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ICELAND

Trip report: traveling among colourful mountains, waterfalls, smoking paddles and weird natural phenomenons
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ICELAND: PHOTOS AND TRIP REPORT

Here below some of the most fascinating photos from Iceland. Together with the photogallery, you will find a funny and interesting trip report full of info and anecdotes describing the whole travel itinerary. If you haven't read them yet, check out all travel info and precise itinerary here: www.wildtrips.net/iceland.htm.

Snaefell Village
Snaefell - An easy guess: Iceland is a country of small villages and big natural wonders.

ICELAND TRIP REPORT AND PHOTOS

It is pretty difficult to write a trip report about Iceland. This unique island offers so many crazily absurd landscapes that not even thousands of photos can picture them, let alone some descriptions or a diary. Anyway, I’ll try to write here some wrong info, in order to misguide you. No, just kidding, I’ll do my best and I hope you will appreciate my effort (please consider that it’s all for free!).
My girlfriend and I flew (on a plane) from Milan to Reykjavik (with a stop in London) on the 7th of August 2009. We spent just one afternoon in the Icelandic capital, but it was enough. It didn’t really hit us, maybe because of the grey sky. In the evening we had dinner with fresh fish in a small, simple bistrot near the harbour: that was really good and not very expensive.
When we had organized the trip we had rented a car and booked a few hostels along our travel itinerary through the same agency, HI Iceland. This way, we saved some money and we made sure we had a place to sleep in a country that doesn’t offer many accomodations.
Our Volkswagen Polo was delivered to us at 8AM of the 8Th, perfectly on time. Our car trip began.
Snaefell Peninsula
Snaefell - The Snaefell peninsula with its wild landscapes... nothing compared to what we will see next, but still a good start.
Our first destination was the Snaefellsness peninsula, where we saw from distance the Snaefell glacier and the volcano with the same name (in this volcano the characters of "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" by Jules Verne started their trip to reach the, well, Centre of the Earth; they were really too optimistic). We found out the first traits of the Icelandic nature: no trees but lots of lava rocks, with whole plains completely covered by magma solidified ages or centuries ago.
The most fascinating parts of the peninsula were probably the black cliffs that dove into the sea. There were some small beaches between them. Strangely enough, there were no swimmers nor sun-tanners: maybe because it was maximum 14 degrees, it often rained and the sea even in summer was not warmer than an icy mountain brook? Yeah, these are all good reasons.
Snaefell Coast
Snaefell - Plenty of black lava rocks.
We slept at Grundarfjordur hostel. We woke up early and we left to visit the small fishing village of Stykkisholmur.
Then we continued our travel itinerary driving along nice bays and green hills until we found a sort of natural monument called Hvitsekur (nice names, aren’t they? It seemed to be in the Lord of the Rings). The Hvitsekur was a black rock formation rising from the sea: it looked like a strange lava cathedral (please check the photo, I don’t know how else I can call that "thing").
Hvitsekur
Hvitsekur - Hvitsekur, a lava cathedral, a lava monument, a lava 'thing'?
It was dusk when we reached Akureyri, where we stayed in a hostel. Nothing fancy to say about the town, but a 4-seat chair taken from some chair-lift and used as a bench in the pedestrian city center. Well, details are important.
What Icelandic (small) cities don’t offer is given by the nature with profusion. We started the day after by admiring the Godafoss waterfall.
Godafoss
Godafoss - Godafoss, the first large waterfall we found, near Akureyri. There will be many others.
Then we visited the natural wonders near Myvatn lake, that left us with the mouth agape (a very bad idea considering how many gnats were flying around). There were a grey volcano, some yellow ground, green grass, black rocks, blue lakes and white sky with a rainbow now and then. There were oval and circular and sharp and twisted shapes. That absurd landscape seemed to prove the existence of a God (a god mentally instable and full of fantasy and sense of humour).
Myvatn
Myvatn - Perspective was confusing from the top of the Hverfjall volcano, on Myvatn lake.
Myvatn
Myvatn - We walked around with the mouth agape, thus tasting the Icelandic gnats.
We walked up the volcano, then between the lakes, until we reached a small wood (which is very rare in Iceland; in fact, the trees were not higher than 2-3 metres).
An even crazier mix of colours appeared to our eyes when we visited the Krafla area, with its boiling mud potholes, smoking springs and red and yellow ground (colours painted by the sulphur). We crossed wide smoking magma fields and we felt as if we had been carried to another era like the Jurassic or something older. We preferred the modern era to live, but that was amazing to look at.
Krafla
Krafla - Sulphurus and other minerals color the landscapes in weird, fascinating ways.
Krafla
