Somewhere between Þórsmörk and Skógar, on the Fimmvörðuháls trail. photo courtesy jocelyn chuang

A striking landscape, a raw and untouched beauty.

Lýðveldið Ísland, with a population of just over 330,000, is one of the fastest growing tourism capitals of Europe. Its major attractions are in danger of becoming anything but ‘raw’ and ‘untouched’ with the increase in visitors far exceeding the rate at which its infrastructure can keep up. By the end of the year, an estimated 2 million tourists will visit the country, compared to 2011’s roughly 500,000 tourists. As humans continue to McDonaldize the universe, those of us who seek peace away from the urban environment look to nature as a way of connecting with our history and our purpose on this beautiful planet.

Although not at all ‘untouched’, in terms of trail marking, facilities, signage and maps, hiking the Fimmvörðuháls trail does give you a sense of scale and importance; a humbleness in knowing that nature is unforgiving: a warm, sunny and green landscape turns a corner and releases you into a black lava abyss, a result of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

A simple ‘walk in the woods’, whether it is here in Iceland or back home on the AT, leaves you awe-struck with a newfound respect for our home, understanding the mission of people like the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunners, who regularly thru hike the route assisting hikers and maintaining the trail and shelters alike. It is in this practice of understanding the majesty of the wilderness and the honesty of the trail that we can begin conserving and protecting our environment: by being self sustainable, leaving no trace and stepping lightly.


Roughly 20 km into the trail, with 5 to go, the black River Krossa in the distance


The Morinsheiði plateau, overlooking Goðaland, the ‘Land of the Gods’


The ominous Eyjafjallajökull disappears into the clouds


Just past Þingeyri, Dýrafjörður in the Westfjords. photo courtesy jocelyn chuang