Witchcraft and Sorcery – Holmavik, Iceland

When I first made it out to Iceland, I was picked up by my hotel for the first night from a transport van, and as soon as our driver started the vehicle, I was introduced to the culture of Iceland. A heavy metal song that I had never heard before started to below out of the speakers as the singer shouted about the importance of thunder. Of course I was curious about what I was listening to, so I looked at the dash and was to the song we were enjoying was called, “The Son of Odin”. At first I thought it was just a silly coincidence, but the more I wandered around Iceland, the more I saw that the people of Iceland still hung on to their Norse roots and there was a lot of evidence about how much their lives were shaped by this mythology. This was not more evident when I made it to the town of Holmavik on the edge of the West Fjords and visited their museum, The Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery.

Of course, being a big fan of fantasy literature and Dungeons and Dragons, this was a must do for me. I will admit that it is not a place fore everybody, and it is a little quirky, but it is really interesting as it explores the use of witchcraft in this corner of Iceland. Grimoires and strange spells were more common in this part of Iceland during the 16th and 17th centuries than you would have suspected. Many of the traditions stemmed back to Norse mythology and what they would do in order to get what they wanted, and this museum went through this history, explaining some of the runes used, the spells performed, and the people burned at the stake during this period.

Like I said, this museum is not for everybody. There is some very explicit sights that can be found there, and it could easily scare younger children. They do not hold anything back as they show sea rats, dead bodies busting through the floor, and a skin suit that was taken from the lower half a dead man and used to gain wealth for the sorcerer who wore it. Each exhibit caused more shock as I went through the museum but it was fascinating what extent people took in order to survive in the harsh conditions of Iceland, and how much they held on to these old traditions in the face of a country that was under the umbrella of Christianity.

If you do find yourself in the West Fjords and wish to see this museum, it is not hard to find. It is off of the main road, Highway 61 when you get into Holmavik which you pretty much have to drive through if you wish to visit the rest of the fjords. It costs about eight U.S. dollars for admittance to the sights. All of the explanations of the pieces are written in Icelandic, but if you ask, the attendant at the museum will give you a book that corresponds with the numbers of each spot and translates it into English for you. It is also connected to a restaurant and a book shop that has a lot of books over the runes you will see and the history of the area. If your stomach can handle it, it is worth a visit, and will change the way that you look at Iceland. Like many of the countries of the world, it will highlight that dark past that is always on the edges of what you see, but can’t really get to the heart of. 

The West Fjords – Iceland

If you want to get off the beaten path and see a lot of what nature has to offer you want to go to Iceland. If you want to get away from the tourists that had the same thought as you did while you are in Iceland, you go to the West Fjords. Geographically, it is the oldest part of the island, but it is the area that is least developed. Because of this fact, many of the tourists don’t want to wander out to this part of the island, and because Icelanders won’t see many tourists there, this is where they like to go to get away from it all for a little while. Either way, it is a great place to visit.

There are a couple of way of getting out to the West Fjords. You can take the highways out of Reykjavik and drive the five hours it takes to the heart of this part of the island, or you can catch the ferry from Stykkisholmur to Brjaenslur and with the driving involved to get to the two ports and the three and a half hour boat trip, it takes just about as long. The big difference is what you expect to do along the way. The ferry is very relaxing, but keeps you far enough away from the islands, so there is not really anything to see; whereas, driving could take a little longer with the stops that you can make along the way. I think that it is best to drive one way, and take the ferry the other way. I like taking the ferry back because the sense of adventure is still with me on the beginning of a trip and I just want the more relaxing approach on the way back.

Driving between the towns in the West Fjords is pretty easy during the summer months. I am told that they get a little more difficult during the winter months because clouds can dip down and cover a lot of them in fog and rough driving conditions, and considering that they are extremely windy, it could make for a white-knuckle drive. Still, anywhere you drive in the West Fjords, you are going to see some amazing scenery, just understand that you will be driving for quite some time in-between places. If you wish to go to any of the many sights that are out this way, the driving conditions can change drastically. The roads to these places are rarely paved and sometimes hug steep cliffs. I would like to say that people take a little more caution on these types of roads, but from my experience this is not always the case. You might want to double you driving time if you are traveling down one of these roads because it always takes longer than what Google Maps says it will take.

