Last updated 8 June 2020
Embracing the Icelandic way
The pungent smell of sulfur invades my nostrils as I approach a loosely shaped circle of stones. Waves of steam drift across the water’s surface indicating we have arrived at the right place. This is one of the many thousands of natural geothermal pools found all over Iceland. And I’m about to indulge in my first hot bath after driving almost 400 kilometres (with my travel buddy Amy – not solo traveling this time) along the stunning coastline of Iceland’s Westfjord region. We’re both keen to relax and unwind from the journey.
This remote pocket we’ve stopped at for the night is called Bjarkarholt. In the west of Iceland, this place is a tiny blip on the road map (refer to the map at the end of post.) A cluster of houses and one of them is our guesthouse (home) for the night.
Thermal pool experience
Our host, Rognvaldur, a tall Viking type (I’m trying not to stereotype here) has welcomed us to his guest house. After quickly showing us around the kitchen and lounge, Rognvaldur suggested the hot pool across the road, which we are making a beeline towards. Even though it’s a brisk four degrees and the wind is blowing chilled air from the icecaps, seemingly straight from Greenland (the next island across the Denmark Strait) I’m still keen for my first Icelandic hot pool experience. The previous night at Stykkisholmur, Amy and I considered visiting the local thermally heated pool but too tired from driving for most of the afternoon after flying into Keflavik, we decided to pass on the experience, despite our B&B host suggesting it was a town highlight. (Amy was still in recovery mode from some dreaded cough she carried for most of the trip around Scotland.)
It is 7 pm, but the sun is high in the sky – a few more hours of daylight awaits. We remove our warm outer gear (and there are a few layers) carefully stepping onto the slippery moss-covered rocks and into the welcoming warmth. These outdoor thermal pools are a civilised way to enjoy the unique natural surrounds of Iceland. Submerged under the warm water, towering snow-dusted mountains the backdrop, this moment is one of our many surreal Iceland moments.
The silence is deafening.
Quieter in the West
It is the middle of May – summer is approaching but it is not yet peak tourist season and in the less-visited Westfjords region we don’t feel the influx of tourists so often talked about in Iceland now. Figures say annual visitor numbers to Iceland are two million-plus, an incredible number compared to the local population which is around 340,000.
We’re happy with our decision to head west and explore the roads less traveled. With the wonderful long days of daylight, driving until 9 pm at night is a pleasurable experience, with minimal traffic.
The sun is shining – after two days, I’m embracing Iceland’s uniqueness – nature at its raw and unyielding best.