Iceland is being formed mainly by active volcanoes and shaped by its position on the divergent boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate. Iceland is being pushed up from below, and torn in half along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The first hints of Iceland began to appear over the ocean surface between 16 and 18 million years ago.
In the southern highlands, about three and a half hours’ drive from Reykjavik, in the middle of a sea of black sand, towers Mælifell, a 600-foot-tall volcano, whose name translates to “measuring hill.” One of nine mountains in the country with this name, Mælifell was used by early Icelanders as a vital point of navigation. Until 10,000 years ago, Mælifell and the black sands around it were buried under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Today the Mælifell volcano is extinct and is covered in Grimmia, a brilliant green moss that grows on cooled lava.
Mælifell can only be visited in the height of summer, between June and September, and then only via four-wheel-drive or on foot. Getting there requires many river crossings, and the terrain is nearly impassable with a standard vehicle.
Alex visited Mælifell in late September with a group of other creators. “We’d connected with some other content creators, and we were traveling together through the highlands. We got here and the sun was setting and the light was breaking through the clouds. The Land Rover is so picturesque, and it stands out so nicely against the dark landscape in Iceland. Also, it’s a tank, and can handle itself in the highlands, which is crucial, especially when visiting areas like Mælifell. Most people don’t respect the highlands, and there are lots of trapped motorists.”