Iceland (Sept 2015)

By David
30th September 2015

Earlier this month I took a holiday to Iceland. Here's my attempt at summarising it!

I flew out on a Saturday afternoon, arriving in Keflavik (the international airport in the late afternoon. Once at my hotel in Reykjavik. I set out to explore the local area around the hotel (ignoring the local city airport that's actually adjacent to the hotel 🙂 Nearby is Perlan, a glass dome built on top of six hot water tanks that store hot water (heated from geothermal plants 20 miles or so further inland) for the city. I managed to take a panorama of Reykjavik from there (the artefacts in the foreground are caused by the fact that the panorama is taken from the edge of the roof around the dome rather than from a single point.


SeljalandsfossSkógafossThe next day I started the coach tour ("Volcanoes and Glaciers") I had booked on. (I'll note in passing that, to my surprise, food prices in Iceland are comparable to those in the UK (i.e., not, as I had expected, Norwegian levels of price). That's mainly to the dive in the value of the Icelandic Krona since the financial crisis of 2008). The coach tour basically covers the highlights of the south coast. Let's start the scenery with Waterfalls! To the left is Seljalandsfoss, while to the right is Skógafoss - Can you guess that "foss" is Icelandic for waterfall?

At þorvaldseyi Farm, the family have constructed a visitor's centre where they show a film documenting the effects both locally and globally of the 2010 eruption of the Eyjarfjallajökull volcano - well worth a stop. Next was lunch at the Skógar Museum, a lovely collection of buildings, relics and artefacts. Finally a trip to the beach at Reynnishverfi where I took the following panorama.

Beach at Reynishverfi

Overnight was a gorgeous clear night, and despite the street lights next to the hotel, we did get a excellent display of Aurora Borealis and by moving away from the lights, I also got my ever really clear view of the Milky Way in the northern hemisphere (even on the Isle of Mull, I never really got a good view) and with three meteors too!

Jökulsárlón Glacier LagoonSkaftafellsjökullThe next day we continued Eastwards to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon - a lake formed from the melting edge of a Glacier with a Iceberg carving from that edge. Sadly my picture here does not do this justice. There a boat tour out into the lagoon which was very good (My focus was on enjoying the ride rather than pictures - my excuse for a lot of these)

The rest of the day was spent visiting more glaciers and included a walk out to the edge of two of them.

On the Wednesday we travelled back west to the Vestmann Islands, and in particular the main island of Heimaey. The island was very badly affected by an eruption in 1973 of the Eldfell Volcano. Surtsey is one of the other islands, access to which is, quite rightly, restricted to scientists studying the progress of the island's colonisation by wildlife of all sorts.

20150916_155125_stitchIt's very strange to walk up a hill (Eldfell is only 200 metres high) that's not only younger than you are, but is actually still warm from the heat retained under the surface (it wasn't hot - but was definitely warm). There's an excellent exhibition of a house dug out from other the ash fall from Eldfell.

The final day of the tour included the sights of the golden circle - the "standard" tourist trail for Iceland - not that the sights are a bad thing, but there's a lot to fit in!

GullfossThe gullfoss waterfall is a mighty set of falls set in a ravine - the whole area is spectacular and well worth the visit! As a side note, the guide books correctly warn you to take care - the Icelanders assume you have common sense!



While the eponymous Geysir (from which the english word Geyser is derived) is no longer very active (natural geological changes together with human abuse has basically converted it in a (very) hot pool, the nearby Strokkur Geyser is pretty reliable spouting about once every five to ten minutes. It is very impressive, even if human intervention was involved.

The edge of the american tectonic plateThe final visit was to þingvellir National Park which is a rift valley between the American and European tectonic plates and by a lucky choice by the Icelandic forebears, the original site of the alþing, the national parliament of Iceland arguably the oldest democratic body (it can trace its roots to AD 930). The photo shows the edge of the American tectonic plate from inside the rift valley.

I did mange a short tour of Reykjavik in the evening, but should have booked an extra day to allow me to do a proper exploration of this city (the centre is, unsurprisingly relatively small, but having just a hour or so was not enough time!)

Before the flight home the next day, my trip including a visit to the Blue Lagoon, an upmarket spa built around the waste water from a nearby geothermal plant - An impressive example of reuse and exploitation of natural resources (both natural and tourist 🙂

All in all an excellent visit and one I'd be happy to repeat!

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