Winter is a lovely time of the year. Many people don’t like it because it’s cold and dark outside, quite slippery and difficult to walk and you have to wear layers and layers of clothes to prevent yourself from turning into an icicle. However, there are places in the world so mesmerizing in their beauty, that winter decided to stay there permanently. One such place is Iceland.
Iceland – a view from space; source: Wikipedia
I visited Iceland a couple of weeks ago and I can declare this experience has changed my life and my perception of the world. I have always loved nature and have tried to provide my small contributions towards preserving it. But to observe nature in its purest form, untouched by humans, is indeed a life-changing experience. Below, I’ll list some of the most breathtaking places I visited and those I couldn’t visit but intend to, along with my best photographic attempts.
A plane view of Iceland
Sunrise in Iceland in January happens around 11 am. The sun sets around 4-5 pm depending on the cloud activity. This makes around 5 hours of daylight in a twenty-four-hours! Crazy, right!? Another impressive thing to note down is the colour of the sand- coal black. It was formed of volcanic lava, cooling down as it was flowing into the ocean.
A stunning view of Hraunfossar waterfalls
The beautiful Hraunfossar waterfalls are located in Western Iceland in the fjord of Borgarfjordur near the town of Borgarnes. The name Hraunfossar is formed out of two Icelandic words – hraun meaning lava, and fossar meaning waterfalls – ‘lava waterfalls’. Hraunfossar appears to spring directly from the lava field and flows straight into the Hvita River. As you can imagine, I was mesmerized by the view and the turquoise colour of the water!
The Hraunfossar Waterfalls spring from the lava field and flow into the Hvita River
I had the pleasure to arrive at Godafoss at sunrise (around 11 am). The area around the waterfalls is slippery as hell and I was literally walking on ice for 15 minutes. Also, I was freezing as the place is quite open and it’s usually very windy. But as I set my eyes upon this stunning view, it was all worth it and more!
Godafoss Waterfalls at sunrise
Godafoss is located in Northern Iceland. It’s 12 metres high and 30 metres long. The river Skjálfandafljót runs through the region and forms this natural phenomenon. According to a modern myth, Godafoss is connected to the conversion of Iceland to Christianity. It is said that a local lawspeaker who helped make Christianity the official religion in the country, threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall.
The area around Godafoss
Godafoss in all its beauty
Speaking of sunrise, I was lucky to witness a few very beautiful sunrises/sunsets from a number of picturesque locations across Northern Iceland. I love how the fresh snow glows at sunlight and produces an incredible view for you to enjoy.
‘Look Simba, everything the light touches is your kingdom’
The sun sets to the view of a geothermal power station, supplying the town of Akureyri with electricity
Grjotagja thermal caves
Grjotagja was a popular bathing place until the 1975-84 volcanic eruptions at Krafla, which brought magma steams underneath the area, resulting in a significant rise in the temperature of the water.
A big part of Iceland is an active volcanic area. This indeed sounds scary… for someone who’s seen Pompeii too many times. But for the traveller-enthusiast, it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy some of nature’s best creations – geothermal springs, geysers, lava formations, lava fields etc.
The lava field of Dimmuborgir
Dimmuborgir is a lava labyrinth formed 2300 years ago when a partly cooled lava lake drained out leaving magnificent basaltic pillars and sculptures. The fans amongst you would be interested to know some of Game of Thrones scenes beyond the Wall have been filmed at this location.
My absolute favourite part of the trip to Iceland was the opportunity to bathe in the hot geothermal waters of the lake Myvatn. It is located in an active volcanic area, near Krafla volcano. I cannot describe this experience to anything else I have done before. I felt like a Japanese snow monkey meditating in a hot spring. The temperature outside was -10°C and inside the spring 40°C. Pretty awesome, right?
Lake Myvatn at sunset
The area around Lake Myvatn
The other unforgettable experience I had in Iceland was my whale watching trip, which started from the town of Akureyri. I’ve never been colder in my entire life, but it was worth it!
On the way to see some whales
In those waters, the most common whale species is the humpback whale. They vary from 12 to 16 metres in length and weigh about 36,000 kg. All whales we saw were swimming in pairs- they are very social creatures. They are also very curious but a bit shy at the same time, so they would not let us get too close.
The feeling of watching these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is incredible
The panoramic views were breathtaking
Apart from the whales, I made some other animal friends during my trip to Iceland! They are all very cute, some of them are a little bit overweight, but all were very welcoming and friendly!
The animal kingdom of Iceland!
The greatest regret I have after my trip is I couldn’t see the Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis has been my dream since an early age. It’s a very rare event and it depends on many factors- no moon, no clouds, high Aurora activity to name but a few. However, this gives me a solid reason to return to Iceland one day, so I’m already looking forward to that moment!
Aurora Borealis; image source: icelandtravel.is
I’ll finish this post with a stunning image of the Christmas Garden near Akureyri. As the name suggests, the whole place is dedicated to the spirit of Christmas. It’s lovely for a visit during the festive season.
The place Santa stays in when in Iceland – The Christmas Garden
Hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. Don’t know about you, but I’m certainly going back to the dream country of Iceland!