Krafla - It was like suddenly falling in another geological era, before life existed.
Krafla
Krafla
As if this was not enough, our travel itinerary continued with the visit to the scarily powerful Dettifoss waterfall, one of the most beautiful in the world, and the surrounding canyon.
Dettifoss
Dettifoss - Dettifoss is probably the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
With the mouth more and more agape and with more gnats in the stomach (they were not bad, but they lacked salt) we admired the Asbyrgi, a wide horse-shoe shaped canyon that enclosed a wood, probably the largest of the country. In the area nearby there were absurd rock formations, mostly basaltic.
We stayed at Edna B&B for two nights. It was the most expensive room of the holiday (80 euros for one night).
So we had the time to take part also to a group tour to the Askja volcano. We spent 75 euros each, but it was worth it. A better idea, and far more adventurous, would have been to drive to the volcano ourselves, but a 4x4 was necessary and we didn’t have it. If you can afford to rent an expensive 4x4, I suggest you to do it, with the heart in hand (not mine, possibly, and even another person’s heart in my hand would bother me a little bit).
On our way to the volcano we passed through lunar landscapes. We crossed rivers and small canyons. Obviously there were no artificial buildings in sight - I shouldn’t have to write this, in Iceland the absolute wilderness is normal.
Askja
Askja - On the road to Askja, we met this powerful waterfall.
The 4x4 pullman got to the volcano feet and we walked up to the top together with the other tourists. Among the rock cliffs there were the "usual" natural wonders. When we reached the top an extraordinary panorama appeared to us. The huge circular caldera was occupied by a blue lake and by a small volcano, red- and yellow-coloured and filled with light blue water. The view was unbelievable, almost unacceptable. To avoid useless descriptions I invite you to check out the photos, but even the pictures can’t show all that grand and incredible beauty.
Askja
Askja - Askja has a huge caldera and was responsible of a big eruption in 1875: many people left Iceland because of its consequences.
We took a good breath and we started our descent in the Viti volcano on a steep path. Walking among smoking springs (the sulphur stink always follows the traveler in Iceland, like a clinging partner) we arrived on the small-lake shore. The water temperature was just above 20 degrees, so we did as the Icelanders do, we got naked and we dove into the volcanic lake. It was the most surreal swim of my life, no doubt. (More info about that is censored!)
Viti
Viti - Viti is a small crater, about 150 metres wide, with lots of geothermal activity.
We spent about one hour walking around and taking photos, then we returned to the pullman. On our way back, we could see the huge glaciers, in particular the Vatnajokull, that stand in the middle and in the south of Iceland.
Vatnajokull
Vatnajokull - Vatnajokull glacier viewed by the road that goes to Askja.
After all these amazing excursions we drove to Egilsstadir, where we stayed one night in a hostel. The Icelandic west coast, near Egilsstadir, is made of fjords, green mountains and fishing villages. You really need to put a lot of effort to find an ugly place in Iceland.
We met the following super-amazing (I know, too many adjectives, but they are all well-deserved) landscapes just after Hofn, where we slept. It was again a very different scenario. There were perennial glaciers and ice strips that run from the mountains to the coast.
Where one of these strips met the sea, there was a vast lagoon, called Jokulsarlon, full of icebergs. There were some hovercrafts taking tourists around and it was a bit annoying sometimes. But if you walked a little bit further from the main access point, there was an absolute peace in a beautiful environment made of water, icebergs and some seals swimming.
Jokulsarlon
Jokulsarlon - Where Vatnajokull meets the sea in southern Iceland, lies this lagoon full of icebergs.
Then we visited the Skaftafell Park, where we did a very nice trekking. We started our trekking itinerary from the sea level and I walked up to the top of a 1100-metre high mountain that rose above the glaciers. My girlfriend stopped at an altitude of about 6-700 metres, and that was enough to admire a panorama that went from glaciers to black sand beaches and colourful mountains.
Skaftafell
Skaftafell - Skaftafell is quite a green place, a park between mountains and glaciers.
Skaftafell
Skaftafell - From the top of a 1100-metre high mountain...
Skaftafell
Skaftafell
We slept in Horgsland.
Of course I am forgetting some of the highlights of the trip, as they were too many. I have to mention also a green canyon full of strange rounded shapes; a rock cliff on the sea with a huge natural arc under which there was probably room enough for a cruise ship; the Puffins, nice birds similar to little penguins.
Green Canyon
Green Canyon - On the road from Skaftafell to Vik, there is this nice, strange canyon.
