Thórsmörk and beyond: Venturing into the valley named after the god of thunder

21. April, 2017

According to ancient Norse beliefs, during a thunderstorm, Thor rode through the heavens on his chariot pulled by two goats,Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. Whenever this short-tempered, most human-like of Norse gods threw Mjolnir, his hammer, lighting flashed.

Isn’t this what Icelandic nature is all about? Isn’t this what draws visitors to this small island in the Atlantic Ocean?! The wind, the storm, the rain, the snow… Forces more powerful than man. Something we can more or less control in big cities on the continent but in Iceland these elements can overpower you, change your plans, show you who is boss. I love it!

 

If you decide to visit Thórsmörk, a valley in south Iceland named after Thor, chances are the weather gods will be kind to you. It is protected by a

ring of three glaciers – Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Tindafjallajökull. Nearby mountains shield the valley from the Icelandic highlands (that are often impassable in the winter due to very harsh weather conditions), creating a special microclimate that is warmer – and greener – than in the rest of south Iceland. Nature lovers will enjoy seeing moss, fern, birches and other small shrubs. Glacial water melts into streams and rivers that crisscross the landscape. If you are hiking in the area, dip your flask in the cool stream and have a taste: chances are you have never tried water so refreshing and sweet.

 

To get into Thórsmörk you won’t get very far on two goats. The rough terrain and glacial rivers are best traversed in a vehicle with waist-high tires, for example, a Super Jeep.

There is Seljalandsfoss waterfall by Route 1, Iceland’s main highway, on the way to Thórsmörk, It is the only known waterfall of its kind that allows you to walk behind it (a video of its waters crushing with force from the height of 60 meters will get lots and lots ‘likes’. Fact!)

Should this experience leave you a little hungry, why not get a cup of strong Icelandic coffee (just ask for ‘kaffi’) and a tub of delicious Skyr from a small snack shop near the car park.

 

Onto the dramatic Gígjökull glacier where you can see inside an ice cave. Gígjökull is one of two glacier outlets from the glacier volcano Eyjafjallajökull (the one that became known worldwide for – you guessed it – erupting in 2010). So there is plenty of history and photo opportunities there. Just remember to dress warmly, charge the batteries on your camera and be prepared to be blown away by sight after sight after sight. It may be just an 8-hour trip but there will be memories aplenty to last a lifetime.

 

PS Oh, I nearly forgot to mention another fascinating fact about Thor (well, his goats, actually). Apart from pulling Thor’s chariots, the goats provided the gods with sustenance. Thor would slay his goats cook them then resurrect them with his magic hammer the next day. If only we had the same powers…

 

By  Svetlana Graudt

Svetlana was born in Moscow, where as many as nine million people use the metro every day. After 12 years in London she moved to Reykjavik for love. Svetlana loves cities and reading long articles in The New Yorker.