For all its ambitions, Reykjavík barely qualifies as a city proper. And this is a good thing, as cities are often cold, grey structures that don’t allow for much adventurousness aside from staying out late at some dirty bar or other. While Reykjavík has its fair share of seedy dives, it also offers a comforting closeness to nature and this is why I guess so many of us are taken by it. Drinking one’s sense away to a soundtrack of disinterested dance beats amongst a crowd of fashionable strangers can be fun, but it ultimately leaves you empty and unsatisfied. This is where places like Öskjuhlíð come in handy, especially if your budget and schedule don’t allow for weeklong jeep trips into the highlands.
Marked by hills, trees and the lumbering presence of former PM Davíð Oddsson’s memorial Perlan, Öskjuhlíð is a Reykjavík haven, as locals have known for decades. It is essentially a part of downtown Reykjavík, but the lay of the land provides ample opportunities to forget all about the heavy traffic, gas stations and subpar bistro bars found past the hill – the only constant reminder of civilization being the private planes that fly over at an alarming rate. A comfortable fifteen-minute walking distance from 101 Reykjavík means that it’s easily accessible and as such a great location for spur-of-the-moment picnics and shorter expeditions. If you get tired or wet, you can always call a cab to take you home.
For the uninitiated, Öskjuhlíð is mainly famous for its reputation as Reykjavík’s gay cruising spot, and for its burgeoning abandoned- rabbit population. The cruising appeal is understandable, as the woods and their various pathways provide ample opportunity for privacy and mano a mano snog-sessions. It’s also true that you will find some of Iceland’s friendliest rabbits cavorting in Öskjuhlíð, and if you don’t come off too eager, they will lounge around and frolic for your viewing pleasures.
Then there’s the added attraction of close-by Nauthólsvík and its fake beach of yellow sand. It’s there, and it’s fun.
And how does a typical trip to Öskjuhlíð go? For instance, you could follow this Grapevine staffer’s lead (or not) and purchase an instant BBQ at Bónus and some ready made fish-courses from the excellent Fylgifiskar on Skólavörðustígur. Fill a backpack with other necessities of choice (mine were plates, glasses and some champagne) and follow your feet to the shiny globe on top of Öskjuhlíð. Follow paths, get lost (it’s easy if you set your mind to it), chat with the rabbits and have them lead you to a suitable place to set down your mat and feast. Carefully avoid starting forest fires, pack up your trash before you leave, take walks, enjoy good conversation and greet passers-by with sunny smiles.
You will enjoy this, unless your soul is shrivelled and dead.