Published September 3, 2010
With author Reynir Ingibjartsson’s interest in his subject and sense of humour coming through every entry, 25 Beautiful Walks is a nature-walk-lover’s ode to Reykjavík. Each route is carefully chosen, and painstakingly drawn maps clarify the different types of terrain, distances, and points of interest. Reynir chronologically describes a walk through each circuit, sharing interesting anecdotes along the way about the social and natural history of the areas such as rich eider duck colonies that live here, leaving paths closed during nesting time. Davið Oddsson, formerly prime minister of Iceland, originally stood against the building of the Morgunblaðið newspaper building nearby the walk at Rauðavatn Lake, and now Davið is the paper’s editor—how times have changed!; legend has it that a sorcerer magicked part of the Kaldá river underground because two of his sons drowned there. Each spot is brimming with stories and Reynir seems to know them all. While the detailed descriptions of each walk are an advantage and, indeed, the point of a walking book, some parts of the book can be a tad hairy for those of us with a weaker ability to visualise directions, and to pronounce long-winded Icelandic place names. That said, I found that after reading through six photo-heavy pages about Búrfellsgjá, the route I was about to take, even though I found it difficult to contextualise the descriptions, directions, and the stories, it all made sense once we were on the walk.
Walk 23: Búrfellsgjá
As is true of all walks in this book, Walk 23 at Búrfellsgjá is spectacular and just a hop-skip-and-ajump off the road. Before my walking partner and I knew it, we were shimmying around gaping fissures in the earth, hopping through old sheep corrals assembled from f lat lava rocks, strolling through a great volcanic half-pipe where molten lava had once f lowed, then standing on top of the mountain that created it, staring down into its giant crater. In just a twenty minute drive from downtown.
Walk 10: Örfirisey
Much closer into town, I took an hour out of my day to do Walk 10, Örfirisey, the harbour peninsula. It’s very close to downtown Reykjavík, but an attraction many Icelanders probably neglect except to go to the supermarket. According to Reynir, the area, once an island, has played host at various times to a Danish trading post, a whale blubber processing plant, a WWII army post, and now many wharves packed with fishing boats, which were bustling during the day when my walking partner and I traversed Örfirisey, coffees in hand. The industrial-looking area had some surprising nooks and crannies that were worth exploring, including a sail-like sculpture by Sigurjón Ólafsson, small retail and art spaces, a raised pathway along the seashore on part of its east side, and interesting views of Reykjavík along the water. What I would like to have seen more of was an in-depth discussion about how each hike changes with the seasons. There might be different ways of traversing the areas depending on the season, or special safety issues to watch for. A little more discussion about those issues could come in handy, although the book does discuss general safety and weather guidelines to consider, in its information section. Good thing the attractive layout is at least on glossy pages that won’t immediately get ruined, should you take them out in the rain. Despite these quibbles, 25 Beautiful Walks is a meticulously researched little book with a true love for its subject