The Golden Circle, Iceland

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The Golden Circle, Iceland

“Earth’s crammed with heaven. But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Everyone who has been to Iceland will tell you that a day trip driving the Golden Circle  is necessary, and they are 100% correct. The Golden Circle is the most popular day trip  from Reykjavik.

The first stop is Gullifoss which I have already talked about.

The next place to visit is the geysir. The English word “geyser” is actually derived from this exact geysir here in Iceland.

There are lots of bubbling pools to check out, along with the two famous geysers, Geysir and Strokkur. Strokkur is the only one still active today, which erupts every 5-8 minutes or so, sometimes even more (meaning you’ll see it shoot out it’s steaming hot water multiple times) What’s cooler than watching a hot spring spout steaming water up to 60 feet in the air without any mechanical support? That’s geology for you.

The last  stop is Iceland’s first National Park, Þingvellir. Not only is it the first national park and Iceland’s largest lake,  but it’s also the location of Iceland’s first Parliament, started back in 930 AD. Back then an assembly of 48 chieftains would gather to discuss Viking law and hold court. It’s regarded as the founding of Iceland as a nation and historically important to Icelanders. Pingvellir has recently been accepted on the UNESCO World Heritage list because of this.

And for all you Game Of Thrones fans, this is also the place where many scenes of the show have been filmed,

 It’s  considered to be  the best place on earth  to view the North Atlantic divergent ridge (where the North Atlantic and Eurasian tectonic plates collide),

The plates are slowing moving apart at around 3cm per year, ultimately meaning the continents are being brought closer together.

I was lucky enough to be able to tour Iceland in a Smithsonian group led by geologist Scott Burns. It was on my bucket list to do Iceland with someone who could explain the rugged beauty, glaciers, climate change and volcanoes. Scott was just intimidating enough for me to know that he knew his stuff, and just as easy-going to answer my questions. I learned so much and it was fun. I look forward to more trips with him. I have a lot of this earth to understand.Thanks for everything.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Waterfalls In Iceland

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Waterfalls In Iceland

“Nature is the art of god.” Dante Alighieri

There is no shortage of waterfalls  in Iceland.  They are literally everywhere and come in all shapes and sizes. The reasons for Iceland having so many great waterfalls, likely numbering in the thousands, are largely climate related. The country’s northern latitude means that it has lots of rain and snow, and it also has a number of glaciers. Combine these facts with the mountainous and volcanic landscape, and you have a country that is just epic for waterfalls. Here are a few that I’ve seen. 

Hraunfossar

This is a stunning series of small waterfalls flowing out of the lava. Together, they form an amazing outpouring, woven like delicate lace within the creases of the lava. It’s not big nor powerful but the effect of a group of mini waterfalls coming straight out of a lava field creates something unique.  It was formed by an eruption under the nearby glacier of Langjökull, the second largest ice-cap in Iceland.

 You will find another beautiful waterfall there called Barnafoss running through a narrow rocky gorge. The waterfalls are located in West Iceland, around 125 kilometers from Reykjavík.

Dettifoss

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is also the largest in Europe in terms of volume.

The waterfall is so powerful that it makes the surrounding rocks vibrate, and the vibration can be felt by hand. It is 100 meters wide and has a drop of 45 meters into the canyon below.

Dettifoss is located in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, around 554 km from Reykjavík. It’s source is Iceland’s largest glacier Vatnajokull.

Godafoss

Like many things in Iceland, Goðafoss of course has a legend. As the story goes, in the year one thousand,  a local chieftain decided that Icelanders should adopt Christianity. He threw all of his statues of Pagan gods into the waterfall and the waterfall was appropriately named Goðafoss, which translates to the “waterfall of the gods”. It is more famous for its beauty than its power. The source is the Skjálfandafljót River (don’t ask me to pronounce this or many other Icelandic words) from a glacier. Godafoss is in the far north of Iceland.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is one of the crown jewels of Iceland waterfalls and tourists flock to this waterfall located in the south of the country. It is part of the Seljalands River that has its origin in the volcano under the glacier Eyjafjallajökull  (still can’t pronounce this one and they say it a lot). What makes this waterfall unique is that you can walk behind it. It’s supposed to be a remarkable experience. I opted to stay dry that day. 

Gullfoss

This is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland and is accessible on the Golden Circle route.  This two tier waterfall cascades down 32 meters into a gorge in the Hvítá River and you can stand close enough to feel the cool water spray on your face. It was  formed by a series of enormous glacial floods around the end of the last ice age. Gullfoss is located around 115 kilometers from Reykjavík. In addition to being a beautiful waterfall, Gullfoss has a strong history. In the early 20th century, many foreign investors wanted to harness the waterfall to produce electricity. Investors were planning to build a hydroelectric power plant, which would have totally destroyed the waterfall. Sigríður Tómasdóttir (an investor’s daughter) was very strongly against the project. She threatened to throw herself into the waterfall in protest.The project didn’t materialize, thanks to Sigríður and her lawyer (who became the first president of Iceland), Gullfoss was protected for the people of Iceland to enjoy.

Fly safe,

JAZ