The sights are worth the drives though. I know that there was a lot that I missed while I was out there because I only had three short days to explore the West Fjords, but I do think I hit a couple of the highlights. On the western most tip of all of the fjords, there is a cliff that stretches out for fourteen kilometers. There is a path that you can hike along it that allows you to follow the largest bird sanctuary on the island. It is a great place to see puffins even though these are not the only types of birds that can be found out there. When I was there, there was a good amount of tourists, but it did not take long hiking along the trail to put many of them behind, and I was also able to get some good pictures of puffins in the meantime.

There is also Dynjandi, a waterfall that is named after a bridal’s veil, partly because it looks like a bridal veil. This is the easiest of the sights to get to, and there are even tour busses from Isafjordur that will make there way out to it. You can miss the crowds if you make it there early in the day, and it might be a good thing to do because the path that leads to the best viewing spots is a little tricky, and it does not stop these tourists from making the attempt even though many of them probably should not. 

You can also find the largest beach in all of Iceland in West Fjords. It is located at what I consider the best campsite in the West Fjords, but you do not need to camp there to enjoy the beach. It is the only one that I encountered while I was out there that was not made of black sand. Volcanic activity is not as strong in the West Fjords, so the scenery does not always have that ominous look that the other parts of the country might possess. It is fun the walk along this beach on warmer days in Iceland, and there are many spots where you can see clams digging, and seals swimming just off the shore. Beware that the midges are pretty common in the summer at this spot, and you might have to avoid herds of sheep who are also frolicking on the beach.

If you wish for a little civilization, there is a the town of Isafjordur which boast a cultural museum, many fine restaurants, and a micro-brewery. There are some great campsites also in this town as well as comfortable hotels, so it could be a great stop if you want to get out of the camper van for a day. Be warned that cruise ships do make this as part of their stops, so the town can have a influx of people for a little bit while they are docked, but even with this, it still does not feel that crowded if they are there.

Of course there are a lot of other interesting things to do out there, such as visiting the oldest bookstore owned by the same family for over four generations, seeing the hot pots and dipping a toe into the warm water, or checking out Iceland’s oldest steel boat which ran ashore to rust way back in 1986. Around every corner there is always another surprise in this part of Iceland, and if you really want to enjoy the place that Icelanders enjoy than this is the place you want to head to. Just make sure you have a few days to explore because there is a lot to see once you get out there.

Dettifoss, Iceland

I think about all of those science fiction movies that I have seen, and I always wonder where they find such alien landscapes. It is not as if movies have advanced far enough yet to fly across the universe to other planets so they can film there, and I know that it costs a lot money to create a world digitally from complete scratch. So far, the only movie that I can think of that has done this with any amount of success has been James Cameron’s Avatar. Every other science fiction movie has to find locations somewhere on this earth that to the casual viewer would still transport them to another planet.

I remember watching the opening sequence of the movie Prometheus, and thinking that the place they were at could not be real. There is no way that a waterfall could be that big, and there is not a place on earth that could have a rocky landscape as the one depicted with the odd designer. It had to be digitally created, and if they did so, they did a really good job with it. Well, I soon discovered that I was wrong about it, and there is a place on this earth that looks like it belongs on another planet. Who knew that I would find it in Iceland?

On the high plateau a little north from the Myvatan area lies Iceland’s second largest river, Jokulsa a Fjollum, and a short fifteen walk across a bleak landscape that looks like it might be on Mars will take you to this immense waterfall, Dettifoss. Once there, there are many different platforms and locations to take in the majesty of this sight, and it is definitely worth the trip.

If you do go, there are a couple of things that you need to know about the location. 

