After normal service resumed in June; back to our Corsham house, back to the working week and back to reality…we knew we would need to plan a little trip to give us something to look forward to. This year we had spent many wonderful weeks in sweaty heat and oh so bright sunshine, something a little different to a country we had never visited was in order.
Iceland – land of fire and ice was chosen.
Although we knew it would be ferociously expensive when we got there, the flights with Icelandic Air were too good to ignore at £120 each return. Hotels and a hire car were booked then an itinerary was drafted up. Soon enough 4 months working and settling back into UK life flew by and it was time for a new Evans road trip.
Just like the middle-aged oldies we have become, we had packed our all-weather coats, fleeces, hats, gloves, scarves and our walking boots ready for the cold to whip by us knowing we would be all cosy, after all the name of the country ICE-land gives you a clue it’s going to be cold, but what we didn’t factor in was how absolutely disgustingly wet it was going to be! The transfer driver from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik kind of gave it away when she said to us “I guess you didn’t Google – Will it Rain in Iceland in October?” and no we did not expect it to rain quite so heavily for the whole week we visited!
But it did it stop us exploring? No it didn’t, we stuck to our plan and got out to see the stunning, rugged, fantastic scenery that Iceland has to offer…however we did spend more time in the car looking at the scenery through the rain on the windscreen and not hiking than we would have preferred! And although I have now officially morphed into my Mother, I’m really glad I packed thermos flasks for us, so we could have hot cups of soup for our car picnics…
So let me take you on a trip…of our highlights of magical Iceland…with probably the most wettest fuzzy set of photos ever!
Iceland is basically a land of volcanic activity bubbling away under the surface. Underground glacial water springs get super heater and where gaps in the earth have formed, hot steam is pushed to the surface like a whale blowhole. At Geysir (this is where the English word Geyser actually comes from) we walked through the geothermal field in rain that pelted us at all angles, stood for a few minutes to watch the explosion of steam shooting into the air from the Strokkur geyser and hurried back to the car through waves of stinky egg smelling steam to strip off and warm up! I’m sure on a rain free day we would have stayed longer and probably would have taken some photos of the erupting geysers.
Þingvellir National Park and Reykjanes Peninsula
The island of Iceland lies smack dab on the middle of the Mid Atlantic Ridge where the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It’s these plates bumping and grinding together that cause geothermal and volcanic activity. The mid Atlantic continental drift is pulling the plates apart, so effectively Iceland is being slowly separated down the middle and away from each other at a rate of about 10cm each year. At the western Reykjanes Peninsula we could walk from one tectonic plate side to the other over the bridge between the continents.
At Þingvellir we walked through the canyon fracture and imagined Vikings holding their annual parliament here, passing laws and taking part in feisty games. Think ‘Game of Thrones’ and you have the picture in your head without the White Walkers! Luckily here the rain was very light and we enjoyed a wonderful walk through the autumnal colours of the park ending up at the beautiful Oxararfoss waterfall.
From the ice caps, water is running downwards and over ancient glacial river beds, there are waterfalls dropping down over cliffs everywhere.The Hvita river runs down to form two waterfalls at Gulfoss that carve their way through the landscape. This waterfall site was really busy with tourist coaches on day trips through ‘The Golden Circle’. This site was amazing and is worthy of many visitors, you could walk anywhere and it felt very open to the natural elements.
At Seljalandsfoss we saw the 60 meter high waterfall through the windscreen wipers in the car park, we had barely dried out from the mornings activities and didn’t venture back out.
Waterfalls and rainbows go hand in hand, in every tour guide photobook there are beautiful rainbows arcing through the water spray. So at Skogafoss we arrived really early to avoid the coach crowds, walked up the steep steps to view the cascading water tumbling over the cliff and into the valley river below. “Where’s my goddamn rainbow?” I cried to the rain gods, but they just sent heavier rain on us. Skogafoss was indeed splendid and definitely my favourite as you could walk up really close and get a tad wetter from the powerful spray.
After spending £7 on a hot chocolate at the nearby cafe that should have lasted a lot longer than it did, we walked to view the Myrdalsjokull glacier, even with dark skies the blue ice light bounced off our faces and all around the area in soft and dewy tones. Within the glacier the active Katla volcano erupts every 40 to 60 years. Throughout the glacier we could see the bands of ash that have fallen onto the glacier over time and remain there for more water and ice to enclose the covering dust like a time capsule.
Further east along the south coast, we pushed on to watch majestic Icebergs that have broken off from the massive expanse of the Vatnajokull glacier float silently through Jokularson glacial lagoon. Each iceberg had a different shape and texture, some are smooth, some jagged and some are just icy looking! There are titanic sized pieces of white and blue ice and all sorts of small chunky shapes that flow out to the North Atlantic Sea. Within the icebergs we saw those dark lines of black volcanic ash that are effectively time lines like lines within a tree.
Out to the black volcanic ash beach these icebergs get bashed and broken up into wonderful pieces of crystal clear chunks of ice. The icy pieces of flotsam and jetsam get pushed up onto the wave’s edges and lie around like sparking diamonds, brilliant against the black ash sand. It was one of the most visually stunning scenes I have ever seen, it was if I was in a dream scape wandering along the beach with the natural contrasts of black and white at my feet, while ominous grey rain clouds brewed above my head.
We found the capital city was very charming, easy to walk around but very expensive!
The main building’s architecture are sympathetic to the natural beauty of the country. The large elongated mountainous volcano shaped Hallgrimskirkja church towers towards the heavens with its black basaltic inspired columns found at the Svartifoss waterfall.
The Harper Conference centre at the Harbour is built to represent the shape of balsaltic columns and smooth hexagonal ‘church floor’ stones that are found throughout Iceland where rapid cooling of the volcanic lava flow has occurred.
We based ourselves at the rather warm and comfortable Icelandair Hotel in Vik for a few nights as a base from which to explore.
Throughout the area there are desolate black sand beaches with great examples of basalt columns, dramatic cliff sides and rocks jutting up out of the sea that look like mummified trolls.
We drove through expansive lava fields where coverings of thick green woolly moss have taken hundreds of years to grow and cover the jagged rocks with a lumpy bumpy fertile carpet.
There are hundreds of volcanoes covering Iceland, but due to low lying clouds we didn’t get to see the famous and rather difficult to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull volcano that caused air travel misery back in 2010.
We opted for the comfort package costing 55 euros each. We lathered our faces with moisturising silica and clay masks, while we sipped on beers as our cheeks glowed from the 39°C geothermal milky blue waters that we luxuriated under. The Blue Lagoon at Grindavik is large and mysteriously steamy enough that you can find your own space to sink into and away from the huge crowds that visit here. Visiting an outdoor spa in the rain doesn’t sound like much fun, but the cold water from rain above was really quite cooling as we bobbed around looking for hotter hotspots in the water.
We did enjoy our week away in Iceland and we would have enjoyed getting out to explore a lot more without all the torrential dismal rain! The northern phenomenon that is the Aurora Borealis were elusive during our visit, but to be honest we would have been happy with some bright light in the daytime yet alone green shimmering light at night, but this gives us a great reason to return!