Land of Fire and Ice
(Places you can visit)
“Iceland is a living geological masterpiece, a peerless volcanic land of dramatic skies, bubbling earth, thundering waterfalls and thermal lagoons. If you want an insight into how the planet was sculpted by the forces of Mother Nature, exploring … will provide many answers.”
This little island state is positioned on the border of the Arctic circle and it is home to 300 thousand people only but it gathers thousands of volcanoes, waterfalls, mountains, hot springs, glaciers, rivers, lakes, canyons, volcano fields, endless black beaches… On the border between Eurasia and America, Europa and the eternal ice.
If you’re headed towards Iceland be prepared for sun, wind, snow, cold, rain and between the rain drops – a lot of smiles. Those were our first few days in the southern part of the island. Rainy but exciting. Setting up camp in the rain, our morning coffee accompanied by rain, sun for our short breakfast and then rain again. The waterfall and the rainbow in the rain and meanwhile the sun is glowing above us, but I wouldn’t exchange these days for something else. We spend couple of nights in Hamragardar camping site, which is minutes away from two quaint waterfalls – Gljúfrabúi and Seljalandsfoss and another one 30km away – Skógafoss.
Iceland has the staggering amount of 10 thousand waterfalls, which every single one is so different and impressive than the other ones. Those three are really special to me, because they’re “together”. Besides their close distance they fulfill each other and if there is something that you cannot find in one you can find it in the other. For the first waterfall you have to cross the river and then you pass between the giant crack in the rock just so you can lay eyes on it.
The second waterfall has a footpath behind it and you can actually go “around” the waterfall. The third waterfall, well you can see it from kilometers away. Quite hard to get close to it and you’ll be soaking wet if you do so, but if it’s a sunny day, the rainbow that the waterfall casts in a way, makes quite the unforgettable scene in front of you. From the camping itself you can see the first two waterfalls – so when was the last time a waterfall was the first thing to see when you open your eyes in the morning?
In the most southern part of the Iceland the small town of Vík. Only in the span of few kilometers you can find the most beautiful non-tropical beaches on the planet, but not only this. These beaches not only show their gracefulness, but the power of Mother Nature itself. When you look at those calm waves during the day when the tide is coming in and the beautiful sunset, suddenly they become these large destructive waves that hit the enormous rocks in front of them.
The southernmost point of the island is the small Dyrhólaey peninsula with its distinctive white lighthouse and its rock arch. It oversees towards the Reynisfjara beach when you look towards the west and when you turn around and look east, you can only see endless black horizon. At dusk this exact view kind of brings you back to the Viking times, sailors in distress which look for salvation at the white lighthouse.
Not far away from the southern coastline you can find the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. In contrast to the black beaches, on the bottom of the canyon lays a small, quiet river which was tainted with time. How long – 2 million years to be exact. Somewhere around that period during the Ice Age was the time when the canyon was formed. Only then when you stand on top of the edge looking down the 2-kilometer-long canyon, you can say that our live is few seconds long compared to the eternity of nature.
All of the glaciers in Iceland exist since the Ice Age. The biggest one of them is Vatnajökull which takes 1/10 of the area of Iceland. Jökulsárlón glacier lake is the perfect spot to see the ice cap. And if you listen carefully you can hear in the distance how large pieces of ice fall off the glacier into the lake. From the lake itself is the beginning of a small river which after less than kilometer flows out into the ocean carrying big chunks of ice with it towards the Atlantic where the waves are “polishing” them and take them to the “Diamond Beach” right next to the outlet of the river.
This beach is one of those places where you run towards the waves like a little kid and after when they’re coming towards you, you run away from them before they catch you. The crown jewel of the beach are the stunning “diamonds”. If I have to list one reason to go across whole Europe is just to get to this beach.
We spend our last night in West Iceland where the snow finally caught us. We camped in the coastal town of Grundarfjörður, where is the symbolic mountain Kirkjufell. Next to it there is a waterfall which is looking over the mountain and from there the mountain looks like a perfect triangle.
This is maybe one of the most photogenic places on the planet, but the thing that caught my eye the most was the little town next to it. We went out for quite a while, going around its harbor and small streets. A perfect symphony of nature and modest urbanization. A symphony of life. Who would have thought that an arctic harbor town will be more beautiful than the most cosmopolitan capital?
Not a single adventure in Iceland is complete without the hot mineral lagoons. For these we picked the valley of springs Reykjadalur. An hour hike during sunset while the mountain was literally smoking was simply breathtaking.
A fertile and moderate European country on one hand and a deserted frozen land in the Arctic on the other – Iceland is a place where you can see everything… but it’s not for everyone. There you can find everything, but the thing that makes Iceland special is there you often find the one thing you weren’t looking for and it will always have a place in your mind like in a dream, which it never was, but it will change your perspective towards the world as you know it…. forever.
Text and pictures Georgia Koseva.
You can follow Georgia and her adventures on her instagram profile