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Iceland part 2

PETE GLADDEN
Pete’s World

Published: February 12, 2018

Last week I talked about the Cleveland Hopkins Airport announcing that it would become another one of several Midwestern U.S. hubs for the Icelandic air-carrier, Wow Airlines. I also talked briefly about our good fortune here in northeast Ohio to now have non-stop access to such an otherworldly place like Iceland.

Having said that, this week I’d like to get out the microscope and really focus on several areas of the island I’ve personally visited, places which I think you may want to consider for any number of outdoor adventures. Here are three of my favorites.

The Laugavegur Track

I have to rank this as an 11 out of 10 when I talk about all the backpacking trips I’ve done. And heck, this Icelandic track was chosen by the National Geographic as one of the top 20 backpacking trips in the world.

The point-to-point, 33-mile backpacking route begins in Landmannalaugar, an ethereal geothermal paradise globally known for its steaming hot springs and its picturesque rhyolite mountains that are marbled with streaks of yellow, red, green, white and purple, and it ends in Thorsmork, an amazing alpine world that lies between the breathtaking Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökul glaciers.

You’ll be hiking highlands that contain snow fields, glaciers and ice, trudging across multicolored sands and a Mars-like world that boasts hot springs, waterfalls, geysers and volcanoes, and fording a host of braided glacial streams. The scenery and landscapes throughout the trek are literally smack dab out of a sci-fi movie.

Now Iceland is notorious for its instantaneous weather changes, so make sure to plan accordingly when doing this trek. Pack plenty of warm clothing and rain gear…and have a G.R.E.A.T tent that can withstand the fierce Northern Atlantic winds that whip across the island, sometimes blowing all night long.

Skaftafell Park: I camped and day-hiked in this spectacular park back in 2009, and I still have longings to get my butt back there again for another week’s worth of stupendous day hiking. 

Skaftafell is located at the southern edge of the massive Vatnajökull National Park in Southern Iceland, midway between the cities of Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Hofn, and just a quick hop off the Ring Road.

The landscape in this region is similar to the landscapes you’d find in the European Alps, what with jagged, snow-covered mountain peaks, rugged, washboard glaciers and silt-choked, torrential rivers. Iceland's highest summit, 6919 foot-high Hvannadalshnjukur, resides here.

The Skaftafell area has been used as a backdrop for a several films, one depicting an alien planet, and others depicting countries like Nepal and Russia - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Batman Begins, and James Bond's “A View to a Kill.”

There are a host of hiking routes in and around Skaftafell and each has a special kind of character with respect to scenery and difficulty level. And a big bonus for visiting Skaftafell is the fact that it’s one of very few places in Iceland which is known for consistently good weather.

Cycling the Ring Road around Iceland

This was the first of what turned out to be many, many long-distance mountain biking adventures for me, and I have to admit that it really kindled in me a deep desire to experience remote regions atop the big, wide tires of a mountain bike.

Route 1, also known as the Ring Road, is the only major highway in Iceland, and not coincidentally it connects most every city and town on the island to one another. It’s 830 miles long and traverses fjords, mountains, plateaus and flat sheep grazing lands.

If you care to cycle around the island on the Ring Road you’ll likely need at least a week of time, but such an investment will bring you major rewards. Yup, this route encompasses the totality of Iceland’s diverse landscapes, taking you past some of the biggest cities and towns in the country, some of the most sought-after waterfalls in all of Europe, some of the most spectacular glaciers, Eyjafjallajökull and Vatnajökull, and past the picturesque Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon…and heck, this is just along the south coast.

As you can see, despite it being such a small place, Iceland offers big-time adventure opportunities. So why not go for it…go ahead and punch your ticket to the Land of Fire & Ice.


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