The popularity of Iceland as a holiday destination has soared in recent years, particularly for people within my age group. I have heard nothing but positive reviews about the country, including from my sister who spent her honeymoon in Iceland in 2014. This is one of the key reasons that I have put off visiting the country. Its popularity. I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t ‘follow trends.’ (Just look at my dress sense and music taste) and have been an advocate of Tromsø in the Arctic Circle in northern Norway and held it as “The best place I have visited.” However, I bit the bullet and booked a 4 day trip to Iceland in late November. Well, to say it lived up to the hype is an understatement…
Iceland has the most stunning and varied landscape I have ever seen. The country is a photographer’s dream and for this reason my Iceland post is going to span 3 separate blog entries!
Day One of the trip saw us hit the heavily trodden tourist trail; ‘The Golden Circle’ in our hired Hyundai Tucson 4×4. As I mentioned earlier – I seek to avoid popular attractions and tourist traps and while the Golden Circle was an epic display of natural wonders that just had to be seen, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the number of people there, taking ‘selfies’ and flying drones to capture their photos rather than taking in the sights. This, particularly in the Geysir region left me slightly underwhelmed by the amazing natural phenomena I was in the presence of. Nevertheless, I donned my best American tourist accent and made infantile remarks about what I was seeing.
Due to its latitude, the sun doesn’t rise in Iceland until about 10am – This makes for some incredible sunrises without the need to get up at silly o’clock in the morning. Our first stop was Þingvellir National Park, a region in which the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet and it did not disappoint: The light was simply stunning. In these photos the ‘cliffs’ you see are actually the tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust. You can walk and even scuba dive between them. (We opted out of the latter!) For me, being a bit of a science geek it was very exciting to be in a country with such incredibly diverse geology.
By lunchtime we had arrived at the Geysir region. Here there are numerous geothermically heated pools and vents with water that is heated at 80 – 100 degrees Celsius. In some cases this causes pressure to build up under the earths crust and hot steam and water to gush high into the air. The most impressive being the Strokkur. It is from the Geysir region in Iceland that all other instances of geysers have derived their name, one of the most famous being in the Yellowstone National Park in California.
Our final stop on the Golden Circle trail (which I decided to do in a non-conformistly anticlockwise direction) was the Gullfoss waterfall area. This is one of Iceland’s most famous attractions so again was quite busy. Arriving at about 2 o’clock light had already begun to dwindle. Making for some attractive shots.
Gullfoss is a double cascade waterfall, which caused a lot of spray making the surrounding areas treacherous with ice but also resulted in some ‘spraybows’. An incredible view and a wonderful end to our whistle-stop tour of the Golden Circle.
The next Iceland entry will feature the black sand beach at Vik and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.