Category Archives: tourism

Going Deep in Iceland

At a certain point, you see with your chest, not with your eyes. Here with the tide rushing out at Kolgrafarfjörður at sundown around 2:30 pm on the shortest day, the light might be in the air, but it’s really in the water, which you “see” with its substance.

In other words, light is a substance as well, which this photograph, which can only capture the energy within it, can only hint at. You have to be there, because only a body can experience this.  However, renting a car at Harpa at 10 a.m. and rushing out to Snæfellsnes, and back to Reykjavik in time for a quick snack and the 8 pm. Northern Lights Bus Tour will only keep you in the light’s energy. You won’t become the sea. There’s not just one Iceland in the same place at the same time. And it’s not just the sea. It’s the Earth as well, here from Ríf four days later, looking up to the glacier.

I think this is what Gunnar Gunnarsson meant in his 1936 essay “Thoughts on Nordic Fate” (Nordische Schicksalsgedanke), when he spoke of salvation — not in the modern sense of rescue through Christ but in an older sense, of the healing of separation. His answer was to go home to Iceland, but I’m not sure it has accepted him yet.

Or  has  it?

Simple Beauty in Iceland

Yup, there’s the grand view of a secret beach, where no one goes.

There’s also the stick, that no one stops for.

Well, almost no-one. This is the delight that can find pure joy in a farmstead so far away across the wetlands that walking won’t bring you there.

That, too, is Iceland, as is this water that flowed over Hengifoss just a half hour or so before. Is it any less now?

You can either run after it or stand still and let I go. That, too, is Iceland.

The Fun Winter Roads of Iceland

Fun for all! This is the kind of road that keeps the economy going by helping tourists to rip out the undercarriage of their rental car. This is not, really, a road. It is tourist made, because that’s fun.

Gerðaberg

Still, the one below, the old road to the church at Gerðaberg, although more traditionally Icelandic is, well, more traditionally Icelandic. It is not going to keep anyone’s economy going, but most fun for trudging.

And the harbour road at Hellissandur? Well, heck, the old icehouse, that you can see in the distance, is on the very bad road to the now-abandoned harbour, but does that stop Icelanders from getting there quickly on their own 4x4s on no road at all? No it does not. This is the kind of ghost road that shouldn’t be, but it is, because, well, that’s fun, too. The tracks are full of a sand-snow-ice-seaweed mixture. Very special!

A more useful road gently curves up to the abandoned farm Vaðstakkaheiði, and the waterfall behind it. Lovingly, the road is just called Foss, or “Waterfall”. It’s a great one for bringing the horses in and out, and for going up the hill to service the power lines running under the glacier, but all that is locked off in the winter, which means that you can get to the cliff, and then what? You can practice your confined-space three point turns to go back, or, to really ramp up the fun, reverse your way back to the farm, that’s what, which should keep you laughing all the long night through, when you think about it.

In comparison, the main roads go through tunnels, which is a very fine thing because the roads themselves are skating rinks. And the light is blue, which, yes, is also fun.

Siglufjörður

Thinking of an adventure on a private Icelandic road instead? Great idea! Here’s where you can put the 4×4 investment to good use, which is easier and more fun than plowing with the tractor. Only older farmers plow with the tractor, because they can’t afford a 4×4, but if you can afford one, very fun. (Don’t forget, though, that tractors are fun, too, so very fun that the old guys keep them to themselves. You’ll have to settle for a Nissan. Sorry.)

But  on Highway 829 at Littlaslétta, even at dusk (1:30 p.m.) on a winter day, it’s a good time to put the pedal to the metal and fly at her, taking the curves like a hawk after a sparrow. The mountains will do their best to distract you, as Icelandic mountains, the tricky dears, will, but that, too is good.

Now, get out there and have some good old Icelandic fun!