I drove the “Diamond Circle” today—it’s a name that confirms that marketing hyperbole has infected travel talk as much as it has real estate and anywhere else it is considered useful. I enjoyed the trip, about 250 km, and it adds to my growing picture of what this Island is like as one very unusual expression of Nature. By the end of my time here, all that I’ll have missed of significance will be the Highlands, the great unpopulated, practically unroaded interior where volcanism has made for an essentially uninhabitable expanse. I don’t know the details of that but lack of potable water is part of it and being at higher altitude winters are bound to be fierce. Those who visit it mostly do so with guides and 4-wheel drive vehicles; considering Iceland’s popularity among tourists I feel sure if it was practical to more fully exploit the area it would be done. What I found in the regions I traversed today was a variable landscape ranging from agricultural to moonscape to lava fields, grasslands, and mixed areas of low shrubby plants, grass, and rock. It isn’t mountainous in the least. I stopped in Husavik, a whale-watching center on the peninsula’s west coast and an appealing little town with snowy mountains across the bay, but only briefly and drove across one of the northern edges of the country that reach out to but barely miss the Arctic Circle. And then to Asbyrgi, a striking U-shaped canyon several km’s long separated in the middle by a gray butte of, I’m sure, basaltic rock and at its end by a pool, arc-ed cliff a few hundred feet high, and a meager waterfall falling through the talus and forming a shallow pond. A lone fulmar patrolled the waters; they are said to have moved in due to a shortage of suitable nesting sites elsewhere. The canyon toward its nether end is heavily foliaged with birch and other low trees and shrubs and in spring with flowers. Altogether, a unique site, another of the ways natural conditions come together in beauty and uniqueness. The canyon was probably shaped by glaciers.

Husavik Photo by Maarten Wijnants on Unsplash

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