The old cliché
The saying goes that “Iceland is green and Greenland is icy”. But after the events of the 2010 eruptions and the fact that the country is literally located in the Arctic circle, how can this be true? Well after visiting, I have to say Iceland is probably the most beautiful country I have ever been to. And yes. It’s green. Very, very green.
I travelled to Iceland in the summer of 2015 with a group from school. We arrived in Iceland’s Keflavík airport after a 2 1/2-hour flight from Luton. Keflavik is Located in the ‘newer’ western part of the island, meaning the terrain in this area is extremely rocky with little vegetation. This is the Iceland I was expecting, grey skies, cold weather and very barren (although, still better than Luton).
From the Airport we ventured to a rift between tectonic plates, sulphur pits (would not recommend) and then an all you can eat pizza buffet at a nearby fishing village (?). It was quite a surreal morning. However, I knew that the day would pick up in the afternoon as we were visiting somewhere I had always wanted to go. The Blue Lagoon.
The lagoon itself was amazing, providing an oasis in the rocky desert. The water was a vibrant sci-fi blue that looked out of place contrasted to the surrounding terrain and steam billowed out from the water in an almost industrial fashion. However, there was some bad news. The changing rooms were kept some distance from the lagoon. This meant we had to walk outside in the freezing temperature to reach it. Nonetheless, It didn’t matter how cold it was outside, the lagoon was kept at a perfect temperature thanks to the natural lava field it is located within. Another nice addition were the buckets of volcanic mud in the lagoon which were supposedly great for the skin. As we explored all the lagoon had to offer, it became clear that the owners were trying to milk the spa properties of the area as much as possible. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing.
Hot Tub Hostel
For cost and ease reasons we stayed at a hostel. The hostel itself was brilliant. Amazing food, great rooms and the pièce de résistance…..a hot tub. Regardless of the amazing glaciers, waterfalls, mountains, geyser’s, and all other natural wonders Iceland had to offer, the best part of the day was getting back to the hostel and having a dip in the hot tub. It was like having our very own blue lagoon in the back garden
Now as good as the hot tub was, the hostel was still a hostel. Meaning anyone could just walk in. This became apparent one day when my friend Dan was in the kitchen. He was simply getting a glass of water one afternoon when a middle-aged man walked in. This in itself was not a shock. However, something very odd then happened. Instead of making some food or getting a drink, he began stripping completely naked. Dan thought this was a little odd, but he was too polite to say anything. His mindset was quickly changed when he turned around and saw the man, birthday suit and all, approaching him as if to say “Hi, how are you?”. Dan ran for his life. The man was eventually escorted off the premises (after putting some clothes on that is).
A whole lot of foss
The most beautiful part of Iceland is definitely the waterfalls that litter the coastline. We visited quite a few during our time on the Island. With this being said, the only correct way to show them off has to be a ranking system…
Faxi – 6/10 small, not very powerful, a bit of a disappointment compared to the other entrants
Seljalandsfoss – 8/10 one of the most unique waterfalls we saw thanks to the ability to walk behind it
Skógafoss – 9/10 A huge tower of water that’s height provides great views of the North-Atlantic ocean
Gullfoss – 10/10 The largest and most powerful of all the waterfalls we saw, extremely impressive
We were guided round Iceland by our very enthusiastic and sheep hating guide, George (not 100% sure what his actual name was but Goerge will do for the purpose of this blog). What George didn’t know about geological landforms and the negative effects of sheep on the island wasn’t worth knowing. The best tour we had with him was along the southern, ‘Gold’ coast.
One of the standout parts was the surreal looking black-sand beaches that would not look out of place in a Star Trek film. Vík í Mýrdal is the picture on the left and the soon to be infamous puffin bay is on the right.
The reason for Puffin bay’s infamy stems from my friend Hamish’s GoPro. He took one with him on the trip take photos and videos (should also be worth mentioning it had a buoyant handle). We thought we would get a cool video with the GoPro in the water. He placed it into the sand close to the shore and pressed play. I mean it was only going to be there for a minute, it would be fine, right? Nope, it was not fine. When he went to get it back a wave of figurative and literal panic washed over him. It was gone. Lost forever. A £200+ GoPro with countless memories never to be returned….or so we thought.
A few weeks after coming back from the trip, Hamish got an email from the school saying his GoPro had been found. Turns out it had washed up further down the shore and been picked up by a German school trip. The students took it back to Germany, looked through the photos and found our school based on the hoodies we were wearing. They then shipped the GoPro back to him a few weeks later, free of charge! None of us could really believe it.
Looking through the footage, the GoPro continued to film until the battery ran out. I did try to contact GoPro about this story but they were having none of it. It had been lost at sea, travelled all over Europe and stayed in 100% perfect condition. But apparently, this didn’t make a good story…….
The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull ice cap eruptions caused mass disruption over the airways of Europe. The glacier is one of the smallest in Iceland but it was still the most eyeopening thing I experienced whilst there. The glacier itself was eery. It seemed almost alive due to the physical presence it commanded upon the landscape. We didn’t get the chance to walk on the actual glacier but standing next to it was impressive enough. Five years on from the eruptions it was still largely covered in ash with the occasional ice blue streak emerging from the bleakness. The most damning thing to hear was that the glacier was melting at a rate of TWO football pitches, a year. When we were still 10 minutes out from the front of the glacier our guide told us that two years ago when he visited it started ‘here’.
This was the last trip we made on the island and was a stark reminder that as spectacular as Iceland is, it may not stay this way forever.
I could carry on talking about all the other stories and wonders I saw whilst in Iceland, but I fear I would be stuck typing for weeks. There really are too many amazing and interesting things to say. I have attached below a video which highlights some of the other stuff we got up to. Including our trip to the beautiful Þingvellir national park (starting at 4:16 into the video), Geysir (5:58), the Westman Islands (18:33) and Reykjavik (23:43). Some of the videos have not fared well during compression but most should be fine.