A brief glimpse of ever-changing Iceland
The ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ doesn’t disappoint. With its stark lunar-like landscape, snow-capped mountains, highly active volcanoes and hissing geysers, Iceland is an ever-changing geological revelation.
Sulphur pools beside the famous Strokkur & Geysir
The smell gets to you before you see anything, then you notice that visibility is getting mistier and suddenly you see a distant plume of water and hear the clicking of a hundred cameras. The original ‘Geysir’ is now in retirement but nearby Strokkur shoots a hot, steamy spout of water 50 feet into the air every few. It’s mesmerising to watchthe bubbling sulphur pool as it teases us to get the perfect photo of that water jet. Wander a few feet away and this bluer than the Blue Lagoon pool sits quietly beautiful, hardly noticed.
Gullfoss ‘Golden Falls’ – Iceland’s most spectacular waterfall
The thundering of the waters makes all conversation impossible, but then, who wants to talk when standing next to one of Europe’s most impressive waterfalls? With its curtain cascade and sheer drop into a very narrow fissure, there’s also the fun of getting drenched whilst you stand in awe. Apparently, in the summer, iridescent rainbows arch across it, hence one possible origin for its name. When we were there, it was raining and grey – and still spectacular.
Þingvellir and the Mid-Atlantic Rift
Inland from the stark island coastline is Þingvellir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; for Icelanders a very significant place. Early settlers founded the AlÞing c930 AD, the world’s first democratic governmental structure or Parliament. It’s a lovely area with rivers and a large lake, but it’s the volcanic lava fields and ever-shifting rift that makes this scene even more remarkable. Here you can walk on the wall of the fissure itself, stand on North America land and look out to Europe a few yards away.
Bessestaðir - The Presidential Residence near Reykjavik
One of the privileges of the trip was to have an audience with the President of Iceland. EasyJet has recently introduced a new route here and as part of the celebrations, we were invited to meet him and ask questions about tourism in Iceland. The drive there is lovely; in the spring sunshine the simple complex of white buildings glowed under the snowy peaks. What amazed me was the lack of security there – no frisking or leaving bags, just friendly courtesy and a request to sign the Visitor’s Book. We also had coffee and delicious pancakes – and Icelandic favourite.
Spot the Presidents and other famous people in these photos!
Höfði – location of the Iceland summit between Reagan & Gorbachev
This elegant 1900s house is not usually open to the public but is worth having a look at from the outside. Originally the French Ambassador’s house, the British took it over during after the war. However, the British Ambassador swore it was haunted by a lady ghost and it was sold. Now owned by the Reyjavik municipality Höfði, it is where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev held the summit that lead to the end of the Cold War.
Here I am sitting in the very seat that Gorbachev used, with ‘Reagan’ opposite! If there is a ghost then she is very friendly as there is a very benign atmosphere here.
Reykjavic City & Tjörnin Lake
Wandering around Reykjavik on foot it is easy to get a feel for this city, with its age-old fishing industry and contemporary arts scene. There are plenty of museums, art galleries, designer shops and places to eat and drink and since the recent banking crisis, prices are more in line with the rest of Europe. Sitting by Tjörnin Lake watching the local children feed the avaricious water birds, it’s relaxing to reflect on the many reasons why Icelanders are passionate about their unique and quirky ‘Land of Ice and Fire’.
Zoë Dawes, ‘Britain’s Best Travel Blogger’ in 2011, is a travel writer based in NW England. Read more in her blog The Quirky Traveller
All photos courtesy and copyright Zoe Dawes