Friday, 22 November 2013

Iceland August 2013


As a UNESCO City of Literature, Reykjavik “Smokey Bay” emphasises the central position of literature in the city’s and nation’s cultural life, its historical significance and contemporary value. The capital is full of charming wooden houses and narrow streets, quirky shops, city bars, cottage businesses and very tasteful street art.  Whilst we were there every shop window display throughout the whole city celebrated LGBT demonstrating the modern values of Iceland. We didn’t have much time to explore this funky city so we agreed to come back one day!

Beyond Reykjavik we visited the memorable ‘Big Three’ tourist attractions – Gullfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir. Usually I don’t like to be “a tourist like” traveller but it was the best way to visit 3 of the many natural wonders for which Iceland is justly renowned.

Thingvellir National Park – a UNESCO Wold Heritage Site was surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, with its stunning lake, lava landscape (a must see), and rugged chasm walls on the rift where Europe meets America at the Continental Divide. Iceland actually sits on two different tectonic plates, the European one and the north American one. Technically we could argue we walked from Europe to north America while we strolled round the national park.

After the trail walking at the national park we visited the Gullfoss Waterfall. This waterfall is magnificent and many claim it to be the most magnificent of the country’s many.... However its proximity to the other attractions makes it a very busy place. As spectacular as Gullfoss was with its view of the River Hvita and drops of 96ft in two falls, we preferred other more secluded glacier wonders that we would see later in the week.

The third wonder literally took my breath away!!! Geyser, an area where hot springs are in abundance and the most active one is Stokkur (this is the original geyser that all other geysers are named after). Every 10 minutes it is spitting out a high column of boiling water up to 60ft. It was a truly epic scene.

After leaving Reykjavik we had Isafjordur and Akureyri.
Isafjordur with its excellent natural harbour become an important site for the merchants that traded with the farmers and fishermen in the area during and after the 16th century.  Production and export of saltfish was the key to the growth of the town and its status as one of Iceland’s main trading posts.  We strolled through the narrow streets of the old town (Nedstikaupstadur) surrounded by it’s modest wooden houses dating from the late 18th century. As we discovered, the town has got lots of walking trails to offer. I wanted to see the view from above the fjord, so we pecked the highest hill and walked up to reach the stunning views over the valley.

Akureyri is most likely one of my favourite stops in Iceland.

 On arrival we made a decision to travel in to the centre of the high lands. We had about 8 hours, that was plenty to fit in some kind of crazy adventure. We hired a local company Iceak to take us inland on the tour. Off road. It was very wet and wild. We travelled miles and miles across Iceland, we visited places you can only visit by foot or by 4 * 4.

On the lava fields, across the desert, baron volcanic lands that stretched for miles and miles.  As you can see from the photo bellow, Icelandic people can be comedians.

Despite the rainy and foggy weather we had an amazing day exploring the High Lands. We saw several apposing landscapes, from baron volcanic deserts, gorgeous waterfalls, and glacier streamed idyllic valleys.

It’s a fact that it wasn’t the best country I have ever visited. But spooky stories about trolls and the unique Icelandic landscape made my trip memorable and unforgettable.  

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