It's a great place for long walks. The following areas come to mind.
Originally Posted by Angelo di Mango
Around Vik (there is a little road about 10 miles west of Vik just off of the ring road. You walk north, and there are all kinds of nice hills with beautiful scenes and streams and sheep etc.)- what I'd do is check in at a farm and ask.
For a shorter walk but with lots of scenery, you could circle the island of Heimaey. To the north you will see the glacier, to the south the new island of Surtsey. Plus there is the volcano and lots of puffins. You can get to Heimaey via ferry or a short, inexpensive flight.
The area around Thingvellir is great for hiking. If you look on my site you will see a shot from there. It's very geologically interesting, you can literally walk the gap between the N. American and European tectonic plates.
All the way to the southeast there is the very lovely area around Höfn (pronounced 'Höp') and there is a big lovely glacier, Vatnajökull. What is special there, too, is the number of birds. Plus they have wonderful freshwater fish.
I don't know how hikable it is, but maybe you could hike alongside the Jökulsárlón, the big glacier lake that is an hour or two east of Vik. Lots of photo opps there and a bizarre countryside. Plus, along the way, you will go through some extremely barren landscape that was basically swept clean by the last big volcano eruption. This area is beautiful in a very bizarre way.
I've been 5 times and only done the south, so much to do there, I never made it north! Some day....
P.S. Something that just occurred to me is that you might study up on the geography invoked in the sagas. As I recall, there are some good descriptions of places in Njáls saga that would be cool to rediscover. One place that recurs in the sagas is Thingvellir, which was the official, neutral meeting place where people put up tents for several weeks and resolved disputes and conducted commerce (=traded daughters and sheep and horses etc.). I think people ventured there from all over, so there must be some passes radially outward from Thingvellir, especially to the northwest and southwest. Some of these trips are mentioned in the sagas, not with great detail, but you get the idea that pretty much everybody owning property went to Thingvellir once a year. I do know that there are excavations and reproductions of early dwellings in that area, so that'd be something fun to discover. I guess Eirik's place in Iceland was in the far west, offhand I don't remember where, but I think they have reconstructed it, basically a long bermed hut with everything you'd need to survive a long hard winter. Anyway, if you immerse yourself in a saga such as Njáls saga before going, the land will really come alive in the most fantastic way. The saga covers many generations of adventure; it's not great literature in the sense of writing style, but it is quite intriguing and unintentionally funny in many places; I mean, you get to find out when and why they stopped eating horses, and you learn all about the megabitch Freydís, for example. I don't remember exactly where but we went to an official center on Njáls saga somewhere in the southwest between Vik and Hveragerđi, and it would give a good visual intro if you aren't willing to read the whole saga yourself. In theory, somebody there would be an expert on the locations invoked in the saga.
Thanks a lot for your long answers. I will study them with a map now.
Be careful walking as the hot springs can have a crust over the top and you can step into boiling (or near 100C) water and burn your foot badly. It happened to a shipmate on a port visit to Iceland.
Cheers, Doug in Colorado
If you want to backpack with Pentax 67, you need really good quality, light weight hiking and camping gear to shave the weight. Check out www.backpackinglight.com for some gear suggestions. As to tent, I have a tarptent Scarp II I really like, you could get a Scarp I if you go solo (I think it is just a little over 2 pounds). A down bag would be much lighter than synthetic bag.
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I found a nice little walking guide to Iceland http://www.rother.de/titpage/4802.php also available in French http://www.rother.de/titpage/4924.php
It's mostly (or perhaps entirely, I haven't found time to read my copy yet) short day walks but will give you plenty of ideas and information.
There is a 2-3 day hike along the river in Jökulsárgljúfur National Park which would be well worth doing, the rock formations there are amazing. As has been said there's also plenty around nearby Mývatn.
I count myself very fortunate that I have visited Iceland on 2 occasions - both solo in the last 3 years and I'm planning another solo visit of 4 weeks duration next summer (2011). I've been there for 2 weeks in early July as well as 2 weeks in early April. During the first visit I camped wild and rented a car and had an amazing time - despite the weather being very fickle! I took an extensive large format (5x4) outfit with me as well as the necessary tent, sleeping bag and camping necessities. My second visit made use of the excellent Icelandic farmhouses that are dotted around the country - usually near the Ring Road; very cheap and comfortable places to stay. On this trip I shot 6x17cms.
The South coast road between Vik and Hofn is a must - you will need a car as travelling distances are great but you could easily spend 2 weeks and only cover a small percentage of the "sights".
The north eastern area around Myvatn is also an amazing place.
Facilities are VERY few and far between so make sure you stock up on supplies whenever you find a supermarket and always keep an eye on the fuel gauge if you rent a vehicle.
Iceland is expensive but can be done cheaply - camping is the obvious choice; even campsites are very reasonably priced and all have hot showers. car rental is expensive - no two ways about it - but transport is a must. If you go in August you won't need a 4x4 so get the cheapest deal you can on a 2-wheel drive.
I took a lightweight tarp tent and lightweight bag - the nights (the few hours of "darkness") were not too cold.
Make sure you get some maps before you go - they too are expensive to buy in Iceland.
May I just add a note of caution, not for you but for the nature: If you choose to rent a car, please stay on the roads/tracks. Do not drive through unspoilt terrain. The Icelandic vegetation is extremely fragile and we have far too many instances where drivers, both Icelanders and a few visitors, have driven through moss fields and left scars that will take decades to heal. Every time I drive from Reykjavik to southern Iceland I see scars that were left in the forties and fifties. Hiking is fine, but drive with care, for your sake and nature's.