Iceland 4 … the Snaefelles Peninsula

No one part of Iceland can top the other experiences, but this west coast region spoke strongest to me. It is said that the tip of this peninsula sits on a ley line and this makes it one of the few genuine mystical parts of the world.

Having worked and lived for awhile at another special place, Byron Bay, I am versed in these theories of the earth’s magnetic energies manifesting in a geographic place. At the small town of Hellnar as in some other “special” places, I read there is the first Intentional Community in Iceland

Anyway whether in fact or in mind, I found that sitting alone outside the fabulous Hotel Budir near the tip of the peninsula in the late evening, sipping a G&T and gazing across the lava field towards a small church, brought the deep meditative tranquility that one experiences rarely in life.

The hotel sits within a few hundred metres of the coast where a moss covered lava field up to 8000 years old meets the ocean.

In the middle of the field is a volcano called Búða-rock and in the distance the ice- domed Snaefell Glacier stands tall.


After we left for Reykjavik a few days later we were told that in the 16th a notorious serial killer lived on this peninsula. That bloody tale was centuries away from the remarkably good gourmet meals served by the hotel.



The peninsula offers other experiences that make it special:  –

the famed Snaefell glacier,

a coastal walk at through the lava field between Arnartapi to Hellnar,

and the hunt for the elusive puffin!

But before I explore these, I want to digress and give a nod to a few other stops along the way from Akureyri to Reykjavik. – specifically:

The Bjarnarhofn Shark Museum is the region’s leading producer of fermented shark meat, a traditional Icelandic dish.


The young family member who entertained us offered us the real deal after we had watched a video on the fermenting process. The Greenland shark is poisonous if eaten fresh and fermentation neutralizes the toxins.

Even fermented, it tasted poisonous!!!

I became interested in this shark and found that the species is mostly restricted to the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean  and Arctic Ocean and It has the longest known lifespan of all vertebrate  species (up to 392 years) is big enough to swallow a reindeer

Secondly, I mention Snorri’s pool only because it is here that my third (they come in 3’s) minor Iceland irritant occurred – first the broken tooth in Reykjavik, then Iceland Air broke a wheel off my suitcase and here at Snorri’s geothermal pool I lost my Gucci sunglasses. Serves me right for being a self-indulgent consumer.

Snorri was a 13th century poet and Lawspeaker who is responsible in this writings for preserving much of the information about Nordic pagan life. He derserves more than this passing reference.

Finally, In this living earth of Iceland there are many awesome sights along the way. The Deildartunguhver thermal spring produces 180 litres of water per second, the largest of any in the world. water temperature is 212 degrees and is used to generate electricity

Greenhouses heated from the springs produced these wonderful tomatoes.


Now, back to the main game:

Snaefell Glacier

The glacier is accessed by way of a snow cat. We climb up the granite until we hit the ice and then climb through the cloud line to icefields under blue skies. This glacier tops the dormant 1446 metre high volcano whose 200 metre crater Jules Verne chose as the entry point for his Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Some have believed this to be a meeting place of extra-terrestrials.  Others believe it to be one of the seven chakras (energy centres) in the world.


The Game Old Dame on the Glacier


Here the granite volcanic rock, the glacier and the cloud fight for dominance

Coastal walk

There is a hiking trail leading through the lava field along the coast between Arnarstapi to HellnarAround Arnarstapi the columnar basalt and cliff formations are stunning as the photo below of Mt Stapafell shows.



The energetic walk around the coast with the cliff formations and the squawking of birds makes me realize I have run out of adjectives so overwhelmed am I by nature. It is better to let my inadequate pictures speak for themselves.






If you look closely you can see the idiot tourists who put their lives at risk


Before we go on the puffin hunt I see this graffiti. I am a fan of good graffiti and so can’t resist photographing this in the very tiny port.


From a small harbour, we take a boat one evening in search for puffins.


The Captain in his cabin

Sightings are not guaranteed. Our captain takes us to a small islet covered in birds. Excited confusion ensues. Is that a puffin? Can I see a puffin? Camera click, mine included. My puffin pictures are very average



But Tim Wilson who was travelling with us took a few spectacular photos which I am pleased he lets me post here.




Besides the puffins bird life was prolific:


From the sea the landforms, the grandeur of this country its relationship to settlements  look even more spectacular.




I am sad at leaving








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Iceland 3…a few days in the Arctic North

The flight from Reykjavik north takes us to the agricultural/tourist/service centre of Akureyri, a small (pop. 17,500) neat town at the west side of the inland end of the beautiful Eyjafjörður fjord.


