There are few places in Iceland that Icelanders love as much as Ásbyrgi. The myth says that the unique area was made by the horse of Óðinn, Sleipnir, when he stepped down to earth and left a huge hoofprint on his travels. A more probable cause is that there were two massive floods that happened in the area and shaped the odd cliffs, the first around ten thousand years ago, the latter around three thousand years ago. Either way, it’s an impressive sight, and it’s unavoidable to think about Sleipnir and his six hooves when looking down at the area from the brink of the steep cliffs.
The humongous walls of the cliffs are made of ropy lava and, if you’re loud enough, they will reverberate everything you say—something my two sons loved when walking in the area. Of course, I didn’t do a good job raising those rascals, so they yelled profanities in Icelandic, and laughed their asses off when the cliffs called back; “Asni!” “Hálfviti!” “Skíthæll!”. (You can Google Translate those terms, but they’re not safe for work.) Of course, when I told them off, they answered; “It wasn’t us, the cliffs just don’t like you”.
The area is quite big, and we had to walk for almost an hour to reach the small forest nestled in the canyon, although, it is possible to drive closer. The hiking route is easy enough for a five-year-old, with the forest lying around 3 kilometres from the campsite.
A short hike through the forest delivered my foulmouthed heirs and I to a small pond. And it was breathtaking. I was struck with a beautiful line from a poem by Elísabet Jökulsdóttir: Behind the end of the world, lies a small pond.
And the pond was, indeed, like from a fairy tale. It was completely still and transparent. We could see a rather large fish just roaming aimlessly in the tranquility of things, minding its own business, well, stepped off the designated walking platform, to see if they could hunt it with their bare hands (please don’t ever do that). They couldn’t, of course, but they did disrupt the peace when one of them accidentally stepped in the water.
At the end of the pond was a small waterfall drizzling down the black cliff that surrounded the whole area. It was utterly mesmerizing.
Choir of ancient beings
In 2006, Sigur Rós held a legendary concert in the area with approximately 4000 people in the audience—a huge crowd at the time given it’s Iceland. The band included the performance in its fantastic music documentary, ‘Heima’ (Home). You can imagine the sound in the area with those singing cliffs all around echoing the rich sounds of Sigur Rós like a choir of ancient beings. If you want to get the vibe, you can look for it on YouTube, just search for “Ásbyrgi, Sigur Ros.” Much like a visit to this enchanting place, the video will not leave you disappointed.
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