West Iceland: Reykholt, Hraunfossar, Barnafossar and Akranes

West Iceland

So…we passed the stormy night in the car without incident and of course, about 3 km down the road, there was a guesthouse and restaurant where we could have slept comfortably and gotten a reaaaaally good deal, since it’s in bumfuck and appeared to have not a single guest.

We got coffee and picked up some area pamphlets, which then derailed us for the next hours. We have this thing for geothermal pools, right? And what’s better than a “natural” pool, just off the side of the road, without tourists or facilities? Something we would practically stumble upon along a short hike, and then proceed to lounge in nude, just because we can, gazing at the pastural scenery?

One of the pamphlets (which, come to think of it, was pretty dusty and probably a decade old) promised that pool, in a tiny, offhand blurb. So we set off, following the scant directions, turning down gravel roads and backtracking multiple times. Finally we saw another car stopped on the side of a deserted road and figured they had to be looking for the same spot.

These Canadians were smart. They had a book of natural hot springs and a GPS. So we let them go ahead before following at a scarcely discreet distance (probably ruining all of their bathing nude dreams), crossing an (icy—I checked) creek by inching along an ancient, fat pipe and then climbing a hill with such a small trickle running down it, you could hardly call it a stream (the water did get progressively warmer but never hot). Then we came across the Canadians again. They’d found a tiny, hot-ish hole, suitable for a person and a half, and had decided to call it a day. We walked further up but found nothing wide enough to consider a pool, and then headed back, so the Canadians could nestle on each other’s laps in privacy.

On the way back, I think we actually found the “pool” pictured, which was lukewarm and covered with a thick layer of green moss. So much for becoming wood nymphs.

snorristurlsonhome

So, three hours delayed, we headed towards Reykholt, a cultural center and church and the former home of Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), a historian, politician and author of Iceland’s historic sagas. The drizzle was back as, in less than an hour, we took in the quaint, teensy church (with a model ship suspended from the ceiling, a sort of charm to keep fishermen safe), Snorri’s outdoor geothermal bath and a large gift shop. There’s also an indoor area of exhibits but there was a fee, and our attention span was already kind of shot. (Btw, we missed The Sagas Museum in Reykajvik, but I’ve heard it’s great.)

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Myvatn, Iceland: Nature Baths, Elves and Sleeping on the Moon

Myvatn lavascape

After the waterfalls, we checked out the Myvatn Nature Baths — the north’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. MNB’s are smaller, less crowded and, at $36, about $20 cheaper than the Blue Lagoon.

Myvatn Nature Bath

The baths are man-made, but they’re heated to about 100° F with natural springs. There are two sulphur steam rooms and a smaller, hotter pool. The water is that now-familiar gorgeous, chalky blue, covered with a rolling layer of haze, and the view is all open sky and distant volcanos and lava-scape.

Myvatn Nature Bath

Afterwards, we checked into our hotel-on-the-moon, aka Hlid Hostel. We had a teensy private room with a teensy private bathroom, and everything felt clean, modern and very bright. But right outside our door, the world was rocky, flat and grey-scaled. I could have spent a full day just reading in the breakfast room, every once in awhile, glancing up at the lunar terrain.

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Myvatn, Iceland: Grjotagja, Dettifoss and Godafoss

Up early, since sleeping in the car isn’t conducive to much sleeping, and our first stop was the tourist information center. It happened to share a parking lot with a grocery store, where we stocked up and grabbed coffee.

At the tourist center, we learned that the lava field hike we began at midnight is still considered too dangerous to recommend, because of the snow and cold and boiling puddles. Oops.

We left our car and set out from there, following a path that begins just behind the center. The path goes all the way to Mt. Hverfjall and Dimmuborgir (14km), but we turned around at Grjotagja (about 7km? Sigh for the lost journal, where I kept detailed notes). Early on, the path meets another path…keep straight, and you’ll be on the right track.

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South Iceland: waterfalls and a hidden geo-thermal pool

We finished Steam Valley in early afternoon and on our way to Vik, hit up some of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. These sites were touristy but not so crowded that they weren’t enjoyable— at least, not in spring.

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Just off of Ring Road, Seljalandsfoss is 213 feet tall and sounds like the apocalypse. In spring and summer, you can walk a slippery path behind the falls and bask in rainbow-filtered spray.

Gljufurarfoss is a short walk from Seljalandsfoss. At 131 feet it’s smaller, but it may be my favorite Icelandic waterfall. I’d recommend first (carefully!) the small, steep path that takes you through a crevice, about 60 feet up. There’s a rickety wooden ladder that you can climb to lean against a rock lip, close enough to feel the spray from the falls. From there you can peer down into the hidden rock pool below. (No wonder Icelanders believe in fairies.)

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Iceland in Spring: Reykjavik and Reykjadalur

A kooky/brilliant/wonderful friend and I drove all around Iceland in late May, sleeping in hostels and abandoned churches and our car, and I meant to post about it forever ago, but the journal I kept while we were there got lost in my most recent move. I was so sad about that, I never posted.

I’m trying to stiff-upper-lip it and post now, although details are going to be a bit murkier without the journal. First off, absolutely go to Iceland in May. It’s cool but not cold, damp but not rainy, most touristy stuff is already opened, crowds are nothing like they will be during the summer and hotels and rental cars are (slightly) cheaper. Bonus — it stays light till about midnight, which means you get extra time for sightseeing.

We found a great deal on tickets (just over $200, round trip) on WOW airlines (beware the added baggage costs), but they only fly out of a few cities. So our road trip through Iceland started with a road trip up the United States east coast.

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Snapshots from April: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas

So now that I’m taking lots of iPhone pics, I’m trying to do a monthly round-up of some of my faves but I keep getting behind. It’s spring and, despite being monsoon season in Arkansas, I’ve spent lots of time outside recently. I’ve also spent lots of time obsessing over things probably best left alone. And there’s been lots of procrastination in general. But well into May, here are some snapshots from April…
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South by Southwest and Valley of the Vapors

I went to Austin and Hot Springs to cover some movies and music. Read about it in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Also, I took this lead photo of White Mystery at VOV, which is straight-up killer. resized_99261-vapors-whitemystery_29-19485_t630