FFrom the spectacular Northern Lights to the breathtaking waters of the Blue Lagoon, Iceland certainly has no shortage of tourist attractions.
But the country may have found another place for tourists to take selfies after the small port town of Grindavík was hit by thousands of earthquakes.
As fears of an impending volcanic eruption subside, the city examines how best to recover after the streets were torn apart and residents fled for safety.
The crater left in the aftermath of the chaos spreads from a Lutheran church and daycare center all the way through a children’s playground and under the legendary new stadium of the legendary Grindavík basketball team, where the season is about to start.
At several parts you can simply jump from the Eurasian tectonic plate to the North American tectonic plate, but at the deepest points you’ll struggle to see the bottom of the dark abyss.
The independent saw rescuers taking a break from inspecting crumbling homes and helping residents drag out their washing machines, posing for photos at the crack.
On Thursday morning, residents were finally given unrestricted access to return and retrieve jet skis, stuffed animals and other valuables.
But despite the government’s announcement it would remain open until sunset, only a few hundred returned. Others remained quite clear, possibly still nervous about a possible blowout.
But with ‘only’ 200 earthquakes in one night, life in the port finally started to return to normal.
With the likelihood of a sudden eruption decreasing daily and the world’s media rushing to other locations, the question becomes what’s next for Grindavík?
A huge crater could be just right to draw crowds, said Snorri Valsson, Iceland’s tourism spokesman, who led the world media’s first tour of Grindavík during a blistering hailstorm.
He told the independent: “Grindavík is the typical fishing village that has been the backbone of Iceland over the centuries. For example, it already has an excellent museum about the tradition of salted fish making.
“But I certainly see an increase in tourists since the earthquake, because the infrastructure will be repaired and there is a history of the events of the last few days.
“I could imagine that because of these events and the effect they had on city life, it could be a focal point of the visitor center for years to come. It is extremely important for the Icelandic economy that Grindavík returns to normal. It has already influenced the central bank’s decisions.”
On what to do with the city’s yawning chasm, he said: ‘When we had destruction from the Westman Islands eruption 50 years ago, they kept some of the ruins intact.
“So most of the damage was repaired, but there were sights in the city where you could see the actual destruction, houses half covered in lava and ash. So I imagine they’ll keep some sights where you can see the actual crack in the ground, if that’s feasible. It will be an outdoor example, fascinating to see.
“It has caused some damage, but I am sure the people of Grindavík can get something positive out of it.
“People have shown incredible resilience, you can see the effect it has had on them. It is a close-knit community that will stick together and get back on its feet.
“As you can see, traveling there is safe, so everyone is welcome.”
Snorri’s optimism appears to be at odds with Iceland’s most experienced seismologist, Professor Páll Einarsson, who was brought out of retirement to study the thousands of earthquakes that rocked the city.
At one point he runs to his monitor and assesses the vibrations on the highly sensitive fiber optic cable that lies along the fault line, only to discover that it is just a passing car.
Professor Einarsson admits that he would like to move back to Grindavík himself, but the situation is still far too unstable to move his family, let alone the entire population of the village.
He told the independent: “This dike seems to be able to solidify underground and not rise to the surface and that is the most favorable option for the people who live there.
“But in the worst case, the magma-filled crack in the middle of the city, between the houses of Grindavík, comes to the surface. If the eruption continues for the same amount of time, it will be wiped out.
“We have to remember that this isn’t just one dike that’s scaring people right now – it’s a new chapter in a long story. We’ve had three outbursts already. This story does not end with this dike.
“The decision to move back will be very difficult and I don’t want to make it. Every day now brings a new situation. The last eruption was in 1214, none since then until 2021, meaning 800 years of dormancy.
“We may now be at the beginning of an active volcanic period for the next two or three centuries.”
Back at the crack, a volunteer rescuer said: “I think it will definitely become the number one selfie spot in Iceland.
“If you put a fish and chip shop there it will do so well. The English will love it there. It’s a miracle no one was injured.
“Everyone does it differently, some people are really angry, others are very happy that their houses have not been damaged.”
Margaret Eyjolfsdottir, 55, walked her normally skittish whippet Lady on their normal route, who seemed reassured in the setting sun and stated emphatically: “We’re not going anywhere, this is our home. I wanted to go there and check out the damage, but they wouldn’t let me get close.
“I think she [points to Lady] understands that it’s all over. She is calm and so am I.”
Erling Snær, 20, was gathering the last of his belongings while his younger sister grabbed a huge rabbit from their living room that is now sinking into the yawning chasm.
“The earthquakes continued for hours and got worse. The church bells rang so loudly that it sounded like a warning from God,” he says.
“We’ve had a lot of news in this city, but I hope this time people will look at it and make changes because it’s so hard to leave your house.
“It is difficult to imagine that tourists come to see the crack today. But for now, I don’t think they will. It’s all so fast. I still believe something will erupt.”