Having heard horrifying (yet somewhat amusing) stories about tourists getting stuck in the mountains in their little VW Beetles, my friends and I decided to rent a four-wheel drive for a road trip on a recent summer’s day. We packed up some salmon sandwiches and drinking water, and off we went, heading for the western parts of the country.
Our final destination was the Snæfellsjökull National Park. It was only a three-hour drive, but we didn’t make it that far. Why, you ask? Because the landscape was so amazing that we had to pull over every five kilometres to take photos, and just enjoy it.
When we were driving on F-roads (the narrow gravel highland roads that are opened only during the summer) it felt less like a road trip than a lunar expedition. There were ancient lava fields of black rocks, covered with green and gray moss. The landscape is as extraterrestrial as it gets here on Earth. Beside the road there were glaciers and it was really fun to stop the car in the middle of the nowhere and go and have a summer snowball fight, wearing nothing but thin blouses, jeans and sneakers.
Having passed these challenging roads, we arrived at Hraunfossar. This series of waterfalls is made up of rivulets streaming from the Hallmundarhraun lava field over a distance of about 900 metres. The lava field was formed when hot lava erupted from one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull, long ago. The powerful water flowing down along the cliffs made me feel fresh and alive—it’s amazing how magical it felt.
From there the road took us to the small town of Stykkishólmur. The town was one of the filming locations of Ben Stiller’s movie ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’. The town was just adorable and it was really cool to just sit on the pier and look at the ocean and the sun. So there we were, waiting for a night that never came. Also we enjoyed a nice meal in the local seafood restaurant.
In the midnight hour we drove along the coastline towards Grundarfjörður. Nothing indicated that it was night—it was still bright as we stopped for a walk over a green field that glowed under the golden sunbeams. I felt like Gandalf walking in Middle Earth, and felt blessed to see the ocean shining under the midnight sun.
We headed back to the capital under bright orange and strawberry-pink skies. It finally got dark when we entered to the six-kilometre Hvalfjörður tunnel, which shortens the distance from Reykjavík to the western and northern parts of the island by 45 kilometres. But when we emerged, it was bright once again. Darkness has no place in Iceland’s summer nights.