Travelling in Iceland is often dictated by the weather. It’s an ever-present spectre: wind, storms and fog can descend on the country at any time, even on midsummer night.
While it makes for occasional difficult journeys, it also creates dynamic, ever changing views, and some memorable situations. Some of our best travel stories in 2017 told tales of crunching over mountains in fresh, glistening snow, or being marooned in a small town watching sheets of rain sweep over the streets and mountains outside the window. The unpredictability becomes a quality in itself.
From driving around the Faroe Islands under churning skies, to strapping on crampons and heading into the icy landscape, here are our ten most-read travel stories of 2017.
#10: The Other Islands: A Trip To The Faroes
“The sea gets rough, and the boat pitches violently—Japanese tourists slither around on the deck, and stoic Danes cling to the railings grimly. The view is worth it: the Faroes’ westernmost mountains are colossal natural sculptures, like melting Gaudi cathedrals cloaked in green grass, scored and pocked by the unforgiving weather amidst the screeching, wheeling seabirds.”
#9: Art, Sushi and Waterfalls in Seyðisfjörður
“Tucked away in the Eastfjords, over a winding mountain pass, lies the small port town of Seyðisfjörður. Home to 665 people, it feels like a miniature world of its own. Its wooden houses and picturesque blue church are cradled by mountains on three sides, with the long fjord meandering out to sea on the other. The Norræna ferry arrives from Denmark via the Faroe Islands once a week, and Seyðisfjörður has a lively local culture that includes various restaurants, galleries, arts residencies, and festivals.”
#8: Borgarnes: The Prettiest Town You’ve Never Visited
“If you park and take an hour to walk west from the town’s main intersection, what you will find is a surprisingly charming village of winding streets, steep hills, and gorgeous gardens. There’s a truly wonderful café, Kaffi Kyrrð, which feels more like having coffee at your hippy grandmother’s apartment than going to a coffeehouse.”
#7: Quadding Through The Snow In Reykjanes
“Off we went, roaring between hills covered in snow and occasional spots of lava ash. I started off slowly and tentatively, but after ten minutes I’d gotten the hang of it—at least enough to keep up with the others. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time—carefree driving over deep snow and along irregular mountain paths amongst some fascinating scenery.”
#6: North By Northeast: The Arctic Henge
“We coast gently into the Jökuldalur valley, where the Ring Road veers inland towards Mývatn. But our path lies east, and we turn right to skirt the deep Jökla river canyon. Soon, we’re racing along the flatlands past a wide expanse of black sand crisscrossed with a shining rivulets, overlooked by jagged mountains that jut up through a blanket of sunlit mist.”
#5: A Grumpy Icelander Does The Golden Circle
“The storm peaked at Geysir, the natural phenomenon where pressure builds up underground before regularly shooting out a metres-high stream of hot water. The weather was crazy while we watched the “ejaculation” (as our poet slash photographer described it) hit the powerful wind. This was truly a sight to behold, hear and feel.”
#4: The Certainty In Wind: A Trip To Vík
“The south coast of Iceland is a path-more-travelled. The roads are narrow, the busses are wide, and there are parking lots at the base of every waterfall. Perhaps that’s exactly why I needed to get on this road—to remember that no matter how many versions of Seljalandsfoss there are, it still remains one-of-a-kind.”
#3: Green Lakes & Ghosts on the Reykjanes Peninsula
“Arriving at Gunnuhver, I immediately get a sense of mystery because of the thick geothermal fog around the area. Our guide tells us the story of a ghost, Gunna, who haunted the area for years after she died in 1703. This hot spring area, in those times, was thought to have a close resemblance to hell. A known sorcerer at that time lured the ghost into the steam to stop the haunting—to this day, the area is named after Gunna.”
#2: The Great Icelandic Soak Off
Seeking out remote natural hot pots is super popular in Iceland: so much so, that some have become a victim of their own success due to increased footfall as tourism continues to boom. However, none of them are “secret,” really—most are widely documented online, and in various guide books—so we felt no guilt in documenting some of the most famous ones to produce this hot-potting guide.
#1: Reykjadalur: The Warm River
“As the steam disperses in the sunlight, I’m immersed in a creamy, surreal looking world of mist. Despite being just a few metres ahead, my fellow hikers disappear in the white steam as I admire the delicate ice formations on the riverbank.”
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