Icelandic Nature Expeditions

Reykjavik and Isolation Jam were pretty great, but we all know the real attraction of Iceland is all the crazy geological weirdness that is going on around every corner. Iceland is AMAZING if you’re into nature stuff. But it’s nature unlike you’ve seen it before; completely different to anything else I’ve encountered. I kept arriving at some new natural phenomenon and being like “What!? C’mon Iceland, you’re doing this now!? This makes no sense at all.” (NOTE TO SELF: Excellent writing back there, good job.)

I am lucky. Clover unrelated.

I am lucky. Clover unrelated.

Just some lava fields. Ain't no big deal that LAVA FIELDS are everywhere.

Just some lava fields. Ain’t no big deal that LAVA FIELDS are everywhere.

For most of this blog post I’m just going to let the photos do the talking. Brace yourself for a lot of pictures. The first bizarre piece of Icelandic nature we visited was on the way back from Isolation Jam. It was a large volcanic crater called Grabrók.

Grabrók crater. Fun things to look at all around Grabrók.

Grabrók crater. Fun things to look at all around Grabrók.

Another crater at Grabrók.

Another crater at Grabrók.

Iceland looks like no other place does. That rocky bit is a sheep sorter. The white bits are lava fields.

Iceland looks like no other place does. That rocky bit is a sheep sorter. The white bits are lava fields.

Sure, yeah! Let's drive on that road across the lake!

Sure, yeah! Let’s drive on that road across the lake!

Icelandic hobbit houses. Two thirds of the Icelandic population still lives underground.

Icelandic hobbit houses. Two thirds of the Icelandic population still lives underground.

Another thing we did was a short bouldering excursion to somewhere north of Mosfellsbær. We sampled the problems on the low cliffs, which had the advantage of being taller than the ones by Fossvogskirkjugarður (where we went in Reykjavik), but this was unfortunately balanced by some rather forgettable landings. And by forgettable landings, I mean being deposited on a steep gravelly scree and eventually, in a river.

Not a bad spot for a quick night session.

Not a bad spot for a quick night session.

Anyway, the little valley is beautiful and we had a lot of fun climbing rocks, throwing rocks and jumping between rocks. Icelandic summer is pretty great for a weekend warrior. You can have a decent climbing session after work because you’ve still got several months before the sun sets.

A cool 7A that we didn't do. Unlike most rock in Iceland, this one didn't disintegrate when touched.

A cool 7A that we didn’t do. Unlike most rock in Iceland, this one didn’t disintegrate when touched.

Another after work mission was Reykjadalur; something I was very psyched about since I heard of it’s existence. Basically, it’s a place in the mountains where a boiling hot stream (too hot to swim in) and a regular stream (too cold to swim in) meet, and they form a stream which is just perfect to swim in. I knew that bathing in a natural hot spring in the mountains was going to be great, but I wasn’t expecting the hike there to be so spectacular too!

Apparently the ground just smoulders in Iceland. This isn't normal, Iceland.

Apparently the ground just smoulders in Iceland. This isn’t normal, Iceland.

Glurch! Splorch! Blurgle! etc.

Glurch! Splorch! Blurgle! etc.

What is this valley even?!

What is this valley even?!

Casual selfie with some waterfalls and geothermal activity in the background.

Casual selfie with some waterfalls and geothermal activity in the background.

Smells like sulphur. Which smells... bad.

Smells like sulphur. Which smells… bad.

This would be a rad place to swim even if the river wasn't hot!

This would be a rad place to swim even if the river wasn’t hot!

Unnecessarily pointy mountain.

Unnecessarily pointy mountain.

Joon and I also did some pretty epic roadtrip days.

Roooooooooooad trip!

Roooooooooooad trip!

This is the smallest sized car you can buy in Iceland.

This is the smallest sized car you can buy in Iceland.

Every Icelander has done it a million times, but it would be somewhat of a crime to go visit Iceland without doing the Golden Circle. Luckily Joon was easily persuaded to take me on such a mission. After spending the morning celebrating Icelandic independence day, we started our trip with Kerið crater, which isn’t part of the Golden Circle, but it’s more or less along the way.

This is a good crater. Was fun to throw rocks into.

This is a good crater. Was fun to throw rocks into.

