Sunday, August 05, 2012

Iceland Day 4–Light and Magic

After an arduous though exhilarating time the day before, we had planned a relatively tame outing for our fourth day in Iceland. We had booked a tour of Iceland’s Golden circle with David from Iceland Horizons who came highly recommended on Trip Advisor.

On our way!

David picked us up bright and early in his van, and after a few more stops to pick up the rest of the group, including a party of several elderly, very friendly and excited Americans, we were off! We first drove out of Reykjavik on the very familiar highway 1, but this time instead of passing by the big steam clouds on the left which marked the position of the thermal energy plants, David turned off the highway to takes us for a closer look.

Geothermal Power Plants

Though British, and not a native Icelander, to our initial disappointment, David knew a huge amount about the country and kept us enthralled throughout the trip. 

After the power plants, we turned off the highway and drove to a volcanic lake crater Kerið, filled with water of the most violent blue colour, apparently due to the chemicals of the meteor.


Our next stop was a pretty little waterfall, whose name eludes me now.  The wind was really picking up by this time, and the horizon had turned a dull red color as the wind whipped the loose volcanic soil into the air.


En Route we had a friendly encounter with a herd of Iceland horses, a breed unique to the place. The wind whipped their manes, but besides chewing on the sleeve of my jacket they were very friendly.


Or next stop was the Haukadalur geothermal area which was another first for me as I had never seen a geyser before. The landscape was alien, with pools of violently blue-green coloured water bubbling between rust coloured tracts of land, with cloud of steam bellowing from the more active geysers. The original, Geysir, was now dormant but another, Strokkur, sent out a huge plume of water and steam every 5 to 10 minutes. 

Iceland-0343  Iceland-0302

We stood around and watched a few eruptions, and then it was back onto the van for our next stop at Gullfoss, or Golden Falls,  Iceland’s largest waterfall. It was massive with tons of water thundering past, but somehow not as beautiful as Skógafoss which we saw the previous day. After some time getting soaked from the spray, I climbed up to see the Hvítá twist its way across the plains before plunging into the falls. We then had a quick lunch consisting of a beautiful lamb stew from the nearby tourist shop.

Iceland-0429    Iceland-0428

Our final stop was Þingvellir National Park, the place which has both geological importance, as this is where the North American and Eurasian plates collide, as well as historical importance, as this is where the Icelandic parliament was founded in 930 AD.  It may be hard to appreciate the amount of history here, but the geological upheaval is apparent in the chasms and ridges running across the valley. 


After a wander around the valley, we got back in the bus and were driven back to Reykjavik while David told us more about Iceland, touching on varied topics such as the political climate in Iceland, the Yule Lads of Icelandic Christmas, and even why people consider fermented shark or Hákarl a delicacy. Little did we know that we would be seeing Þingvellir again before the day was out.

Back in Reykjavik, after dumping our stuff in the apartment, we headed out to explore the town. Reykjavik is super small, super cool and très trendy with fashion boutiques and cool graffiti lining the roads. Being the only obvious foreigners on the streets, we were repeatedly approached by bunches of school kids who were trying to interview foreigners about their experience in Iceland for their school work. We wandered into a few quaint shops and even an Icelandic supermarket, which was quite alien. Protip: Bonus is the main supermarket chain, and can be recognized by its logo of a pig with an extremely sleazy expression on its face.

Just as we were nearly about to walk into a restaurant for dinner, Shweta happened to spy a travel agency with a chalkboard outside on which was scrawled ‘Northern Lights tour starts TODAY’. Well, we had asked around as several places before, but no one had started these tours as it was too early. Well, we couldn’t give up this slim chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis, so while Shweta stayed to buy tickets, I raced to the apartment to pick up our coats and sweaters.

We were just in time, and in about fifteen minutes, we were racing toward, where else, but Þingvellir park, which, as the guide explained, was the nearest spot to view the lights without any artificial light interrupting the experience.
And of course there could be no better setting; as we stood on the cliff overlooking Þingvellir, Þingvallavatn lake stretched into the distance with the moons reflection bouncing off the calm waters. Now, Aurora hunting is not as easy as it sounds; you stare into the sky, imagining phantom bands, all the while shivering as Iceland’s icy winds penetrate your layers of clothing and play with you in a disturbingly intimate way.


After a while, the adrenaline was wearing off, and we were beginning to feel pretty miserable. A lot of people had taken refuge inside the bus, and we were thinking seriously of doing the same. But rather than pack up my tripod and camera, we decided to give it another 10 minutes, and boy were we glad we did!

Almost imperceptibly, a band of pale luminous green stole across the sky, soon brightening to a series of intense blue green snakes which coiled twisted across the heavens. The mood was euphoric, and all of us were pointing and laughing in amazement. Done clicking photos to my heart’s content, I loaned out my tripod to groups of Chinese girls while the bands faded away some 45 minutes later.


The lights were exceptionally active that night, and the bus stopped twice on the way back to Reykjavik as they grew bright in the sky.


Tired and satisfied we fell into bed concluding out penultimate day in this amazing country.

Slideshow with all the photos below.


  1. Shwets10:33 AM

    Finally the Iceland trip's penultimate day blog is up ! Woohoooo... Aurora Borealis,cannot believe that we were so lucky to have actually experienced this. It is the ultimate thing to see.Nice blog u have recaptured the amazing time we had on the trip.

  2. Yes, one more day to go!

  3. nice pix!!! havent read the blog yet... will get around to that sometime... meanwhile keep clicking peepils..

    1. How can you bear to miss my scintillating prose!! :)

  4. Eruptions & Aurora Borealis - wish I visit them some day!!!

    1. Nothing's better than travel. Still lots of things I want to do and see...


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