafjörður is the largest town in the Westfjords, with a population of 3,000. It is situated so far north, that people don’t see the sun for several months in winter since it doesn’t rise high enough to reach over the mountains.
Like most other settlements in the west, Ísafjörður is located inside a large fjord (fjords make for good natural harbors), surrounded by steep, table-top mountains.
The Westfjords mountains look different than those in East Coast. That’s because the Westfjords are the oldest part of Iceland – they were formed 16 million years ago – and have no volcanic or geothermal activity. So, while the East Coast hills are young and rugged, the Westfjords hills are old and eroded into flat-top mountains. The lack of any local volcanic activity is also the reason local people heat their water with electricity instead of using geothermally heated water.
The town was formed in the mid-19th century when it became the center of salt fish production.
The fishing industry has been the town’s main industry ever since – Ísafjörður has one of the largest fisheries in Iceland. Fisheries one of the three main natural resources in the country – fish is responsible for 40% of the country’s export and employs 7% of the workforce.
The town’s harbor also serves ferries to nearby towns, and large tourist cruise ships – tourism is an important local industry.
To explore the town is easy – it takes about 20 minutes to walk from the harbor to the other side of the town. There is a nice, little Maritime Museum near the pier, focused on the town’s maritime history. It displays a range of fishing equipment, and old films showing open-boat fishing techniques; it even offers to taste dried fish and ‘rotten shark,’ one of Iceland’s culinary specialties.
An extensive trench was built above the town to keep falling rocks and melting water from hitting and flooding the town during an avalanche.
About an hour’s drive from Ísafjörður along millions of jagged fjords is Dynjandi Waterfall, the largest waterfall in the region. It is sitting in a U-shaped fjord, surrounded by scenic lava formations. Dynjandi translates as ‘thunderous,’ and the waters cascading 100 meters (328 feet) down a steep cliff-face do credit to the name. To get to it, it is an easy 20-minute hike from the parking lot.
Latrabjarg is the largest seabird cliff in Iceland and Europe, and one of the world’s most impressive. It is a rugged, grass-topped cliff, dropping vertically into the ocean. It has 14 kilometers (8.5 miles) in length and 441 meters (1.500 feet) in height.
If you come at the right time of the year (late April until early August), you can see millions of seabirds nesting here. The most sought after is puffin (famous for its brightly colorful beak and bright orange legs), of which Iceland has the largest population in the world. You can also see razorbill, gannet, guillemot and other species.
Latrabjarg is at the farthest end of the Westfjords and it takes time to get here – access is possible only by Road 612 that is not paved. But the walk along the tall, vertical cliffs, the amazing birdlife, and the panoramic views over the ocean (on a sunny day) are worth the trip.
Because of the remoteness of the cliff and no civilization around, the nesting puffins are exceptionally tame. Sometimes, you can see people getting so close to them it borders on harassment (if a ranger with a card machine showed up and: “10,000 krona, please, *beep*, and you, *beep*, yes, thank you, and now you, *beep*, those would be some expensive photos.)
Day 6 – Golden Circle
Thingvellir National Park – Geysir – Gullfoss Waterfall
Driving back south from the northwest is quick and easy – the Ring Road goes all the way down to Reykjavik, running for the large part through the interior of west Iceland.
The landscape of west Iceland is not very spectacular – it looks like the closer you get to the capital city, the less dramatic and more barren the scenery gets.
Three hours after starting our drive, we get close to the ocean and see some lava fields and rocky landscapes again, a sign, we’re approaching the Golden Circle.
Golden Circle is Iceland’s most popular tourist route, comprised of 3 locations all within an easy drive from one another: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall.
Since they’re all near Reykjavík and the Keflavík International Airport, the primary appeal of the Golden Circle is that it can be done in about 8 hours from both places and back – the driving loop covers about 300 kilometers (190 miles) and can be completed in half-day by a car or on a full-day guided tour.
