Part 1 – Iceland the Incredible

There’s just so much that’s fantastic about this little heard about island in the middle of the Atlantic. This is going to be a long post so I’ve split it into two parts. Get your reading glasses out.

Just sitting here thinking about the landscapes I’ve been lucky enough to hike through over the last week blows my mind. Unbelievable is not an overstatement. The landscapes on the Laugavegur trail are phenomenal….

.............yep............
………….yep…………your mind is not playing tricks. Ash mixed with snow causes a myriad of swirls.

But not getting ahead of myself let’s get back to basics.

Why Iceland you ask? Two reasons. Number one to explore the wild side of a wild unknown country – to uncover the land of fire and ice, volcanos, geysers, hot springs, glaciers, mountains, waterfalls and lava fields. Number two because I knew no one else who had been here, so I wanted to make my trip unique.

I booked an 8 day trekking tour way back in November and with hindsight it was the best decision. But before I get to that I want to expand on Iceland as most people just have no point of reference of what this place is all about.

Iceland is right here…..

Pretty much in the middle of no where
Pretty much in the middle of no where

Iceland was settled at the end of the 9th century by Norwegian vikings in search of new farmland. The first parliament in history was founded way back in 930 at the sacred site of Thingvellir, now part of the tourist golden circle drive.

Reykjavik is the capital and is in fact the northernmost capital city in the world. For a city of 200 000 it feels like a large town more so than a city. Everywhere is within walking distance and there’s barely any traffic…just lots of stray cats. Total population is around 320 000.

To Iceland’s credit 99% of their energy is renewable. Primarily through hydro and geothermal.

Prices are on the expensive side and it seems ridiculous when they say that’ll be 2000! (Icelandic Krona of course…) Icelandic is the local language but English is well spoken by everyone.

The tourism industry is on the rise, 750 000 last year mostly from Europe and America, a sign of things to come I think.

The country also sits smack bang on the divide between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian plate which are pulling apart at 2cm a year. I even went snorkelling in the crack known as Silfra with crystal clear 100m visibility and dry suit worthy 2 degree water.

North America continent is on the right. Eurasian on the left.
North America continent is on the right. Eurasian on the left.

Upon arrival I made the most out of my body clock being out of sync and stayed up 8pm to 4am taking a photo every hour of the sun from the same spot…eventually I’ll make a t-shirt out of the images! Sunset was at midnight and sunrise around 3am and in between just a steady sunset glow.

Midnight sun on 20 June 2013
Midnight sun on 20 June 2013. One day before summer solstice (longest sunlight day of the year).

I met up with my trekking group and we hit up the famous golden circle sites. Historic Thingvellir, geyser hot springs, and Gullfoss waterfall.

Our trekking group for the next week
Our group anticipating the unknown adventures in store.
Gullfoss waterfall. Foss means waterfall in Icelandic.
Gullfoss waterfall. Foss means waterfall in Icelandic.

Following the day of sightseeing we hit the highlands in search of the much fabled elves and trolls hiding in the cliffs and ideally to find our Landmannalaugar campsite. I remember catching my first glimpses of these “watercolour painting-like” mountains, heart beats faster and shaking my head thinking “this can’t be possible”. Again with hindsight in my back pocket this would become the hike of my life – and it equally would for others in the group who have hiked all over the world.

First glimpse
First glimpse

When we started the day’s trek from Landmannalaugar to Swan Lake I couldn’t believe how fast the landscapes changed. One moment we were on a vast desert like lava field then in literally an hour we were pounding through snow fields then along mountain ridges…wow. It was jaw dropping stuff. 24 km, 10 hours and lots of photo breaks.

Day 3 - start of official trail. Landmannalaugar to Swan Lake, 24km.
A lava field and hot springs just to kick things off
Up the ridges.....
Up the ridges…..
Along the snowy plateaus.....
Along the snowy plateaus…..
My favourite landscape in the world to date. It's like a portal to a new world of elves and trolls. Wild mountains with 3 glaciers visible behind.
And to my favourite landscape in the world to date. It’s like a portal to a new world of elves and trolls. The most beautiful mountains I’ve seen with not one but three glaciers visible behind.

The following days held plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Buffeting winds, swirling rains and sideways snowfall. This 4 day trek is just getting started. To be continued in Part 2….

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6 thoughts on “Part 1 – Iceland the Incredible”

  1. Hi Daniel, greetings from Germany 🙂 Loved reading about our trip on your blog and am looking forward to the second Iceland part 🙂 I will definitely also follow your future posts as you travel along! All the best, Christiane

  2. Wow dan sounds like you are having the best time. Unbelievable vistas. Ready to read your nextt post. Snorkeling must have been awesome. Did you see and marine life? . Mum

    1. The water was super cold. It was as cold as the frozen lake i jumped into in Canada, but thankfully the dry suit kept me warm. The dry suit doesn’t cover your hands so the neoprene gloves let through the cold.

      I didn’t see any marine life but there are fish in there.

  3. What a stunning place. I loved ALL the photos but was especially taken by the midnight sun and the spot where the tectonic plates are separating. Amazing stuff!

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