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Iceland – geology

Anyone at least moderately interested in geology should visit Iceland at least once in a lifetime! If the process of Earth creation and development could be seen within a person's lifetime, this is definitely the place to watch it.

Both me and Gustavo have geological university background, so what I am going to write is probably strongly influenced by this fact: personally, I think that some (at least basic) knowledge about geology adds extremely a lot to the experience of a trip to Iceland. Of course, anyone can appreciate beautiful places, waterfalls and rock formations and it's hard to stay insensible to those landmarks in Iceland. But understanding where they come from and that they were created just a second ago in a geological timescale is what adds a prickle on the neck and make you REALLY appreciate what you see!

Jökulsárlón is the most well-known glacier lagoon in Iceland. It's the place, where you can observe the icebergs cracking from the moving glacier and floating towards the sea through a blue lake. Quite an amazing thing if you imagine being a witness to the glacier reaching it's final destination...

We aimed to catch the short good weather window and sacrificed a day of driving to be able to see the sun hitting the ice and water in the lagoon. The forecast was promising storm approaching from the East the same night.

Svartifoss is a waterfall located in Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park. This was one of the big misses of my 2010 Iceland  bike trip and I wanted to see it this time unconditionally. It's said that the hike to the falls takes about 1.5h both ways. 

After the long drive to see the Ice lagoon the same day, we decided to give it a go and squeeze the trip to Svartifoss the same day in the afternoon. The storm clouds were already well visible on the horizon, so postponing the hike to the next day would be pushing the luck too far.

With some energy in our legs saved during the drive, we managed to get to the waterfall in a much shorter time than expected and therefore had still plenty of daylight time to enjoy 🙂

I have to admit that from all the pictures I've seen before, I imagined Svartifoss to be much bigger... It's still very impressive though. Who says that size matters?

Reynisfjara - black beach close to Vik is a popular tourist destination as it offers views to both Reynisdrangar and Dyrhólaey. Not many people seem to pay much attention to the beautiful rock formations on the side of the beach...


Basalt columns are a persistent piece of the landscape in the southern Iceland. You can find them at the well-marked sites like Skaftafell Park, Reynisfjara, Dverghamrar, but also along the road if you pay attention to the surrounding cliffs.

Columnar basalt is formed when lava flow gets cooled and contraction forces build up. Cracks then form horizontally and the extensive fracture network that develops results in the six-sided formation of the columns.

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Iceland – the glaciers

Ice sounds like a natural thing for Iceland. But in fact, only about 11% of the country is covered by glaciers. It is a peculiar combination, as the white caps sit mostly on top of volcanoes. Actually, the main damage caused by the volcanic eruptions is due to flash floods rather than lava flow!

The majesty of the ice is incredible to me, but it's hard to appreciate it during the rainy and foggy days. I have been to Jökulsárlón before (bike trip in 2010), but I have to admit that the gloomy weather completely spoiled its charm. This year, we managed to chase the sunshine and arrived at the glacier lagoon within a perfect window for pictures.

For those who like to explore some less known sites, Fjallsárlón would be a place to go. Especially that it's practically on the way to Jökulsárlón and very close to the road. It's a smaller lagoon, but it compensates with a nicer glacier (in my opinion at least).

Skaftá river is one of the biggest glacier rivers in the area. On the way from Vik to the East, this is the place where the large, black flood planes become a major part of the landscape for many kilometers. You don't want to camp on top of these.

The glacier lagoon in the afternoon sun. It's hard to believe the storm will come at night.

Hvannadalshnúkur comes down the mountains towards the sea. I really liked the shape of this ice tongue! So dynamic and beautiful combination of cold ice and warm autumn colours.

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Iceland – chasing the rainbows

Despite all the challenges and sh**y weather most of the time, Iceland has something that makes me want to come back. Cold beauty - that's what she is.

My first trip here was in 2010, just after the blow up of Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which stopped the air traffic in Europe for weeks. Just after it resumed, the tickets were quite cheap, so I took the opportunity to give it a try. That time, I have spent 3 weeks on a bicycle, going around the island against the wind, rain and sometimes myself. Today I remember it as the toughest experience of my life, but I am also very happy I had it.

Even though this country gave me a hard lesson, I seem to feel some kind of masochistic need for more. And here we are, September 2016 and time for another visit to this 'country of ice and fire' (however I would easily replace 'fire' with 'water' or 'wind' in this quote), where chasing the rainbows starts to have a completely different meaning.

This time, no bikes involved, we have rented a car. Not a 4x4 unfortunately, just a regular city car. This restricted the drive to the main roads and took more adventurous 'F-roads' out of the equation, but I am quite sure at some point I will get to that level too 😉

The trip was rather on a budget - the only costs were tickets and car rental. I prepacked and portioned all the food already at home, ready to spill hot water on it. To be honest, this was the first time I really did it right, as usually I overdo with food and have to carry and bring back loads. This time I can be proud of my planning. Since we both enjoy camping and it's easy to find places to put up a tent, the hotel booking was not an issue either.


Trading a rare, sunny autumn in Stavanger for a gloomy Iceland seemed a bit like a looser deal on the day of our arrival. Heavy clouds made us change the initial plan right away and instead of going South, we drove to the North. After a rainy day spent mostly on a transfer, we reached Kirkjufellsfoss just on time to enjoy the view and take few pictures before going for a hot bath in a local swimming pool.

Funny thing, but during the previous trip I didn't realize how many horses there were around here! It makes perfect sense, as people come to Iceland to do horseriding as the main attraction. Somehow, it never occurred to me they just owe the island. Together with sheep.

One of the places I just passed by on bike, but did not bother cycling extra 15km both ways out of the main route... Dyrhólaey Arch - the big miss of 2010.

Some things look better in the sunshine - Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of them. Definitely worth a hectic drive to get there just before the storm.

And, of course, there are all these 'Golden Circle' highlights... Some of them deserve their fame. However, I still keep refusing to go to Blue Lagoon: there is just so much more to see in Iceland than an expensive hot soup of people! 😉