We Saw So Many Great Sights In Iceland
On our travels from north to south, we saw such an amazing variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. We loved the chance to explore Reykjavik and found a lovely collection of outdoor art. But the natural beauty drew us out for several full day trips.
We started our visit to Iceland with a tour in Northern Iceland from Akureyri. On our stay in Reykjavik, our first day took us around the Golden Circle Route. Our final day trip showed us the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula. Each tour delivered such an amazing variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland.
The Science Behind The Sights In Iceland
We saw extensive volcanic and geothermal features in Iceland. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge ran across Iceland. This marked the line between the Eurasian Plate and North American tectonic plates. The plates currently move apart at a rate of about 1 inch per year. As such, Iceland was geologically active with both earthquakes and volcanoes.
Earthquakes happened on a regular basis in Iceland. In an average week, the seismic network detected 500 earthquakes. Most were considered minor. Large quakes (3+ on the Richter scale) generally were in the volcanoes.
Iceland had hundreds of volcanoes and approximately 30 were active volcanoes. There were two large volcanoes in Iceland. Katla was hidden under Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Bárðarbunga was beneath Vatnajökull glacier. Both have been particularly active since 2010.
The largest earthquake in Iceland was in 1784 with a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale. The second largest one was in 1912 at 7.0 on the Richter scale. The more recent earthquakes (around 6.5 on the Richter scale) occurred in June 2000 and then again in May 2008. As we travelled around Iceland, we saw evidence of this volcanic activity.
Iceland also was known for its geysers. Extremely hot waters ran under the ground. Some of this erupted as geysers and some created colourful (if smelly) hot springs. And in Iceland, much of the heat was harnessed for geothermal power. The massive waterfalls found in Iceland were used for hydroelectricity. As a result, most residents had access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity.
The Sharp Black Lava Fields
On our day trip in Northern Iceland from Akureyri, we stopped to view the Skutustadagigar Pseudo Craters. This ring of craters was a National Monument.
The second volcanic site we visited from Akureyri gave us a view of the lava formations at Dimmuborgir. The large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row more than 2,000 years ago created this area of hardened lava lakes, natural arches, pillars and craggy grottoes. It was fun to walk at the bottom of towering lava.
On our tour around the Golden Circle, we visited the Thingvellir (or Pingellir) Lava Fields. Thingvellir National Park was a UNESCO site. It provided an interesting view into Iceland’s geological and historical heritage. We walked along the sheer rock walls. And learned that Thingvellir was also the site of the oldest still standing parliament in the world or Althingi founded in 930 AD.
On our tour along the Reykjanes Peninsula we stopped at the Eldhraun lava field. Sharp black lava rocks jutted from beneath soft green moss. It was created when the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilometres of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous gases.
We got such an interesting look at earthquake and volcanic features. A great surprise on our tours to see the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland.
Bubbling Geothermal Sites
The first view we got of geothermal sites in Iceland came on our tour of Northern Iceland from Akureyri. The Namafjall Geothermal Field was a colourful field of gurgling sulphur cauldrons and boiling mud pits.
On our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, we stopped at the Geysir geothermal area at Haukadalur. The Strokkur geysir blew hot steam high in the air every 5 to 10 minutes. We found a spot up-wind of the bubbling pool and got the greatest show.
When we visited the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula, we saw the geothermal site at Krysuvik. An extensive set of boardwalks provided access to the different areas in this large site.
Later in the day, we stopped at Gunnuhver. The large field had several areas where steam billowed out. The largest mud pool was 65 feet across and constantly spewed dense, cloudy steam at a scalding 570˚F. Close by we saw the geothermal plants that harvested this energy.
The Blue Lagoon was the last stop when we toured the stunning Reykjanes Peninsula. This was one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. We saw the open lagoons not used for swimming. But on a return visit, we definintely planned to book some time at the pools and spa area.
We were happy we saw such an interesting variety of geothermal features on our tours to see the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. Many of these are often missed by visitors to Iceland.
Two Big Waterfalls In Iceland
Iceland was a country known for its stunning waterfalls. The first waterfall we saw was Godofoss on our tour of Northern Iceland from Akureyri. Godafoss was an Icelandic word that meant “Waterfall of the Gods.” It was certainly a stunning sight when we looked out over the horseshoe falls. They reminded us of Niagara Falls which are an easy day trip for us at home.
On our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, our final stop was at the Gullfoss Waterfall. We took the path at the top level for a panoramic view over the waterfall. A walk down gave us an up close view of the two thundering tiers of this waterfall.
We planned to see the Dynjandi Waterfall with the seven cascades that caused it to be called “The Thunderer”. But many of the tours on our stop in Isafjordur were cancelled.
We were happy we visited the Godafoss and Gullfoss waterfalls on our first look at the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. But we know there are still many more waterfalls for on a return visit to Iceland.
Such Great Waterfalls, Volcanic And Geothermal Sites In Iceland
We saw a wide variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites as we travelled around the world. The volcanic islands of the North Atlantic drew us from one volcanic site to another. Both the Canary Islands of Spain and the Azores Islands of Portugal left long lasting impacts on us. The Azores also had many hot spring sites that we enjoyed. And of course, we visited the amazing geysers of Yellowstone.
We saw some great waterfalls at the beginning of this cruise around the Nordic countries with Oceania Cruises when we cruised along the Norway Fjords. But we were so excited we saw such a variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. On three tour days in Iceland, we moved from one amazing sight to the next. We were glad we spent some time and explored Reykjavík. But no visit to Iceland was complete without an immersion in the outdoor splendours.
We did not see all the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. And we missed the Northern Lights. So there is still much left for a return visit.
Did you enjoy our look at the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland? Other than the Northern Lights, was there one that we missed?
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