Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Iceland - glaciers galore (Part II)

Part I of this blog appears here: Part I

Collection of pics on Flickr: Pics

To continue on the 'Places to See in Iceland' from Part I of the blog.

Þingvellir National Park

The last but not least marvel in the Golden Circle tour is the Þingvellir National Park where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates plates meet. So you can technically cross continents and come back the same day - which seems truly remarkable if you think about it!

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon

Floating icebergs are a sight to behold. There are many small and big glacial lagoons in Iceland. Jökulsárlón is probably one of the largest and easily accessible close to Reykjavik (1.5 hours drive).
It is interesting to note that even at such places, the temperature is not freezing at all - definitely cold but very tolerable.
To give further proof of its 'awesomeness', major Hollywood action movies including A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Tomb Raider and Batman Begins have been shot here.

Icebergs galore at Jökulsárlón, Iceland
Iceland bridges

Blue lagoon

Blue lagoon is geo-thermal spa close to Reykjavik (~45km). The idea is to spend a relaxing time swimming in the crystal clear mineral rich hot springs of the region. There is a small indoor cafe and you can rent bathrobes, towels, slippers on reaching there. It is ideal for a half day morning tour.

Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik, Iceland

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

We reserved the nest for the last. Aurora Borealis feels like a truly amazing spectacle when you see it for the first time. It appears as if someone has basically painted the sky 'green' for you.
 Unfortunately, as with all good things in life, you need some luck and endure some hardships to experience this phenomenon. First, the night sky needs to be absolutely clear (no clouds). Second, you need to be in a place which is (almost) completely dark (no streetlights even).

From personal experience, our 'Northern Lights' tour was canceled the first day as the sky was cloudy. The second day, the tour happened but we only managed to catch a glimpse of it - that too after waiting for more than an hour in the freezing cold.  Note that it can get really chilly in the night, so be prepared! Of all the weird things, it was actually our feet which seemed to have completely frozen while waiting. So warm clothes are not sufficient, get 'warm' shoes also. Finally, it was on the 3rd day, where we had a private tour guide who drove us around quite a bit before we were able to enjoy it in its full glory.

Even then, we did not manage to take a picture of it :( So coming back to the tip of bringing along a good camera with you, be sure to get a 'good' camera with a tripod.

Till then, here are some (external) pics of Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) for motivation: Aurora Borealis Pictures

Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption

Volcanic eruptions are another natural phenomenon you can try to experience in Iceland. Of course, it is really difficult to plan for them as they do not occur frequently and at regular intervals for our convenience. And, they can also be really dangerous.  

However, if and when they occur, the local tour companies do seem to promote "Volcanic tourism" with daily trips by helicopter or special jeeps that can take you really close to the eruptions. We were actually in Iceland between the Mar 27 and Apr 14, 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull. The Apr 14 eruption was the one that led to large-scale disruption of flights over European airspace, and we were quite lucky to have avoided it. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the eruptions up-close and below is a pic of the eruption from far below.

There is also another glacial volcano 'Katla' in the neighborhood which is considered more active than Eyjafjallajökull, with its chances of erupting in the near future quite high. So it might be worthwhile to keep an eye on its activities if you want to be at the right place at the right time.

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