The land of ice and fire

In September 2019, I was back in Iceland for the 6th time (who said "monomaniac" ?). This time, it was a bit special for me, because I was the guide for a group of photographers. According to their review, I was not bad as a guide, and they liked this photographer's paradise. I was so happy to share with them my experience and love for Iceland. They were happy to discover waterfalls, multicolored volcanoes, black sand beaches and other geological wonders. Here is "part I" of the trip.


The wide Hvítá river flows southward, and about a kilometre above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into a wide curved three-step "staircase" and then abruptly plunges in two stages into a crevice 32 metres deep. The crevice, about 20 metres wide and 2.5 kilometres in length, extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running down the waterfall is 140 cubic metres per second in the summer and 80 cubic metres per second in the winter. The highest flood measured was 2,000 cubic metres per second. During the first half of the 20th century and some years into the late 20th century, there was much speculation about using Gullfoss to generate electricity. During this period, the waterfall was rented indirectly by its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, to foreign investors. However, the investors' attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to lack of money. The waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland, and is now protected.



The South Coast probably has the most stunning and awe inspiring landscapes in Iceland. The largest glaciers, most famous volcanoes, most dramatic cliffs and beautiful waterfalls combine to make up extremely varied landscapes which are only a few hours’ driving distance from Reykjavík.



Dyrhólaey, formerly known by seamen as Cape Portland, is a small promonotory located on the south coast of Iceland, not far from the village Vík. It was formerly an island of volcanic origin, which is also known by the Icelandic word eyja meaning island. Looking north you can see the whole western coastline – on a clear day as far as to the Vestmannaeyar. To the east the big glacier Mýrdalsjökull is visible. It reaches a height of almost 1450 m. And north east you can also spot the mountains and glacier Eyjafallajökull.



Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon, bordering Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. Its still, blue waters are dotted with icebergs from the surrounding Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, part of larger Vatnajökull Glacier. The Glacier Lagoon flows through a short waterway into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving chunks of ice on a black sand beach. In winter, the fish-filled lagoon hosts hundreds of seals.



Iceland's Vatnajökull glacier is Europe's largest icecap. Vatnajökull (2110 m) is the largest glacier in Iceland and it's also the largest glacier mass in Europe. It covers an area of roughly between 8100 sq. km and 8300 sq. km, and it's about 1000 m thick at its thickest point.



On my way to the west coast to explore Glymur Waterfall.



Glymur is the second-highest waterfall in Iceland, with a cascade of 198 m. It was long regarded as the tallest until being surpassed by Morsárfoss, a newly measured waterfall near Morsárjökull in 2011. It is situated at the rear end of the Hvalfjörður. This hiking trail is very clearly marked and you are sure to meet other people on the trail. Some parts of the trail are very steep and exposed. I would advise you to wear good hiking boots with decent grip to avoid slips and falls. Also keep in mind that if you are afraid of height, this hike probably isn’t what you want.



Imagine yourself on the high-seas, three weeks into a fishing expedition that has seen you fight the North Atlantic’s tempestuous waves, its gale force winds, and the winter’s enduring darkness. 


Now on your voyage back home, your eyes seek out the ebbing glow of a coastal lighthouse, a surefire sign that you are safe and on the right course. To the sailors of old, lighthouses served as a beacon of hope, a signal that navigated their passage safely to shore, to family and to home. Today, in a time of electrical navigation, these historic buildings serve as a monument to mankind’s proclivity for adventure, not to mention its age-old bond with the sea. 



Reykjanes Peninsula is a UNESCO Global Geopark and part of the European and Global Geopark network. The peninsula, with its diversity of volcanic and geothermal activity, is well suited to be a Geopark as it is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is visible above sea level. A section of a small hyaloclastite hill is exposed in the costal cliffs. A dyke named Festi(ladder), evidently the feeder for Festarfjall, passes up through the basement and the Festarfjall sequence, branching towards the base of the lavas. The story say that Festi is a neckless of a woman-troll.



The nature on the Reykjanes peninsula is unique and since November 2015 it is known as Reykjanes Unesco Global Geopark. The peninsula exists where the North Atlantic ridge rises from the ocean. Here you can find 100 different craters, caves and lava fields, a variety of bird life, astonishing cliffs, high geothermal activity, and black sand beaches. Below are a few selections of interesting geothermal hotspots and attractions located in this area. The peninsula is very accessible all year round and distances between places are not long as many places of interests are only a 5-20 minutes drive from the Keflavik international airport and within an hour's drive from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. 



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© 2018-2020 by Emilien Gigandet - Switzerland - emilien.gigandet@gmail.com