Iceland: Lava and Ice - 2013

Iceland Gallery

15th May 2013 - Blue Lagoon

The project I'm working on is flat out but I had to have a few days away; so where do you go after a winter as cold as we've had? Iceland obviously. I've never been before, flights are much cheaper than they used to be and it's away from peak season (I never travel in peak season) so why not? Afternoon flight with Wow Air. Surely they need an exclamation mark in that name. Landed around 5pm and jumped on a bus to The Blue Lagoon, a geo-thermal hot spa area thingy.

It was created by accident from hot water outflow from the nearby geo-thermal power station. The hot water which was released from the plant formed lagoons in an area of rocks full of silicon; the silicon stops the water draining away. The spa grow from this.

What a way to start a holiday lazing around in a hot lake, beer in hand and then the sun came out as well. Lovely.

Definitely stays light very late. Photo below take after 10:30pm!

16th May 2013 - Morning - Reykjanes Peninsula

A morning spent on the Reykjanes Peninsula. An extreme variety of landscapes dotted with fissures, lava fields and geothermal activity. The Reykanes Peninsula is a lava peninsula south west of Reykjavik. I took an organised tour but it toured out I was the only passenger so I got a personal tour. It was good that I could get the low down on everything Iceland but I'm glad it was only a half day, I think both me and the guide both felt we had to keep talking to make the tour work.

We toured the lava fields and headed down to the coast. There are a few towns on the peninsula and the rest of the area is bare lava and a few farms. There was one big enclosed field full of eider ducks being farmed for their down.

From there we headed through the lava fields onwards to Sandvík where two of the earth‘s tectonic plate split. Here they have built a 'symbolic' bridge across the rift between the European and the North American tectonic plates.

Then we headed towards the coast for the lighthouse of Reykjanesviti, one of the oldest lighthouses in Iceland. I climbed up to the top of a rocky cliff and at the top I was almost blown off my feet, the sun my be shining but the wind was really blowing across the whole peninsula.

Close by is the country‘s largest mud pool, Gunnuhver. But there was not a lot to see. The wind was blowing so hard the steam was being blown every which way, it was a bit of a white out. From here we headed to the Blue Lagoon where I joined the afternoon tour.

16th May 2013 - Afternoon - Golden Circle

After this morning's solo tour this afternoon it's a coach 3/4 full. Too few then too many, hopefully tomorrow will be just right. The Golden Circle is the main tourist route and covers some of the best known historical sites and natural phenomena in Iceland. We started by visiting the Þingvellir National Park, where the Icelandic parliament Alþingi was founded in the year 930 AD. Þingvellir is described as geologically remarkable and the tectonic plate boundaries form a breathtaking scenery. I must admit it was a lovely place, would've been nice to have more time to have a good walk around. Half an hour wasn't long enough.

Next up Gullfoss. A big, roaring double waterfall. The falls being at 90 degrees to each other does look amazing. Also its setting in the valley means you can see it from many angles; down from above and close up from alongside.

From there we journeyed towards the geothermal area around the incredible spouting hot springs of Geysir and Strokkur. The main Geysir after which all geysirs around the world are named doesn't spurt very often any more, but Strokkur a few yards away is one of the most reliable geysirs spurting every four or five minutes. First the water in the hole bubbles a bit, some times it's just a tease, other times it blows. Hot water and steam maybe three or four storeys into the air.

17th May 2013 - South Coast, waterfalls and glacier hike

Today it's 7 of us on a mini-bus, just right! We travelled east of Reykjavik along the south coast. Through farmland full of sheep and Icelandic horses. Jagged ridges and volcanoes and glacier topped mountains. The scenery is amazing not like I've seen anywhere before. The land full of volcanoes and lava definitely throws up some interesting views.

First stop was at the Skógafoss waterfall. The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 25 metres (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft). As you can see below beautiful waterfall, beautiful setting.

From here we headed further east and past Eyjafjallajökull volcano / ice cap. This is the volcano which erupted in 2010 and amongst other things left me stuck in Munich when I was about to move back to the UK.

Next a hike on the ancient ice of Sólheimajökull glacier. Sólheimajökull is an outlet glacier from the south-western part of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap. It occupies a valley trough, and is about 8 km long and 1 km broad at its broadest. We arrive in plenty of time so I decided to climb up a hill which overlooks the glacier for a better view. It was further to the top than it looked, definitely breathing heavy by the time I got to the top.

Soon time to get kitted up. Crampons on the walking boots, ice axe in hand and we're ready to go. The glacier looked anything but pristine, it's covered in ash from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Being May and the temperatures pushing into double figures the glacier was melting; quite a bit of running water and a real shine to the ice amongst the ash. But the crampons are amazing, not once did I slip one little bit, very soon you forget completely about ice being slippery.

Then onwards for a stroll along the black sand beach of Reynisfjara. At one end of the beach were stacks of basalt columns. Amazing how such geometrical shapes can occur naturally.

The last stop was at Seljalandsfoss waterfall, very different to Skógafoss. This waterfall flows over the cliff but it hasn't yet carved its own valley. We walked right up to and behind the waterfall. The sun shining and the water creating rainbows, a beautiful end to the trip.

18th May 2013 - The Puffins

Spent today in and around Reykjavik. The highlight of the day was a boat ride out into the harbour and to and island covered in puffins. Puffins are funny little birds, they look like flying penguins although they are not related. They're smaller than I thought they'd be, about 12 to 18 inches I guess. But they're main distinguishing feature the beak was definitely as colourful as I expected.

The puffins are not graceful on take-off or landing but once in the air they really travel. So much so it was bloody hard to get a photo of one in focus. Of about 100 photos I took, I guess I got half a dozen decent ones.

The weater today was no where near as good as the last two days. Overcast and very windy so we couldn't get the boat really close to the island for fear of the rocks. But there were so many puffins flying aroud in their pairs that we still got a very good look at them. Then after 40 minutes or so near the island we headed back to Reykjavik.

Whilst in Iceland I tried a few interesting local dishes. Minke Whale was lovely, quite like beef which I guess shouldn't be all that suprising it's a mammal not a fish. Below is a taster plate including dried cod and fermented shark.

19th May 2013 - Blue Lagoon

Rain forecast so I decided to head back to The Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. The water in the lagoon was colder than Wednesday but I settled into a corner near a water outlet and sheltered from the wind. A nice end to the holiday although a blue sky would have made it even better.