Although about 100k from the Arctic circle, on this first day it is so warm that people sit outside cafes; presumably it is the locals in T-shirts.


Norse Vikings settled the area in the 9th century. By the 17th century Danish merchants set up camp on the site of the now town and In 1779 the 12 permanent residents were (temporarily) granted a municipal charter!


Our first visit was to the Arctic Botanic Gardens to wonder at some of the floral displays; the range begin to make sense as you realise that at this time of year, the sun shines almost round the clock. The garden were begun in 1910 when women from Akureyri founded the Park Association to beautify their city. The previous year the city had given them a hectare of land. It was the first public park in Iceland. The garden area has increased to 3.6 hectares. Its prolific range has proven that shrubs, trees and other plants can survive on the edge of the Arctic. Besides arctic plants, those from the temperate zones and high mountains are grown. There are about 400 Icelandic species and about 7000 species altogether.

After the Gardens we drive along the northern shore of the fjord to visit the   Laufas farmouse.


Laufás is a renowned church site and chieftain‘s residence from settlement (874-930). The current Laufás church was built in 1865, among its special items is a pulpit from 1698.

The current farmhouse (below) which is now a museum typifies of a wealthy vicarage from 1853-1882 furnished with household items and utensils from the period.

The drive is dotted with extraordinarily picturesque scenes of nestled farms, horses grazing and hay bales waiting for transport. Bright pink bales, a symbol of breast cancer awareness, stand out. Like everywhere in the world, people are slowly moving from the land into the town but when I think of what conditions must be like here in winter, I can sympathise. I also wonder about how these wonderful while farmhouses must disappear into the winter snow but then again, it is dark most of the winter time!

Next, an area full of geothermal and volcanic features

Lake Myvain (Midge Lake)

The next day we venture further visiting landscapes around Lake Myvain (Midge Lake) and I observe the good sense of tourists with full netting over their heads to protect them from the small flying irritants. The area is one of active volcanism not far from the Krafla volcano.

The lake and its surrounding wetland are prolific with birds. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and pseudocraters.


At the close of the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, the Mývatn basin was covered by a glacier which pushed up huge moraines which can still be seen at the north end of the lake.

(Moraines are accumulations of dirt and rocks that have fallen onto the glacier surface or have been pushed along by the glacier as it moves. The dirt and rocks composing moraines can range in size from powdery silt to large rocks and boulders. – I know this because one of our group had a PhD in glaciers!!!)


Godafoss waterfall (Waterfall of the Gods) perhaps so named because the Lawspeaker who proclaimed Christianity as the new religions of Iceland in the year 999 is said to have thrown his pagan statues in here. Whatever the reason, it is spectacular.



Dimmuborgir lava field 

 Dimmuborgir “The Dark Fortress” is a true wonder. Dimmuborgir consist of fields of huge lava rock formations which make you feel like you stepped into another world – a world of fairy-tales. This is where trolls come from =this is their homeland surely? True, further south one can see their rock like silhouettes on the sides of hills and mountains but it is here in the lava towers they must have originated.




Hot lava streamed over these ponds trapping the water underneath the lava, and steam issuing through vents formed these pillars, which then remained standing even after the crust around them had gone away. The rocks are brittle and fragile because of how they came to be made. Walking along the pathways between the towering lava is truly an experience from Middle earth.


Grjótagjá rift is one of the best known underground caves in Iceland. It has two entrances with steps leading down to it. It is half-full with geothermal water and our guide says that as a boy he used to bathe in it. He explained an underground stream which brave lads swam beneath to reach the girls’ in a second cave.

During the eruption of Mt. Krafla in 1975-1984 the temperature of the water rose so it couldn’t be used for bathing until 2004. The temperature of the water is now too hot for bathing. We were warned against testing it although the potential danger didn’t seem to worry a few tourists; one man  clambered deep down into one cave regardless of a small baby he was carrying. This tourist below was only intent on his photo opportunity.


Hverfjall Crater

This day we also walked up Hverfjall, a bare symmetrical and circular explosion crater thought to be 2800 – 2900 years old. It is about 140 metres deep and 1km in diameter which makes it one of the largest of its kind in the world. To my shame I was a little out of breathe when I reached the rim.



Lest it all be too physical and overwhelming, back in Akureyri there is a more than a decent cup of coffee to be had in a charming bookshop and more children to watch as they are chasing whatever one chases playing Pokemon Go! There are installations in the street outside the art gallery.


But the real surprise is one of the best Japanese entrees I have ever eaten (and there are about 10 Japanese restaurants in my neighbourhood).  A gastronomic surprise up here on the Arctic Circle, just down the street from the art gallery, the bright red Rub 23 serves Japanese, fusion, Asian and seafood. I was so impressed I bought the book. Below is the cod served as a main.


