Iceland: A Land of Ice and Fire

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 from space
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.

Hraunfossar waterfalls
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
Go√įafoss
Godafoss Waterfall

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
Godafoss Waterfalls at sunrise

Godafoss is located in Northern Iceland. It’s 12 metres high and 30 metres long. The river¬†Skj√°lfandaflj√≥t 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.

Sunset in Iceland
‘Look Simba, everything the light touches is your kingdom’
Geothermal power station
The sun sets to the view of a geothermal power station, supplying the town of Akureyri with electricity
Grjotagja
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.

Dimmuborgir
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¬įC and inside the spring 40¬įC. Pretty awesome, right?

Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn at sunset
The area around lake Myvatn
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
Whale watching
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
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 Christmas Garden
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!

L.V.K

Nine Astonishing Places on Earth

Nature is an incredible thing. It’s so beautiful, so powerful, so divine. It gives life, it takes life. Unfortunately, nowadays we, people don’t¬†recognise the importance of nature in our lives. Moreover, we don’t respect it, we abuse its resources and what is sadder, we destroy it.

In today’s post, I decided to put together a list of some of the most astonishing places on Earth and show the beauty of our planet in all its glory.

Erta Ale, Ethiopia

Erta¬†Ale is one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world and also one of the hottest places on earth. Known as the ‘smoking mountain‘ and also the ‘gateway to hell‘, Erta Ale is one of the last constantly active volcanoes. It’s quite special for the fact it¬†is a very rare combination of volcanoes and lava lakes.

6a0105371bb32c970b01b7c768d93c970b

img_7983

The last eruption of the volcano was in 2005.

Waitomo, Glow Worm Cave, New Zealand

lumin-7

The name Waitomo comes from two MńĀori¬†words –¬†wai, water and tomo, hole or shaft. The beautiful glow in the cave comes from the glow worms known as Arachnocampa luminosa,¬†living inside the cave.

8720211482_11cfe38aa8_o

The worms are the size of mosquitoes.

tumblr_nkq7ht4pub1r89m3bo1_1280

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park is located in Patagonia in southern Chile. This incredibly beautiful national park collects natural gems-¬†mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers. People from all over the world come to visit this beautiful place, which is one of Chile’s largest national parks.¬†Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and is pronounced PIE-nay.

screen-shot-2012-03-21-at-8-57-34-pm

A paradise on earth. The bizarre mountains and the blue waters look like they’ve come straight off the pages of a fairytale book.

75e71e5007ba36c61c077a80846347dd

Millions of tourists visit Torres del Paine every year. 76% of them are foreign, with European forming the biggest groups.

6e2a50533f38fea4e84657d5f3419f62

Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia, China

rainbow-mountains-5

The Zhangye Danxia landform area is known as ‘the eye candy of Zhangye‘. No wonder where this nickname is coming from;¬†Zhangye Danxia is a unique combination of different colours,¬†which is so rare it almost seems magical.

rainbow-mountains-3

According to China Highlights,¬†Zhangye ‘s Danxia was formed by:

“the erosion of red sandstone, forming isolated peaks and steep stratified outcrops. Its special geological structure, combined with long-term desert conditions , freeze-thaw peeling, and wind and water erosion gave rise to its present appearance.”

Marieta Islands, Puerto Vallarta

w1siziisinvwbg9hzhmvcgxhy2vfaw1hz2vzlzzmnmrhnzdjzmvhyjq1ndvhy185mzcymdg2nzmxx2fkn2jmnzkxnmzfay5qcgcixsxbinailcj0ahvtyiisijk4mhg-il0swyjwiiwiy29udmvydcisii1xdwfsaxr5idkxic1hdxrvlw9yawvudcjdxq

Playa del Amor, also known as the Hidden beach, is part of the Marieta Islands, located near the coast of Mexico. The big hole in the surface, reveals a hidden beach with crystal water and golden sands, looking straight to the cloudless sky.

The Marieta Islands have never been inhibited, which is making them an ideal destination for relaxing and getting in touch with Nature.

Trolltunga in Norway

d72p5214t4

Trolltunga- this magnificent rocky ledge has always reminded me of Lion King (remember when Rafiki lifted little Simba above his head and presented him to the animal kingdom as the heir to the Lion throne). The beauty of the landscape is magnificent and breathtaking, showing Nature in all its glory.

norway-trolltunga-mountain-rend-tccom-966-544

Trolltunga is rising 700 metres above lake Ringedalsvatnet.

Vaadhoo Island, Maldives

o-bioluminscence-vaadhoo-island-maldives-facebook

No doubt, some of you have seen pictures of this incredible sight from Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives. At night, the beach looks like a mirror that reflects the star sky, also known as the sea of stars. This mesmerizing view is the work of a rare species of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates.

