There are many destinations within reasonable driving distance of Reykjavík that allow for quick, satisfying sojourns into nature. On short-notice, we decided to venture to Arnarstapi, a beautiful fishing hamlet on Snæfellsnes. Within walking distance of one of Iceland’s most fabled glaciers, Snæfellsjökull, Arnarstapi often has visitors spouting inane tourist brochure babble in tepid attempts to describe its extraordinary atmosphere. In true capitalistic fashion, the locals have caught on and now offer accommodation, midnight snow-mobile rides and pylsur for a reasonable price, so there’s no reason to grow hungry or bored while there.
Our first stop (save for a police mandated one, which resulted in a 30.000 ISK speeding ticket) was at one of Iceland’s many “secret” natural hot pots. These are essentially undocumented, unmarked and, most importantly (as in – enter at your own risk!), un-regulated pools of hot water where a weary traveller can rest his bones and wash his privates in the company of wild birds and unkempt nature. This particular one is located by the stretch of road between Borgarnes and Arnarstapi and is probably kept secret for a good reason, as it comfortably fits no more than three persons at a time.
An excessive mix of hot water and beer will slow anyone down, so driving became less of an option as the night progressed. Arnarstapi proved no less of an attraction the day after; following a hefty brunch of waffles and buttered scones we took a walk around the area. Arnarstapi offers a plethora of marked hiking trails of varying lengths, but the nature of our trip limited our options to its immediate surroundings. After a few rough encounters with Arctic Terns, we found ourselves at the beautiful, semi-natural Arnarstapi harbour and its surrounding Fulmar-filled cliffs. This is a place to sit down and gaze at the ocean, after a while the intense Fulmar whine will fade to the back of your mind and you will remember why you leave cities over weekends.
One of the benefits of living in the greater- Reykjavík area is a convenient closeness to nature. It essentially means that no matter how involved in business, barhopping or Nu- Rave culture you get, you are never more than a stone’s throw away from somewhere pure and idyllic. Case in point: Friday night, after work, after dinner, after an hour of TV, it was still feasible to pack a tent, an instant BBQ and some lamb chops in my 1992 Subaru for a quick trip to some of Iceland’s most attractive sites. Most cities do not allow for this. In a mere 20 hours (including a full 11 hours of sleep), my companion and I managed to experience a vacation’s worth of unique natural phenomena, postcard-ready scenery and pretty good waffles.