Visitors to Iceland expect something different. They’ve heard about the volcanos. Then, there are the stranger stories…
Take Hafnarfjörður, the small town you reach first when you come from the airport. It has a colourful history, being one of the oldest communities. It’s a fishing town, but that’s only part of the story.
Built literally in and on the lava that flowed from the Búrfell volcano, you’ll quickly notice the huge, black rocks, craters and caves out of which houses peek. The whole area is massive lava and geothermal area.
Home for the Huldufólk, too
Exploring the town, you’ll come to a quiet street and Hellisgerði Park. It’s a magical place, known for its elves, dwarves and other mystical beings. It’s easy to imagine these ‘huldufólk’ living here amidst the lava rocks that fold and twist, forming tiny caves and strange shapes. Beside the pond winds a pathway past the rocks, many coloured with bright emerald or contrasting olive coloured moss. But, for many people, this is not the place of myth but of another world that occasionally reveals itself. A number of these people have recounted meetings these beings. There are two tours that explain more about this park that is celebrating it’s 90th anniversary2013.
The town is a vibrant centre. Besides the sports and the geothermally heated swimming pools, it has a rich cultural life. Its museums are spread in different buildings across the town, adding authenticity to the history they portray. Take the Pakkhúsið or warehouse, for example. A typical Icelandic building, it displays two permanent exhibitions, the history of the town and one of classic children’s toys and lifestyle items from the past and a third exhibition whose theme changes throughout the year. You’ll also find a Tourist Information Office here that will explain where all the other museums, art and cultural centres are, as well as all that can be enjoyed and experienced during your stay in the town. And it is a town you will want to stay in.
On fire in the basement
Geothermal means heat from the ground —and there’s plenty of evidence of it here, along with where it came from. At Krýsuvík, a little outside the town, are steaming mud pools, bubbling hot springs, brilliantly coloured lakes – all surrounded by equally brilliantly coloured hills. Hikers who climb up to the top of the hill are rewarded by the sight of the spectacular steaming vent and the view of ocean, fields and lakes. Well-maintained boardwalks wind through the area – but don’t try to touch the pools. Remember where they’re coming from!
These lava fields make for a marvellous hiking area, with mountains like Helgafell, with its panoramic view of the peninsula or the Krýsuvíkurberg cliffs, teeming with birdlife.