ICELAND: a quick visit to an unusual land

 

A very kind friend of mine, recently spent 3 days in Iceland after wanting to visit for many years. He stayed in Hella with a coach tour group, and went on day trips. After reading his travel blog, I asked if I could put it on my site, so he could share it with you.

 

My visit to Iceland  

If I were to describe the country Iceland in one word, that word would be dramatic. It’s subterranean geological activity and mountainous terrain govern the characteristics of Iceland. The comparatively frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes result in much of its ground being covered in black volcanic ash, even in the outskirts of Reykjavik. Houses also have to be constructed using reinforced concrete, making them quite expensive.

On the plus side the numerous waterfalls are used to provide cheap hydroelectricity and geothermally heated water is used to provide cheap heating for 95% of the houses in Iceland. On the hills around Reykjavik, huge tanks have been constructed which are filled with water at 85°C, that is piped into the city, reaching the houses at 60 degrees. One of these disused tanks has been converted into a museum and viewing platform.

1. Hot water tanks 2. View from Tank

 

During the first part of our visit we toured the south coast, enjoying mountain views, before stopping at Hella for two nights.

3. S.Coast Mountain 4. S. Coast Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there we had trips out to waterfalls, a folk museum and a Lava centre. During the visits to two waterfalls, we experienced the rapid change in weather on the island. In both cases we left the coach in inclement weather to walk about two hundred yards to the falls and returned struggling against painful hailstones in 58 mph winds. Iceland claims to be the third windiest place on earth; the first two being hardly populated.

7. Waterfall

6. Waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of these visits the most memorable was the Lava centre. They showed us a film with and excellent soundtrack displaying a number of volcanic eruptions. You would be watching quiet scenes of flowing lava and rising steam, when the theatre was suddenly filled with the deafening sound of an erupting volcano. Scary and very impressive!

During this time we had some rain and hail but only the mountains were snow covered. On the third day however we returned to Reykjavik and from then everything was covered in an inch or two of snow which was very attractive.                                     8. Gullfoss Gorge Waterfall

On the way we visited the centre of the Island were most of the volcanic activity occurs. There we saw a very impressive series of waterfalls at Gullfoss Gorge (left) and steam eruptions at Geyser.  These eruptions occurred suddenly from pools of water  every few minutes, disappearing in a couple of seconds, so were not easy to photograph. While in this part of the country we were given crampons to wear over our shoes to prevent slipping on the snow.

 

 

9. Geyser 10. Geyser Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.Fissure between PlatesMuch of the geological activity in Iceland is due to it being at the junction of two tectonic plates, the North American and the Eurasian, which are gradually moving apart. This creates fissures, which can be a kilometre wide but in places, only a few metres. We visited one of these and walked with the North American plate on our left and the Eurasian on the right.

 

 

 

 

12. Blue Lagoon

The next day, from Reykjavik, we visited the Blue Lagoon. This is an open air pool of geothermally heated water, rich in minerals at about 38 C. You are invited to use the attached heated changing rooms then dash about ten metres to the pool and immerse yourself. This I assure you, is done very quickly and I am sure many world records over that distance have been broken there. Despite my trepidation, I found this a very pleasant experience, the immersion – not the dash. We were advised not to immerse our hair otherwise the silicates would give it the consistency of fine wire. The silica was said to be very good for the complexion and some of the ladies                                                                                                          purchased silica face packs, which they wore in the pool.

 

 

14. Reykjavik Church 15. President's Home

 

In the afternoon we had a coach tour of Reykjavik, stopping at a fine modern church and seeing the Presidents house, behind a chapel, on the outskirts of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

That evening we were invited to take an optional trip into the centre, light-free part of the island with the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. Leaving about 10 pm we arrived in a clearing with five or six other coaches and stayed in the coach or stood out in the snow looking at the clouds until 1:30 am. At that point is began to snow, so we gave up and returned to the hotel. I am sure it was £30 well spent…not.

One thing I was pleased about was that prices were not at bad as I was led to believe. Warned that I would have to pay £50 for fish and chips, the most I paid for a hotel meal was £30. We also went to a self service restaurant where for £13, we could eat as much fish, chips and salad as we could carry.

Drinks were expensive, but I went teetotal throughout my stay, my Yorkshire genes not allowing me to pay £14 for a small glass of cheap wine. All the hotels seemed to have a happy ‘hour’ between 4 and 6 pm (clearly not having grasped the concept of singularity). I was always amused to see most of my fellow passengers, dash from the coach to the hotel bar when we arrived back at 5:45 pm to get a half price drink before the bewitching hour.

My intention had been to spend my last morning walking round Reykjavik taking photos. However it was snowing, the street signs were covered and difficult to read and I was worried about getting lost and missing the coach back to the airport. Consequently there is a big hole in my photo collection.

It was a great holiday and an experience I would have been sad to have missed.

Ray Ellis: world traveler and dog walker extraordinaire