Iceland

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of the living.” – Miriam Beard

Some places leave a lasting impression on the visitor and, for me, Iceland is one such place.

Clean fresh air, steam rising out of the ground, subtle colours in the landscape, black rock, ice and barely discernible roads are some of the things that spring to mind when I think of Iceland.

Here’s what I mean:

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Looking down on the coastal town of Seyðisfjörður on Iceland’s east coast. My chum and I arrived by air into the capital, Reykjavik, but left on a ferry from here, bound for the Faroe Islands.

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All over the country you see steam rising out of the ground, and in this case it was coming up out of a river. They get hot water for free in Iceland, thanks to all the geothermal energy, and it left my skin feeling very soft although unfortunately tainted by the stench of rotten eggs.

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Crater lake at Landmannalaugar. The shades of green and brown were striking.

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Curious textures and colours in the rocks at Landmannalaugar.

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Black sand, black rock, there’s a lot of it about in Iceland.

We drove right across the middle of the country, from the south-west to the north coast. This route is closed for about 9 months of the year over the autumn, winter and spring, but even when it’s open it’s not exactly obvious where the roads are:

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Er…which way do we go?

We drove for miles over rough black rock, seeing very few other vehicles or signs of habitation. I found it surprisingly beautiful.

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It’s a good idea to squeeze as much fuel into your tank as possible before setting off across the middle of Iceland; there are no petrol stations on this route.

We had to cross quite a few rivers, which I found both terrifying and exhilarating (I wasn’t doing the driving). The key is to avoid still water, which can be deceptively deep, and aim for the rough looking bits where there are rocks just beneath the surface.

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About to cross…

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Crossing….

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Phew – made it!

Although there was a lot of black rock around, some bits of the country were very green:

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Sunny cemetery with little turf-roofed church.

Perhaps one of the things people expect when they go to Iceland is ice, particularly in the form of glaciers.

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Vatnajökull ice cap – the biggest in Europe, going by volume.

One thing about glaciers is that although they look nice and white when you see them at a distance, close-up they’re really quite dirty.

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Me on a glacier, with grubby rocks stuck inside the ice.

Another thing I wasn’t expecting about glaciers is the way they make eery creaking noises. I noticed this particularly in Norway once where I was in a hollow next to a glacier surrounded by mountains. The creaking noises, along with the sound of tumbling ice, echoed round the valley in a manner that fairly set my senses on edge.

At the foot of the Vatnajökull ice cap was the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, a blue lake of floating bergs that had calved off the glacier:

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Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon with floating ice sculptures.

I believe many of the bergs melt in the lagoon, but I saw some drifting off under the bridge along the coast road out into the North Altlantic Ocean:

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Icebergs off to the seaside for their holidays.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Iceland twice, and on both trips I was helping out as field assistant to a geology chum of mine. Amongst other rock-related activities we went to look at some columnar basalt.

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I felt as if I were standing in Middle-earth looking at this scene. J R R Tolkein apparently drew inspiration for The Lord of the Rings from the Icelandic sagas, and studied Old Icelandic at university, although whether he ever visited Iceland himself I don’t know.

I hope I get the chance to go back to Iceland again, and if you’re thinking you might fancy a trip there yourself I would highly recommend it.

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Clouds over Iceland

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Neighbourhood Watch.

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Categories: Churchyards, Holidays, Iceland, Inspiration, Photography, Sheep, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “Iceland

  1. What an amazing place to visit! I don’t fancy driving across rivers though!

    • It is amazing, unlike anywhere else I’ve been. I think if I went back I would be tempted to have a go at driving across a river, although I expect I’d be a nervous wreck while I did it. I’d have to not think about the stories I’ve heard of people being washed away in their vehicles by the force of the water.

  2. Brilliant so envious Mandy and I intend to go for my retirement holiday – A great taster – thanks

    • I’m so pleased for you, and for your readers (I’m assuming you’ll be bringing back some wonderful photos for your blog?). Have a great time when it comes!

  3. I’ve never been to Iceland but I’ve always wanted to and your fantastic pictures have cemented that desire! It’s beautiful. I hope you’ll do a follow up post of the cakes you ate :) Though maybe they were too expensive!

    • I hope you get to go one day, it’s a wonderful country. Can you believe I have no pictures of food whatsoever? I must say, it wasn’t the best place in terms of culinary treats, perhaps because we weren’t in Reykjavic for long. As for expense, it was indeed pricey but I think Norway’s worse.

  4. It is very beautiful and your pictures are fantastic! Your trips there must have been so interesting since you got to really see Iceland. I think I’d like to go there too…

    • Thanks Meg, it is a fascinating place, and I got to see quite a lot of it courtesy of my chum who knows it well and had his own vehicle there. I don’t know anyone who’s been and not enjoyed it.

  5. I’m so delighted to see you post this today of all days. I leave for Iceland on a solo trip on Tuesday and your photos have just reminded me why!

