Islanda - Thingvellir
In the valley of Thingvellir, the emerging part of this fault has a crack which is 4 km wide, 26 km long and 40 m deep. Due to a strange twist of fate, this is also the nation’s main historical site. Here, every summer since 930, the thirty-six Icelandic clans of descendants from the Norway Vikings who began colonizing the island a hundred years before, would reunite for two weeks. For the following eight centuries, the chiefs planted their tents in Thingvellir, managed their feuds and discussed their laws.
This is why UNESCO included this site in the World Heritage list in 2004, on the 60th anniversary of Iceland’s independence.
Thingvellir is also the first of three stages of the popular Golden Ring, an itinerary within the itinerary which includes Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfalls:
A few kilometre’s detour off the Ring Road that propels the visitor into the country’s most famous tourist attraction. You are likely to find more people here than anywhere else in your journey. About 40 km from Thingvellir, you will find Geysir (the phenomenon was named after this place), with its tens of bubbling wells that are one of Iceland’s major attractions: underground water is heated by magma incandescent rocks, reaching temperatures above boiling point and up to 125 degrees Centigrades, and once it reaches the pressure needed to break the resistance of superficial water, it explodes in a huge jet that lasts a few seconds.
Strokkur is the most active jet in this area: you only need to wait a few minutes to hear a persistent burble and then see a pillar of steam and boiling water thrust to the sky, occasionally reaching the height of a six-storey building or more. To complete the full circle of the Golden Ring, you need to travel 6 kilometres from Geysir to visit Gullfoss, one of the countries’ - or even the world’s - most enchanting waterfalls, with its 11 and 21 metre steps.
Reykjavík is now very close, and a stop in the world’s northernmost capital is a must. The city has a peculiar look, with its low buildings alternating with colourful little houses. You can admire the cathedral, the Parliament, the house where Reagan and Gorbachev met in 1986 to discuss disarmament, the Saga Museum, with its dioramas depicting the stages of the Vikings’ colonization, and after a walk in the town centre, you can return to the round trip.
The next destination is the south-western peninsula of Reykjanes, heading for the Blue Lagoon, a blue-green body of water (especially renowned for its skin disorder healing properties) scenically carved against the black volcanic rocks. The geo-thermal plant in the background is a reminder of the importance of this resource for Icelandic people, who have learned to use the heat stored under the earth crust to power their heating, industry and agriculture. A restoring bath in the thermal pools is what you need before the next stop, possibly the most demanding one: the western fiords, and especially the promontory that marks the westernmost tip of Iceland, and the whole of Europe.
To reach this remote location, you need to climb the Ring Road and then detour on several kilometres of unpaved roads; if you want to avoid some of this, you can take the camper on the ferry connecting Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur, then head towards Patreksfjördhur and detour following State Road 612 up to Bjargtangar.
You will reach the Látrabjarg cliffs, an amazing work of nature that peaks at 400 metres and is literally teeming with birds, including the largest colony of razorbills in the world and a myriad of puffins so tame that they can be approached at short distance. The experience is breathtaking.