Published: 2012 October 7
After many years of not getting around to it, I decided that I absolutely
had to go to Iceland. So I did. Four days and 1040km of driving later, I have
come to the conclusion that Iceland is not actually part of Earth at all; it's
a mislaid bit of some alien planet where the terraforming didn't quite take. It's quite the most surreal place I have ever been: there are mountains of black sand, lava fields covered in silver-green moss, places where the ground itself is boiling, jagged volcanic teeth everywhere... it is all just so incredibly unlikely. I can't believe it's less than three hours flight from the United Kingdom and that I hadn't been there earlier.
Incidentally, for reference, the absolute best online map of Iceland I've
found is the National Land
Survey. Satellite, infrared, proper detailed topographic, as well as
gorgeous scanned historical map imagery. I just wish there was an Android
Also for reference: Icelandic uses two more letters than English. Thorn, lower case þ and upper case Þ, is usually pronounced like the th in thick. Eth, lower case ð and upper case Ð, is pronounced like the th in them.
(By the way, if you're driving from Reykyavik to Þingvellir, and this is pretty much obligatory if you're going to Iceland, don't take the standard tourist route of going up the coast and inland along route 36. Instead, go along route 431/435. It's a new and extremely good tarmac road, and the scenery is mind-blowing.)
This isn't a quarry: looking north-east over the Seltún hot springs at Kleifurvatn.
Looking down over Þingvellir, the divide between the American and Eurasian continental plates, and the site of the first Icelandic parliament in 930.
The geyser Strokkur doing its thing. Unfortunately, Great Geysir no longer erupts. That would have been sight to see, as Great Geysir's eruptions could take 30 minutes.
Those aren't clouds on the horizon: the glacier Langjökull looms over the mountains. I wasn't allowed any closer, alas.
The Gulfoss waterfall. It's a standard tourist attraction, and is so worth it.
Some random scenery near Laugarvatn. I never get tired of the Icelandic mountains.
Some of the rocks are utterly surreal.
Huge swathes of landscape are lava fields covered in this silvery-green moss. (There's no grass in this photo.)
The Reykjavic waterfront: I only went here once. It's a neat and elegant Scandinavian city, but why look at buildings when there's Iceland nearby?
The Seljalandsfoss waterfall, mostly falling sideways due to the wind.
Seljalandsfoss as seen from behind. (Yes, I got wet. Very.)
Did I mention how much I love the mountains here?
Eyjafjallajökull, with Þorvaldseyri farm, familiar from a thousand volcano pictures, in the foreground. I think I was happy there wasn't an eruption this day.
Skógafoss waterfall, looking cheerful. Rumour has it that the settler Þrasi buried a pot of gold somewhere in here.
Looking down at the top of Skógarfoss, with the mountain of Drangshliðarfjall in the background.
Pretty much everywhere you look, there are little plumes of steam coming off the hillsides.
The town of Hvergerði was apparently the first place in Iceland to have streetlights installed, after someone fell into a mud pool in the dark...