The world anthem for indie soulful wanderlusters is the same in every country – a combination of folksy rock whose singer bellows with a heart heavy of disdain and longing. However, in Iceland, the music is overlaid with an eerie psychedelic haze that seems to synchronize with the climate and landscape.
The nation is one whole amusement park. Around every bend there are dutiful signs indicating a place of interest. A seal colony, glacial lagoon, lava field, geothermal lake, countless fjords, magnificent towering waterfalls, a rift between tectonic plates, black volcanic beaches…. After three nocturnal days in Reykjavik, I embarked on a clockwise journey around the island encompassing the Snaefellness Peninsula and the absolutely, terrifyingly desolated roads around the West fjords. The geothermal influence got particularly interesting as I approached the northwest corner.
Turning the bend towards Krafla (a still ragingly active volcano), I tried not to be distracted into driving my Yaris off the road when I saw dozens of steaming chutes jutting out of the landscape. Due to the high volcanic activity further South and speculation of potential eruption, this was especially fascinating. Like awakening from hibernation, the Earth seemed to be rousing from its slumber. Numerable mudpots and live steam vents were backed by Krafla’s muted-red slope and which gave way to barren lavafields.
Two hours later, I found myself huffing volcanic debris as I puffed up the Hverfell crater. The ash from each step formed clouds of charred life in the air, and in my lungs. At the top of the semi-cone, the views from the rim of the crater exposed various stories of creation and destruction. To the west, Lake Myvatn shimmered with verdant coasts, and to the east, the total annihilation and scared earth from the various volcanoes laid out for miles.
About 45 km away, as if mimicking the same contrasting tone, the lavafields opened up to reveal a canyon containing Europe’s largest waterfall, Dentifoss- a 45m, gargantuan waterfall pouring between two sheer basalt cliffs. I stood there laughing at its ridiculousness, unable to comprehend how it was completely hidden, unexposed nearly 500 ft away.
Although it was mid-day, it seemed as though it was dawn. All of the air was heavy and tasted like the earth. Water was stirring everywhere. Further up the path was another massive waterfall- Selfoss, whose five giant 30 ft drops bellowed. Its splendor only mildly toppled.
If you go:
Rent a car online prior and pick up wine from a Vinbudin before you get into town.
Remember that you can only buy gas and alcohol within certain hours.
Save your receipts for a tax-refund.
Late August is a great time to go- you can catch glimpses of the Northern lights, Reykjavik culture night, and the best firework show on the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.
Eat & Drink
Pick up food from the market before 10pm & grill at your mainstay
Dimmuborgir Guesthouse - spectacular cabins, breakfast with house smoked trout and hotspring bread, & ownership
Catch the sunset on the lake.
Jarbodin - bring a towel, water, & a book to take advantage of the sun and patio