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Reykjavík Erupts!

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Viktória is the “new girl” – here at What’s On and in Iceland. She comes from Hungary, studies Viking Stuff at the University and loves photography, so we’re sending her on ALL the tours to get a fresh perspective on what they’re like. As the old Icelandic saying goes “perceptive is the eye of the visitor.”

Photos by Á Viktória Jávorszky.

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Reykjavík erupts is a slightly shorter tour than most – which leaves you with plenty of time to spend after you finish it. This tour – along with the Lava Tube caving can be done as a combo tour or separately, making them perfect if you don’t want to go on a full-day trip but still want to get out of the city. The Reykjavík Erupts tour takes the group to a geothermal area on the outskirts of the capital area. The geothermal activity in Iceland is famous, but what a lot of people don’t realise is that it is a constant threat to most inhabited regions in Iceland. Reykjavík is no exception. It could happen in a week, but it could also not happen for the next thousand years. The geothermal area we visited is the one that could possibly cover Reykjavík in lava, so we were going into the belly of the beast, so to speak.

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After being picked up in the morning for the Reykjavík erupts tour, we travelled to Seltún in Krýsuvík, the area in question. We got a bonus stop at the beautiful Kleifarvatn, not very far away from Seltún, because a man had got his car stuck on the shore of the lake and we had to tow him. Not only is Kleifarvatn a gorgeous place, it’s also where one of Arnaldur Indriðason’s insanely popular crime novels, The Draining Lake, is set. The action in the book is even set off by an earthquake! It was a great chance to get out of the car at the lake and take in the view for a few minutes.

At Seltún we looked around briefly. Seltún is a hot spring area where you can see (and smell) the sulphuric hot water rising to the surface. It’s amazing in itself to be so close to the action, but it gets even more impressive when you climb the hill and see the view over lakes, mountains, and of course, lava fields.

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The group on the Reykjavík Erupts tour was up for anything that day, so we decided to hike up to the  top of the hill. We took some breaks on the way, but I was still left rather breathless when we got to the top. We had a bit of rain that certainly didn’t make the hike any easier, but we didn’t let that affect our mood at all because we were having a great time. Our guide, Dofri, made sure we knew everything about the area, the volcanoes in general, as well as the impending doom the people of Reykjavík have to deal with. He was very knowledgeable on the subject and, due to the nature of the subject, it almost felt like we were telling horror stories while camping, especially when we were back in the car drinking our hot chocolate.

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When we finished our warm drinks we were on our way home, but not before we had a quick stop at Maríuhellar at Heiðmörk. Maríuhellar are lava caves, big and uncharacteristically cosy, for lava caves. You could basically camp there if you had a fire. We looked at three of the caves all while listening to some very creepy Icelandic stories (it seems like there are a lot of those) before finishing our tour at Elliðaárdalur, a popular hiking area.

I knew, of course, even before the Reykjavík Erupts tour, that Iceland had a high level of geothermal activity but seeing the active areas while hearing about the possible consequences of an eruption was something else. Apparently, some of these volcanoes are fairly long overdue, yet none of them seem to be set to erupt in the near future. Since they have not been active for a long time, Icelanders don’t seem to be too concerned by their presence and impending eruption. I’ll try to follow their lead, but the tour still left me with a renewed sense of my own insignificance against the magnificent forces of nature.

Photos by Á Viktória Jávorszky.