Sunday, 19 April 2015

Reykjavik - Iceland

This is one place I had no idea what to expect. A very popular destination from the UK, particularly in February ands March which are the best months for a chance to see the Northern Lights. An early flight out of Luton flying the length of the UK and over Glasgow before turning north west and making for Iceland. First impressions out of the plane window were very flat, very white and very cold looking. On landing, it hadn't changed much from that. It had started to snow and was registering 0 degrees, with a wind chill making it into the negatives. We had booked a car for the couple of days and after the briefing on road conditions and warnings of the wind factor (strong enough to blow cars doors off if not opened carefully), we sat for a moment and wondered how we would manage with the snow falling, the wind howling, the icy roads and driving on the right!!!!

It's a 40 k run from the airport at Keflavik into the capital of Reykjavik, good roads most of the way but barren landscape. Miles and miles of flat ground, very rocky soil and white snow. As they have just finished their Winter, there is nothing green to be seen - so far it is rather bland. There are snow covered mountains in the distance, but the cloud is low so they are hardly visible. Then suddenly Reykjavik comes into view and things improve.

Reykjavik town with its eclectic and colourful houses
After checking in to the hotel, we  headed off for a walk around the city to get a feel of the place. Towering high above the landscape we could see the cross of the Hallgrimskirkja church and what a marvellous piece of architecture it is. A lift ride to the top for 360 degree views of Reykjavic and the surrounding area. No stained glass windows but still remarkable inside in its simplicity, and a stunning church organ made up of 5275 stainless steel pipes. Imagine polishing them!


                      The impressive Hallgrimskirkja church by day and by night

Beautiful interior in its simplicity. No stained glass windows but an amazing 5275 pipe organ
After lunch, we grab our bathers and headed to the Blue Lagoon. It is a geothermal spa located in the middle of a lava field, the water temperatures are 37 - 39 degrees and it is rich in minerals of silica and sulphur. Buckets of white silica mud are available for the use of the bathers, so men and women alike cover themselves hoping to receive the benefits of the minerals. Sadly, I don't really think it made much difference to our wrinkles.

A popular way to spend the day in 0 degrees - swimming!

A bar provided selling champagne, beer or hot chocolate

                        Facials with the white silica mud - trying to improve the complexions

A stunning setting. Blue Lagoon geothermal lagoon - Iceland

Next day we headed up into the mountains to the villages of Geyser and Gulfoss to see the hot spring geysers and waterfalls. Passing through spectacular scenery, and well salted roads, it was an easy trip. Eruptions have  been recorded up to 70 meters, though not reaching that the day we visited, were still impressive. But was it cold!! The wind was blowing at 20 metres per second (70 ks per hr) and no matter how many layers we were wearing, it wasn't enough. We were able to stand so close to the geyser, much closer than Australian regulations would allow. No OH&S here.

Waiting .....

Getting there ......

Thar she blows and we are only 4 metres from it!

From Geyser it was a short hop to Gulfoss where the waterfall was is full flow with the melting snow after Winter. Bus loads of tourists and private 4 wheel drive tours were everywhere - a very popular destination. By now it had stopped snowing, the sun was shining and the weather definitely on the improve with clouds clearing to beautiful blue skies.

4 wheel drive -  Iceland style
The rugged beauty of the Iceland country

Watery sunshine makes for amazing lighting

Waterfalls at Gulfoss in their prime with the melting Winter snow
Our last day was spent wandering around the foreshore and taking in our final sights of Reykjavik. Time for a little shopping and a coffee. Overnight it had snowed  snow quite heavily and all the trees and gardens had now turned white. Down on the waterfront is Reykjavik's famous sculpture named Sun Voyager. It is of a dreamboat, an ode to the sun and represents the promise of undiscovered territory, and a dream of hope, progress and freedom. Looking across the water to the snow covered Mount Esja, it really was a spectacular sight.

Sun Voyager sculpture on the foreshore at Reykjavik
Snow covered tree branches


                           The ideal place to leave Pete for an hour whilst I shop for souvenirs.
Our couple of days there had all too quickly come to an end. We had handled the weather conditions as well as the right hand driving,  and seen some amazing landscapes. We never did get to see the Northern Lights as even though the days cleared to blue skies, the evenings clouded over with little to no chance of seeing them. Certainly a different landscape to the rolling green hills of Europe but truly a stunning country and a most enjoyable couple of days in a unique part of the world. 

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