When I was there, it was pretty warm outside, and I was getting a little hot on the walk over to the river. As soon as I got to the river, the wind picked up, and there was a constant spray from the waterfall. This made for cold and wet conditions. You will want to wear layers of clothes and make sure that outer layer is waterproof. 

Because of the constant spray of water coming from the river, the path can be at times muddy, and the rocks can be slippery. You will want some good footgear that will prevent you from slipping and falling.

Lastly, the area breeds these tiny bugs called midges. They don’t bite, and they aren’t even that big. But there are a lot of them, and during the walk over, they were constantly flying into my face, into my eyes, and even up my nose. In other words, they were extremely annoying. If you stop at any of the convenience stores at any of the gas stations before you get there, you should be able to buy a head net. They will keep all of the midges out of your face, and make the hike over more enjoyable. Yes, they look goofy, but if you are planning to explore the Myvatn afterwards, you will want these hair nets because the midges are all over the place there. When you get closer to the river, the wind and spray keeps the midges away, so you can get those pictures that you want, but until then, they really help with you sanity.

All in all, Dettifoss is an incredible waterfall, and worth the side trip for the hour or so that you spend there. So if planning a trip to Iceland, make sure to add this place to your itinerary. You won’t regret it.

The Blue Lagoon – Iceland

Ever since I started telling people that I was going to spend some time in Iceland over the summer, they always asked me if I had already booked my reservation for the Blue Lagoon. It is the must-do attraction for anybody visiting this country, and most people spend some time here while they are out here, and it does not disappoint.

The Blue Lagoon is a pool of this milky blue water that is heated naturally through geo-thermal tunnels that wind their ways down deep into the earth below. A gentle mist floats above the pool as the cool air from the sea blows over it. It creates the perfect environment for a long soak that cleans out the pores of your skin and relaxes you at the same time. We were supposed to go on our first full day in Iceland, but due to complications with our van rental, we had to reschedule for two weeks later. Scheduling a time is required for admittance into the Blue Lagoon. They only let a certain amount of people in every hour, and as soon as you are in, you can stay there as long as you like. But if you miss your time, you will have to try to find another one later. If you are coming out here, I would recommend booking your time as soon as you know. When we had to reschedule, there were only two times available either 8 o’clock in the morning or 8 o’clock at night, an hour before they close, so out options we limited.

We ended up taking the 8 o’clock in the morning option, and it turned out to be the best option. It did stink a little to wake up to an alarm during vacation so we could make the appointment, but considering we were the first group of tourists that were let into the Blue Lagoon, there weren’t that many people there, and it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves. By the time we left, it was a little after 10 o’clock and the place was starting to get more crowded. I would suspect that in the middle of the day, when our original appointment was, it would be really packed and the fun of wading around in warming water would be tainted with the crowds.

The Blue Lagoon has a lot more to offer than just blue water that you can lounge around in. There is a restaurant there where you can get a bite to eat if you wish. They have steam baths that you can lounge in as well if you ever tire of soaking in the unique water. There is also a bar with limited drink menu, but the selection is big enough that you should be able to find something that you would enjoy. In fact, your first drink is a part of admission, so everybody ends up at this spot at some time during their visit. There is a place where you can put a silica mask on your face to help open up the pores there. Overall, there is enough to keep anybody occupied for the couple of hours that you will want to spend there.

Even if you do not book ahead for a reservation, it is still worth the time to make your way out there. There are paths around the outside of the lagoon where you can look at the blue water, and there is even a little viewing spot that allows you to look over the pool. I will say that it is better to get in the water because it will change your perspective, especially if you have had a few days of inclement weather. It is the one place that you cannot miss if you make it out to Iceland, so book your stay there now.

The Golden Circle – Iceland

Pinvellir National Park

There are three different ways that people come out to experience Iceland. The most adventurous get a four wheel drive and dive into the interior of the island where made roads are inaccessible except for a couple of months out of the year. Others rent a camper van and travel around the Ring Road, hopping from one campsite to another. But the most common way that people experience Iceland is to find a place in Reykjavik, and go out on day trips from there. The place where most of them end up at is called the Golden Circle. It is a place where there are many sights to take in, and you can still make it back to your cozy hotel room for the night.

