The Reykjanes Peninsula of Iceland is a place of haunting beauty. Descriptions of the region are usually dotted with clichés such as “stark,” “surreal,” “desolate.” That is because Reykjanes is, in fact, stark, surreal, and desolate.
The southwest peninsula of Reykjanes or ‘smoky point’, is an utterly strange region of surreal landscapes and desolate volcanic fallout. There are only crumbled lava rocks carpeted in thick grey-green moss as far as the eye can see. There is no soil – only shifting, metallic-black sand. The low mountains on the horizon are sleeping volcanoes, the crusted spouts whence flowed all this lava. As an active geothermal hotspot, the broken ground exhales the wispy puffs of steam that gave the peninsula its name. The wind blows without cease and the frontal gusts of the Gulf Stream shoot out from across the ocean. The land is forever streaked with drizzle or sleet…Stark and almost uninhabitable, the Reykjanes Peninsula was overlooked as a fruitless wilderness until the American military thought it the perfect place for a top secret naval base….Reykjanes does not feel like planet earth. But then neither does much of Iceland.
…Reykjanes is a surface worth scratching beneath…There is great hiking to be done, a magnificent coastline to explore, and pure heat bubbling up from the depths.
Lake Kleifarvatn in Reykjanes is an atmospheric sight and not a little spooky, especially on days with low-hanging fog. We spent a good deal of time last month in the bowels of Reykjanes, and were unlucky to be spared the gale-force gusts and the punishing weather for which the area is renowned. I can well imagine what it must be like in those conditions, especially in Winter when howling winds are paired with painted heavens in the form of Northern Lights.
I was having some difficulty framing a composition of Kleifarvatn that would adequately convey a measure of the forbidding unease it evokes. On one of my last rounds, I finally ‘saw’ it and it registered in my mind’s eye right away as a monochrome image. Legends speak of a monster in the shape of a worm living in Kleifarvatn. I may well have captured the critter on camera here!
En passant – an earthquake in 2000 caused water levels in Kleifarvatn to drop which in turn inspired the macabre thriller, The Draining Lake.