    • Yippee! I’m delighted for you (and a very little bit envious :-)). Are you going hiking? I hope you have a fantastic time, as I’m sure you will. This will be a great time of year to go, too.

  6. It wasn’t till I saw your comment that I realised, Lorna. No cake! And I hadn’t even missed it, so fascinated was I by the landscape. Pretty spectacular to see in those circumstances. :) Great post.

    • Thanks Jo, I confess I did have some delicious pancakes but I have no photographic evidence, sadly. It is indeed a spectacular landscape.

  7. What gorgeous photos…and how brave you are to travel through water and over the black road…I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Iceland through your eyes.

    • Thanks Linda, but it was my chum who was the brave one, making the decisions about which bits of rivers to drive across. I think I need to go back and take some food photos so that I can do a proper post with edibles in.

  8. I am knocked out by the softness of the colours.

  9. Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures with us. Iceland looks like a cool place to visit. I would love to go there one time. You pick the most unique and interesting places to visit. I need to ask, where there teashops there?

    • Thanks Darlene, I was very fortunate to go there but I don’t recall a single teashop. I’m sure there must be lots of cafes in Reykjavik but I was mostly out in the sticks where finding something to eat other than hamburgers and pizzas was a challenge. I expected there to be lots of excellent fish restaurants but it didn’t seem to be the case. Again, I think Reykjavik has such things but outside the city there didn’t appear to be much choice.

  10. Great post and stunning photo’s, thanks Lorna.

  11. Wow Lorna, what a wonderful photo’s!! Love all of them but especially the once of the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon…breathtakingly beautiful! Never knew Iceland was so beautiful! Thanks for sharing :)

  12. Just stunning. Visiting Iceland is on my bucket list!

    • I hope you get to go there one day, it’s a fabulous place. I would guess choices are widening all the time, particularly in Reykjavik, but I struggled to find vegetarian food. They don’t grow a lot in the way of fruit and vegetables and there’s no culture of plant based eating, but perhaps that’s changing now and will change in the future.

  13. Your photos are stunning, Lorna. My daughter has been to Iceland and she fell in love with the place.

  14. I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland! Your amazing photos and descriptions just renew my wish! What a wonderful landscape. I’d love to sit on a glacier and hear it creaking! What an experience. Another reason why I’d love to visit is to see the northern lights, but for that I think the best time is spring/autumn. Bathing in naturally heated water sounds great, but not the sulphuric aroma! Were any volcanoes active at the time of your visit?

    • I think you’d love it, Jo. Lots of rocks! I saw the northern lights while I was there, up on the north coast. I had gone to bed but got dragged out to look at them and it was well worth getting up for. There were no volcanoes doing anything impressive when I was there, but I’d love to witness an eruption. It’s also supposed to be a great place for whale watching but I went on a 3 hour trip and saw nothing whatsoever. On the up side, there was complimentary hot chocolate.

  15. What an amazing trip! Id love to travel to iceland, visit some of my pottery friends there and go to the blue lagoon. Are there any tea shops in the area? How does one find a geology chum to get involved in field trips!? Im obviously missing an opportunity here…

    • I hope you get to do it one day, Anne, I’m sure it would inspire your creativity. The colours in the landscape are so beautiful. I didn’t find any tea shops but then I wasn’t really in the right sorts of places. We did pop in to the Blue Lagoon briefly and there was a cafe there. I’m sure there are lots of them in Reykjavik but I didn’t have time to look, unfortunately. I found my geology chum while doing a geology course at university, but I daresay you could ferret one out elsewhere if you were determined enough.

  16. Certainly one of the coolest climates with a breathtaking beauty and (somewhat) beautiful barrenness. I loved those pastel blue ice sculptures riding out of the most. It makes me think of Norse gods and indestructible power drawn from those cool waters. So stunning indeed…

    • That’s it exactly, beautiful barrenness, although not quite as barren as it looks if you get down to the minibeast level. All the lava makes for a pretty fertile landscape. You can just imagine Vikings landing there, there is a power about the place, right enough.

  17. Breathtaking. I could almost feel the cool clean air by just looking at the pictures. Ahhhhhhh.

  18. Hello Lorna, for one dreadful moment I thought you’d posted about a supermarket…

    The columnar basalt is amazing – it looks as if it is holding the hill up and in places has been crushed by the effort. One of my lifes ambitions is to see an erupting volcano and your pictures have made me want to go to Iceland to do that!

    BTW, were the tea and cakes good there?

    • Hi Finn, I think it’s possible that I’ve been to the supermarket the same number of times as I’ve been to the country, it’s not an institution I’m very familiar with.

      If you like rocks, Iceland is a great place to go. It would have been great to see an erupting volcano.

      The tea and cakes were fairly non-existent I’m afraid, but that was probably because I wasn’t in Reykjavik much. The only time I had anything decent on that front was during a visit to someone’s house when I was served with excellent homemade pancakes and coffee. They’re not very big on tearooms, or indeed varied cuisine, at least outside the capital.

  19. Beautiful!

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