We picked a good day to make the trip to Krýsuvík, with clear skies and plenty of sunshine. It was quite warm by Icelandic standards, especially since it was also a low wind day (a day to be cherished, if you have spent any length of time here in ‘The Land’).
Krýsuvík, Reykjanes, is about 36 km south of Reykjavík. Heading out of town on route 41, as if going towards the airport at Keflavík, passing Hafnarfjörður, then taking a left onto route 42. It’s about 21 km or so on this road, passing Kleifarvatn, which is the largest lake in the Reykjanes Peninsula. The scenery along the way can be quite spectacular in of itself.
Upon arriving at our destination, we parked the car in the small parking lot, and surveyed our surroundings. There were a few other cars present, but, as is common in Iceland, even in the middle of summer, there were few people around.
We set out along the path towards where all the steam was emanating (well, technically it is water vapour, as steam is not visible, but I will use the term ‘steam’ here, for brevity, rather than technical accuracy).
The first area we encountered, near the base of the mountain, had some happily bubbling mud pits. This is something I had previously only seen in pictures or video, and not in person. I should point out that, as is the case in many places in Iceland, there are warning signs about the dangers of the heat. You are relied upon to heed these warnings, as there are not massive barriers preventing you from getting in harm’s way. Using common sense at all times is wise, keeping a healthy distance from anything that looks like it might be a tad warm, for personal safety. This stuff is hot!
There was steam coming out of the ground all over the place, to varying degrees. The landscape was also rather colourful, with an interesting mix of hues. Photographs cannot quite do it justice, it really needs to be seen in person. There were some strong red hues in places, contrasted against a cracked, white surface, with hints of blue thrown in for good measure.
We began our ascent of the mountain … actually, I set off at a faster pace, as I was encouraged to do so by my traveling companion. It is quite a climb, but not one that requires using all four limbs, just the requisite two, for the most part. There was quite a lot of steam coming out of the side of the mountain, consolidated into one area. I picked one side to go around first, the side that was downwind.
Having geothermal steam blown at you is not ideal for photography, so I did not get any pictures on this part of the hike. The trails do seem to go further up the mountain and back, however, I decided that I had exerted myself enough upon reaching the large plume of steam, choosing to head around the top and back down the other side.
This side of the steam, upwind, provided better opportunities for photography. I ventured fairly close to the source of the steam, but still maintained a healthy amount of cautiousness. The view below was also quite spectacular, looking down into the valley and seeing the two nearby lakes. It was clear enough to see a good long way off into the distance too. I tarried there for some moments simply soaking up the ambience of the whole experience. This, I feel, is one of the joys of being in Iceland, that one finds it surprisingly easy to experience such moments.
When I had soaked up sufficient ambience to satisfy myself, at least for the time being, I set off back down the mountain. It was certainly a lot easier in reverse, and most welcome indeed.
On the way down we encountered several wooden vantage points, and, ultimately, wooden pathways. These lead through smaller areas of steam, and bubbling water, offering a close enough view of the activity, yet still maintaining a healthy sense of safety. Shortly thereafter we found ourselves back at the initial spot with the still happily bubbling mud pits.
As we were returning to our vehicle we encountered a cyclist, a young tourist, who had cycled all the way from Reykjavík. We were both impressed, and, simultaneously, concerned about his hydration. He asked us for some water, so we duly provided him with a spare bottle we happened to have, and we wished him luck in his subsequent travels.
All in all it was a very worthwhile excursion, and one which I am very glad we decided to take. I can definitely recommend it is an option if time, and the weather, conspire together to make it an appealing enough proposition.
About the Author
Paul Hutchinson is an Englishman living in Iceland and working in the fast growing Icelandic IT sector. Paul is not only a great writer and photographer but also an expert programmer and a legend in the gaming world.
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