Thingvellir National Park is the most important historical site in Iceland. The name translates as ‘parliament plains’ since it is the original location of Iceland’s first open-air parliament, Althing. Established in 930 and continuing to meet until 1798, Althing is the world’s first modern-day parliament formed 800 years before the idea even appeared in England, France or the USA. It was also here that – nearly a millennium later, in 1944 – the Icelanders declared their independence from Denmark and elected their first President.
The Thingvellir National Park was founded in 1930, marking the 1000th anniversary of the Althing. It still contains remains of Althing, like fragments of around 50 booths built from turf and stone, where the early settlers used to gather, or the rock face used by the Law speaker, the highest official of the proceedings while dispelling justice and the new laws.
Besides the site’s historical importance, Thingvellir is also unique geologically – it is the only place on Earth where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a rift that marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, can be seen exposed above sea-level.
The gorge, formed by the edges of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, is an 8 kilometers (5 miles) long ravine, that can be walked through at several points.
From the top, you can see Iceland’s second-largest natural lake, Thingvallavatn, surrounded by a plateau of dried lava fields, caverns, crevasses and rock formations (Game of Thrones was filmed here).
Thingvellir is home to the glacial spring Silfra Fissure, often voted as one of the world’s top 10 scuba diving and snorkeling sites.
Having undergone a decades-long filtration process by traveling through porous underground lava rock, the water in Silfra Fissure is famed for its crystal-clear visibility – it exceeds 100 meters (330 feet). Silfra Fissure is permitted to snorkel and dive in; dry suits are required as the water is 2° C (36° F) cold.
Thingvellir National Park is located 49 kilometers (30 miles) away from Reykjavík, roughly a 40-minute drive by car. It is one of the few places in Iceland where parking fees have to be paid. When compared to the volcanic scenery everywhere else, Thingvellir seems underwhelming, so spending an hour or two here should be more than enough.
Geysir is a famous hot spring in the geothermal area of Haukadalur Valley; the English word geyser is derived from it.
Haukadalur Valley spreads out on an area of approximately 3 km2 (1 mi2). It comprises of more than a dozen hot water blow holes that became active over 1000 years ago.
Geysir is in an inactive phase, but the water can shoot up to 70 meters (230 feet) in the air when it does erupt. These days, the most active geyser is Strokkur – it puts on a show every 5-10 minutes, shooting jets of boiling water from 20 meters (65 feet) up to 40 meters (130 feet) high.
Geysir is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Reykjavík, roughly a 1.5-hour drive by car, or a 40-minute drive from Thingvellir National Park, or a 10-minute drive from Gullfoss Waterfall.
Langjökull, or ‘long glacier,’ the second biggest glacier in Iceland with ice up to 580 meters (2,000 feet) thick, can be seen from Geysir. It is very popular for snowmobiling tours from Reykjavík.
Gullfoss, or ‘ the golden falls,’ is one of Iceland’s most photographed cataract waterfalls. It is formed by three tiers, cascading 32 meters (105 feet) down into a 2,5 kilometers (1.6 miles) long crevasse; the sheer power of the waterfall is astonishing.
What makes it different from the other 3,000+ waterfalls in Iceland is that the cascades are turned to each other at an angle of 90°.
The name of Gullfoss comes from the golden-brown color of its glacial waters, which carry lots of sediments. There are three viewing platforms to see both levels of the waterfall.
In the early 20th century, Gullfoss was at the center of a controversy regarding foreign investors and their attempt to use the waterfall’s energy for generating electricity.
Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of one of the owners who indirectly leased Gullfoss to the foreign businessmen, was against exploiting the waterfall and determined to get the contract nullified. She’s said to have made numerous trips of 120 kilometers (75 miles) on foot to Reykjavík to meet with government officials, and even threatened to throw herself down Gullfoss. The hydroelectric dam was never constructed, partly due to the investors’ lack of money. The waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland, that made into a protected site.
Sigriður Tómasdóttir, memorialized as Iceland’s first environmentalist, has a stone sculpture commemorating her above the falls. The lawyer who legally represented her later became Iceland’s first president.
(Icelanders don’t really have last names – most people’s last names are their father’s first name with the suffix of -dóttir (daughter) or -son (son) attached. Tómasdóttir means ‘the daughter of Tómas.’ Icelandic women rarely change their maiden names when they get married.)