Kerid Crater

I’ll be honest; this was the part of Iceland that I was least excited about seeing. There was something about being among the throngs of people visiting a part of Europe that set me on edge. I have been out in the busiest parts of Europe during the summer a few times before, and there is nothing that gets under my skin more than tourists who are wandering aimlessly among a sea of other tourists who are doing the same. It makes you feel like a silver ball in an active game of pinball. You just bounce around hoping that you will land somewhere safe eventually.

Efistidalur Creamery

What I did not realize was that Iceland is a good sized country with a lot of open space, so even in the places with densely populated tourist sights, it is not as bad as some of the worst places on the main continent. Yes, there were more tourists in this part of the country than the other parts, but we were still able to drive with ease and not get into traffic jams. We were not delayed by herds of tourists trying to get their picture of the next waterfall. In short, the tourist annoyance that you might see in other parts of the world was not really here. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this part of Iceland.

The Great Geysir

There is a lot to see in the Golden Circle, and it is hard to pick and choose what the best options will be. I will admit that some of the sights are a little lackluster. Kerid Crater was a perfect example of this. Basically it is a dormant volcano that has started to fill up with water and create its own lake. It was neat to see, but the fact that they charged 400 kroner to hike up to the rim, it was not really worth the price. If you want to see a better example of this I would suggest Crater Lake in Oregon. On the other hand, the geysers out there were definitely worth the trip. They are very similar to the sulfur ponds that you can find in Yellowstone National Park except for the fact that you do not need to wait an hour for the big one to erupt. It likes to go off every four to eight minutes, and if you hang around long enough you will see it explode.

Gullfoss

I also know that Iceland is the land of waterfalls, and there is a time when you think you can’t go out and see another one, but the one in the Golden Circle, Gullfoss, is the most impressive one that I have seen since I have been out here. This is a must stop on the Golden Circle and it is only a short hike to both of the viewing points without the crowds that you would expect to find at a place like this. Keep in mind that if you go here that you will still want to wear your rain gear because you will still get a lot of spray back from the waterfall.

Another must see is Pinvellir National Park. Historically, it is a cool sight because this is where the oldest parliamentary government in the world was first established. Geologically, it is really cool because it is the only place in the world where you can see two tectonic plates butt up against each other. This is the place where the European continent runs up against the North American continent, and you can see the two plates competing against each other.

Fridheimer

There are also some pretty fun food options out in this area as well. There is the Fridheimer farm which supplies Iceland with all of its tomatoes. You get to eat in the greenhouse next to the growing tomatoes and buzzing bumble bees flying around pollinating all of the plants. Their speciality is a tomato soup with home baked bread. It is served buffet style with all of the coffee you need to warm yourself up. If you come here, you do need a reservation, but it is worth the trip out there.

There is also the Efistidilur Creamery if you are in the mood for ice cream. This is basically a dairy farm that puts together a bunch of batches of ice cream that you can try. Like most gelato places you will find in Europe, you can get one, two or three scoops, and they don’t have to be all the same. When you are done ordering, you can grab a seat next to the window where in the background the cows who supplied the dairy are eat their daily hay. It makes for the perfect atmosphere to enjoy this summery delight.

Basically, I can see why people get excited about the Golden Circle. It is a fun place to spend an afternoon or two, and though I did not like to admit it when I first got here, it is a must do when visiting Iceland. Make sure you add it to your itinerary today.

The Icelandic Lagoon for Everybody – Jokulsarlon, Iceland

I have been told that Iceland was on track for breaking record this year for tourism. A lot of that was due to the fact that a lot of people have planned trips to Iceland for the last couple of years, and have had to cancel due to Covid. Now that restrictions have eased up, all of those planned trips that never happened are being cashed in, and more people are flocking to Iceland ever than before. With that in mind, there have been a couple of places where I have felt like I could have done with a few less people, but it never felt overwhelming like it has in other places in Europe.

