Adventure Seekers Set Sights on Wild West Iceland

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The 2-year-old Hotel Husafell helps accommodate the tourist boom with 48 rooms and a restaurant.

Credit
Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times

Iceland has never been celebrated for its forests: The North Atlantic island is just 2 percent wooded. But the land in the Husafell area of West Iceland is exceptionally lush and verdant, covered in green grass and low shrubbery, an unexpected oasis of vegetation in the shadow of a glacier.

But the bumpy seasonal road that leads straight up from Husafell to the Langjokull glacier offers views that are extraterrestrial even for Iceland, with rocky fields of black volcanic lava intercut by frothy white rivers, all set against a backdrop of low, ice-capped mountains. The landscape looks startlingly lunar.

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The Langjokull glacier’s volcanic lava and frothy rivers look extraterrestrial.

Credit
Bara Kristinsdottir for The New York Times

Since the launch two summers ago of the Into the Glacier tour — a daylong excursion that, as the name suggests, takes visitors, via man-made ice tunnels, directly inside the Langjokull glacier — the formerly off-the-tourist-radar Husafell has begun to attract more foreigners, a perhaps inevitable consequence of the overall boom in tourism Iceland has seen in recent years. In 2003, Iceland welcomed 308,000 foreign adventure-seekers; by 2016, that figure had hit 1.8 million, an increase of nearly 40 percent from the previous year.

Evidence of this tourist boom is everywhere, from the fluorescent waterproof parkas blanketing the streets of downtown Reykjavik to the inexperienced drivers swerving all over the rural roads en route to the increasingly crowded tourist sites. “More than once this summer, I felt like I, as an Icelander, was a minority in my own city,” said…

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