Iceland – Elves, Hákarl and boiling Earth

“Elves, Hákarl and boiling Earth” – That’s how Hollywood could have headlined and promoted my Icelandic road movie. At the end of a journey leading almost all around the island, I travelled more than 3800 kilometres through landscapes that nowadays still appear like at the time of God’s creation. For some people Iceland automatically means something like an artically cold island with all-season mulled wine service but it’s so much more. I was lucky to have weather, spring and the midnight sun on my side; two major ingredients to put the following photo documentary of a worldwide unique place, located at the interface of American and Eurasian continental plate as well as Atlantic and Artic Ocean, in the perspective of God’s eternal creation.

The people of Vik are already training the case of emergency. It seems as if quite soon the Katla volcano will erupt under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Until mid of June 2008 earthquakes became more frequent; countless small ones, but also a big one being M6.2 strong on the Richter scale. “The moutain puffs out its cheeks”, says a pilot when coming back from an inspection flight. Ashes, bombs and lapilli are only one problem. The bigger issue for Vik would be an unpredictable sudden glacier melt, that usually causes an incredible flood. More of that later…

We will surely witness that soon demonstration of the forces of nature. However, when such things happen there are always two souls are residing in the breast of an Icelander; one awestruck and the other one deeply admiring God’s eternal creation.

About Whooper Swans and Volcanoes – The Northeast of Iceland
Travel Report - Iceland's North-East - About Whooper Swans and Volcanoes
Coming all the way from Reykjavik, I made the first stop in the Northeast (91 photos) of the island. It began with a romantic sunrise at the beautiful Goðafoss and continued to Iceland’s Whale Watching spot number one: Húsavík. The fishing village is a very good starting point to do short trips, for example to the get wet by the spray of Dettifoss or to see the northern bird sanctuary and its high number of species. A great final is a visit of the large Krafla region to catch some of the impressions what the powers of the Earth are able to do.
Thousands of Sea Birds and dramatic bold Cliffs – On the way in the Westfjords
Travel Report - On the way in the Westfjords - Thousands of Sea Birds and dramatic bold Cliffs
The Westfjords (108 photos) are Iceland’s most remote area and a great playground for the sun to paint the landscape with an incredible sidelight. Narrow roads leading over high rocks and hiking tracks through untouched nature belong to the repertoire of the Westfjords as well as myriads of sea birds, having their home in the bold cliffs of the Látrabjarg peninsula. Beside the Westman Islands that is one of the best spots to be in touching distance with cute little puffins as well as getting a massage by wind force 10.
Urban but yet rural – Reykjavik and the South/South-West of Iceland
Travel Report - Reykjavik and the South/South-West of Iceland - Urban but yet rural
Reykjavik proves that Iceland can also be pretty urban. Though, despite a small rush hour on working days that area never forgets about its rural roots. The South and the Southwest (62 photos) of the island are noticeably touristier as here you can find some of the major attractions like for example the name giver and father of all geysers or some of the finest waterfalls around such as the massive Gullfoss, the delicate Seljalandsfoss or the high Skogafoss. A great thing to top off any Iceland visit is taking a bath at the Bláa Lónið, the Blue Lagoon, where you can recharge your life’s battery by the forces of the Earth.
Lava Deserts and perpetual Ice – Iceland’s South-East
Travel Report - Iceland's South-East - Lava Deserts and perpetual Ice
In the East of Vik the landscape of Iceland’s Southeast (68 photos) sees a dramatic change; endlessly seeming plains of black volcanic sand start to dominate the scenery, only interrupted by glacial rivers while on the horizon snow-covered peaks and large glaciers appear. Short before Iceland’s most visited and photographed natural spectacle, the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón, another gem lies at the feet of the glacier’s tongue: Skaftafell, the home of the Svartifoss.
Photographic Hints
Photographers taking pictures for passion of light will be quite busy in Iceland’s summer months. On fair or less cloudy days from 8pm to 5am the sun sends an amazing sidelight directly over the North Pole. There will be no time at all to think about sleeping. Every minute you could stop anew to capture an entirely new light mood as the light dramatically changed within seconds or the landscape behind the next curve offers a completely new perspective.
Some animals’ flight distance is really colossal. While puffins don’t have a problem to let you have a go at them, whooper swans, greylag goose and eider ducks take a flight once you crossed the 300 meter border. Even a 400m tele zoom with connected 1.5x tele converter doesn’t really enable you to take close-up portraits. Looking for a hide-away or busy/distracted animals are surely the best motifs since you can get closer. Some beachcombers are breeding right next to the roads and that little guy is like a watchman. Once he’s seeing something suspicious he’s making a crisp sound to let all others know that it is better to take a flight.
However you are equipped with memory cards or hard discs, you will need a lot of them. The four Iceland articles published on this website are only a selection, the créme de la créme out of more than 7000 photos taken. Also sensor cleaning will be a matter of concern since in some certain areas such as the region around Dettifoss, it can become pretty dusty.
Travel Hints
Having a credit card with you is essential, above all when refuelling the car. It’s no problem to pay by credit card even in the smallest towns. Well, and also the police cars are equipped with mobile credit card gear. Issuing you a speed ticket is no problem at all.
If you don’t make it to feather your own nest before 10pm, in other words accommodation and food, then the next night will become hard. There is rarely someone in service after 10pm; rather hotels would be open, not petrol stations nor roadhouses.
Driving in Iceland is not half bad. Sometimes the roads are having potholes as big as if a cow could hide itself in there. Also half-frozen mud and gravel are not harmless for all things called car stability. For example arriving the Dettifoss by a normal compact car is sailing close to the wind. I recommend the Icelandic Ferdakort; an excellent and very detailed road map pointing out petrol stations, roadhouses as well as accommodations. Road maps offered by the usual suspects like ADAC, Shell, Falk and others are not keeping Ferdakort’s pace.
Before leaving to remote areas or the central highland, it is really worth to check the online map of Vegagerdin, the road administration, as well as the maps of Icelandic Meteorological Office. They provide first hand information about closed roads and forthcoming weather and road situations.
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