Hiking through lava plains, past glaciers, volcanoes and other geological delights makes for a wonderful holiday. But the vast expanses of uninhabited wilderness lack a significant cultural experience outside of their aesthetic pleasures.
To connect with Iceland’s culture and history, often one of the most empowering aspects of world travel, read the Icelandic Sagas and make the landscapes come alive.
The Icelandic Sagas describe family histories and account events that took place in the 10th and early 11th century on the island, from brutal blood feuds to significant law trials and even the discovery of America long before Christopher Columbus, the tales recount exciting tales in a surprisingly modern and readable form. The characters of the tales are farmers, families, warriors, wives and kings that inhabited the mountain terrain through which you walk and with place names in the country remaining largely unchanged for centuries it’s easy to navigate your way through the historical scrolls.
The collection of prose represents the most intact European accounts of that time period with tragedy, colour and epic tales abundant. Describing the landscapes in which the events took place adds a touch of realism to an otherwise alien terrain and provide a great source of entertainment after a hard day of walking in Iceland.
The authors of the sagas are largely unknown, but one author’s name lives on, Snorri Sturluson. He was the write of Egil’s Saga as well as one of the revered Lawspeakers at the Althing (the early Icelandic parliament) held near Gullfoss a magnificent waterfall that is a popular destination for any walking holiday. His homestead in Reykholt is easily visited when walking in Iceland.
With a wealth of tales and stories available, the Icelandic sagas are the perfect reading material when traversing the unearthly landscapes of the land of ice and fire.