Iceland, known as the Land of Fire and Ice, has the youngest geology of anywhere in the world
First settled by Irish monks who were looking for some peace and quiet about 1400 years ago, getting around this wild volcanic country isn’t easy.But it’s possible to travel around the the island to witness some of its incredible sites
Just outside Rekyavik is a place called Thingvellir ,which literally means assembly plains.
This was the place where 930 AD the chieftains from all over Iceland gathered to form the first Icelandic government.
The gathering spot was well chosen as it sits in a rift valley without which Iceland wouldn’t exist at all
The valley where the outdoor Icelandic parliament first gathered in, is in fact , a rift valley that marks the point at which the European and the American Continental plates divide.
The valley widens by 1.5 centimetres a year and the plates continue to drift apart. And as they drift apart the Island of Iceland continues to grow.
Iceland is one giant geological hotspot with major eruptions occurring every 3–4 years on average. Technically there have been over 300 mini-earthquakes here in the last week.
Why is the whole of Iceland is such a volcanic hotspot?Travelling around the island in an anti clockwise direction it’s possible to visit some fantastic sites that tell us more. Here are some of the highlight.
The Thrihnukagigur volcano ( it means ‘Three Peaks Crater’) is a dormant volcano sitting on the mid-Atlantic ridge that last erupted over 4,000 years ago.
The most north-easterly of the three peaks is a small cinder cone, standing about 35 m higher than its surroundings.
What’s different about this volcano is that you can actually go down into the heart of the volcano itself … they’ve even installed a lift!
At the top of this cone is a funnel-shaped opening, about 4×4 m wide, the entrance of a huge 120 m deep, bottle-shaped volcanic vault, measuring 50×70 m at the bottom. Volcanic passages continue down to the southwest, to a total depth of about 200 m.Its like someone came and pulled the plug out underneath the magma chamber
The beauty of the crater mostly consists in the various colourations found inside it and its enormous – and to some extent intimidating – size. To put it in context, the ground space is equivalent to almost three full-sized basketball courts planted next to each other and the height is such that it would easily fit full sized Statue of Liberty into the chamber. So make no mistake – it’s huge.
Iceland is choked full of volcanic sights -Thermal springs, crazy turquoise rock formations and volcanoes.
The Eyjafjallajokull Volcano eruption in 2001 was so big that the ash stopped European air traffic for a whole week
Along further along Iceland’s south coast you can visit the stunning Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Here it’s really not hard to see why they filmed 5 seasons of Game of Thrones in Iceland – these landscapes are spectacular!
Further east. the Kirkjubaejarklouster Canyon is up to 100 m deep and about two kilometers long, with the Fjora river flowing through it
Two million years ago glacial meltwater gouged this canyon out of the bare rock
There are still several magnificent glaciers in Iceland today.
The Vatnajokull Glacier the biggest glacier in Europe by volume.With an area of 8,100 km Vatnajökull is also the largest ice cap in Europe by volume covering more than 8 percent of the country.
The average thickness of the ice is 400 m with a maximum thickness of 1,000m.
According to Guinness World Records (GWR), Vatnajökull is supposedly the object of the world’s longest sight line, 550 km (340 mi) from Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands. GWR claims that “owing to the light bending effects of atmospheric refraction, Vatnajökull (2,109.6 m), Iceland, can sometimes be seen from the Faroe Islands mountain top more than 300 kilometres away.
Vatnajökull itself has around 30 outlet glaciers flowing from the ice cap
Leaving the south coast behind and travelling up the East coast the landscape changes again as you enter the and mountainous Austerland Region.
This place really is like the land that time forgot. Its like driving through a Tolkien story.
It is In the deserted Eastern Highlands of Iceland that you can visit one if Iceland’s great sights.
At Askja Lake, scale the barren slopes of the Askja crater at dawn and reach the top as the sun rises over the surreal turquoise blue lake.
Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier and collects water from a large area in Northeast Iceland. The falls are 100 metres wide and have a drop of 44 metres down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. It is the largest waterfall in Iceland and Europe.
Heading north ,at the Jokulsargljufur Canyon you can find out more about how Iceland’s landscape evolved . Here you can view vivid rock colours , great folds in the rock and huge bassalt columns.
At Hofsos you can bath in steaming hot pools overlooking spectacular views . It’s described as one of the country’s most beautifully located swimming pools”
.At the Langjokull Glacier In the winter time there are loads of deep blue ice caves that you can visit.
Inside the glacier
The final stop on this epic journey around Iceland takes in Kerlingarfjoll right in the middle of the country – in what used to be thought of as bandit country, and had the poorest land. Many of the myths and legends associated with Iceland ‘s past come from this region.
Destination – Iceland