This was until I made it out to Jokulsarlon, a lagoon in the southeast portion of the island that is fed by a connecting glacier. It is a four to five hour drive from Reykavik, and also a central part of the Ring Road. Because of both of these conditions, and the unique nature of the way to experience this lagoon, it is a common destination for anybody that makes it out to Iceland. This is the reason that I felt in the midst of tourist season for the first time since I have been out here.

That is not to say that it is not worth the visit. Here is this really cool geological feature that includes a huge glacier, icebergs, and seals. There is a lot to see out here, and there are many different ways to experience it. You can book a duck boat that will load up a large group of people at the parking lot and then drive them out on to the lagoon. If you are looking for a smaller crowd, and a little more excitement, you can book a Zodiac boat that can get you a little closer to the icebergs and wildlife even though you are still only out on the water for an hour at a time. There are also kayak tours if you wish to add a little bit of a workout to your adventure, and also get away from the crowds a little bit more. There is also a trail that you can hike around the lagoon if you wish to make the experience an independent one.

Basically, there is a way for everybody to enjoy the nature that is out here. Whether you are more adventuresome and want to hike the lagoon or kayak it, or you would rather take a more leisurely way to explore the icebergs by taking a duck or zodiac boat, there is a way for them to get you out there. The bonus for this is that it is accessible to anybody but because of that everybody wants to come down here to check it. Don’t let that deter you though because it is still worth the trip out there, and you will see a lot no matter how you chose to enjoy it.

Kayaking with Icebergs – Ice Guides – Heinabergslon, Iceland

Kayaking is easily my favorite of all water sports. It does take a little technical skill, but it is easy to master, and it works on almost any body of water. I have been out on the Pacific Ocean exploring small islands out outside of Ketchakan, Alaska, the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea leaving the bay of Dubrovnik before it became King’s Landing, and a canal in Tokyo letting the gentle leaves of the cherry blossoms fall on me during the Sakura Festivals. Except for extreme whitewater, I felt I had experienced every way there is to go out on a kayak, but that was until I wound my way up to Iceland, and hooked up with the Ice Guides as they took me out on an isolated lagoon, Heinabergslon, at the base of a calving glacier.

I would like to start by saying that Ice Guides are not aware that I am writing a review on my blog about their services. Rarely do I make that disclaimer, but I enjoyed my time so much with them that I felt that I should not only write about the experience, but also let others know that this small company is worth looking into if you happen to make your way out to the southeast part of Iceland. They have access to this amazing lagoon, and the guides are experienced, knowledgable about not icebergs, but the geology of Iceland, and personable and fun as well. This company is worth connecting up with, and you won’t regret the experience.

It started off with an early morning to make it to our 8:50 time. We had stayed the night before at a campsite only twenty minutes away and we did not bother taking a shower because we knew we were going to get a little bit of a workout. I started to get a little nervous when they had us slip into these elaborate wetsuits. I have never flipped a kayak, and though I knew I would want to stay warm while kayaking next to a glacier, I was not really worried about falling in. Our guide wanted us to be sure that we were still safe anyway, and looking back, I am glad that he did. The wetsuit kept us not only dry, but warm as well.

He also took some time to explain how to paddle on the lagoon. At first, I was insulted by this because how different could it be kayaking in Thailand. As soon as he started to explain himself, I started to see why this quick demonstration was necessary. We would be kayaking through icebergs, and though they look small from above the water, they actually are huge. In this lagoon, they melt from the top which creates these hidden ice shelves right below the water that you can get stuck on, and if you do not know how to navigate yourself off of the ice, you can easily flip your kayak and find yourself in very cold water. Another reason that I was happy that I was wearing that extremely large wetsuit.

After all of this, we set off on our two and a half hour tour of the bay, and it was a great way of getting close to these icebergs. We were able to wind our ways through narrow passageways to find ourselves in this ever changing landscape f unimaginable ice sculptures. The display of colors was maybe my favorite part of the journey. I have always enjoyed the intensity of the deep blue that can only be found from the ice of glaciers, but to get right next to it and marvel at how blue it actually was without having to disturb the landscape with motor or gas just made me feel like the first explorers ever to discover an iceberg and how they must have felt to have seen it.

