pinterest verify Globerovers Travel Photography: Iceland - Land of Fire an Ice

Iceland - Land of Fire an Ice

The Republic of Iceland, located in the North Atlantic Ocean, has a population of almost 320,000 with Reykjavík as its largest city where approximately two thirds of the population

live. Reykjavík is a modern town with an advanced infrastructure and when you're here, it sure doesn't feel like some far-off tiny island known for its fire and ice. As soon as you leave the highways and byways of Reykjavík, you will quickly sink into the tranquility of the country-side where the fierce natural past of Iceland becomes evident. Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with the eastern part resting on the North American plate and the western part on the Eurasian plate, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a massive scale which has defined its landscape over the past 5 million years. In fact, in the Þingvellir National Park you can see the huge divide between the two plates which was formed as the plates moved apart, and is still moving. Volcanic activity - that's why you should be here!

A good start to your adventure in Iceland is a few days in the lovely capital, Reykjavík. From here, take Route 1 (the Ring-Road) and make your way all around the island of Iceland. Recommended places for staying over along the Ring-Road (anti-clockwise) would include Vik (in the far south), Höfn and Neskaupstaður or Seyðisfjörður along the east coast, Mývatn and Akureyri or Húsavík (pop into the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Húsavík), in the north, and then either down the central plateau back to Reykjavík, or up to the north west to Vestfirðir in the Westfjords region.

A highly recommended route for a 10-day trip around Island is to cross through central Iceland from Akureyri to Reykjavík via Hvitar Lake, Strokkur geysir, and the Langjökull glacier. Drive up to Langjökull glacier for a closeup experience of this massive glacier. At the northern tip of Langjökull glacier stop at Hveravellir for a dip in the natural hot springs in a small stream which leads out from some active thermal vents.  When you are done with the Langjökull glacier, head south to Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfalls.  From Gullfoss go west to the Pingvellir National Park (Þingvellir in Icelandic) and back to Reykjavík.

Around Reykjavík make sure to spend a full day at the Blue Lagoon - Iceland’s premier geothermal outside natural spa. From Reykjavík take a pleasant daytrip up to the villages of Akranes and Borgarnes.

For a 14-day trip around Iceland you may want to head west from Akureyri to the Westfjords rather than coming down through central Iceland via the Langjökull glacier. The Westfjords is large peninsula in northwestern Iceland known for its small villages, fjords, cliffs, breeding birds, and mountainous coastline.  Stop at the The Drangajökull glacier which is located in the north of the peninsula. Drive carefully as the roads of the Westfjords are quite winding and somewhat dangerous, especially in winter when roads may even be closed.  

Among the top must-visit locations in Iceland are the following:
  1. The Blue Lagoon geothermal outside natural spa.
  2. Waterfalls such as Gullfoss, Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Svartifoss, Stjornarfoss, and Dettifoss.  Look out for a small but high waterfall between Kirkjugólf and Stjornarfoss which on most days flows upwards rather than downwards. You may wonder why...
  3. Geysir Hot Springs for the geysir which gave us the the name geysir
  4. Vatnajokull National Park and the Jökulsárlón glacier. Check out the nearby black beach where you may see chunks of iceberg floating in the see and washed out on the beach. A wonderful sight!
  5. Latrabjarg Bird Cliffs. During the summer breeding season you will see millions of seabirds including puffins on these remote cliffs.
  6. Landmannalaugar - natural geothermal hot springs in southern Iceland which is surrounded by wilderness and snow covered mountains near the volcano Hekla. 
  7. Pingvellir National Park where you can clearly see the divide between the the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. 
  8. Snaefellsjokull National Park: a 700,000 year old stratovolcano with a glacier covering its summit.
  9. Lake Myvatn Area which offers many natural geothermal hot springs, extinct volcanoes, and the Myvatn lake.  Also check out the Hverfjall Crater, Dimmuborgir, and the Krafla area which is the site of a massive volcanic eruption known as the Krafla Fires of 1975-1984 which spread lava over a large area.
  10. Walk right up to the massive Svínafellsjökull glacier for a closeup experience. 
  11. Watch out for the lovely Icelandic Horses, especially along the south east and south west coastlines. 
  12. The incredible black beaches and dangerous cliffs on the small peninsula of Dyrhólaey near Vik in the south.

A few practical tips when visiting Iceland:
  1. Renting a 4-wheel-drive (4WD) landrover is a must. Standard cars are strictly forbidden from leaving the major Ring-Road which means you are not allowed to enter the rough dirt roads which often lead to the best spots!  So, while a 4WD don't come cheap (as the Icelanders just love to rip off tourists), it is a must. Pay the extra Icelandic Krona (although you likely will be quoted in Euros) and get the right wheels;

  2. If you travel on a limited budget, then take the bus, which is the better way - but then you must take it slow, hike and camp all over the island. This is really the best way to see and experience Iceland. While a 4WD allows you to quickly and comfortably see the island, you will be missing the best parts which are only accessible by hiking and sleeping far away from the Ring-Road. So get on the bus in Reykjavík and get off at about 5 or 6 different spots around the Ring-Road.  Hike a few days and get back on the bus to the next spot. Continue bus-hopping and hiking until you get all around the island.

  3. Unless you go between October and about June (winter), book accommodation well ahead of time. While visiting in winter should be spectacular, the warmer months are much easier to get around. July / Aug would be the best, and really the only time for camping - so book huts well in advance on the camping trails... otherwise you just may have to set up your tent.
  4. Many tourists skip the the interior which mainly consists of a plateau characterised by sand fields, mountains and glaciers. They do it because they don't have a 4WD and because its some rough driving. This is an amazing part of Iceland.
  5. You would think that with the weak Icelandic Kronen Iceland is now cheap? Wrong, the Icelanders see all tourists as money bait and now charges in Euro Avoid the many tourist traps such as the overly expensive snowmobile rides on the glaciers, glacier walks, and boat rides. There's enough to do-on-your-own than to fall for the rip-off organized travel "adventures". Iceland is not a cheap destinations and it seems as if the local see all tourists as goldmines! The locals are very nice but they smile wider the more they can get away with as much of your money as possible. What a shame! Negotiate or walk away if the deal is clearly a riff-off.
  6. Be very careful all over Iceland. The roads can be very narrow, elevated along ditches, next to steep cliffs, and shrouded in fog. Dirt roads can be dangerous. Stay clear of the cliff edges and be careful around  glaciers and volcanic active areas.
Don't think twice about visiting Iceland. Its an amazing place.

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