This blog is an online diary of a recent road trip to iceland where i covered the whole south west of the country. It will document the places, culture and what i learned about the island and its people.
I feel after traveling around Iceland i have learned a lot about the country but i only got to see a small fraction of what there was to see. I may have covered nearly 400 miles and traveled the whole of the south east of the island but there is more hidden away that i have found i missed by mere chance. For this reason i will go back again at some point at a later date and hopefully see more. It is my aim to one day create a book of what i come across and to travel to other places such as this.
The experience has left me wanted to see more of the world like this. In my opinion New York, Rome, Paris or London are not in the same league as places like this. Not only do i want to return to Iceland to see more but i feel like i have found a life time project in this trip and would one day want to cover more countries like this that most people would never dream of as an idea as a holiday or destination worth seeing.
I have learned there is more to see in the world than the tallest building or the worlds best hotels. All these things will always be replaced but places such as Gullfoss and Þingvellir could never be imitated let alone topped and there are many more places in the world like this that people need to see. I now see why people such as Simon Norfolk take the risks they do traveling to dangerous places such as Afghanistan.
This was the final day of having the car. I started heading north east towards Þingvellir. Þingvellir is a large lake near the middle of the island and is also the point where the tectonic plates of america and europe meet. It his here that the Norse had there first parliament meetings once a year to settle disputes. The landscape here is a very open and baron area with not a tree or shrub in sight as the only trees on the island are that which have been planted there by the locals.
I stopped along the road near Þingvellir by a large amount of stacked rocks. At first i had no idea what these rocks where there for but found out later that the locals stack them all over the island because they believe that in special places elves live under magical rocks and to destroy them or damage them would bring bad luck to them who damage the so called elves homes.
The stacked rocks over looking Þingvellir.
The view from on top of the European plate at Þingvellir.
Technically on the left is america and on the right is europe. Taking this photography meant i wasn’t on any continent.
After seeing Þingvellir the next stop along the way was the geysers. There was two geysers that where active. The first went off every 20 minutes and was most easily compared to a bomb going off. The second was apparently more like a nuke but only went off every 4 hours or so. Unfortunately i didn’t get to see this one go off.
After stopping off at the geysers i set off to the final place on the trip. Gullfoss is Europe most powerful waterfall and as you first come towards it your met by an impressive waterfall but as you get closer deeper into the canyon it has created there is a 2nd drop leading down another waterfall. In my view i found this place even more impressive than Niagara Falls. There was also more stacked rocks here at the top of the falls showing another spot the locals believed the elves lived in Iceland.
This is Gullfoss falls one of the most impressive sights i have ever seen.
The Elvish rocks at the top of Gullfoss Falls part of the Icelandic beliefs.
After this point it was back to Reykjavík again to return the car the following morning before leaving back for England.
This part of the trip was 114 miles and was the first day traveling by car. Starting the trip i traveled firstly towards Hveragerði. This is the main source of farming in the country where they grow crops and things that you wouldn’t think would be grown in iceland such as bananas and pineapples. They do this in giant green houses and is a bizarre thing to come across in a such a baron country. The landscape in this area is covered in geothermal activity with geyser and what looks like steam vents scattered all over the hills.
Hveragerði Landscape on the decent down into the town.
After going through Hveragerði i headed towards Storidalur. Storidalur is a waterfall near the southern coast of the island which you can actually walk behind. The island gets the majority of its power from its geothermal climate and water.
After Storidalur i then headed down to the bottom of the volcano. Although you couldn’t see the volcano because of the thick cloud the landscape radically changed as it got blacker and blacker the closer it got. When the car was returned i noticed the signs warning us to not enter the area as it damages the car so Hurtz car rental got back a black ash covered silver car and managed to get away before they noticed luckily.
A farm directly in the path of the ash cloud.
The road leading up to the farm.
Part of the mountains where the volcano is hidden in the cloud.
After getting through the volcanic region i finaly got to Vík í Mýrdal. Here they have a black beach not because of the volcanic activity but because the sand here is actually black. It is a very harsh and battered looking landscape and makes for great photographs. One i reached this point it was time to head all the way back to Reykjavík and ready for the next days trip to the geysers and Gullfoss.
