Updated: Sep 22, 2020
The land of Fire and Ice is its nickname and for very good reason. Iceland is a volcanic island sitting atop the mid-oceanic Atlantic Ridge, between the North American and Eurasian plates, which you can literally stand on the crevices between them. There are roughly 130 volcanoes in Iceland and everywhere you look there are wide spread lava fields. We all remember the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, which everyone called by E15 because no one could wrap their tongues around its true name. Though it disrupted air travelers for over 6 days in April it was relatively small for volcanic eruptions, and continued for 3 months. If that isn’t enough, due to these plates there are the ongoing earthquake swarms in Iceland, normally about 50 per day, but recently it has fluctuated to 900. Is that a sign?
Now the ice part of that is glaciers, snow and the freezing of water. Iceland luckily has over 10,000 waterfalls of various sizes and shapes. These are magnificent to witness. For example Gullfoss sends 37 thousand gallons per second over the rocks… that causes quite a rumble. The uniqueness of this island is other worldly in a true sense. Stunning backdrops to misty trails, gaseous plumes and bubbling hot sands, I’ve never been anywhere like it.
For whatever reason it took me way too long to go to Iceland, I have a few excuses because I have been invited several times, but always in mid-winter when Iceland has about five hours of daylight. So when the opportunity came to visit in September – I jumped at the chance especially 13 hours of daylight. Fall in Iceland adds another dimension in the landscapes – color. The window of opportunity is short as three weeks later – winter had arrived.
I fell for the place immediately – small, friendly and so sparsely populated. Downtown was village like, charming and super easy to navigate. In a matter of an hour I was acclimated. Roads are at best two lanes that wound over mountains, but there were many drilled through mountains of lava, you can and should drive all the way around the island.
Yes, there are more sheep than Icelanders. Sheep farms are scattered everywhere— Icelandic sheep have been virtually unchanged in 1,000 years of isolation on the island country of Iceland. The oldest pure breed of Northern European short tailed sheep with face and legs free from wool. Where do you think all those Icelandic sweaters come from? Both male and females have hardy horns, but some males will have full double curls. In September, it's the Sheep Round-up time and groups of farmers and Icelanders, and pretty much everybody who want to help, round-up sheep from the wilds and sort them to bring them back home to their owners.
Blue ice --- it’s truly sapphire blue and amazing being inside the ice caves sparkling like large cut blue diamonds, and crystal clear, it is a surreal atmosphere that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world, only deep inside the body of a glacier. Eleven percent of Iceland’s total land area is covered by glaciers. This allows you the greatest selection of being on top or below these enthralling natural wonders.
The other is cyan blue at the aptly named Blue Lagoon geo-thermal wellness center. This is not to be missed, unlike fermented shark meat, this is an experience that is fantastic. Go for the Premium package and have lunch at Lava – that was the best food I had in Iceland….plus you can drink champagne in your robe. The Retreat also offers top of the line spa treatments while lying in the Blue Lagoon.
Interestingly, this is the brain child of a mechanical engineer, Albert Albertsen in the 1970’s who saw the potential in a friend’s battle with a skin disease. This was literally the water runoff of an adjacent power plant filled with valuable natural minerals, silica and sulfur at a temperature of 102 degrees F. It is heavenly.
Those shifting plates produce geo-thermal energy now harnessed here at the Svartsengi Resource Park but also around the country heating every home. This energy has made Iceland almost totally free of fossil fuels. At the Lagoon they are providing 100% of its fuel needs. Its unique surrounding landscape—the Illahraun lava field—is a frozen-in-time expanse of moss-covered volcanic rock that erupted from the earth in 1226. In order to protect the lava and the delicate centuries-old greenery, raised wooden paths were created so that you can traverse around the pools. This says everything-- here it is sustainable and nothing goes to waste. By the way, don’t waste a minute to go and enjoy this amazing island near the Arctic Circle. I cannot wait to go back.