CONQUEST NO. 8 - FIVE WORLDS
When Jules Verne wrote "A Journey to the Center of the Earth" in 1864, he recognized that the perfect location for the entrance of Professor Lidenbrock's journey was located in Iceland. Verne sent his characters into the depths of the earth via the Snæfellsjökull volcano, located near the western most tip of the island. Although my travels in this country did not take me to the center of the earth, I was amazed at the diversity of geography and natural wonders this small country has to offer. It was as if every 10 miles there was a completely new world to discover.
Our first stop in Iceland was the famous Blue Lagoon. Situated between the airport and Reykjavik (more or less) this is a perfect stop for weary travelers before heading to your hotel. It is a natural geothermal hot spring; not uncommon in Iceland. Being a volcanic island, there is plenty of heat underground looking for a way to escape. In fact, there is so much energy underground that over 25% of the country's power comes from geothermal energy and more than 85% of its homes and buildings are heated using geothermal heat. A theme we would see repeat itself during our time in Iceland was how environmentally conscious this country is. But back to the Blue Lagoon...this place was pretty close to heaven.
After feeling sufficiently "Zen," we head to Reykjavik. The capital city of Iceland reminds me more of a large village than a city, which is something I think the locals take a lot of pride in. It's a very walkable city. The cultural hub seemed to be Laugavegur street; full of restaurants, bars and shops. I got the feeling it's where the tourists gather, but the locals seem to gather there as well. Other than this main strip, you will find many of the typical cultural centers of a country's capital city. One thing that struck me was the quantity and quality of street art in the city. For the small population of Reykjavik, it was not lacking in fantastic murals.
The coastline of this country is incredible. Sharp cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and black sand beaches create an other-worldly experience.
This place is full of picturesque waterfalls. This is Gullfoss, one of the largest in the country. These falls are located just near the continental divide which you can also see below. This is where the North American and Eurasian plates collide. There are sharp rock formations jetting out of the ground from the pressure of the two continents smashing into one another and also fresh water lakes that you can dive in, literally swimming between two continents.
I don't remember the name of this place, and even if I did, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to spell or pronounce it! This was one of my favorite places we visited. We hiked through green fields that are reminiscent of Ireland, then hit cliffs and mountains leading to the foot of one of Iceland's massive glaciers. You can see the runoff from the melting glacier. Unfortunately, the glacier has receded hundreds of yards in the past decade or so. If only we could all be as eco-conscious as the Icelanders.
More examples of the powerful geothermal heat under your feet in Iceland. There quite a few geysers as you explore. Actually geyser is Icelandic, spelled geysir, which was the name of one of the larger ones in the country before it became inactive.
Finally, some shots of the mainland of Iceland. More waterfalls, plenty of gorgeous farmland, more glaciers, a volcano (which you can't really see, but it's there!) and some of the traditional homes from Iceland's past. I loved these houses, as they reminded me of a hobbit hole, except real.