Visiting the feral Icelandic landscape around Reykjavik is like entering a high energy portal of other worldliness. At any moment, I expected Golum to jump out from the mists thrown up by hot springs looking for his presciousssss.
As I was only in Iceland for 6 days, I opted for some organised trips to whizz me around the geysers, glaciers and steaming streams. My preference would've been to do it independently, hire a car or a camper but the last time I drove on the 'other side of the road' I almost went to the actual other-world along with some other unsuspecting motorists (is it because I'm very left handed?). Despite my potential to cause harm, I'm still harbouring fantasies of returning next year, driving overland from England to Denmark and then catching the ferry over to Iceland and go REMOTE.
That said, you don't need to get far out of Reykjavic to feel you're away from the rest of the world. The best time to go is in the evening when the big tourist buses have returned to the city and its just you and a small handful of folks marvelling at the gorgeousness that is Iceland.
(be aware ~ a lot of these trips are very expensive! I hustled A LOT of extra night shifts at work to go on them and it was most definitely worth it. If there's a small group of you it's cheaper to hire a car, DIY, the roads are relatively empty and well sign-posted).
Langjokull Glacier (meaning 'long glacier') is Iceland's second largest glacier. A beautiful sweep of white nestled amidst the dark mountain passes, you can see the Langjokull glacier for miles before you even get there. Some imaginative Icelanders decided to construct a series of tunnels and caves beneath it to reveal the hidden beauty of blue ice. After a long drive past Hraunfossar waterfalls and endless stunning scenery we eventually jumped in to a former NASA modified vehicle and bumpily drove over the glacier to the entrance which loomed as a lone black hole on the horizon.
(photo taken from In to the Glacier website)
Led in to the glacier by our guide, we donned spikes and walked along white ice tunnels to a wedding chapel, to caves and past a large crevice. It is a spectacular engineering feat and surreal to think I was actually inside a glacier. However, this didn't fully sink in until I got home later...The drive back to Reykjavic was equally stunning winding along the Kaldidalur Highland Track, a dark, craggy contrast to the sweeping greenery of the journey to the glacier.
Later that evening, the glacier experience started sinking in. I felt as if something alchemical, maybe ethereal had occurred down between the layers of ice and I couldn't sleep, my hand kept working ink over paper and I felt on some kind of icy high. Here's a little poem inspired by the glacier experience (straight from the pen - no edits):
Summer Solstice Nightime Volcano Hike ~ when Halli, complete with black beanie and dark glasses drove past us waving madly we knew we were in for a good night. It got better when he stepped out of the modified 4 x 4 truck, maybe 6' 4", built, with pecs showing through his t-shirt, a firm handshake and big smile. I digress (coughs).
We were whisked away at high speed, driven through rivers and across lava fields on barely accessible off road tracks (exciting!) whilst being treated to Halli's homegrown philosophical ponderings on life, including how breaking wind can make many people happy in one go. Hmm. We hiked in to the stunning crater of Hengill Volcano, inactive for 2000 years and a powerful geothermal area. From the start, we could see hot steam rising from the springs and bubbling mud pots. We learnt about the purity and healing properties of the water if drunk everyday and were given a swig of Brennivin, a clear unsweetened shnapps, signature drink of Iceland.
Descending through the lush green valleys we arrived at geothermal hot springs. I must confess I thought we'd be the sole bathers but there were many sharing the heat. Because of the huge increase in tourism wooden decking and privacy screens have been built to preserve the landscape from further erosion.
Bathing in the hot stream was still a magical experience, like sinking in to an only-just-bearable very hot bath. And the highlight, Halli in a pair of tight swimshorts, hat and glasses off. He had gorgeous hair. Let's just say the ladies amongst us were all appreciating (staring at) his magnificent Viking frame whilst pretending to look everywhere else as he strode in to the water amongst us and told us how he could trace his Viking heritage back over 700 years. Yes Halli, you're all Viking indeed.
After sandwiches and wine we made our way back through this mystical landscape (no idea what happened to my hair in this photo and clearly my trousers are falling down but putting here for sheer entertainment value!). The evening light was sparkling, bouncing off the lush green valley.
A very precious solstice night indeed.
There was one final trip, the Golden Circle and Icelandic horses ('too fast Heiki'!) during my stay which I'll be sharing in the final part of this Iceland blog series soon...
So, have I tempted you to visit Iceland yet?