We visited Vik, with the cliffs nearby, one of which looked like a natural basaltic staircase, and we spent the night in Skogar. I remember that when we were in Vik I walked to a small hidden bay. There were a man and a woman. She came running to me, she hugged me and all happy she said that he had just asked her to marry him. I suppose she said yes! She asked me to take a photo of them and of course I did, amused and happy for them. If you want to propose marriage in a beautiful, secluded place, with no-one disturbing, Iceland is the ideal country! But then I arrive and I ruin everything, ahahah.
Vik
Vik - And also infinite black beaches.
Vik
Vik - Basaltic cliffs are shaped in strange ways.
One of the most astonishing places you can see in the world is the Landmannalaungar park (try to write correctly this name without copying it: it’s the plot of "Mission Impossible 5"). We reached the park through a gravel road dedicated to 4x4 vehicles, but that was doable also with a normal car like our Polo.
When we arrived we were surrounded by colourful mountains and green plains. We waited for it to stop raining, then we walked a stunning 17-km path that passed through green, yellow, red, blue mountains. It was a rainbow on earth. Ok, now you don’t believe me, but look at the photos and you will.
Landmannalaungar
Landmannalaungar - In Landmannalaungar the rhyolite makes the ground multicouloured.
Sometimes there were smoking springs and boiling muddy potholes. Once we walked out of the path and we felt the ground thumping under our feet. Ok, it was not a good idea, we didn’t want to fall into a geysir or something like that. Those 17 kilometers were one of the best walks of my life, despite the moments in which it rained and the lack of sun.
Landmannalaungar
Landmannalaungar
At the end of that tiring day we slept at Laugarvatn, in a hostel. The last day of our holiday we visited Thingvellir National Park, a geologically absurd plain full of small lakes, lava rocks and little canyons. This place is very important from a historical point of view. Here, in the 930 AD, the first (or one of the firsts) Parliament of the world was set. That plain didn’t look to me like a good place for a parliament, so cold and muddy and rocky, but Icelanders are tough people used to the freezing weather. I think that an Icelander shepherd could easily beat up Superman, for example. There are also famous stories about villains that run away from the police and stayed hidden in the snowy wilderness for months. I don’t know how they survived, but they did.
After this unexpected cultural moment rich of interesting info, we visited the Golden Circle, which includes the three most popular attractions of Iceland (they are included in every travel itinerary as they are close to the international airport):
Gullfoss waterfall, the geysirs and the Blue Lagoon. These are amazing places, but after all the Icelandic wilderness they look too touristy. Anyway, Gullfoss is spectacular, even if not as much as Dettifoss, in my opinion.
Gullfoss
Gullfoss - Gullfoss is the most famous Icelandic waterfall, not far from Reykjavik.
One of the geysirs (Strokkur) becomes active every 5-10 minutes (for some strange reason, maybe it’s magic) and its hot spurt is about 30-metre high. The other famous Geysir (which gives the name to all the geysirs in the world) would get even higher (in the past it reached 145 metres!) but it spurts rarely, sometimes even after years. We didn’t have time to wait for it.
Strokkur
Strokkur - Strokkur geysir pictured just during eruption.
Strokkur
Strokkur
The Blue Lagoon is a spa built in the middle of a black lava field. The hot water is natural, stinks of sulphur and is canalized in order to create some nice pools in the magma rocks. The entrance to the spa is not cheap, so we tried to get all the possible benefits from the thermal baths untile late afternoon. After dinner we reached the airport, where we slept while waiting for our flight leaving at dawn. It was not bad to go back to the warm Italian Riviera, but we were sad to leave Iceland: we were sure that we wouldn’t find those landscapes anywhere else in the world.
Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon - A spa created in the middle of a lava field.
In conclusion, I write just a few practical travel info. A good weather in August is rare, but we could enjoy some sunny spells almost every day. The frequently grey clouds didn’t disturb our trip: sometimes it rained, but it was usually just a drizzle that didn’t affect our plans.
We drove for about 2000 kms, considering the main circular road and all the deviations, but as for landscape variety they seemed like 150000 kms. The main road was in good conditions and never too busy.
The hostels were good, tidy and clean, with all the right cutlery in the kitchen. The only problems you may find are noisy children.
Of course, if you want to have decent food along your Iceland travel itinerary you need to do some intelligent shopping in Reykjavik or to bring some stuff from home. I recommend canned food, pasta, cookies and everything durable you can bring with you on a car. I suggest to not put your life in the hands of the restaurants, as they are difficult to find, often closed and pretty expensive.
Ok, so... to everyone loving nature and wild landscapes I seriously recommend visiting Iceland, and to everyone thinking that the trip is not worthy I strongly suggest to leave now and change their mind!
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