Three Ways of Looking at Iceland

One way to look at Iceland is to visit a popular tourist site. Gerðuberg, for instance, a half-kilometre-long chain of basalt blocks.

The government sees to its popularity. The project is to keep tourists moving, and to give them a stop or two now and then to refresh. It’s a technique learned over a thousand years of sheep herding. Humans aren’t sheep, of course, but we do have physical needs. Air, for instance. Light. Spiritual purpose. That kind of thing. For that, some places are better than others. Gerðuberg is a great one: the first place you’ll stop, two hours out of Reykjavik on your one-day-long and way-too-quick way around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You’re going to want to stretch your legs by that time. But don’t be fooled. By the time you get to Gerðuberg’s natural wonders, you’ve already passed the second way of seeing. It was on the road in.

You see, every natural wonder in Iceland is framed by a long history of human struggle. These post-war North American metal sheds are used as barns everywhere. It’s no longer the fashion, but hundreds are still in use, just as they are (for instance) on the Canadian Prairies. You can see Gerðuberg and its crater in the background. You are getting closer to Iceland now. Crater? Yes.

The Third way of seeing. Well, you passed it, too, probably wondering where you could stop to take a photo.


This is Eldborg, or Fire Mountain. There are numerous Eldborgs in Iceland. This is a fine one.

The answer is: off a little side road, and then along a 2.5 km trail across private land. Other than that, no-one has made a spot for you to stop, except for Gerðuberg. But there’s a trick to this third way. You will probably be lulled by Gerðuberg. You might just miss Eldborg, because you’re looking the other way. And that’s the secret to the third way of seeing in Iceland: turn around.

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