Visitors to Reykjavík might be surprised at how many green areas there are in the capital and the surrounding towns. You don’t have to go far before it feels as if you’re out in the wilderness, miles away from the city’s hustle and bustle.
However, some of these green areas might be hard to locate and people might easily end up always taking the same walk when there are so many walking trails to choose from.
Elegantly designed, 25 Beautiful Walks is a thorough guide to walking trails in the capital region, some of which are well known and frequented by outdoor recreationists but others are in quiet locations which only few people know about.
The author, Reynir Ingibjartsson, made it a point to select trails that lie along shorelines, rivers or lakesides, of which there are plenty in the capital region. Yet the environments are very versatile, ranging from lava fields to forests.
Each walk is described in detail, including practical information such as the length and type of the path and a map. The text is very informative with references to history, legends, geographical and geological facts and outdoor artwork that can be seen along the way. The author also mentions bird species that breed in each location and so the book is also a convenient guide for birdwatchers.
Although a scenic walk in fine weather is always enjoyable, learning more about the area adds another dimension to it.
This book shows that history is everywhere. For example, I had no idea that Hallgerdur langbrók, the wife of Gunnar á Hlídarenda, the protagonist of Njáls saga, had set off for Thingvellir from Laugarnes in Reykjavík to meet Gunnar and that she’s probably buried somewhere on the promontory.
Beautiful pictures accompany each chapter, which makes a walk in the respective area all the more tempting. Most pictures were taken in summer but others show the areas in autumn colors or covered with snow in winter as if to say that a walk there is enjoyable in all seasons.
Almost all of these walks are fairly easy and suitable for all but in many cases both a longer and shorter trail is mapped out for those keen on more exercise. Some trails lie close to mountains, such as Valahnúkar (201 meters) and Helgafell (338 meters), so it is also possible to include a hike in the tour.
This guide, which is available in both Icelandic and English, really is perfect for visitors to the capital region but also for residents eager to get to know the area in which they live a little better.
The translation is good, although, some additional information should have been included in the English-language edition for foreign tourists.
For example, in the chapter about Álftanes and Bessastadatjörn, which includes the presidential residents, there is a picture Gudrún Katrín Thorbergsdóttir’s grave.
To Icelanders she needs no introduction but foreigners might not know that she was the current president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson’s first wife who died of leukemia in 1998.
Also, for tourists and out-of-towners, such as myself, I would have preferred a bit more information on how to reach each location from, say, Reykjavík city center. Perhaps a map of a larger area accompanying the more detailed one to mark the location in a bigger context would have been useful.
The layout makes the text easy to read and it is mostly easy to follow. However, the editors should have picked up a few typos I spotted while reading and one spot where a paragraph was repeated.
These details aside, I heartily recommend 25 Beautiful Walks as an informative and enjoyable guidebook.
25 Beautiful Walks – Walking Trails of the Greater Reykjavík Area is published by Salka. It’s available in bookstores in Iceland and on the publisher’s website (email: [email protected] if you have any questions).
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir