As a nature lover Iceland has been on my bucket-list for a very long time. Expectations were high as we finally flew to Reykjavik.
- Did you know that Icelanders are very chauvinistic? They want to keep their language as pure as possible so they keep away from foreign words and phrases.
- They also have their own breed of horses, the Icelander. No other horses may be introduced on the island to keep the breed pure.
- And did you know that Napoleon has never been here? Therefore there are only a few last names (Napoleon was the one that decides that everyone needed a last name). All others have as surname the name of their father with the suffix "son" (son) or “dottir” (daughter).
The Blue Lagoon
After arriving we picked up our rental car, and we immediately set sail for the first stop, The Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a hotspot in a lava field. The water is extremely salty (12.5%) and comes out in 1800m deep wells, and then has a temperature of 70 ° C. The soil consists of a type of white clay that would be very good for the skin, for instance as a treatment of psoriasis. Take a bath so you can start your trip completely relaxed.
Land of waterfalls, geysers and other natural beauty
We continue our journey and pass one natural wonder after another.
The first stop is Pingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir). This national park is in fact a large prolapse where you can clearly see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (geological boundary between the North American and European continent). Nature is really stunningly beautiful. The water in rivers and lakes is so clear and perfect to take a sip.
Also in history this area was very important. It used to be the place where every summer was held a big meeting to settle feuds, to marry, to conduct business and the right to speak, to execute people .... In the year 1000 was decided here that Christianity became the official religion. Nowadays it is the place for important historical events. In 1944, for example, Icelandic independence was proclaimed here.
On the way to the geysers we pass Kerid. Kerid is an explosion crater that is filled with the bluest water you've ever seen.
And then we finally arrive at one of the main attractions of Iceland, the geysers. Iceland is called a hotspot (like Hawaii), which is an area with an above normal magma production. These high temperatures and exceptional underground activity explain many of the wonderful natural phenomena.
Iceland lost one of its most famous geysers due to pollution. Previously people threw detergent in the water to let it burst on command. Because of this it bursts now only one or two times per day. However, the nearby Strokkur bursts approximately every 10 minutes and shoots from 10 to 20 meters high. It's really spectacular to see the water boiling, creating a large bell and, eventually, spray meters high.
Just past the Geysers we pass Gullfoss. This is one of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls. The falling water caused large clouds of fine mist, so most of the time you see a beautiful rainbow above the waterfall, which explains its name, Golden Waterfall.
Along the way we stay in Gasthof Mosfell Hella. Like most hotels here, it doesn’t have a warm atmosphere. Everything is pretty bare and cold, but it is very neat.
The next day we start anew with a visit to a waterfall. The Seljelandsfoss is a narrow but very high waterfall. Be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes to stay stable on the slippery path that runs behind the waterfall. Stroll around on the mountain and find the Paradisarhellir or paradise cave.
How to drive through a river?
After the last stop you pass a pretty rough area and you have many rivers to cross over. If you rent a car, they will explain how to cross a river. However, we (read, my husband) were a little too confident! We enjoyed the cross so much that we decided to do it again. Not smart, because when reversing the base boasted so much water that it was slicing underneath the car.
Fortunately, the following waterfall made us forget this accident. The Skogarfoss is a 60 meter high waterfall.
According to legend, Colonel Prasi has a treasure of gold hidden under the waterfall. Many have searched, but no one has found it.
In Vik you should visit the black sandy beach. From the beach you have a view of a number of high cliffs into the sea.
Legend claims that these are the remains of a three-master drawn into the sea by trolls. However, they were surprised by the dawn and turned into stone.
In Nupsstadur you can visit a tiny turf church from the 17th century. And we mean really tiny. The church is just 5 meters to 2.5 meters.
You've noticed it maybe, but I'm crazy about legends. So, the next stop was also a must. Laufskalavördur is a hill dotted with innumerable cairns (piles of stones). Nobody knows why, but everyone who comes here for the first time is supposed to put a stone on the hill in order to stay protected from bad luck.
Kirkjubaejarklaustur was long one of the largest farms in the region. Now it is a large village. It owes its name to a Benedictine monastery that stood here from 1186 to 1550. Two nuns were buried on the mountain. They were burned because they had evaded the monastic rules. One had stopped men and the other said unkind things about the Pope.
The lake nearby is called Systravatn, Lake of the sisters. It owes its name to two nuns who always came to bathe here.
One day one saw a hand reaching out from the water with a beautiful gold ring. When they wanted to get hold of the ring, they were pulled under water by the hand. Since then nothing has been heard from.
Glaciers and icebergs
Iceland is of course also known for its glaciers. Vatnajökull, is, after the one in Greenland, the largest glacier on earth. It's about 8100 km² and over 2500 years old. The ice is about 900 meters thick and moves about 800 meters a year.
After the glacier you drive through a huge, desolate sands coil that was formed by glacial rivers. In 1974, they finally managed to build bridges here that were not washed away. In 1996, however, it went wrong. By the eruption of Vatnajökull (the volcano that a few years ago spread huge ash clouds) emerged large quantities of meltwater. That mass of water lifted the glacier around the lake, causing all the water to leave the lake and creating a huge wave. At its peak 45000 m³ of water per second and ice ran towards the sea. All that remained were ice blocks the size of a 6-story building. Stop to see the monument of this disaster.
After this area, however, you come to Jokulsarlon, a beautiful glacial lake. For me this was the highlight of the trip. I've never seen such a beautiful landscape. Here they filmed the openings scene of the Bond film "A View to a Kill."
The water is beautifully colored, giant icebergs float around and with some luck you may see a seal swim by. Definitely book a ride on an amphibious vehicle. Be sure to wear warm clothes because it's really freezing!
After this natural beauty we head to Reykjavik. After several days in the wild nature even a city like Reykjavik appears busy and densely populated.
If you can't get enough of it, read Janet's post on 40 unique things to do in Iceland.
If you like to hike, here's a great itinerary to plan for the Laugavegur Trail.
Not to be missed
In Iceland you absolutely must take a ride on an Icelander. At various places you can book tours. Even if you've never been on a horse, you can join. These sturdy horses are so calm and gentle that even an inexperienced rider can easily take a trip.
From Iceland it’s just a short trip to Greenland. Since it is not often a destination on its own, you should definitely take the opportunity to make a day trip. There is only snow, occasionally enlivened by a village with brightly colored houses. The landscape is really so desolate that I understand why there is a huge drinking problem among the local Inuit (Eskimo is apparently an insult).
If you are here during the right season (summer), you should definitely visit Olafsvik and book a whale safari.
Another little tip: you really do not need to drive around the complete island. If you just do the south coast, you've seen the most beautiful things. You can easily see all this beauty in a week.
I find gastronomy and charming hotels very important during the holidays. That’s a bit of a problem in Iceland, but the overwhelming beauty of nature makes you forget this fact. Iceland is one of my favorite destinations.µ
I visited Iceland in summer. In case you want to experience Iceland in winter, you have to read Rachel Elizabeths post. Travelblogger Katie got lucky, she saw the northern light. Read all about her trip to Iceland over here.
And you don't feel like reading? Check this nice video Iceland in a nutshell.
Have your ever been to Iceland? Share your experiences!