October 3, 2014

Iceland is "Amaze-Balls"!

Once again going to let the pics do the talking....after sorting through 1700 photos I have no energy for creative writing :)  To sum up the trip!  Liam is a traveling stud!  He made this trip so much fun:)  Cant wait for the next.  And Yes we would go back to Iceland, the place is so uniquely amaze-balls!

Playing in front of icebergs from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier (jokull: Icelandic for glacier) the glacier can be seen in the far background.  The body of water is a lagoon famous for its collection of icebergs.  Here is a satellite image of the Jokulsarlon lagoon, you can even see the icebergs and the small exit they will all eventually take as they melt to a small enough size. We also saw some seals in the lagoon playing around the floating icebergs.
  • Jokulsarlonliteral meaning - glacial river lagoon, is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean back in the 30's. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers.  It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 814 ft, as glacial retreat extended its boundaries. 
  • The huge blocks of ice that calve from the edge of Breiðamerkurjökull and fill the lagoon stocked with icebergs. Which then gather at the mouth of the lake's shallow exit, melt down into smaller icebergs and roll out into the sea.   These icebergs are seen in two shades: milky white and bright blue, which depends on the air trapped within the ice and is an interplay of light and ice crystal.  

click to see a live video webcam of the icebergs as they head out to sea

We kicked off the trip by celebrating my birthday in an awesome little cafe with a Viking! 

Hallgrímskirkja, the tallest and largest church in Iceland, is Reykjavík's most photographed emblem by far, visible from everywhere in the capital. 

  • It was designed by state architect Guðjón Samúelsson (1887-1950), who never saw it completed: Work began in 1945 and continued 49 years.Guðjón was indeed inspired by the Icelandic landscape, and the frontal columns are meant to resemble the hexagonal basalt formed by cooling lava.
  • The church houses a large pipe organ by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. It has mechanical action, and 5275 pipes. It is 15 meters tall and weighs 25 tons. Its construction was finished in December 1992. 

One of the 20+ large waterfalls seen on the hike along the Skoga River north of the small town of Skogar.  Here is a satellite image you can count the large waterfalls. 

  • Skogar: literal meaning - forests, is a small Icelandic village with a population of roughly 25 located at the south end of the Eyjafjallajökull glacier which covers a active volcano who last erupted on 3/21/2010, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.  Additional eruptions on 4/14/2010  created a cloud of volcanic ash bringing major disruption to air travel across Europe.  We recall this as we were flying to Greece and our flight had to re-route.  A map of the volcanoe's location under the glacier

His favorite toy of the trip


We first arrived at Jokulsarlon just after the sun set, however the reflections and glow from the lagoons still waters and the icebergs made for some great low light long exposures 

Our view of the F208 (all F roads are 4x4 required dirt roads)  on our way to Landmannalaugar

  • You can also attempt to reach Landmannalaugar by high clearance vehicle, although a 4x4 is strongly advised (check your rental car insurance - it may specifically exclude the "highlands" of the interior). There are three roads to Landmannalaugar. The most easily passable road is from the north (F208) and passes through desolate scenery typical of the deep interior. The road from the west (F225) has several fords which may be passable in an ordinary car depending upon the water level. The road from the east (F208) is the roughest and has the most fords. There is a deep ford immediately before the Landmannalaugar site which is not normally crossable in an ordinary car, but you can park before it and arrive on foot.

By far our favorite geothermal hotspring of the trip!  Not to mention my favorite spring of all time...I could go on about this one forever it was perfect.  Liam loved it sitting in it for an hour plus two different times.  The first evening we did see the aurora borealis!  The spring was perfect rather large with several different areas all connected by different deep streams and surrounded by grasses and grazing sheep. Typically the same depth as seen in the picture so easy to relax.  You couldn't sit in the same spot to long because your butt would burn:)     

Taking in the daunting force of Europe's most powerful waterfall - Dettifoss

  • Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier and collects water from a large area in Northeast Iceland. The falls are 330 ft wide and have a drop of 150 ft down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. It is the largest waterfall in Iceland in terms of volume discharge, having an average water flow of 193 m3/s.

