Off the beaten path to Þorlákshöfn
A Pilgrimage of my Own
Off the beaten path to Þorlákshöfn

Heading east from Reykjavík, I follow the steady stream of cars that are making their way across the mossy lava fields of Leitarhraun. Most of these will continue over Hellisheiði heath towards Hveragerði, Selfoss and beyond, but I will be taking a road less travelled and one that, in my mind, is even more magical. I’ve passed the tiny, old fashioned petrol station and coffee shop ‘Lítla Kaffistofan’ on my left and soon reach road #39, the turn off to Þorlákshöfn (Thorlakshöfn) in the Ölfus District. This is where the masses and I part ways, at least for now, and I’ve got the road pretty much to myself.

The Hauntingly Beautiful Þrengsli Pass

The drive through the powerfully energizing landscape, known as Þrengsli Pass, is exhilarating. Other-worldly even. Just a few metres off the road is Raufarhólshellir- a 1350m lava tube cave that is open for exploration. Further on, I come to Icelandic Glacial, where water that has been naturally filtered through the ancient lava is bottled via an enormous underground, spring-fed reservoir that holds some of the purest water on earth.

More than a one-horse town

Soon I am in Þorlákshöfn, Ölfus District’s one and only town. Located right on the coast, the village is flanked on either side by miles of pristine black sand beaches where a few daring surfers gather in hopes of catching the relentless waves. As is typical of any Icelandic fishing village, the harbour is the center of activity where colourful boats and noisy gulls vie for attention.
A brand new sports complex includes fully equipped indoor and outdoor sports facilities, indoor and outdoor geothermal swimming pools, a fitness center and an adjoining campsite. The swimming pools are especially popular with families on weekends, and for golfers, the challenging 18 hole golf course which lies just east of the village is equally popular.

A haloed place for latter-day pilgrims
Finally, I make my way west following the windswept coastline towards Selvogar’s Strandkirkja - one of Iceland’s most famous churches with a long and fascinating history dating back to the 13th century. Today, the church still attracts visitors from the four corners of the country, who like pilgrims on a pilgrimage, journey here to make a vow. The combination of the sound of the pounding surf, the smell of the salt air and the cry from a lone Kria flying overhead make this a very special place indeed. My own pilgrimage has been accomplished.

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