Do you want to travel to another planet, but you don’t quite qualify to be an astronaut? Don’t despair, there’s another solution called Iceland. You feel like Charlton Heston from the original Planet of the Apes movie who’s space ship has crash landed and believe you're on another planet.
Nowadays there’s a lot of images from Iceland as it has become very popular among travelers and photographers. Still, nothing can prepare you for what you will experience once you see it with your own eyes. Already the road from the airport into Reykjavik will give you the first glimpses into what to except. A barren landscape, with black volcanic ash spread out as far as the eye can see.
The capital city is where the majority of the people live. Life in concentrated to the main shopping street Laugavegur, where you’ll find most of the souvenir shops, bars and small stores. It’s a very nice city with a relaxed atmosphere, which is also famous as a party destination during the short and intense summer months.
However, in my opinion visiting Reykjavik is not the reason you come to Iceland. Instead it's the unique nature and the rest of this blog will be dedicated to the places that I visitied.
This was my favorite place during the trip. You truly feel like walking on another planet. To reach Landmannalaugar you take the Reykjavik excursion bus. It's specially build to enter the Icelandic inland where a normal car would have great difficulties reaching.
After 3 hours from Reykjavik you will reach the camp at Landmannalaugar. Here you can stay in a hut or pitch your own tent in the designated area. If you're planning to sleep in the huts make sure to book you stay at least 4 months in advance as they fill up very quickly. Landmannalaugar is also the starting point of the Laugavegur trail where you can trek for 4-5 days all the way to Þórsmörk.
Having brought way too much photographic and outdoor gear excluded me from walking the Laugavegur trail. Instead I choose to explore the Landmannalaugar area more in detail. The surroundings offer great shorter treks as well. By walking up the ridge to the north of the camping site you are greeted to vistas like these;
Everywhere you look there's a pitch black barren landscape with rocks, moss and volcanic craters. By going early in the season, which for Iceland's inland means beginning of June, you will still see patches of snow. The snow creates photogenic contrast and adds an extra layer of interest to the dramatic landscape.
Equally isolated as Landmannalaugar is the Þórsmörk area. It's closer to the coast, meaning it has a milder climate, with more vegetation and green forests mixed with volcanic rock. There's a strong river passing through the landscape and posing a clear danger to anyone wanting to cross it. Luckily there are mobile bridges on wheels that are moved to adjust to the rivers current.
Many driver make the mistake of underestimating the river and misjudging the currents resulting in vehicles getting stuck. Luckily the Icelanders are prepared and can quickly mobilize a tractor to assist
The Þórsmörk area is not short of great walking trails and you could spend days exploring the area. All trails are clearly marked and you just have to walk a couple of minutes outside the camp site to be completely alone with nature. There are multiple hills that offers fantastic panoramas and by waiting for the softer light you'll increase your chances of taking nice images.
The southern coastline
Driving on the Icelandic ring road that goes around the entire island you will reach some of the most famous places in Iceland.
Make sure you arrive here early in the day as the parking lot fills up quickly. Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, due to it's beauty and easy access from the Ring road. If you don't mind getting wet you can walk beneath the waterfall itself.
This is the another popular waterfall located 30 km from Seljalandsfoss. It's very impressive with the water cascading down from the mountains. You can take photos from the base of the waterfall or walk up a bit closer to the waterfall itself by a prepared path. Make sure to arrive early to avoid the biggest crowds.
A major hub on the Ring road connecting Reykjavik with the eastern parts. Life resolves around the gas station / bus stop where travels can change buses, fill up gas, get something to eat or buy snacks.
In many ways the poster image of Iceland. The huge icebergs from the Vatnajökull glacier floating in the lagoon and slowly making its way to the ocean. I would highly recommend taking one of the many boat tours on offer. You'll have a very personal experience with the icebergs and can study their shape and form up close. Who knows, you might even meet one of the many seals that have made this place their home.
As you can see from the photos below people find many ways of enjoying the spectacular place. It really brings out the children in all of us
The latest volcanic eruption at Eyjafjallajökull is still fresh in peoples mind. While it had a direct effect on European air travel it did not disrupt the Icelanders way of life too much. However, the volcanic outburst in 1973 had a significant impact on the people of the small island Heimaey. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and you can clearly still see the effects when walking around the main city. The island is located to the south of Iceland and reached by a 40 minute ferry trip.
By visiting these places I feel like I've only scratched on the surface what to discover in Iceland. Next time I'll go even more inland and travel further to the north. But that's for another blog post...
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