Mossy and Massive:
Lava Fields Abound
Especially for its small size, a really cool fact about Iceland is that it has one of the greatest number of volcanoes in the world.
But what’s even cooler is how easily you can access some of the unique features that arises out of the many years of volcanic activity. For instance, you’ll see lava fields right by the Ring Road, the main freeway that loops around this oval-shaped island. And the green moss, mushy and deep, almost spongy, growing on the lava is something we haven’t seen anywhere else in our many sojourns around the world.
Even though these are very accessible – you only have to pull up by the side for interesting photographs – you do need to be very careful not to step on them: the damage to them is generally irreversible. It’s better if you can find a parking spot and walk around the trails that loop around the fields.
The fields aren’t too far from Keflavik airport and the blue lagoon, and to get to these, you should drive for a few miles east past the small town of Grindavik. While you’re still on Route 427, the landscape will very soon dramatically change, and before you know it, you’ll see this unearthly terrain.
Iceland will always bring you back for more. In all my experience as a travel blogger and landscape photographer this is the place that has always seemed especially weird to me.
Of course, in a good way!
Iceland, like other Scandinavian countries, is minimalist when it comes to architecture, and nowhere is this more apparent in the modern day than in the busy city (by Icelandic standards) of Reykjavik. It’s interesting, then, that the capital has long resisted conformity to a specific style, taking unusual liberty to express its uniqueness from its previous Norwegian and Danish rulers. Nowadays, however, there’s no doubt that the vast open spaces, the stark corners, and the geometric curves, are finally reminiscent of its ancestral origin. At the very least, Reykjavik gives you the modus operandi to get out of the stunning natural beauty of Iceland as you compose some very interesting selfies with these background edifices.
DRIVING WHILE SLIDING
At first, it seemed that the road we chose would lead to a dead end. Our car was sliding on the sleet enough to make me dredge my foolhardiness to not cower under the sales pressure of the rental car manager to opt in for that full insurance. It was the second week of December, the road going up to the Svínafellsjökull was treacherous, and the weather was predicted to only get worse. Undaunted, we carried on, and by the time we had reached the glacier’s lips, the weather, miraculously, had improved considerably.
Right where you start on your gentle hike towards the dark lava columns surrounding Svartifoss (also known to some as Black Falls) in Vatnajökull National Park, you’ll see houses such as these, what we’ve called “Hobbit” houses from the first time we saw them. This is another unique feature of what makes Iceland special, and the exceptional scenery of the place can leave you speechless. And with the overall greenery of the surrounding areas, you might even be forgiven to think this is what heaven on earth is all about.
For a view of one of the most beautiful black sand beaches anywhere, look no further than the stunning panorama offered by Vik, a small fishing village in the southern coast of the island. You’ll see huge basaltic rocks in geometric patterns, weird cave structures, and perhaps to add to the eeriness of the region, dark, rocky sea stacks – believed in the Icelandic folklore to be petrified trolls – crop up off the shoreline. These structures have also been made famous by Game of Thrones, where you can distinctly see them in scenes from Season 7 of the HBO series. And if you’re a birdwatcher, get ready to be overjoyed: thousands of puffins, guillemots and fulmars have nesting sites along the region so you can observe them to your heart’s content.