Iceland – the land of glaciers and volcanoes
In the autumn of 2009, I visited Iceland for a couple of weeks. The actual reason I went there was a conference and a course on statistics, but who could fly to Iceland and just sit indoors all the time? So me and a couple of friends took our backpacks, put on our hiking boots and went for a tour around the island.
We travelled by bus and by foot. Iceland’s population comes up to about 320,000, of which two thirds live in the greater Reykjavík-area; thus, the rest of the country is wonderfully empty (apart from all the sheep and the horses, of course). We lived in our tents, cooked on portable stoves and enjoyed the scenery. I took a lot of photos (of course), of which I’d like to share a few.
I don’t believe in magic, but this trip was unbelievable!
This surreal landscape, only about an hour from Reykjavík, is created by hot springs… This was the first photo I took on the bus hike, and it’s still one of my favourites!
We spent the first night right next to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon next to Vatnajökull. It just so happened (we had no idea) that the annual fireworks show by the lagoon took place that night, so we got to enjoy an interesting mixture of ancient landscapes of ice and a relatively young tradition of fire. The elements literally were brought together as you can see in this picture.
The night was windless and cold, and the beautiful hues of blue/green in the ice were a wonderful last sight to see before we dove into our sleeping bags and deep sleep.
The glacier lagoon was full of life – many different species of bird, loads of seals, and fish. This harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) seemed to enjoy the ice-cold water, and had probably been brought there by the huge amounts of fish.
We spent the following night in the town of Höfn on the SE coast. It might sound surprising (it was to us), but it’s really difficult to find a place to put up one’s tent in Iceland – because the land that isn’t inhabited by humans is allocated to sheep and horses. This beautiful horse came up over the hill when I was taking an evening walk before going to the camping area where we stayed.
The following day we took a bus to the village of Reykjahlíð and hiked along lake Mývatn to Dimmuborgir, where we spent the night. This café (Vogafjós Café) looked wonderfully solitary in the evening sun.
The hot springs help paint the landscape a beautiful green.
After Dimmuborgir, we took a bus through the central, deserted part of the country to Gullfoss waterfall. It took longer than expected to get there, since the minibus we travelled in broke after hours on rough roads. Another bus came to pick us up and eventually took us to Gullfoss, where we spent the night. We were greeted by a beautiful rainbow, and spent the evening doing photography by the water.
The low and dark clouds helped create an atmosphere of natural power and drama – it was a beautiful, but short, night.
It was a rainy evening, but fortunately the people working in the café were nice and served us hot chocolate between photography sessions by the waterfall.
After a night by Gullfoss, we walked towards the geysir Strokkur next to the Hvítá River. All along the main road, Road 1, we walked past many horses and sheep (and occasionally cows) on the fields. This one lived next to Vatnajökull, the mighty glacier and seemed to be enjoying the windy and sunny life it lead.
After a day of hiking we got to Strokkur, one of the most famous geysirs in Iceland. It erupts every 6-8 minutes, throwing hot water 20 metres into the air. We got to experience it quite a few times: we spent about 6 hours in the area before we took a bus back to Reykjavík.
At the time, it was hard to understand all the amazing geological events we got to experience during our trip around Iceland. I feel very lucky to first of all be able to travel to astounding places like this; but also to record the look of them, and catch a glimpse of what the place means to me. After looking at the pictures many times, the amazingness of it all has finally started to sink in. I hope you’ve enjoyed following me on a trip around a place we should all visit!