Be a tourist in your own country

Sunshine, cold beer, peals of laughter, and of course, Icelandic nature. Summer in a nutshell. You don't have to look beyond Iceland's shores to see spectacular natural sights and enjoy summer to the fullest. With the constant stream of tourists, finding peace in the Icelandic countryside is easier said than done. But there are a few paths less traveled, and the Student Paper has selected a few places that are perfect for a summertime visit.

Stórurð

 Photo/Gareth Codd

Photo/Gareth Codd

You'll find this hiking paradise, full of bright blue springs and other colorful wonders, near Borgarfjörður Eystri. The Dyrfjöll mountains surround the area, giving it an otherworldly feel. Stórurð is one of the most magnificent natural wonders in East Iceland, with its characteristic giant boulders, grassy expanses, and deep blue lakes. To reach Stórurð, you have to hike for two and a half hours, so we recommend taking an entire day to enjoy the area.

Laugarvalladalur

 Photo/Visit East Iceland

Photo/Visit East Iceland

Located near the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant, Laugarvalldalur is a lush oasis hidden among desolate surroundings. There you'll find a geothermal stream as well as a natural shower where the stream cascades over a rock face, creating a reasonably sized waterfall. A visit to Laugarvalladalur is well worth your time. Few people go there and it's easy to forget yourself among the melodic babbling of the warm stream.

Hraunsvatn

 Photo/Food Wilderness

Photo/Food Wilderness

Near Öxnadalur, you can enjoy nature and visit a famous historical site at the same time, the lake Hraunsvatn. The father of celebrated poet Jónas Hallgrímsson, Hallgrímur, drowned in this lake in 1816, when Jónas was 9 years old. The lake is encircled by majestic mountains and full of fish, if you're interested in casting a line. The surrounding area is also great for hiking.

Rauðfeldsgjá

 Photo/HitIceland.com

Photo/HitIceland.com

On the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you can walk into a deep ravine carved into the side of the mountain Botnsfjall. The ravine is deep and narrow and it's an adventure just to get inside. Walls of volcanic rock loom overhead, only letting in slivers of daylight. Water drips from above and even runs over the ground. You can climb up quite a ways along the ravine, but the further you go, the more water there is, so you sometimes have to wade through water to continue on. If you walk far enough, you'll come across a waterfall in the ravine, the water volume smaller or larger depending on the season.

 

 Photo/Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson

Photo/Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson

Löngufjörur

Along the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you'll find this white-sand beach, a popular destination for horseback riding. The name, which means "long beach," is fitting, as the beach wends its way from Hítarnes west to Búðir. It's certainly an experience to ride along Löngufjörur, but it's also marvelous just to walk along the beach in the good weather, preferably barefoot, and gaze out at the sea.

 

 Photo/Tói Vídó

Photo/Tói Vídó

Day trip to Heimaey

What do you think of when you hear "Westman Islands"? Excitement for the next Þjóðhátíð? Memories of the last one? The smell of beer and vomit? The Westman Islands are so much more than the annual Þjóðhátíð festival, and it's well worth visiting Heimaey when the island is free of festivalgoers. Taking the ferry Herjólfur from Landeyjarhöfn harbor is dirt cheap, and it’s no problem to sail in the morning and return the same night. You can do a lot in a single day, especially if the weather is decent. I'd recommend taking a car or even a bike so you can quickly get from one place to the next and make the most of your time. It's not strictly necessary, though, as most of the island is walkable. Check out Eldfell, the volcano that erupted in the fateful year 1973, or Heimaklettur with its incredible view. Go up to Stórhöfði, where there's a huge puffin colony, and wander around the charming downtown area.

 

Translation: Julie Summers