#iceland

One of the best ways to enjoy a city is to take a walking tour.  It is by far the most enjoyable way to experience the atmosphere, the architecture, the city landscape and all the exciting things a city can offer.  Reykjavík is no exception despite the fact that it is much smaller than most cities.

The best and most interesting walking tour in Reykjavík

In recent months earthquake activity has increased in Öræfajökull the southernmost outlet glacier in Vatnajökull icecap. Just like the increased activity in Bárðarbunga outlet glacier on the northern part of Vatnajökull this development is quite intimidating.  Both outlet glaciers are also huge volcanos, and both have a humongous amount of ice on top.

Öræfajökull glcier/volcano

 

Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland next to Öræfajökull standing a bit over 2000 meters tall. Like many mountains in Iceland Bárðarbunga has many different faces.  In addition to being a mountain, it is also an outlet glacier placed on the north-west side of the large ice cap Vatnajökull. On top of the mountain is an 800 meters thick layer of ice covering the mountain and its surrounding valleys and canyons.  Picturing the white sight of ice on top of Bárðarbunga is, of course, fascinating and the glacier can be seen in all its greatness from the center of the Icelandic highland. But what lies beneath is probably more interesting and possibly frightening.  Not so deep under the mountain Bárðarbunga waiting patiently is a huge magma chamber with glowing magma eager to surface. So in addition to being a mountain and a glacier, Bárðarbunga is also a volcano. Ad in addition to being the second highest mountain is also the second largest volcano in Iceland with a volcanic system that is 200 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide. The mountain is a humongous natural force that everyone hopes will never be released.  So when earthquakes begin in Bárðarbunga, everyone should be intimidated.

The scary magma beneath

One of the primary indicators predicting eruption are the earthquakes occurring when the magma is moving around near the surface.  The magma is like a giant red monster of thousand degrees trying to find its way to the surface and simultaneously moving the earth's crust causing collapses and movements. Moving its many arms from the chamber into all the cracks, fissures and crevasses it can find with the intention to surface with its tail extended deep into the earth's core. It is a frightening beast and not without success. The last time Bárðarbunga erupted was only three years ago, in 2014. Fortunately for everyone, the eruption occurred on the sand only a few kilometers north of the Bárðarbunga glacier.  And even though it was just another eruption in Iceland, it was one of the largest one in modern history measured by the volume of lava. If the monster had found its way under the glacier, only a few kilometers south, the story would have been entirely different and more like the Eyjafjallajökull eruption with more massive floods.

Eruptions in Bárðarbunga and nearby places

Although scientists predict devastating floods and even a natural disaster if the beast surfaces under the glacier the effect could be less. In 1996 a short but powerful eruptions occurred near Bárðarbunga in Grímsvötn. The eruption lasted for two weeks and melted a tremendous amount of ice producing a massive flood that found its way to the south shore instead of flooding to the north over the highland. For Icelanders, the flood was a natural disaster with devastating effects for the landscape and roads and bridges were the main victims.  Fortunately, no life was lost.  In addition to this eruption and the 2014 eruption, it is believed that a small eruption occurred in 1797. So we are yet to see a large eruption in Bárðarbunga with devastating effects for the northeast part of the country.

Bárðarbunga is the second highest mountain in Iceland

Most dangerous eruptions in Iceland occur under ice, under a thick ice cap.  The reason is the massive flood that forces its way to the shore as the magma melts the thick ice on the volcano's top.

Scientists are constantly monitoring Bárðarbunga and nearby places

 

Our Nikon D750 camera in our three year Iceland journey

 

It is a bit surprising in a country that has a lot to offer regarding natural wonders and attractions to witness how tourists and visitors find and define new places. Places that quite unexpectedly become popular or even develop into landmarks.  Places that Icelanders almost never visited before tourism started to explode some years ago and never thought of as exciting.  The most extreme example is the Navy DC plane that crashed on Mýrdalssandur in November 1973.  Even today it would be hard to find an Icelander visiting this crash site or even admitting to ever coming near this crashed plane. Among Icelanders, the crash site is usually ranked as one of the ridiculous tourist attraction in Iceland.

