Three Wet Days in Iceland

Strokur begins an eruption.

Since we still don’t have a house to move in to, we thought we’d go on holiday for a week or so, and since the weather has been so lovely in Britain, we opted for Iceland, where we figured we’d be bound to get the sort of weather we expect from an English summer!

Day one saw us fly in to Reykjavik and spend a pleasant afternoon visiting the thermal areas and lava flows nearby. We started with Krisuvik, which featured boiling springs and mud pools, and then continued along the south coast to Reykjarnes, which had lots of steaming springs plus an uncapped borehole putting out steam under huge pressure with an ear-splitting roar. We also walked out to the south-easternmost point in Iceland, which had some spectacular cliffs and a bright red old lava flow. From there we headed to Reykjavik to wander around the town.

Hot springs near Krisuvik.
Hot springs near Krisuvik in the rain.

The next morning we began with another walk around Reykjavik, and lunch with my old friend Ari who now works at Reykjavik University. The city itself is lovely – interesting architecture, very friendly, and full of interesting shops. Then we set off to see some more of the countryside. First stop was Thingvellir, originally the place where major gatherings happened, and also where Iceland declared its independence. It also happens to be a spectacular landscape, with dramatic canyons caused by spreading as it is right on the mid-Atlantic ridge. A fantastic place to see geology in action!

Looking up the hill to Reykjavik Cathedral.
Looking up the hill to Reykjavik Cathedral.

After Thingvellir, we drove on to Geysir, the namesake of geysers all over the world. Sadly it doesn’t play any more, but the area features lots of small erupting springs as well as the spectacular Strokkur, a geyser that erupts (quite briefly) every 5 minutes or so. It’s really spectacular as you can look right into the pool it erupts from, so you can see the bubble of steam come up the throat of the geyser and push the water into a great hemisphere before it shoots skywards. Another fine feature of the village of Geysir is that the camp-site is right next to the thermal area so we were lulled to sleep by the sound of mud pools!

Strokkur begins an eruption.
Strokkur begins an eruption.

The next morning, after a brief second visit to Strokkur, we headed on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, where a massive river tumbles into a slot canyon, sending spray everywhere. Unfortunately, as with each of the preceding days, the weather wasn’t being kind to us, so we got to see Gullfoss in the pouring rain.

Given the weather forecast, we decided to head East in search of sunshine. After leaving Gullfoss we drove on to Seljalandsfoss, another spectacular waterfall that you can walk behind. A short walk further on was another waterfall, this time falling into a canyon so tight there was just room for the river. Heading in to the canyon was rather like caving with a huge waterfall pouring in through the ceiling!

Seljalandsfoss in the rain.
Seljalandsfoss in the rain.

We continued East to Seljavellir, a beautiful, waterfall-filled valley with a hot spring in the middle of it. The 20 minute walk in the rain from the car, featuring a river-crossing, was made worthwhile by the lovely swimming pool in the middle of nowhere. We spent quite a time in the warm water before reluctantly getting out into the now heavy rain for the walk and wade back to the car. We continued to drive East, camping for the night at the foot of a huge glacier at Skaftafell…

Swimming in the thermal pool at Seljavellir.
Swimming in the thermal pool at Seljavellir in the rain.

4 thoughts on “Three Wet Days in Iceland”

  1. Yeah, some of the funkiest, spookiest ice formations I’ve ever seen were in Iceland in winter. The freeze/thaw cycle plus prevailing winds are the basis of this. The couple of trips I made in the early 2000s were as exciting as any, combining the adventure climbing experience found in Scotland with the cascade experience of Europe and Canada and funkiness thrown in 🙂

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