Iceland is one of those places where it is hard not to come over all transcendentalist. You have an inspirational landscape like nothing on this earth; from remote farmhouses set in lupine fields, to volcanic craters, glaciers, ice-blue hotsprings, black beaches and sand deserts, and to a decidedly urban bustle in Reykjavik, all rubbing along as comfortably as such disparate elements can. It’s location on a continental rift means that the earth is very much alive and in motion. Icelanders are suitably proud of their untamed environs and will encourage you to go and be awed by Mother Nature.
The best way to do this is by car. At Hertz, we acquired an eco-friendly Renault and GPS, whom we swiftly named Juniper and Wesley. Wesley helped us navigate the otherwise incomprehensible Icelandic signage in an officious and supercilious british accent and Juniper reliably chugged along. Since what we were doing was not particularly intensive (ie: we pretty much stayed on the Ring Road) Juniper was great, but for the more adventurous summer traveller I would recommend a lucked out Jeep with some scary tires. A huge bulk of Iceland’s roads are unpaved, either they are gravel roads or ‘off-road’. If you have ever had cliché dreams about you, an open road and no one around for miles, Iceland is the country for you. I personally appreciated the eclectic late 90’s music selection on the one radio station that seemed to work 91.7FM. We split our car trekking into three days, one SouthEast to cover the Golden Circle, one SouthWest to Snaefellsnes, and one west to the Blue Lagoon.
The Golden Circle is the most commonly covered tourist route in the country. It is comprised of Þingvellir National Park (pronounced Thing-Vet-Lhir), the Gullfoss, and the geysirs of Haukadlar valley. The first thing we noticed at Þingvellir was the fish-scale blue of the lake at the entrance to the park. The lake is surrounded by a volcanic field filled with strange rock piles. I am not certain if they are natural or manmade but they look like little fey houses. Further on is the rift valley of the mid-Atlantic plate with its basalt cliffs and the site of Iceland’s first parliament and correspondingly the countries first UNESCO site. It was frigid so we bolted like maniacs through the rift snapping as many pictures as possible in between the guest centre and the car. Wesley then led us to the Geysirs and the nicest vistor’s centre I have ever been too where we stopped for a lite touristy lunch and to try on some Viking hats in the gift shop. The geysirs were pretty active, a constant reminder of the natural turbulence Iceland faces. Our last stop for the day was the Gullfoss which was the one I was most excited to see, mostly because I love the mist that hides rainbows in waterfalls. I was not disappointed with the view complete with rainbow and ice shards. I felt like Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Wanderer’ all day.