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Iceland 2….The Golden Circle plus some.

This blog is basically about the awesome tempestuous living landscape of Iceland.

From the moment I left the airport it was clear that this was a land different from any I had known. I was 100 k’s from the Arctic Circle but July warmish. The distant volcanic hills were snow patched blue, dressed in cloud, while in the foreground, intense green fields dazzled. Further along a 30 million year old mountain was ringed with lava.


Now was the time to leave the town and experience the land.

The Golden Circle

If you’ve heard anything about Iceland, this day trip is probably it. The story is that when Gorbachev and Reagan held a summit in Iceland in 1986, a US news team reported on the stunning country they visited in the down time. Since then, this round trip has starred on the tourist bucket list.

The Þingvellir National Park

Some 25 k’s east of Reykjavik, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the world’s first ”parliament”, a two weekly annual open-air gathering of the tribes that first met here in the Middle Ages (930AD) and continued until 1798 to make laws and settle disputes.

The Althing as the gathering was known (and as the current Parliament is still known) was held in a verdant field, an active volcanic site, fringed by a majestic granite cliff. A grassy knoll with an Icelandic flag is reputed to be where the Lawspeaker read out the laws agreed by the Althing.

Below is the granite cliff with the flying flag and the path that meanders through the site.




Here in the mists of time, paganism was the first religion before conversion to Christianity was proclaimed. Back in the day men were burnt here for witchcraft and women drowned in the lake filled with glacial water. Unsurprising then that these fields have provided one scenic backdrop for the popular “Game of Thrones” series.

Myth runs strong here. Trolls and elves are still part of Icelandic superstition and it is easy to see why. Tourists on the cliff top reminded me of the myths and legends – it isn’t a long stretch to see them as the tribes coming for the Althing gathering back in the day.



Through the fields of the first Althing, a wonderful walk takes you to the picturesque site of the first Icelandic (10th century) church rebuilt in the 1850s; it adjoins the summer home of the Prime Minister.



This house (above) is built in the old vernacular with the exterior of multiple matching front facades with a unified interior.



Further on you can peer into the remarkable chasm where the Northern American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and diverge triggering natural ramifications like the 2010 volcanic eruption which affected air travel throughout Europe. Brave or foolhardy divers go deep here. This is truly an iconic place.



It is no surprise this is known as the Land of Ice and Fire

Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall

Our second stop is the spectacular double drop waterfall. The river plunges 32 metres into a crevice which is also 32 metres deep. Both falls are perpendicular to the flow of the river.



The endearing story is that Sigridur, one of 13 children, lived here on what was then a sheep farm (1874-1957). The farm had this massive powerful waterfall, Gullfoss. Sigridur and her sisters loved the falls and guided visitors there, cutting the first paths. She was self-taught, a well-read and talented illustrator and embroiderer.

Sigridur’s father was approached by foreign investors wanting to dam the waterfalls for hydroelectrical production but she fought to protect it.

It is said that she walked barefoot the 120km to Reykjavik, to urge the politicians and financiers to leave the waterfall alone. She threatened to throw herself over the waterfall if they were to be dammed.

She briefed a lawyer who later became Iceland’s first President. The investors could finance the deal. Gullfoss became a National Park in 1979. A monument to Sigrid stands at the site.




There is something amusingly weird watching tourists stand around, cameras at the ready waiting for a spurt of water into the air.



“Geysir “ is actually the name of a specific grand spurter who has given his name to this phenomenon all over the world. He has been active for 10,000 years but now spurts rarely. It is said that in 1845 his eruptions reached 170 metres.


We are here to see another geyser and tourist ‘picture opportunity’, Stokkur who sits surrounded by petticoats of small geysers.



We leave the Golden Circle but not before a stop to visit a second waterfall and the “National Geographic” picture perfect beauty of salmon fishermen in an idyllic stream next to a fish ladder.

I was told these enthusiasts can pay up to US $5000 a day to the farmer for the pleasure of trying their hand at catching one of these fine fish in his or her lake.




Dinner that night is a surprise. It is at a tourist venue. Usually I would avoid such but in Iceland things seem different. It is a horse show. We are to see the famous Icelandic horses perform their famous fifth gait, a rocking horse movement known only to this breed.

So treasured are these small sturdy pure bred Icelandic horses that should one leave the country for whatever reason (sale overseas being a major reason) then they are never allowed to return due to fear of disease.

Driving back to Reykjavik in the light that lingers to near midnight, we pass fields of lava. I think I can see some trolls. Why wouldn’t there be since this land is alive?


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