After that we were onto the Golden Circle proper. The circle consists of three famous sites, we started with Gullfoss – a gigantic raging waterfall in an impressive valley.

Gullfos. Just beautiful.

Gullfos. Just beautiful.

So powerful!

So powerful!

The second stop on the Golden Circle was Strokkur, a geysir that erupts every few minutes spewing steam and boiling water several meters into the air.

Bright blue puddle of water. Just Iceland things.

Bright blue puddle of water. Just Iceland things.

Geysir. Not just a geysir, Geysir itself. The thing that the word geysir  came from.

Geysir. Not just a geysir, Geysir itself. The thing that the word geysir came from.

Strokkur eruptions are pretty cool. Not at all weird that THE GROUND JUST EXPLODES EVERY FEW MINUTES.

Strokkur eruptions are pretty cool. Not at all weird that THE GROUND JUST EXPLODES EVERY FEW MINUTES.

The final piece of the circle was Þingvellir national park. A beautiful park packed with not only lakes, waterfalls, and even a forest, but also a huge amount of historical significance.

Waterfall in Þingvellir. They used to drown people near here. Vikings can't be bothered with hangings.

Waterfall in Þingvellir. They used to drown people near here. Vikings can’t be bothered with hangings.

Þingvellir is lovely.

Þingvellir is lovely.

So pretty! I can't handle you anymore Iceland.

So pretty! I can’t handle you anymore Iceland.

Look at the colour of that water! And all those shiny coins!

Look at the colour of that water! And all those shiny coins!

This waterfall wasn't even an noted anywhere. We just accidentally noticed it when we drove past.

This waterfall wasn’t even an noted anywhere. We just accidentally noticed it when we drove past.

If this was another country, it would’ve been getting dark by that point, but luckily this is Iceland and the only thing stopping you from starting an epic hike is whether or not you still have the energy. And what and epic hike it was! If ever you are in Iceland, make sure you hike up to Glymur waterfall, cross the river at the top, and then hike back down the other side of the valley.

Lupines and mountains at the start of the Glymur trail.

Lupines and mountains at the start of the Glymur trail.

Not a bad place to be hiking at 11PM.

Not a bad place to be hiking at 11PM.

Some caves and arches. That valley in the distance is where we're headed.

Some caves and arches. That valley in the distance is where we’re headed.

Glymur waterfall is pretty large.

Glymur waterfall is pretty large.

Joon contemplates the not-so-safe looking path.

Joon contemplates the not-so-safe looking path.

When we were nearing the top of the waterfall we saw that the sun was dipping behind the mountain and casting a brilliant red light onto the rocks 100m up the path. We wandered for a moment whether we could catch the sun, and then promptly started running up the mountain as fast as we could. We made it just in time to catch the last few minutes of a spectacular sunset. Not that it really set, of course.

Just caught the sun. What a place to be!

Just caught the sun. What a place to be!

Sun dipping below the mountain.

Sun dipping below the mountain.

No words for this.

No words for this.

Crossing the river. It was FREEZING.

Crossing the river. It was FREEZING.

Found some abnormally red mud.

Found some abnormally red mud.

The top of Glymur.

The top of Glymur.

We got a little lost on the way down and descended some pretty sketchy scree slopes, but survived and eventually ran back to the car in the early hours of the morning. What an amazing hike, the perfect conclusion to a ridiculously cool day! I was so stoked!

The next day we decided to go on a similarly jam-packed road trip. This time Owen (a friend from Joon’s co-working space and all around swell guy) joined us. Aside from the odd piece of game analysis, Joon and I had spent the previous day going on an exploratory musical journey by alternating who gets to pick the next song. I really enjoyed this, so we carried. Except this time we got Owen on board to give us a third set of tastes to explore.

The three amigos! Fun chaps!

The three amigos! Fun chaps!

Because we’d only seen like 8 amazing waterfalls so far, our first stop was determined to be Hraunfossar. A place that has waterfalls that kinda just come pouring out of the ground. Awesome.

Rushing water. Still can't get over the colours of water here!

Rushing water. Still can’t get over the colours of water here!

Nice little arch thrown in for good measure.

Nice little arch thrown in for good measure.

Notice how there's no river up there sourcing these waterfalls?

Notice how there’s no river up there sourcing these waterfalls?

