The eye-candy Reykjavik mountain they call Esja
Mount Esja, often known simply as Esjan, is the most prominent of the many natural features you can see from the Icelandic capital city.
The strikingly beautiful mountain lies across Faxafói Bay to the north of the city and has been an inspiration to wistful locals and visitors since the beginning of time. Or at least since the invention of sliced bread.
A Reykjavik city break would not be the same without the reassuring presence of our friend Esjan. Living in Reykjavík would certainly not be the same either. In fact locals swear that the mountain changes every day and almost never looks the same. Some believe she wears her emotion on her sleeve.
Seen from Reykjavík, Esjan can be almost any color, depending on season, weather, time of day, light and air quality and even your own imagination. Her shape appears to change too, thanks to the movement of clouds and snow across her face – or the lack thereof.
Those who visit Iceland always notice and appreciate (and usually photograph the Fell out of) Mount Esja – but most tourists never visit her. That is a pity, because the scramble to the top and back down again is a challenging and varied hike for everyone, yet it is also suitable for most people with a little care and good shoes. On a bright summer's day you can happily spend a whole day on the mountain.
There are three distinct stages to the climb. The bottom is very lushly vegetated in the summertime and crisscrossed with little rivers creating an ambience similar to The Shire; while the middle section is steep, grassy slopes with occasional boulders and very much like walking the moors; and the top section is a scramble up a near-vertical rock face. Wardens have made it easier by installing steps, chains, pegs and handrails; but the last bit of the climb is clearly signposted “At your own risk”. So be careful.
Once at the top you won't be disappointed with the view (unless it is cloudy, of course) – as you can see all of the capital city, its neighbouring towns, and much more besides. In fact you can pretty much see to Keflavík.
If you have a car, you'll find Esja's convenient car park, information point and toilet block just off Route 1 heading north towards Akranes, about, ooh, let's say 20 minutes from the city and before the tunnel. Repeat, if you go through the big tunnel you've gone too far and will have to have a day out in Akranes instead!
If you don't have a car, then you're still in luck because you can get there on the Reykjavík bus network. Routes 57, 58 and 59 are three that go past there.
Be safe and have a bracing time!
Main photo: Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson / Visit Reykjavik