I did not think that this experience could get any better, but that was until he had us pull up on to an iceberg that they had nicknamed Africa because it was the oldest iceberg in the lagoon. We were given crampons, and then allowed to trek over the iceberg until we reached its peak so we could look over the whole lagoon. Our guide pointed out certain features such as deep holes of ice water, and the formation of ash cones while explaining how the whole lagoon was formed in the first place with a combination of volcanoes and glaciers. It was the perfect time to get away from the kayak for a bit so we could stretch our legs, and the perfect activity to do it with.

It was a great way to spend a morning, and it has easily been my favorite experience in Iceland so far. I highly recommend doing it as well, but keep in mind that due to conditions, which are always unpredictable in Iceland, they may have to cancel a trip at the last moment. But if you find yourself out this way, it will easily be one of the highlights of your trip, and one you won’t want to skip out on.

If you would like to book a tour with Ice Guides please check out their website at: https://www.iceguide.is/

The Waterfall that Everybody Goes to See – Kirkjufellfoss, Iceland

Ever since I started wandering around Iceland, two of my favorite book series have kept popping into my mind. The landscape reminds so much of both of them, and I wonder if it somehow did not play in the inspiration of one of the series. That series would be The Lord of the Rings. There are some paths carved into the hills that remind me of the wastelands that Frodo and Sam would have had to cross before they ran into Gollum. The other series would be The Song of Ice and Fire, but this is because a lot of the scenes beyond the Wall were filmed in this location for the famous television series based on these books called, The Game of Thrones.

This has been a phenomenon lately with tourist locations. Fans of the show will travel to the various locations so they can witness these spots for themselves. The Skellig Islands off the coast of Ireland are popular now because of Star Wars filmed there. People no longer travel to New Zealand for just its beauty, but because they want to follow in the footsteps of the Fellowship. And Iceland has become a destination spot because of Game of Thrones.

One of the biggest stops along the tour is Kirkjufell. It may not look familiar in these pictures to those of you who have watched the show, but imagine it covered in snow, and then think about the background when the crows were wandering beyond the Wall and you will realize that it is there a lot of the time. I think it looks a little like Gandolf’s hat, but despite its connection to either of these fantasy giants, it is an impressive sight.

It is not only this iconic mountain that brings flocks of tourists to this spot, but the ideal place to get a picture of it is next to this impressive waterfall, Kirkjufellfoss. In fact, more people cluster around this spot to get pictures of the gallons of water rushing over the side. I know that there are many waterfalls that I will run into on this trip, but this being the first one that I was able to get close to, I was impressed by his sheer magnitude. It is also one of those things that can dramatically change in a different season.

The way that this country tickles my imagination makes it one of the best exploration vacations I have ever experienced. I can see why people make it out here to try and grab a part of one of their favorite television shows, but I can also see how it could have been the inspiration for some of my favorite stories. The best part of it is that just by being out here, I am getting to create my own stories to tell, and for anybody, that is enough reason to take the trip this far north, no matter the season. There will always be worth something to experience.

A Happy Camper

I wanted to test the love of my marriage, so I decided to travel around Iceland in a small van for two weeks. What could possibly go wrong?

There is a certain sense of Romanticism that is associated with this idea. You will get to share this tiny space with the one that you love. Everything you need is located in some crook or cranny, and the grassy lawn that you park next to will become your living room for the evening. During the day, you will get to travel around this amazing country, looking at the amazing landscape and enjoying the hikes while you never have to worry about where you are going to stay for the night because it is always with you. 

We have both been looking forward to this experience. Our friends have done it in New Zealand, and Australia before, and Iceland is another place that was designed specifically for this kind of trip. They all said that they loved it, and we were sure that we would also enjoy the moments that we would have in the van. There were a couple of things that our friends did not tell us about traveling this way that would have given us a better start to our adventure.

