Exploring Iceland’s Ring Road: The North

Exploring Iceland’s Ring Road: The North

Exploring Iceland’s Ring Road: The North

A most moderate pace

 

Speeding is a terribly bad idea in Iceland. There are the safety implications of course, but more immediately concerning is the near certainty of receiving a ticket. Paid on the spot and starting at hundreds of dollars, speeding tickets are no exception to the general rule that everything is expensive in Iceland. So we stick to 90kph, the speed limit on Highway 1, content to be passed by the occasional rushed local and ill-informed tourist, while absorbing much of the scenery as we slowly and safely make our way to Akureyri.

 

Driving to Akureyri

Seen on the drive to Akureyri

 

The area surrounding Akureyri

The area surrounding Akureyri

 

It’s not a “town”

 

Iceland’s capitol city Reykjavik is just 5hrs from Akureyri by car, but the two cities are vastly more distinctive than the short distance suggests. Reykjavik is where the tourist masses are, most of them content to visit the golden circle and dip themselves in the Blue Lagoon before heading home. Akureyri is different. With 17,000 inhabitants, Akureyri is a scant 7th the size of Reykjavik and by all measures a small town, but in the same way I wouldn’t call an Icelandic horse merely a pony, I wouldn’t think to mutter the word “town” while in the presence of locals.

 

Akureyri

Akureyri

 

Storefront in Akureyri

Storefront in Akureyri

 

The main church in Akureyri

The main church in Akureyri

 

Street scene in Akureyri

Street scene in Akureyri

 

Iceland’s second city

 

Although Akureyri is indeed fairly small it’s also Iceland’s second largest city. Thus the charm and feel of any small town is maintained, with no pollution or traffic or trash issues to speak of, or anything else which might vex the inhabitant of a more populous place, while still maintaining many of the modern day amenities travelers and locals desire. Wifi is fast, restaurants are of high quality, hotels are plentiful, and so on. Akureyri acts like a big city in most respects.

Where Akureyri fails to meet the standard of the big city is where this place shines brightest. While a big city might sprawl in the way Los Angeles crowds 18 million people from the shores of the Pacific to the base of the San Gabriel mountains, Akureyri instead maintains a healthy balance between city and nature, tipped liberally in favor of nature.

 

Driving Iceland

Just outside Akureyri. No sprawl here.

 

Around Akureyri

Around Akureyri

 

Just west of Akureyri

Just west of Akureyri

 

Swimming Hofsos Pool

Swimming Hofsos Pool, a 1.5hr drive west of Akureyri. If you enjoy pools it’s well worth it.

 

Myvatn

 

Barely more than an hour drive east of Akureyri is Lake Myvatn and the volcanically formed surrounding area. If I had to pick one place which encompasses nearly everything Iceland has to offer in terms of natural landscapes, it’d be here. The ground is alive with steam rising up from the Earth, forcing respect for the power of volcanism which formed this area over recent millennia. Much of that energy is harvested for power, and geothermal power plants are dotted about the area.

There’s also the Myvatn Nature Baths. The naturally warm water and beauty of the baths rival that of the Blue Lagoon, yet the tourist masses and high prices are nowhere to be found.

 

Godafoss waterfall, Iceland

Godafoss waterfall, northern Iceland, seen on the way to Myvatn from Akureyri.

 

Sunset on the drive to Myvatn

Sunset on the drive to Myvatn

 

Really interesting plant growth around Myvatn

Really interesting plant growth around Myvatn

 

Hverarond

Hverarond

 

Harvesting steam for power in northern Iceland

Harvesting steam for power in northern Iceland

 

One of the more odd sights the area has to offer

One of the more odd sights the area has to offer

 

Myvatn Nature Baths

Myvatn Nature Baths: Far less touristy than the Blue Lagoon

 

Myvatn Nature Baths at night

Myvatn Nature Baths at night

 

A lack of color here

 

Black and white strips photographs of the complexity and distraction of color, revealing the raw power of the subject matter beneath. Contrast can be bumped higher with black and white, adding further elements of energy, strength, and mystery. While some of the colors really popped in the real life scenes above, I chose black and white for this series because it more truly represents the awe struck feeling of being there. I hope you enjoyed the shots I’ve presented here.

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