Vaadhoo only has around 550 inhabitants.

Fjordlands National Park, South Island, New Zealand

dusky_sound_fiordland_national_park_south_island_new_zealand

A fiord is defined as a u-shaped glacier-carved valley which has been flooded by the sea.There are 14 fiords that form the south-west corner of the South Island. According to a Maori folk tale, the fiords were created by a giant stonemason called Tute Rakiwhanoa, who hued out the steep sided valleys with his adzes. Rudyard Kipling calls the park the 8th wonder of the world.

fiordland-national-park

Prskalo Waterfall, Serbia

download-1

The Prskalo waterfall is located in the Kuńćaj mountains in the eastern area of Serbia. The waterfall is 12-15 metres of height.

PxYnGDx6CxSg5njKSzDzDN8DxSDHsXRyOrM7821fZjbCpDKf4BD6P58eBe6s2ZhOf.jpg

L. V. K.

 

Stonehenge- The Unsolved Mystery

A couple of months¬†ago, I had the pleasure to visit one of the most popular and mysterious places on Earth- Stonehenge. I have been living in the UK for almost six years and I never went to see this magnificent monument. Scientists argue the first stones had been raised¬†around 2400-2200 BC¬†but the purpose it was built for, the technology of transporting and raising the stones and the place they’ve been brought from remain unknown, making Stonehenge one of the oldest and most mysterious places¬†in the world.

Stonehenge, bird's eye view

Stonehenge, bird’s eye view

The route to Stonehenge is quite a journey so when you decide to visit it, you gotta be prepared for a long travel. We headed off from Southampton, which is considerably close to Stonehenge. So we took the train to Salisbury and then the tour bus to Stonehenge, which takes about 30 minutes. The scenery was absolutely fantastic as it was mid-spring and everything was so green and shiny. The sun was up, though it was quite windy. But the air was fresh and one could feel a really strong connection with nature. Once we arrived at the entrance, we were to take a shuttle to the stones which took another 5-8 min. And suddenly, there it was- the mighty Stonehenge!

10561660_1105404509475174_2309798849750547234_n

The beauty of Stonehenge

At a first glance, I thought it was smaller than I expected. But boy, was it beautiful! It was surrounded by people, trying to take a picture from every¬†possible angle. My purpose though was to feel the energy that surrounds Stonehenge. When I was little, I was reading a children’s magazine called Wally’s World. For those who don’t remember it, it was a¬†weekly,¬†educational¬†magazine and each¬†issue was dedicated to a different country or region of the world, describing its history, legends surrounding it, facts etc. I remember one of the issues was focused on Britain and a particular article was telling the history of Stonehenge. I was so impressed and since then I’ve always wanted to visit it, to feel the air surrounding it, to witness the influence it has on people who see it for the first time.

IMG_0059

Stonehenge

The stones were surrounded by a fence, to stop people getting too close and touching them. There will always be someone who’d try to break the rule though, that’s why together with the fence there were people to guard the stones too. The stones are located on a little hill and everything one sees around is green fields. It was extremely clean, not a single piece of trash could be spotted anywhere.

IMG_0077

When we went back to the tourist point, we had about an hour to look around as the busses to Salisbury arrive every hour in the winter time and every half hour in the summertime. Next to the ticket office, there was a shop where you could buy all sorts of souvenirs such as T-shirts, pens, mugs; we got magnets. From the shop, you can enter the restaurant which was quite nice actually (or probably we were too hungry haha). When we had our lunch we went outside as there were model houses of the era Stonehenge was built in. They were really interesting and to me resembled time-machines cause when I entered any of them, it would feel like I was stepping over from present to the past.

A model of a house from 2400-2200 BC

Back to the past

Back to the past

IMG_0091

Stonehenge tourist point

By the time we were wandering around the tourist point and the ancients’ houses, the bus arrived and we caught it to go back to Salisbury. It is a gorgeous, little town which is exactly what one would imagine England is. The High street is full of ancient pubs and little shops which are so cute. Actually, Salisbury is very similar to Winchester, if you’ve been there. It has a river crossing the city centre and one of its landmarks is Salisbury Cathedral, where Magna Carta is conserved.

IMG_0097

Salisbury Cathedral

Old George Mall

Old George Mall

Beautiful stained glass

Beautiful stained glass

To everyone who hasn’t visited Stonehenge and Salisbury yet, I highly recommend you to do so! The magic that surrounds these places, especially Stonehenge, is indescribable!

L. V. K.

Natural Phenomenons: Pink Lake Hillier

No, you’re not dreaming, don’t bother to rub your eyes, this lake really is pink!