It started at the company that we rented the van from. They were really friendly and gave us a lot of great tips for the trip. They even rented a couple of camping chairs, and a camping tables and some bedding gear to us to make our trip more enjoyable. This stuff went into the back of the van. We were so excited to get started that we threw our belongings in the back and took off down the road. We even stopped at a local grocery store to get food for the next couple of days, and threw that in the back as well. 

We spent our first day driving to our first campsite while stopping at a couple of sights along the way. It wasn’t until we started to settle down for the night that we realized our mistake. The back of the van was a disorganized mess, and we were in the middle of a campsite with a steady drizzle going on. It took us a couple of days to get things organized, so it was no longer driving us crazy. After we got things organized, we were able to start living that Romantic ideal of traveling across a foreign country under our own terms and timeline. 

So that is my advice to you if you are thinking about traveling by camper van across any of these great countries. Before you leave for your adventure, take some time to organize your van. It might take an hour or two, but it will save your sanity. Of course, the van is going to turn into a huge mess as you travel down the road, especially if you are living in it for three weeks, but you can have this moment at the beginning where it feels fresh and new like an adventure should feel like at the start. It will also help you find those little things that you need when you need them because even though it is a small space you are living in, you would be amazed at how fast those little things get lost.

It is a great way to experience a country because it adds a new element to the adventure, and I highly recommend doing it, but take that time and make sure you are doing it right. It is that little thing that will save any relationship out there.

Happy travels, and let me know which camping van companies you think are the best in the countries that you travel in. I will have a review on which one I think is best for Iceland and why at the end of this trip. I will be traveling using two different vans, and I am only in the first one right now.

Iceland’s Traditional Farm Houses

I know that the Vikings were the first people to discover Iceland, and they were the ones to give it its name, but there was another group of people that eventually made their way over to this island. These people had to face harsh conditions to cultivate the land and survive. I never gave much thought to these people and what they did in order to survive, until I visited their traditional farm houses, Glaumbaer.

I got to see them during the summer months when they were free from snow, and really showcased how they were built. Basically they had turf for their roofs that would look like rolling hills if it wasn’t for the fact that on the front of each one of these hills was a wooden facade giving the place the look of a typical Scandinavian house from the 1800s. I thought of it as a strange little addition, but I get why it was added. It probably gave these people a small semblance of home and made it feel more comfortable.

Going inside set me up for another surprise. Basically, all of these small houses were not separate, but were instead part of a big chain of house brought together for one large community. The rooms were designed to keep people warm during the long winters with big pantries, a large kitchen, and rooms in the back with personal bunks where the community could sleep. The big huge roofs would acts as a great insulation against the pounding storms, and the people could get light from the small windows dotted all along the inside each room. There was even a small location where the pastor of the community could prepare for services to help guide these people through the tough times.

This community was a far ways away from any of the larger towns on the island as well. The people that chose to live out here knew that they has to rely on themselves and their own ingenuity to live a comfortable life. They would venture out to the larger towns a couple of times a year to collect the supplies they might need in order to survive the next season. Otherwise, they made do with what they had. They would use everything that they could find to make life comfortable from the bones of whales to vision sleds and plows to the blubber that they could use to make shoes that would keep them warm and dry. Sledgehammers were made out of large stones, and the beds were made out of whatever timber they could find.

The windows were another feature of the place that surprised me. They were tiny, but they let in considerable light. Considering that a good portion of the time they spent here was during the summer when the sun would never set, I could understand why they made the windows so small. It would let in just enough light so they could see by, but not enough so they could also sleep at night. I could also see the function they served during the winter months. They weren’t going to let in any light because there wasn’t any light to enter, and they wanted to keep out the cold, so larger windows would be a problem. It showed me that everything that they did in these farm houses was of a practical nature, and it was for this reason that they were able to live and farm in this far away place up north.

It was a great stop along the Ring Road of Iceland, and it was my first insight into the people who lived here long after the Vikings. Glaumbaer is a must stop for anyone who ventures out this way and it is worth the small entrance fee to get to tour its lands.