The land of Eyafjallajokull, the volcano that erupted in 2010 or land of fire, ice and water that is – Iceland. Our recent trip to this island exposed us to untouched vast expanses of surrealistic moon like landscape; exotic mountains, waterfalls, active volcanoes, natural geothermal lakes, glaciers and floating icebergs. Nature has its way of overwhelming us and throwing new challenges, but the real feeling of awe is when you face up to these wonders of nature.
Iceland is not your regular tourist destination and it is a challenge to explore the country by gravel roads and in some places no roads at all.
Why Iceland? It is said that the Vikings reached here around 972 AD and named it such. Sadly they could not convince many others to settle down due to the name and when they discovered another place even more icy and glacial, they named it Greenland hoping the name would change people’s attitude
Iceland has some of the largest waterfalls in Europe including Dettifoss which is the largest, followed by Gulfoss and Godafoss.
Some of these were originally on private land and have only recently been accessible for visitors. The waterfalls in Iceland carry massive volumes of glacier water at tremendous force. Dettifoss can be also called ‘Dirtyfoss’ as it still carries residual volcanic ash from 2010-11 eruptions. Near Gulfoss is the world’s most frequently erupting geothermal geyser, which erupts upto 30-40 meters every 10 minutes.
During our trip we experienced water falls, geysers, volcanic mountains, lava rocks, ash deserts and glaciers all within couple of days driving through pebble roads. The unpredictability of the weather was an amazing experience.
Within minutes the weather in Iceland transforms; you see rain, sun, snow and striking rainbows against a rain washed sky.
There were places that looked unearthly and almost like the surface of the moon.
The challenge of crossing rivers, driving on dangerous roads more than compensates when you stand in front of Svinajokull glacier at Skaftafell or the Iceberg lagoon at the Atlantic ocean, at the edge of the largest Glacier ‘Vatnajokull’.
One day we set out on the amazing Zodiac boat tour to the edge of Vatnajokull glacier; we were able to travel through the Iceberg Lagoon touching pieces of icebergs that could be over 100 years old. The glacier at the edge is 350 m thick and at the peak is 800 m, underneath are several active volcanic formations
We drove more than 600 km from the Ice Lagoon in the south to Akureiri in north central Iceland. We passed through multiple Atlantic fjords with the colours of the sky and ocean blending into one canvas. We stopped to see the gigantic Dettifoss waterfall, the bubbling Namafjall hot volcanic ponds, the beautiful Mayvatn geothermal lake and Hverfjall volcano.
What is striking is that both locals and tourists take utmost care to protect environment and preserve the delicate and dynamic balance of nature.
We went for a whale watching trip to Dalvik harbor on a large fjord on Arctic Ocean. The 70km trip was on an Icelandic wooden ship, with a captain and mate experienced in whale spotting. As the weather improved we spotted three humpback whales playing around.
The most interesting experience was fishing on our way back and then grilling the catch of Salmon, Red snapper, Sea Bass and devouring them.
Driving through the Arctic fjords and enjoying the panoramic view of the ocean one day we reached a small town along the Arctic Ocean, legend has it that the large rock on the coast was a frozen Troll who forgot to get back to water at daybreak.
We tried our hand at some Seal watching the last day and spotted a group of over 100 seals sunbathing.
After that, we drove off to the Western glaciers, rarely visited by tourists due to the sheer distance and rough and risky terrain at the tip of the land extension far west of Iceland. Besides the glacier we also had a wonderful view of the Arctic Coast.
After the challenging drive through Western Glacier with near zero temperature at a height of 1400M, we drove back to Reykjavik and enjoyed the sights of the town, most famous of which are the church and the Concert hall.
There are many more places we left undiscovered in Iceland and there will always be an urge to visit again. Iceland offers the best and most accessible views of the famous Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in the winter periods. The land of fire, ice and water is still evolving after millions of years and who knows, there may be the creation of another geological wonder soon.
Written bySuvashis Mukherjee
Suvashis Mukherjee is an avid photographer,adventure traveler and travelog writer . Iceland was one of the ten adventure locations on his bucketlist to get an experience of a lifetime.