Tuesday, 14 January 2014

THE ISLAND OF ICE AND FIRE - part II




After first few days in Reykjavik, impressions of Iceland are so good that I am already thinking about going back as soon as possible. Looks like some kind connection emerged between us, some chemistry, perhaps even emotion. The desire for further research is growing incredibly. Even those consequences of " fitting in " – crazy  entertainment on weekends with all its adds, doesn`t fall hard. You are ready and eager to discover why experienced travelers considered Iceland as one of the most beautiful countries in the world .
The most known route in Iceland, famous " Golden Circle ", starts with National Park Thingvellir. The ride to the park could take some time, because you`ll almost certainly experience the "shock " caused by brilliant scenery. Simply, you have to stop your car dozen times to enjoy the surroundings. Your eyes aren`t  accustomed to such unusual and brilliant scenery.

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir is one of those places which makes Iceland so special. Place located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, on the border between  America and Europe. It is considered to be the place of first parliament in the world, the birthplace of Icelandic nation. So, geological, historical and cultural significance. Enough, from where I`m standing. For all these reasons, had been declared as National Park in 1930. Also, it is under protection of UNESCO. Walk through the rifts between the North American and Eurasian geotectonic plates causes in man a sense of pride, just for being  in such incredible place. It crossed my mind that only few people were here. However, this is a " distant and cold " Iceland.

Between America and Europe

The settling of Iceland began in AD 874. The first resident was Ingolfur Arnarson with his wife Hallveig. He built his homestead in, and gave name to Reykjavik. Afterwords, colonization continues, mainly in the Reykjavik area. Newcomers, Nordics and Celts were needed a place where voice of the people can be heard, place for socializing and punishment for disobedience. Thus, in AD 930 the first parliament in the world called Althing was assembled and held its sessions at Thingvellir until 1799. In the area of ​​Thingvellir National Park, there are several impressive waterfalls, church, lake Thingvallavatn with place called Silfra – the best location for diving in Iceland and among the top five in the world. Here you have the opportunity to dive between two geotectonic plates with water visibility to 100 meters.

Silfra ( www.dive.is )

40 minute drive from Thinvellir to the east is an area of geothermal activity with the main attraction, geysers  “Geysir “and “Strokkur”. Geysir is the most famous geyser in the world. Inactive for almost one hundred years, with a few sporadic short-term eruptions, caused by increased seismic activity of the area. There are some records of spitting water up to 170 meters in height. Today, the major attraction for tourists is younger geyser called “Strokkur”, which ejects water up to 30 meters in height .

The eruption of Strokkur

Another natural wonder of " Golden Circle " is Gullfoss waterfall , only 10 minute drive from Geysir. Gullfoss or The Golden Waterfall is double cascade waterfall on the river Hvita, with average flow rate of 140 m3/s. Walking near waterfall shows you how much nature can be powerful, dramatic and beautiful.

Golden waterfall - Gullfoss

Slowly putting a puzzle together about beauty of the island on the edge of the Arctic Circle. All we have seen so far would be probably enough  for average travelers.  But, this is Iceland folks! There is much more natural gems yet to be seen. Okay, we saw the " main stream ", a good part of tourists  stops here. The majority of travelers to Iceland visit only “Golden Circle”, Reykjavik and surroundings. But now is getting interesting, and there is much more attraction waiting for you. Wherever you decide to go back to  Reykjavik, you`ll come across on a new attraction, some new scenery, landscape ... In the southwest of Iceland there are large number of active volcanic systems and rivers, formed by melting glaciers which covers volcanoes. Rivers form dramatic canyons and make huge problems to the locals when volcanoes erupted. This area is famous for its volcanic fields, areas covered with petrified lava and leguminous plant species. Although new in tourism business, Icelanders assess their chances very good. Tourist information boards about attractions, placed all over the country, prove this fact. Often surprise you with the instructions to visit new attractions, you never heard for.

Keriđ volcano with the lake

The first thing when you become aware of Icelands beauty will be a thought that you won`t have enough time to see everything you wish for. It`s very  important to have a good plan and awareness  that there`s still much more to be seen. The good side of the whole story is that during high season practically there`s no darkness. So, all depends on the physical endurance of visitors. In other words, no sleep, you're in Iceland!

One of the attractions of the island is driving on gravel roads. These roads are made of volcanic gravel, in most cases. You can find them  in the areas of permanent seismic and volcanic activities, practically on the live ground.

Gravel road , Reykjanes

There are strict instructions on how to use these roads. It is recommended to use a 4x4 vehicle, but it`s possible to use the standard one with additional precaution. Such roads are in the southern part of the peninsula Reykjanes, in the area of nature reserve Reykjanesfolkvangur.

Kleifarvatn lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Here you can see dramatic, breathtaking landscapes. Looks like everything else, except planet Earth as we know it. In the nature reserve Reykjanesfolkvangur is Krysuvik,  geothermal area with a large number fumaroles, solfataras, hot water springs and boiling mud.

Krysuvik

In the south western part of Reykjanes is a small town Grindavik, surrounded by black volcanic rocks. The black rocks are sign that we are very close to possibly most visited attraction of Iceland, a geothermal spa " Blue Lagoon". The warm waters are rich in minerals silica and sulfur. Recommended for treatment of skin diseases, especially psoriasis. There`s a bar in the middle of the lagoon which serves a variety of cold drinks and the house special " Blue Lagoon " cocktail.

Blue Lagoon

Lagoon is the ideal remedy for the "return to life" after crazy partying in Reykjavik or after a busy day of touring the gems of Iceland.

Paradise on the edge of the Arctic

Full of impressions, we are ready to move and travel along Route 1 to the north and east of the country .


To be continued ...

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