Gullfoss is about 113 kilometers (70 miles) from Reykjavík, and 70 kilometers (40 miles) from Thingvellir National Park, roughly a 50-minute drive by car, or a 10-minute drive from the Geysir Geothermal Area.
Driving around on the roads, I notice a sign saying ‘Skálholt.’ It triggers off memories. Have you ever read any Icelandic literature?
Icelandic literature, especially the famous medieval sagas, is as dark, harsh and unforgiving as the Icelandic landscape. The best-known saga genre are ‘family sagas,’ stories based on historical events, spanning multiple generations and written in a realistic style. A family saga – you think a humorous story with a speck of darkness and some funny characters with good interaction with one another, and get blood feuds, vengeance, love triangles, destruction, questions of manhood, bloodshed, lawyers publicly burnt to death, child killers that kill random people with axes, and similar heavy-metal stuff (in Iceland, if the saga’s number of dead/per page is less than 2,04, it is considered a romance novel).
I’ve read none of those – they never found their way into my parent’s bookcase. What did make its way there was a book called ‘The Virgin of Skálholt.’ The Virgin of Skálholt is a 17th-century saga that takes place in the house of an Icelandic bishop; it’s the only Icelandic book I’ve ever read. It tells the story of a young bishop’s daughter who falls in love with one of her father’s priests, gets pregnant and finally dies of a hereditary pulmonary disease during an epidemic of plague. I still can’t figure out what the genre was – a forbidden love story, a critique of Icelandic patriarchal society, or if the author simply died and his wife’s obstetrician finished the book.
Icelandic movies are a different cup of tea. Grim, claustrophobic and eerie as they are, they have been experiencing quite a boom in recent years. Here are some I consider worth watching: ‘Rams’ (2015) is a story about sheep and stubborn men, ‘Jar City’ (2006) is a small-town police thriller, ‘Of Horses and Men’ (2013) is a country comedy with some impossible-to-forget moments, ‘Virgin Mountain’ (2015) is a gem about an overweight, 40-something man-child, Woman at War (2018) is a story about a passionate environmental saboteur waging a one-woman-war on the local aluminum industry, and finally ‘Trapped’ (2016), a TV police/mystery/drama series, the most expensive television series ever made in Iceland.
Whether you’ll like them or not, you’ll have to agree with me that Iceland is always a good background for a movie, and that some movies can only be shot in Iceland.
DAY 7 – Reykjavík
Reykjavík – Reykjanes Peninsula
Today is our last day in Iceland. Our flight doesn’t leave until the night, so we have all day to check out Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland.
Three hours later we’re done. Yes, we did all the Reykjavík’s 5 sights – the cathedral, the concert hall, we even climbed the hill outside the city to see the glass dome and walked along the oceanside promenade to the new harbor.
Turns out Reykjavík, the largest and most populous city in Iceland, is not that large – the center consists of only a few streets with shops and restaurants that take 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other (unless you’re into stores selling polar bear souvenirs in a country without polar bears).
Reykjavík’s population is 130,000 people, and the city is home to 1/3 the country’s population of 350,000; Reykjavík and the surrounding areas are home to about 64% of the population. The remaining 100,000 people are scattered throughout the rest of the island the size of Cuba. Reykjavík’s name loosely translates as ‘Smoke Cove,’ and the name is said to have been inspired by steam from hot springs in the region.
Reykjavík was the first permanent settlement in Iceland, settled by the Norse (Vikings) from Norway sometime in the 800s. And while back then, a timber hut could set you back 3 pieces of silver, today, a house ranges from 40 000 000 ISK ($300,000) to Tokelau’s GDP.
Harpa is Reykjavík’s main concert hall and conference center, the home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera and the Reykjavík Big Band. The construction started in 2007, but was halted with the start of the financial crisis and for several years, Harpa was the only construction project in existence in Iceland.
Since its opening in 2011, Harpa has attracted 10 million guests and won multiple awards for architecture. The design of the building features a glass façade that was inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland. The structure itself consists of a steel framework clad with geometric glass panels that change color with the light of day.