Pink Lake Hillier, Australia

Pink Lake Hillier, Australia

Lake Hillier is a lake on Middle Island, the larger of the islands that form the Recherche Archipelago in Western Australia. The water is naturally a bubblegum pink colour and retains the pink hue when taken from the lake and put in containers.

The water doesn't change its colour

The water doesn’t change its colour

Hillier Lake is the only vividly pink lake you will find in the world.

Beautiful Hillier Lake, Australia

Beautiful Hillier Lake, Australia

The colour is permanent and never changes.¬†Its startling colour remains a mystery and while scientists have proven it’s not due to the presence of algae, unlike the other salt lakes down under, they still can’t explain why it’s pink.

hillier-lake2

The lake is about 600 meters long and is surrounded by a rim of sand and a dense woodland of paperbark and eucalyptus trees. A narrow strip of sand dunes covered by vegetation separates it to the north from the Southern Ocean.

swim-in-lake-hillier-australia-3

Amazing Lake Hillier

Nature is amazing beyond our concept of it. Its creations are divine and we, as part of these creations, must respect Nature and take care for Her as we would for our mother.

Hillier-Lake-3

L.V. K

 

Winter Is Coming- One Of The Best Winter Places In The World

Since winter is knocking on the door, I decided to share with you my love for one of the most beautiful winter places in the world- Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

316494_450663774980374_904955476_n

Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest and oldest (20 to 25 million years) existing freshwater lake. Called “the sacred sea” by locals, Lake Baikal, also known as the “pearl of Siberia”, is located¬†in the south part of the Russian region of Siberia between the Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the Southwest. In midwinter, the lake¬† is a roughly 12,200-square-mile crystal ice rink. A curious thing about Lake Baikal is about two-thirds of the estimated 1,500 animal species living in and around it are found nowhere else on Earth. The best known resident is the nerpa, the world‚Äôs only exclusively freshwater seal.

Baikal in winter

Baikal in winter

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Jim Denevan’s Giant Artwork on Frozen Lake Baikal

Jim Denevan’s Giant Artwork on Frozen Lake Baikal

The American artist Jim Denevan created amazing artwork on the frozen lake of Baikal. He carved expansive, meditative works with repetitive patterns and endless scale which spanned on an area of nine square miles!

Jim Denevan's artwork on  Lake Baikal

Jim Denevan’s artwork on Lake Baikal

Jim Denevan's artwork on  Lake Baikal

Jim Denevan’s artwork on Lake Baikal

Ice Curtain in The Shore of Lake Baikal

Ice Curtain in The Shore of Lake Baikal

Stunning Lake Baikal, Russia

Stunning Lake Baikal, Russia

Horse and rider crossing the frozen Lake Baikal, Siberia. Photo by Matthieu Paley

Horse and rider crossing the frozen Lake Baikal, Siberia. Photo by Matthieu Paley

Frozen Lake Baikal

Frozen Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal holds an incredible 20 percent of Earth’s unfrozen fresh water

Lake Baikal holds an incredible 20 percent of Earth’s unfrozen fresh water

Night sky of Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Russia

Night sky of Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Russia

I would really love to be in this snowy fairytale sometime in my life! Would you?

L. V. K.

 

The Mysteries of the 7 Lakes

The Seven Rila Lakes, located in Rila mountain in Bulgaria are some of the most beautiful natural creations worldwide. Moreover, they are a spiritual place where people from all over the world come to enjoy the magnificent nature and the clean air, to get out of the big city¬†or just to find peace and solitude. Many people come every year at the end of¬†August to participate in the White Brotherhood’s celebrations in praise of the Sun, harmonious and healthy lifestyle and love between people. The sacred dance the Brotherhood¬†performs called¬†Paneurhythmy, is famous all over the world and wins more and more followers every year.

The Seven Rila Lakes are believed to be one of the strongest spiritual centres in the world, which is a portal for other dimensions.

The 7 Rila Lakes

The 7 Rila Lakes

The lakes are situated between 2,100 and 2,500 metres elevation above sea level. Each of them carries a unique name associated with the shape it has.

"The Tear" is the highest of the Seven Lakes

“The Tear” is the highest of the Seven Lakes

"The Eye"

“The Eye”

"The Kidney" is the lake with the steepest shores of the entire group

“The Kidney” is the lake with the steepest shores of the entire group

"The Twin"

“The Twin”

"The Trefoil" has an irregular shape

“The Trefoil” has an irregular shape

"The Fish Lake"

“The Fish Lake”

"The Low Lake" is the lowest one of the group

“The Low Lake” is the lowest one of the group

The Seven Rila Lakes enchant and inspire with their natural beauty and unusual energy. I’d recommend to everyone who has the opportunity to visit this piece of Heaven on Earth to do so without a doubt.

L. V. K.