This is the black beach in Vík í Mýrdal it has a strange holiday camp feel to the village but the beach seems so bizarre.
Reykjavík is the centre of the Greater Reykjavík Area, which is the only metropolitan area in Iceland, with a population of 202,000. As a highly modernized capital of one of the most developed countries in the world, its inhabitants enjoy a first-class welfare system and city infrastructure. Its location, only 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle, receives a maximum of only four hours of daylight on the shortest day in the depth of winter; during the summer the nights are almost as bright as the days.
When i set off to explore around the city on the first day i traveled on foot for 7 and a half miles around the city to its key points as shown on the map bellow.
i started at Loftleidir hotel by the airport and headed north to Tjomin Pond where the city’s main gallery is located and the country’s parliament building. i then went further north before following the bay to the east until i reached the house where Reagan and Gorbatchev had there first summit meeting in the 1980′s.
Then turning back on myself i headed west down the main high street in Reykjavík back towards the gallery before heading towards Hallgrímskirkja. This is the main church of Reykjavík and is one giant peace of seamless concrete and is the center peace of the city. The Church was designed after the Giants Courseware in Ireland.
Inside of Hallgrímskirkja.
From this point i headed back towards the hotel and to the observation point on Öskjuhlíð hill.
The volcanic ash cloud had delayed the flight by 16 hours. Wasn’t exactly the best way to start a trip off. spending the night in an airport terminal is not exactly the best of places to sleep either. Every where closes and the lights turn off. Then come the builders making as much noise as possible for everyone there.
The blue highlighted road is the highlighted route that was taken. Each red marker indicates a location that was stopped at along the way.
This was the planed route. I would start at Keflavík airport, where i would then get a bus to Reykjavík. This was where the hotel was. From There the I would get into a rented car and cover 367 miles of the south west of the ireland. The Trip covered 2 days by car and one day to explore the capital Reykjavík.
Day one was spent exploring Reykjavík and finding where was the best places to go.
Day two was the first day traveling by car and i traveled from Reykjavík to Vík í Mýrdal and back. This is the most southern point and half the distance in diameter of the island.
Day Three i traveled to Gullfoss waterfall in the middle of the island before heading back to Reykjavík.
Iceland is a christian county but this was not always the case. The country had Norse Gods at first. These were such Gods as Odin and Thor. Most of the existing records on Norse mythology date from the 11th to 18th century, having gone through more than two centuries from word of mouth. The Norse were seafaring people and they viewed the world through a polar-coordinate-system.
In Norse mythology there are ‘nine worlds’ (níu heimar), that many scholars summarize as follows:
- Midgard, world of average human experience
- Álfheimr, world of the Álfar (elves).
- Svartálfaheim, world of the Svartálfar (black elves)
- Vanaheimr, world of the Vanir
- Muspellheim, world of fire
- Jötunheimr, world of the jötnar
- Niflheim, world of ice
- Asgard, world of the Æsir
- Hel, world of the Niðavellir, netherworld.
Each world also had significant places within. Valhalla is Odin’s hall located in Asgard. It was also home of the Einherjar, who were the souls of the greatest warriors. These warriors were selected by the Valkyries. The Einherjar would help defend the gods during Ragnarok.
These worlds are connected by Yggdrasil, the world tree, a giant tree with Asgard at its top. Chewing at its roots in Niflheim is Nidhogg, a ferocious serpent or dragon. Asgard can also be reached by Bifrost, a rainbow bridge guarded by Heimdall, a god who can see and hear a thousand miles.
The mythology is an important part of the countries landmarks and folk tales with many stories that the icelandic people like to share with visitors. Although they are always happy to share these stories like they are true, the locals believe these stories like a child believes in in Santa. Many like to let the visitors think that the icelandic people really do believe these stories are real as they seem to enjoy jokes at the expense of visitors as you can buy t-shirts in local gift shops with the slogans i don’t speak icelandic.