Exploring the Raufarholshellir lava tube cave is in the Leitahraun lava field. The cave was formed in a lava flow around 5000 years ago. The length of the tube is estimated to be 1360 meters.

Usually he's playing with climbing ropes, this time its a hemp rope hanging from the rafters inside a very old abandoned barn  

Wifi and connection with the inter-webs was very limited in Iceland (not a bad thing)...Once we got to Iceland's second largest city Akureyri, our trip was nearing its end and we needed the internet. This scene was a dead give away to us that wifi was available.  Not only was wifi available but the backpackers hostel was awesome...and has some great espresso!!


Reykjavik is full of creative graffiti, the reflection in the puddle caught my eye for this one 





Landakotskirkja ("Landakot's Church"), is the cathedral of the Catholic Church in Iceland

  • The first Catholic priests to arrive in Iceland after the Reformation were the Frenchmen Bernard Bernard and Jean-Baptiste Baudoin. They bought the Landakot farmstead in Reykjavík and settled there in the early 19th century. They built a small chapel in 1864. A few years later, a small wooden church was erected by Túngata, close to Landakot. After the First World War, Icelandic Catholics saw the need to build a bigger church for the growing number of Catholics. They decided to build a Neo-Gothic church and entrusted the task to the architect Guðjón Samúelsson, who also built the famous Hallgrímskirkja (seen a few pictures earlier).  

Route 1 aka the Ring Road 

  • Ring Road  is a national road in Iceland that runs around the island and connects most of the inhabited parts of the country. The total length of the road is 828 miles. The maximum speed on most of the road is 56 mph.

Watch Russel Crowe's new movie NOAH and you will see the basalt sea stacks (Reynisdrangar)  in one of the movies final scenes.  Kristin and I were watching NOAH on our laptop one night at camp towards the end of the movie we did a double take and paused the movie to confirm...hey we were just there!    

  • Reynisdrangar: are basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain Reynisfjall near the village Vík, southern Iceland.
  • Legend says that the stacks originated when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock.


 The Glaumbaer turf farm was one of my favorites, the walls of the farm were made from dirt (imagine layers of sod stacked over and over again)  Like the wall in the picture 

  • Icelandic turf house would have a large foundation made of flat stones; upon this was built a wooden frame which would hold the load of the turf. The turf would then be fitted around the frame in blocks often with a second layer, or in the more fashionable herringbone style. The only external wood would be the doorway 

Icelandic sheep: a breed of domestic sheep descended from the same stock as the Norwegian Spelsau, brought to Iceland by the Vikings.  These guys are all over the country, around October the sheep are all round up and returned to their owners via ear tags for the winter.

  • Icelandic fleece is dual-coated. In Icelandic the long outer coat is called tog and the fine inner coat pel. When separated, the outer and inner coats are used for different woolen products.
    • Tog is generally classified as a medium wool good for weaving and other durable products.
    • Pel, being the finer wool used for garments that touch the skin.
      • Tog and þel are processed together to produce lopi, a distinctive knitting wool that is only made from the fleece of Icelandic sheep.

Modeling a viking beanie made from the Icelandic sheep

We came across this antique wood lathe in an old abandoned turf roof farmhouse


One of the lagoons downsized icebergs, after making its way through the lagoon's small outlet  into the Atlantic ocean.  As the tide goes out and leaves the lagoon it typically brings some of the smaller icebergs with it, most then getting stuck in the shallower waters on the black sand beaches.    Relative size is that of a large dairy cow


Natures very own breast milk warmer.  During a long hike up the Brennisteinsalda Volcano we would warm Liam's milk by placing the bottles in one of the areas numerous geothermal vents.  Poor K actually burned her hand a bit shortly after I took this pic:(

  • The Brennisteinsalda is a volcano about 855m high near Landmannalaugar.  The name means sulphur wave. It comes from the sulphur spots which have colored its sides. But there are other colours, too: green from mosses, black and blue from lava and ashes, red from iron in the earth. It could very well be the most colorful mountain of Iceland and so its picture is often found in books and calendars.  The mountain is still visibly an active volcano with hot sulphur springs and geothermal vents at its sides. 