The name Harpa means ‘harp’ in Icelandic, and it was the winning name out of 4,156 proposals entered by 1,200 citizens. The name has more than one meaning – not only is the name of a musical instrument, referring to the musical activities going on inside Harpa, but it is also an old Icelandic word for the first month of summer. Harpa is located downtown next to Reykjavík’s old harbor.
Laugavegur is one of the oldest streets in the city and Reykjavík’s main shopping street. It is home to high-end boutiques (mostly Icelandic), tourist shops, bars and restaurants. The name translates as ‘wash road’ because it was this area where women would take their laundry to wash in the hot springs.
The street starts at the town’s largest park Laugardalur and ends near the Hallgrímskirkja church.
Hallgrímskirkja is the largest church in Iceland, reaching 74.5 meters (244 feet) in height. It is on a hilltop near the center, and visible from almost any point in the city. The church resembles the basalt columns of Svartifoss Waterfall, that are one of the typical elements of Iceland’s landscape.
The church took 41 years to build – the construction started in 1945 and ended in 1986. Inside, a gigantic, 15 meters (50 feet) tall pipe organ weighs over 25 tons. The church is free to enter, but there is a fee of 900 ISK ($7) for access to the tower that offers panoramic views of Reykjavík.
In front of the church is a statue of the Icelandic explorer Leif Erikson, the first European to set foot on the North American continent around 1,000 AD, 500 years before Christopher Columbus did. The statue was a gift from the United States on the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of the Althing Parliament in 1930.
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church, as are most churches in Iceland. Lutheranism is the branch of Christianity that identifies with the teachings of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German reformer. The Lutherans differ from Roman Catholics primarily in the belief that humans are saved from sins by God’s grace alone through faith alone, and do not require the intervention of priests. Lutheranism has spread mostly to the Scandinavian countries, Germany and the USA –there are about 80 million Lutherans in the world.
The rotating glass dome of Perlan is one of the capital’s most distinctive landmarks. Shaped and named after a pearl, it was built on the highest hill in the city, with panoramic views of Reykjavík and the surrounding areas.
It stands on top of 6 water tanks storing 20 million liters of Reykjavík’s hot water.
Perlan holds a permanent exhibition called Wonders of Iceland, a planetarium, an observation deck and a restaurant. Wonders of Iceland is the country’s largest nature exhibition, an interactive show that relays the power of Icelandic volcanoes, earthquakes, glaciers and geysers. Part of it is the world’s first indoor Ice Cave, an ice tunnel of 100 meters (330 feet) of length, built with over 350 tons of snow.
The entry to Perlan is free, but there is a fee of ISK 4,490 ($37) to see the exhibition.
The Sun Voyager is on Reykjavík’s waterfront only a few minutes from Harpa. It is another favorite with the tourist crowd – facing the majestic Mt. Esja across the bay, it is a popular spot for selfie photos.
Sun Voyager was described as a dreamboat, or an ode to the sun, conveying the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope. The Sun Voyager’s steel sculpture was unveiled in 1990 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavík.
Driving back to the airport is sad. And yet, you feel relieved. That’s what traveling is like – conflicting emotions between regret that something is over, and joy that something is over (hello, borderline personality disorder).
The landscape along the road is almost all lava fields. We make a last stop near Grindavík town where a week ago, we started our trip by taking a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon.
This time, we take a walk along the beach.
And have a look at the Reykjanesviti lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse of all 13 built around Reykjanes peninsula famous for dangerous sailing conditions.
We climb on what looks like a do-it-yourself stone and wood sculpture, and stare Viking-style (eagerly) across the ocean to say our goodbye.
Just like did the morose Viking Hrafna-Flóki, who had sailed to Iceland from Norway and was forced to return after the first winter when all his livestock died of starvation (Flóki forgot to harvest hay). While waiting for the goddamned spring, he climbed a high mountain, and when he saw a fjord full of drift ice from Greenland, he exclaimed: “Ice, more f*king ice. I hate this land!” That’s how Iceland got its name.
Jæja – this party is over!