Living in Reykjavík, it’s quite easy to get caught up in the routine of city life, and forget that this town is just a tiny dot on a coast of an island that’s full of monumental nature. Iceland’s vast and beautiful wilderness has an intensity that you won’t be able to experience anywhere else on this planet. And it only takes a short drive to get to it. As soon as you leave the city, the lava fields start to fill the horizon, and you’re transported to another dimension. But hold on: this is just the beginning. Prepare to be amazed, because the most breathtaking and otherworldly landscapes you can imagine are hidden in this island’s wild interior.
Forces of nature
It’s a cold and windy Sunday morning in the middle of May. A Super Jeep is waiting for us in front of the Midgard Base Camp, which is situated in the rather unassuming town of Hvolsvöllur. After accidentally witnessing the first round of the Formula Off-Road championship in nearby Hella, as well as stumbling upon Midgard’s second birthday party the evening before, I jump into the jeep excited for more surprises, and to unravel the mysteries of the “Valley of Thor”: Þórsmörk.
Our guide Klara is a force of nature herself. She’s bubbly and full of energy, showering us with insights, information, and unique observations. Hailing from the nearby Westman Islands, she knows a thing or two about volcanoes, being a proper “volcano child” who lived through the famous 1973 eruption that damaged her hometown, and forced her whole family to evacuate and start a new life from scratch.
The stones speak
After driving into the interior via an F-road, and crossing the winding tendrils of the Krossá river, the jeep stops at Gígjökull, a point through which glacial flood water escaped during the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The rocks in the area have a grain similar to those inside the trunk of a tree—they are remnants of the lava that came from the previous eruptions, showing the history of the earth, written in stone. The whole place inspires a sense of awe. “Every time I come here, I can feel how tiny I am as a human being in this world,” says Klara.
Our next stop is Húsadalur, where we take a short hike and eat lunch in the surrounding trees and wooden huts before hitting the trails. During our hike, our guide tells us how the Icelandic landscape animates imagination, and how it became the basis for folk tales and beliefs such as the existence of trolls and the Húldufólk, or “hidden people.
A magical quest
Finally, we reach the breathtaking Stakkholtsgjá canyon, and I fall in love with the place instantly. The lush greenery of the moss growing over the cliffs and rocks reminds me of spring. We walk to a cave which has a waterfall cascading into it from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. We jump over rocks and cross small streams, as though we’re on a magical quest.
After one more secret waterfall on the way back, it’s time to leave this fantastastical land and go back to the reality of the city. But like the rocks around the magical Þórsmörk valley, my memories of the trip will stay set in stone.
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