On the frozen sea, through the mist, he sailed for six days north of what he called Bretannikē to reach the land where the midsummer sun shone high even at what should have been midnight. This journey of Pytheas of Massalia in 330 BC can arguably be recounted as the first visit to an isolated frozen island just short of the Arctic Circle. Almost a thousand years after that, Flóki Vilgerðarson of Norway rediscovere the land, lived there and called it Iśland, the name by which we know it today. While millennia have passed since Pytheas of Massalia set foot on this piece of land, yet this place even today makes every visitor feel like an explorer.
Sparsely populated, far flung, the isolated country of Iceland is truly a gem on the earth. An infant in the geological timeline, this tiny island has a large range of geological diversity and natural beauty. Minutes away from the airport, one can believe to have been teleported to the beginning of all things, and then nature unfolds itself in this majestic land, layer by layer.
The Land of Ice & Fire
The diverging Mid Atlantic Ridge passes right through the Iceland, which also lies on top of a hotspot. This coupled with its higher latitudinal position gives it a very unique geological appearance. Iceland is dotted with many active, dormant and extinct volcanoes, some of which are buried under glacial ice caps – a true amalgamation of ice and fire. In 2010, when Eyjafjallajökull eruptions happened, a stream of lava made its way through the frozen glacier – a very unique sight. Such occurrences have left the island with interesting geological features in terms of caves and tunnels – some made by flowing lava and others made by freezing water. Subsurface hotspot existence also gives rise to the phenomenon of bubbling mud pools and water geysers which is a fairly rare phenomenon on the earth. The English word geyser draws its meaning from Geysir, probably the oldest geyser in the world.
Where the Night meets Day
Given its northern latitudinal position, the summers barely see dark nights and winters barely see day light. Icelandic summer spans over May to August. It is said to be the best time to visit, unless your purpose is to see the northern lights and real frozen lands. When the summer is at its peak, the sunset, so as to say, happens at any time around midnight and the sun doesn’t remain down for more than two to three hours. Dark of the night, in the true sense never happens during summer and exact opposite of this happens in winter, when midday gets just as bright as the pre-dawn light in equatorial regions. Night and Day truly walk along here.
The Rainbow Catcher
The mountainous landscape of Iceland is dotted with waterfalls on the rivers supplied with glacial waters. Cascading waterfalls along with long sunny hours during the summer results in some really beautiful rainbows to form over them. A double rainbow is not difficult to witness and if you are lucky, you might also catch a triple. While the winters might be all grey and white, summer is a colour blast on this island with lush green fields, blue waters, multiple rainbows and expansive flowerbeds covering the ash black of the land.
Finding Trolls & Elves
How much ever a sceptic you might be, when an old man by the Lake Myvatn tells you that he has seen elves and knows where they live with an honest face, you cannot totally deny his conviction. A vast majority of Icelandic folks believe in the existence of Trolls & Elves, the Huldufolk – hidden people, as they call them. If a straight road in the middle of nowhere takes a curve just to later come back on the same track, be assured it was done to avoid an elven house. The belief is so strong that many construction projects get deterred, displaced or cancelled to avoid disturbing the lives living under the mysterious open lands of Iceland. The accounts of meeting these hidden folks are not unheard of.
There & Back Again
On the 17th of July 2016, we embarked on the journey which would turn out to be the best so far. Our week long camping trip commenced at Reykjavik, from where we followed the Route 1, the ring road to go around this majestic land exploring the beauty of geysers, waterfalls, black sand beaches, mud pools, lava fields, volcanic craters, glacial national parks and lake gardens. We drove through the Golden Circle, Vik, Myvatn, Husavik, Akureyri and Snaefellsness Peninsula to get back to Reykjavik on the 24th of July. A week is definitely not long enough time to explore a land so beautiful, so I must go back to Iceland to witness its cruel winter and explore the frozen glacier of Vatnajökull. I must go back to visit the Westfjords which promises beauty unmatched anywhere in the world. But more than that, I must go back to live the wonderland fantasy once again.
Bookmark this space for more post about the marvelous land of Iceland.