Found this old geothermal turbine, which appeared to be collecting steam from a geothermal vent across the road.  It seems some farms will harness energy from the geothermal, some then use it to heat what are referred to as hot houses (greenhouses) to grow vegetables year around.

Kristin here with the ash blackened Blahnuker peak in the background.  Look closely and you can see hikers on Blahnuker.





Route 1's attention grabbing 1 lane but two-way traffic bridges!  This particular bridge is Iceland's longest bridge crossing the Skeioara river.  If you look down the bridge you can see a vehicle coming in our direction the bridge has several pullouts which allow for the passing of oncoming traffic.

Hnausapollur volcanic crater lake.  The lichen growing on the volcanic rock in the highlands appeared to glow in the dark so i did a little research and found that a lot of the lichen species in the highlands contain squamatic acid which does in deed fluoresce in UV light.


Two things that were everywhere in Iceland....1. being sheep, 2. being this bails of grass wrapped in waterproof material...so the waterproof makes sense with all the rain.  What we have not been able to figure out is the grass.  Our theory is the farmers store the bails for their own use or sell them to other sheep farmers to use in the winter once the sheep are collected by owners and kept in barns for the winter months.



The Jokulsargljufur Canyon about a mile downstream from Selfoss and Dettifoss (the most powerful waterfall in Europe)

A glorious sunset hike in eastern Iceland lead to the discovery of an almost perfectly still pond for this reflection shot...good shot Kristin  :)

Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 82 feet and a drop of 200 ft.  

  • According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, prasi pórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum, though whether it gives any credence to the folklore is debatable.


There were several of these "rock cairn gardens" at various spots around road 1.  I can just picture a large bus full of tourists getting  out and everyone starts building a cairn...boom a garden done in 10 minutes.



Basalt Column Climbers

One of our favorite camp location on the trip.  We found this amazing black sand beach and parked the camper on a bluff overlooking the crashing waves.  We watched a full moon rise on a clear evening then woke up to a crystal clear warm day.  It was so warm we actually laid some damp cloths out on rocks while we cooked breakfast.

Happy Icelandic Explorers



We came across this geothermal vent (fumarole) just outside of the northern town of Myvatn.  This thing sounded like a jet engine and provided some nice warm steam which we gladly welcomed on what ended up being a cold day.      

  • Fumarole: (Latin fumus, smoke) is an opening in a planet's crust, often in the neighborhood of volcanoes, which emits steam and gases such as carbon dioxidesulfur dioxidehydrogen chloride, and hydrogen sulfide. The steam is created when superheated water turns to steam as its pressure drops when it emerges from the ground. 
  • In April 2006, a fumarole killed three Ski Patrol workers east of Chair 3 at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California. The workers were overpowered by toxic fumes  that had accumulated in a crevasse they had fallen into.

We found this nice farmers near Reykjavik on our last day we operated a "campground" for free in their frontyard, complete with water closets and cooking area.  As well as fresh duck eggs for 1 iclandic kroner.  Duck eggs are awesome....so rich!

Another view of Skogar's iconic waterfall.  This proved to be a difficult photograph to take, as I would compose the shot then hope that the mist from the very powerful waterfall wouldn't end up on my lens during the long exposure times...it took about 10 shots before i caught a breeze just right to direct the mist away from my location

As we descended from the summit of Brennisteinsalda Volcano, you can see the lava out flow from a past eruption


Thats a happy hot-springer

Iceland!!!!  Book those Tix you wont regret it!