“Leggja Höfuðið í Bleyti”
The above quote is an Icelandic saying, “Lay your head in water” which means to think deeply or to ponder on a decision. Well, if there’s any place you can have deep thoughts, it would be in any place you choose in Iceland.
Seven days in a 4×4 rental car, a list of “off the beaten path” destinations that I could not pronounce, a camera and map. Here is a photography essay of Iceland from the southern coast of Vik to the northern port of Stykkisholmur. I covered two national parks, The Golden Circle, a secret lagoon, caves, Snaefellsness Peninsula, a rock n troll camp and everything in between.
After arriving in Keflavik, I picked up a 4×4 rental car and began heading east by driving south via the ring road toward Vik. Vik is the southernmost point in Iceland, midway between West and East. Travel in Iceland is traveling around the island and not through due to the dangerous landscape and mountains that take up most of the island. Hence, around I went.
When I finally arrived at Vik, it was after 12 hours of travel time. The combined flight plus additional 4 hours of driving ensured a proper lie down. Usually, this would cause some worry that I’m missing out on a photography opportunity, losing light in the evening but fortunately, Iceland summers call for 11:00pm sunsets!
When driving in Iceland, safety is first. Iceland law is very strict concerning speed limits and coincidentally, they place their signs of destinations and/or exits right before the turn road. Meaning, you really don’t know you are supposed to turn until you’ve passed it.
I got really good at driving in both directions on the same street due to missing the turn.
Reynisfjara Beach & Halsenefshellir Cave
The beaches in Iceland are known for its beauty, basalt columns, and black sands. Their pristine conditions offer a different glimpse than those of tropical beaches that are over consumed. There is a warning sign for Reynisfjara Beach that visitors should watch their distance from the water and never have their back to the ocean. Violent waves are known to push further up on the beach that many don’t expect, even on incredibly still days. Since there are no significant landmasses found between Antartica and the shores of Reynisfjara, the waves have the entire span of the earth to build.
Iceland is a land full of myths and legends originating from the earliest settlements of the country. A bit east of Vik is a vast, haunted landscape, Mýdalssandur. Hjörleifshöfði Cave sits above black lava volcanic outwash and on the highest peak, stands a grave marker for Hjörleifur, the second settler of Iceland who claimed the south in 874. In 875, just shy of a year, he was killed by his own slaves. It is said there is a curse placed upon the lands and as I approached the cave, it was evident that nothing has changed from a thousand years ago.
Rútshellir Caves (also known as Cave of Rútur) are found along the southern route of the Ring Road, west of Vik. It’s easy to see from the road as sheep and wild horses graze the surrounding lands. Iceland’s histories are rooted in legends and stories, this one is particularly brutal.
Legend says that Rútur was an evil chieftain that wasn’t too friendly with his neighbors. Within this cave, there is an elevated cove that stood for a bed. One evening, while Rútur was out and about living his best Icelandic life, the surrounding villagers went inside his cave, creeped into his bedroom, created a hole on the bottom of his bed and waited. When Rútur returned to his cave to sleep, as many as seven to eight spears stabbed right through him, the villagers said goodnight.
Fridheimar is a greenhouse that specializes in tomatoes. Since Iceland has such harsh conditions, agriculture is a bit of a challenge. Tomatoes are usually grown in this way in Iceland. They even have bees and have imported certain types of flies to have in their greenhouses. Everyday, they offer a tomato soup buffet with 12 types of fresh baked breads. Cucumber salad, butter, sour cream and at each table, a basil plant to garnish your soup.
Iceland is a bit obsessed with trolls. Possibly because so many of the rock formations actually look like trolls. The folklore says, that trolls cannot live in sunlight but if and when they are caught in the sun, they turn into rocks. Well, Iceland, taking a look at all the rocks you have all over your island, there were lots of them. Naturally, I decided to spend an evening in Fossatún, known for its Rock n Troll camping pods. When in Rome…
There are camp pods throughout the site, they look small from the outside but they are very roomy and really warm. And who can contest this view?
Before entering Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you pass through a small town called Arnarstapi. This town was known as a harbor and landing site for small vessels, it soon became an ideal shipping port. Mt. Stapafell stands proudly behind the seatown.
In this part of Iceland, stories include protectors of the land and sea, farmers, and ogres.
SNÆFELLSJÖKULL NATIONAL PARK
After Arnarstapi, is Snæfellsjokull National Park and is located on the westernmost point of the peninsula. The history and legends of this national park are visually re-created with the mystical and magical landscape. From lava fields to bright green moss, the geology and vegetation are diverse and part of an ancestry that dates back to the beginning of Iceland.
Dritvík & Djúpalónssandur
Írskabrunner translates into the Well of the Irish. This is an ancient well dating back to the 9th century and was lost for a long time due to being buried under sand. Fifty one years later, it was found with the help of the grandson who grew up on a nearby farm until 1948. The well is 16 steps deep with a large, ancient whale bone marking the well.
The Church at Ingjaldsholl
Route 36 to Golden Circle
Þingvellir National Park
Those who plan on visiting Iceland can’t deny the seduction of the blue lagoon, well, unless you’re like me and refuse to pay $60 or £45 for a spa day. If you’re looking for a far more authentic and intimate experience, check out Gamla Laugin, otherwise known as old pool, or secret lagoon.
*Vik (southwest coastal town)
*Golden Circle, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gulfoss Waterfall, Gamla Laugin, Fludir
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Copyright 2020 Erica Hilario