To be fair, our generally depressing guidebook contains compliments about off-the-main-road excursions to birdwatch or look at harbor seals. It's more negative about the spots which are easy to see or reach. Maybe it's an example of hard-core tourist snobbery -- the "that's nothing, I've been to a place even more remote and done something even more unusual" syndrome.
You'd think Iceland was remote enough.
Here's what the bitter guide says about a large lake in the mid-north of Iceland, a very popular spot with tourists that we are planning to visit tomorrow ( despite this description):
"Myvatn's placid, shallow spread of water belies its status as one of the country's most touristed locations. Admittedly, Myvatn has had its detractors ever since the Middle Ages -- when the lake and its steaming surrounds were dismissed as a pool of the devil's piss -- though now it's the summertime swarms of black flies that are most likely to get up your nose."
So we're off to a lake known derided locally as the devil's piss. I am packing insect repellent.
In the next post I'll describe what Myatn (pronounced mee-VAT) is really like. Why it is a favorite tourist spot I cannot even imagine. I hope that, as with the Blue Lagoon, we find it to be a delightful place once we get there.
As for the drive up from Reykjavik to Akureyri, called "the least interesting drive in Iceland" by the guidebook, it was placid and lovely. The peat-and-lava countryside near Reykjavik gave way to rolling hills and farms all around. Icelandic houses are mostly bright white with sharply angled, colorful roofs -- red, blue, and green. When the buildings are gathered together in a little town it's picturesque, like the towns built by miniature railroad enthusiasts to surround their trains.
The fjords up here are flat: to me, that was a little diappointing at first because I've always associated "fjord' with steep mountains plunging into finger-like waters of limpid blue. That must be Norway. These fjords are not so dramatic, but when the sun begins to set -- a process which takes about 6 hours -- the light glances softly off them and silhouettes the mountains in a pretty way.
The long sunset is something I hadn't understood. We are close to the Arctic Circle here and it doesn't get dark until after midnight. Dawn comes just a few hours later. But that doesn't mean that it's bright and sunny for 21 hours a day. At about 6 pm the sunlight starts to come in at an angle, and it slants further and further until the sky is barely light.
At mid-day the sun is extra sharp and bright; we're very close to it.
Next up: Myvatn and Dettifoss, why bother?