July 8-12, 2018. I have recently returned from an excellent 5-day stay in Iceland. The island is a hiker’s paradise, and I’d planned on hiking two of the more popular trails during my visit (Mount Esja and Glymur waterfall). Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate. There was rain and low cloud in the Reykjavik area and all over the west coast for the entire duration of my stay. My wife and I did see some great scenery, though, via 2 well-conducted bus tours that took us to popular sights with short walking trails.
The Golden Circle
Nearby Reykjavik is the Golden Circle, a popular tour route that includes a visit to Geysir, the geyser for which all others are named; Gullfoss, the highest volume waterfall in Europe; and Þingvellir (pronounced THINK-ved-leer), a rift valley where the viking settlers held parliament and the Eurasian and American tectonic plates are moving apart. There are short trails at each location, and masses of tourists. It’s something like a Banff/Lake Louise tour in Alberta: it’s crowded, but also a “must see”. Þingvellir was particularly fascinating because there are narrow fissures where the tectonic plates are pulling apart and you can stand straddling them – one foot on the Eurasian plate, one on the American.
Having explored the Golden Circle, we arranged a trip to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This area of Iceland features mountains, lava fields, seaside cliffs and the vast Snaefellsjokull glacier. Due to the cloudy weather, much of the scenery was obscured. We did get a couple glimpses of the glacier, but nothing that could be adequately captured with photographs. There were numerous walking trails of various lengths at our stops in Hellnar, Arnarstapi, Djupalon Beach and Kirkjufell. Our tour group would move along every 45 minutes or so, so we didn’t do any lengthy walks. We saw some amazing scenery, nevertheless.
So, while we weren’t able to do any half-day or full-day hikes, we did get to see a lot of Iceland’s natural beauty. In between all this, of course, we were happily exploring Reykjavik. I’m sure we’ll be back again someday, and hopefully the weather will be more cooperative.