Only in Icelandic summer can you plan to start a hike at 8PM.
We are living and volunteering at Úlfljótsvatn Outdoor and Scout Center for the second summer in a row, and things are great. All our material needs are met, we have a great community around us, and the setting in Iceland allows us to do many amazing things for free. Things that people would pay great money for on a tour.
This summer we’re a bit more broke than last summer, and so we’re exploring closer to home. Yesterday we decided to go on a hike up Búrfell, a 534m mountain just near to the camp.
It’s a trickster of a mountain; from far away it seems huge and gets progressively smaller-seeming as you approach. Then, once you decide to climb it, it starts to seem huge again. It changes colours and profiles in the long sunlight of northern summer days, sometimes bright vivid green and sometimes almost pink in alpenglow.
We got a ride over to the South side of the mountain, to the farm of the same name. Through a high meadow and then up the side of the mountain we went. The trail is not marked very well, and there are actually places to fall down canyons if one is not careful. If you go, please go on a clear day. It’s way better for the views anyway.
After 2.5 hours of climbing, we reached the glacial lake in the crater at the top. At 22:30, the sunset was breathtaking and we had 360 degree views of the whole of South Iceland.
It’s surreal to be at the top of a mountain with lakes all around, the sea and the Westman Islands just to the south and several of Iceland’s most famous volcanic glaciers in view. On a clear day like ours, Eyjafjallajökull looms huge on the horizon. We could see all the way to the Icelandic Highlands, to Landmannalaugar, and tons of glaciers in the distance. Þingvallavatn and our home lake stretched out below, and Nesjavellir mountain blocked out any intrusion from the big city of Reykjavik.
We could even see Hekla and Katla, two of Iceland’s most active volcanoes. The former is classed as ‘restless’ at the moment by the Icelandic Geological Survey, suggesting from its minor earthquakes that an eruption may happen sometime soon(ish).
On the way back down the mountain we took a steeper, if more direct, route. It was only a little scary for me, and not worrisome at all for my non-heights-fearing husband. The most interesting thing about the hike was that it does seem to be a real ‘hidden’ (in plain, obvious sight) path…there were very few footprints up there except those from meandering sheep.
We went to Reykjavik yesterday for the first time since arriving, and found a typical traveller on a 24-hour stopover, wandering in just the centre. I suppose that it’s fine to do that kind of almost-literally whistle stop tour here in my favourite country on Earth, but it just does not do it justice. By the end of this summer, we’ll have lived here as long as we ever did in Busan.
I’m still only just hearing of amazing places to seek out, and still finding them right next to the house we lived in all last summer. You could run yourself ragged all summer, every summer, and still be finding new thing to do in Iceland years later.
Iceland is so much more than just the Golden Circle. It keeps some amazing secrets even now, and long may it be so.