Iceland sizzles. Iceland drizzles. If you are in a rush and don’t want to wade through the albums with 55-125 or so photos in each, this is for you to see the highlights! It is a stunning country, a bit of a paradise. I would like to return and explore much more. The last week in May and the first week in June just whetted my appetite. The weather was a mix, pouring rain and alternating sun. This photo was of a full rainbow awaiting me after a total whiteout as I was crossing the mountain pass into SEYDISFJÖRDUR, a magical moment.
Thriving capital of Iceland with a population of 209,680 (two thirds of the entire population of Iceland, 327,050) Reykjavik is the most northern capital in the world. It is a youthful city with street cafes, museums, fine food.
THRIHNUKAGIGUR VOLCANO, “Three Peaks Crater,” is about 600m above sea level. Located 30 minutes SE of Reykjavik in the Blafjoll mountains, it last erupted 4,000 years ago. The stunning lava chamber was discovered by Arni B. Stefansson ….. they began tours in 2010. One descends by means of a window washing platform 120 m (394′) into the only intact magma chamber in the world that is open for viewing. The Statue of Liberty would fit in the chamber with room to spare.
A popular tourist route is the Golden Circle incorporating several worthy sights. Among them, the geothermal active area, HAUKADALUR, with its dormant geyser, GEYSER, and its active and very reliable geyser, Strokkur which goes off every 5-10 minutes. All geysers around the world are named after this water spout, Geyser.
Iceland’s most sacred site, Thingvellir is where the Althing – an open-air assembly that represented the whole of Iceland – was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798. For two weeks a year, the assembly set laws and settled disputes announced by a speaker on the Law Rock.
Setting for two of Iceland’s most famous sagas, Egil’s Saga and Laxdaela Saga, the Snaefellsness Peninsula has a bit of everything Iceland. Beautiful scenery, fishing villages, black beaches, a snow caped volcano, rugged rocky shores, small gems of churches.
As we headed north and east around Iceland, mostly by way of Route 1, the Ring Road,we visited Pingeyrar, one of Iceland’s most historic sites, Glaumbaer Museum, Hofsós, passing through the Öxnadalur Valley past the most stunning scenery including 1,075m Hraundrangi peak, on our way into Akureyri.
Iceland’s “second city” would be a town anywhere else with a population of only 17,300. It is situated at the head of Iceland’s greatest fjord, Eyafyördur. It thrives on fishing, shipping, tourism and a university.
The Lake Myvatn area is one of otherworldly landscapes, strange lava formations, volcanic craters, steaming and colorful geothermic formations. It is also a prime birding area. There is a sealed road (Routs 1 and 848) around the lake with countless spots of interest.
Vast lava fields from the 1975 north south trending fissures over a vast magma chamber, steaming vents, boiling rivers, the Krafla Power station was conceived in 1973. After nine eruptions construction proceeded and now there is a vast geothermal power plant there.
Húsavík is Europe’s capital of whale watching. It is situated on Skjálfandi Bay with gorgeous views of snow capped peaks on the opposite shore. The fishing village of 2,200 has charming colored houses and good restaurants.
The Tjörnes Peninsula is renowned for its fossils and 60m (200′) cliffs with visible geological strata and countless nesting birds. The horseshoe shaped canyon with 100m (330′) cliffs, 1km wide surrounding a lush carpet of greenery, Asbyrgi is the gem of the area.
Beautiful scenery, snow capped mountains, blue green ice, iron stained rivers and rocks. I took a slight detour to a family farm at Mödrudalur with its charming chapel and turf buildings. There was a good coffee shop selling handmade sweaters and pastries.
Egilsstadir, pop. 2,270, is a transportation hub on Iceland’s 3rd largest Lake, Lagarfljót. What is really worth visiting is Seydisfjördur with its colorful houses and beautiful fjord. The drive getting there is stunning. I was caught in a white out with a full rainbow upon emerging on the other side. The best single moment in Iceland!
This part of Iceland is often overlooked but I found it to be extremely photogenic and beautiful. One particularly riveting short cut, unpaved and another white out, was Rte 939 connecting loops of Rte 1. I had been rushing, and needed to save time, to get to a ferry at Djupivogur for Papey Island but too few people on its first day of operation, so no go. Of interest, a museum built like a book shelf featuring his many books, honors one of Iceland’s favorite writers, Thórbergur Thórdarson (1888-1974).
Much of the East Coast is dominated by Europe’s largest icecap, Vatnajökull which is up to 1,000m (3,300′) thick in parts. It is icy all year as opposed to much of Iceland which is green. Early settlers landed here, thus the name Iceland. Due to global warming it is projected that all of Iceland’s glaciers will disappear by 2150. I visited two iceberg filled lagoons between the sea and Breidamerkurjökull glacier. Jökulsárlón, 18 sq km, 250 m (820′)deep and over the bridge, the smaller, more intimate lagoon, Fjallsárlón. Small rubber boats get one very close to the face of the glacier. I liked it much better than its well known sibling.
More gorgeous scenery, greenery, lupine covered meadows and hills, 40 ams of vast black deltas, Skeidarásandur, largest of the southern “sanders,” wastelands of black sand and glacial debris left by volcanic activity, a volcanic desert around Kirkjubaejarklauster caused by the devastating 1783 eruptions of Laki, one of the worst volcanic eruptions in the history of the planet.
Vik, with is lovely hillside church is the gateway to the southwest. With a population of 300, it is Iceland’s most southern town and its rainiest. It also is adjacent to one of the most spectacular beaches to be found anywhere, REYNISFJARA with its backdrop of basalt columns that certainly influenced the architect of Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja. It is guarded by a cluster of sea stacks, REYNISDRANGUR.
With so much volcanic activity, there are many geothermal hot baths in Iceland. Everybody has heard of the Blue Lagoon, but there are hot baths all over Iceland. Some are hot streams by the side of roads, others have facilities that are quite nice. Shown here, the Myvatin baths.
Iceland is riveted with waterfalls, thousands of them. There are cascading waterfalls, plunging waterfalls, multi-step, punchbowl and horsetail waterfalls. A top ten or so are especially dazzling. Some require creative transportation or trekking due to their challenging locations. Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous due to its beauty and the fact that one can walk on a ledge behind it.