Other attractions that Icelanders just didn't discover but are quite interesting

Then there are a few places that visitors found and started to photograph and visit that are highly interesting, but Icelanders didn't really get or understand.  One spot is the shoreline by the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon where small and sometimes large icebergs accumulate as they float from the lagoon.  The Icebergs are occasionally transparent and sometimes filled with black stripes from eruptions that occurred centuries ago. As they float on the shore only to melt down as the hit the ocean, they often give the pebble beach a magnificent look.  Sometimes the shore develops into a magnificent site with icebergs ready for a perfect selfie or a photo from the trip.  As the icebergs melt, they often seem like giant diamonds. After this shoreline by Jökulsárlón became popular one thing was missing, a name.  At some point, visitors and tourists started to call this beach the Diamond beach on their social media websites. Contrary to the plane on Mýrdalssandur, many Icelanders enjoy visiting the Diamond beach only to regret that they didn't discover it before the tourists.   

Diamond beach is easy to find and easy to visit

If you are on the Ring Road Nr. 1 and driving the southeast region by Jökulsárlón Iceberg lagoon, you only cross the road by the bridge and walk to the beach.  You need to be careful when passing and you can also park on the south side of the road. The Diamond beach is actually a magical place in the sense that you can forget time as you wander among the many small icebergs by the shore and speculate about their forms.  The Diamond beach is also irresistibly photogenetic.

Below is the location of Diamond Beach on the map of Iceland

Diamond beach in Iceland

 

If you are traveling the Ring Road in Iceland, you are probably interested in all the natural wonders and attractions worth seeing.  Since there are many waterfalls in Iceland along the way near the Ring Road, some get more attention than others.  Stjórnarfoss waterfall is one of the hidden and seldom visited although a beautiful place and sight not far from the main road.  The waterfall is quite beautiful, and consists of two approximately 15 meter fall on an upper and lower tier. The higher one lives in the shade of the lower one as it is only visible from quite a distance. The lower one is quite spectacular as it spreads out on the lower tier.  The fall is part of the river Stjórn that originates in the mountain Geirlandshraun near the road to Lakagígar craters and Laki mountain. It is one of the rivers you cross when driving to Laki.

A perfect place for picnic and camping

If you enjoy the sounds of nature like the sound of a stream or a sound of water falling down a slope, you should consider visiting Stjórnarfoss.  The area around the waterfall is quite scenic, pleasant and perfect for a picnic.  If you have your own food and snacks on your Ring Road tour, this is a nice stop.  It is also a good place to camp and usually less crowded than many other camping sites along the southern part of the Ring Road. If you have a tent it is a great place to overnight if you want the sound of the stream and waterfall to put you to sleep.

Easily accessible and near the Ring Road

When you are on the Ring Road by the small village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, you take a turn north on the roundabout.  This turn takes you to Road Nr. 203, Geirland road.  You only need to drive about two kilometers to the camping site Kleifar. Here you have a good parking space, and it is only a short walk to the waterfall.  But once you arrive at the lower tier you can not see the upper one.

Nearby places

Fjaðrárgljúfur, Lakagígar craters, Foss á Síðu, Dverghamrar, Kirkjubæjarklaustur
 

Stjórnarfoss waterfall

What are the best months or the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis appear, on a regular basis, in Iceland from the middle of September through to the end of March.

Sigöldugljúfur canyon is a fascinating small canyon deep in the Icelandic highlands. It is quite exceptional with its many small waterfalls, blue river, and colorful vegetation.  A beautiful canyon that is almost magical and could easily be a scene in an adventure story or a Sci-Fi movie. It has all the ingredients to become a popular destination as it looks like something in a fairytale. For years it has been a hidden gem as access has been a bit tricky.  Stopping by Sigöldugljúfur is a very good idea for photographers and most visitors planning to take the Sigalda track to Landmannalaugar. The canyon is quite photogenic a requires a bit of a time if you seek to find a new and surprising motive.  

Although fascinating there is a drawback

One of the reasons the canyon has not been popular among visitors in addition to hard access is the fact that the canyon is surrounded by significant changes in the landscape. Changes made by the power plant project and reservoir for the Sigalda power plant. It is a gem kept within power plant project and man-made interference in nature. But apart from all that it is a fascinating place and a beautiful canyon.

The best access is when you come down the Sigalda small hill

Located at Sigalda by the mountain road F208 a few minutes after you turn from the F26 highland road that leads to Sprengisandur mountain road. The mountain road, or dirt road, F208 is part of Nyrðri Fjallabaksleið track and is one of two entrances that will lead you to Landmannalaugar from the west side. Sigöldugljúfur is easily accessible when you drive down the slope at the small hill Sigalda and turn left immediately when you come down the slope.  It is a good idea to park the car near the interception and walk the short distance to the canyon.

 

Sigöldugljúfur canyon

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