After that we drove out past Húsafell and into a bizarre rocky wasteland in search of a high quality customizable caving experience. We found that in Stefánshellir, a series of lava tubes with four different entrances. So you can enter in one place, walk underground for 500m and then emerge somewhere else. Luckily all of our decision making turned out to be pretty solid and we didn’t get lost underground. Yay!

Oh, just look at these massive underground cave tunnels we found.

Oh, just look at these massive underground cave tunnels we found.

Contemplating whether or not to follow Joon into the cave of certain death.

Contemplating whether or not to follow Joon into the cave of certain death.

Inside the caves!

Inside the caves!

Nice to know how thin the roof is. It's a good thing Iceland rock isn't super brittle or anything.

Nice to know how thin the roof is. It’s a good thing Iceland rock isn’t super brittle or anything.

Satisfied with caves, we moved on to glaciers; specifically: Langjökull. After driving through terrain that strongly resembles the moon (only blacker) and passing by increasingly large and ominous looking vehicles, we managed to make it right to the glacier. Which was a good thing too, because icy wind was blowing off the glacier at a tremendous pace and it was freezing! When I ran with the wind, I could barely move my legs quickly enough to keep up with how fast my body was moving. In those conditions I’m sure I could run a 10s 100m. It was insane!

Welcome to the moon.

Welcome to the moon.

We made it on to the glacier!

We made it on to the glacier!

Owen demonstrating the force of the wind.

Owen demonstrating the force of the wind.

Joon also demonstrating the force of the wind.

Joon also demonstrating the force of the wind.

Now it was time to start heading back towards Reykjavik, but forgoing tar roads and enjoying the outrageous scenery of the highlands. On the way back we decided to make one last stop. We had heard of a little hot pool that was only about 20 minutes out of our way. We knew nothing about it and only had a GPS pin to go by, but we decided to check it out. And it turned out to be a gem! Perfect hot water, stunning location, and big enough for all three of us! We drank coffee and ate terrible Russian candy whilst enjoying the splendour of Iceland. Another fantastic finish to another fantastic day!

Regular Icelandic clouds.

Regular Icelandic clouds.

God rays illuminating the fact that Joon should clean the wind screen.

God rays illuminating the fact that Joon should clean the wind screen.

How cool is this spot! Ahhhh! So great!

How cool is this spot! Ahhhh! So great!

The next day was my last in Iceland. Joon and I were feeling pretty beat up after two full days of road-tripping, so we decided to take it pretty easy. We slept late and played board-games for most of the day before heading out in the evening to see a few more crazy spots on the Reykjanes peninsula.

See those weird terraces in the hills? What's up with that?

See those weird terraces in the hills? What’s up with that?

These mountains are just made of steep black sand.

These mountains are just made of steep black sand.

We started with the Blue Lagoon. We didn’t go into the spa itself (we didn’t have the time or money, plus the weather was terrible), but we settled for skimming stones off the pale blue surface of the silica filled water.

Giant blue lagoon. Because Iceland.

Giant blue lagoon. Because Iceland.

We would never throw rocks in here though. Never.

We would never throw rocks in here though. Never.

We followed the blue lagoon with Gunnuhver hot springs. Another strange smouldering landscape with steam billowing out of the earth.

Sure, Iceland. Whatever.

Sure, Iceland. Whatever.

Oh come on! Just look at this martian landscape!

Oh come on! Just look at this martian landscape!

The ground is apparently on fire for no reason at all.

The ground is apparently on fire for no reason at all.

Next up was the “beach” as Joon put it. It was more like sheer cliffs, black rock and huge waves crashing onto serious boulders. Aside from being the most intimidating place in the world I guess it was an okay beach?

Pretty brutal coastline.

Pretty brutal coastline.

Our final stop before the airport was the Bridge Between Continents. A literal bridge between two bits of rock which are on separate continental plates. Joon and I enjoyed tossing large rocks off said bridge because they made a satisfying sound when they smacked into the black sand below.

Black sand at the Bridge Between Continents.

Black sand at the Bridge Between Continents.

And that’s it for Iceland! Undoubtedly one of the highlights of my trip. Such good times hanging out with one of my favourite people and seeing so much amazing stuff. I really like Iceland you guys. Now just win the Euros please.

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