#iceland

Iceland is an island of many volcanos, and according to one of our most prominent geologists, at least four major volcanos are due.

Katla, on the other hand, can possibly burst with devastating and dangerous consequences.

The walking path along the Reykjavík coastline by Sæbraut Street has in recent years become a popular walking route in our city. It is a convenient two-kilometer walk from downtown Reykjavík past the conference hall Harpa, Sólfar the Sun Voyager sculpture, the Partnership sculpture and eventually leading you to Höfði House.

The sculpture was given to Iceland in 1991 to celebrate, at that time, the 50 years of good diplomatic relationship between Iceland and the USA.

Some of the most popular attractions in Iceland are sometimes described as overcrowded. This is true during the high season in summer and often during the peak hours on a busy day in other seasons.

Some of the most popular attractions in Iceland are sometimes described as overcrowded.

Some lakes in Iceland are placed by the edge of a glacier. Probably around five or six.  All of those lakes get their source of water from the melting glaciers and glacier tongues, and in many cases, also from spring-fed water flowing from mountains hidden under the ice cap. In some cases, the lake is full of icebergs falling from the glacier tongue, like the famous Icelandic tourist attractions Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón. Hvítárvatn (White River Lake)  is one such lake in the Highland near the highland road Kjalvegur or Kjölur by the glacier Langjökull and the glacier tongue Norðurjökull. In addition to the sources mentions above the lake has other sources from rivers and creeks in the surrounding area.  Icebergs are seldom seen on this lake or lagoon. As the primary source is glacial rivers, the lake always looks a bit milky which probably contributed to the name.  The size is approximately 30 square kilometers, and the average depth is about 30 meters and the deepest part around 90 meters. Hvítárvatn lake is placed at an altitude of 420 meters. The lake is the main source for one of Iceland's largest rivers, the river Hvítá (White River).  Just south of the lake in the river Hvítá is Iceland's most spectacular waterfall Gullfoss.

The haunted hut and the young female ghost

On of many huts in the highland is the mountain hut at Hvítárnes, Sæluhúsið í Hvítárnesi, near the lake, famous for being one of the most haunted places in Iceland. The hut was built in the forties in the last century.  According to many stories and complaints, stories from the forties up until last year a young female is often seen in the hut.  Many guests, particularly male guests, complain about disturbances from a young female ghost while in the state between awake and sleep.  Many visitors have also claimed to have seen her in one of the windows from outside when arriving late at night, and then learning that the house was empty. A particular bed in the hut is believed to be particularly unsafe and almost impossible to sleep in. And on many occasions, guests have been kicked out of the bed during the night, by “no one”! It is a mysterious place and a challenge for adventurers who have the courage to "sleep in her bed." 

Access to Hvítárvatn is not for small cars

Hvítárvatn lake is located in the Highland on the Kjölur highland road Kjalvegur nr. 35. If you drive from Reykjavík or the southern part of the Ring Road by the south shore to Gullfoss, you are basically on the road to Hvítarvatn when you pass Gullfoss. The road is quite rough, and we recommend a good 4X4 vehicle.   
 

Some lakes in Iceland are placed by the edge of a glacier. Probably around five or six

Although most visitors drive around Iceland going from one natural wonder to another, they are usually driving through quite a scenic landscape most of the time. Even when driving from one beautiful waterfall to another visitors are often driving on the road with an extensive view over a vast area of black sand or a picturesque countryside.  In the background, you usually have mountains, a glacier or even a glacier tongue forcing its way to the ocean. You never drive for a long time through a forest with a limited view on both sides and nothing but trees mile after mile.

Animals of all kinds are often part of the view while driving and traveling in Iceland

The waterfall Öxaráfoss (The waterfall in the Ax River)  in the ravine Almannagjá at Þingvellir is one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland, at least among Icelanders. Like everything related to Þingvellir and Almnnagjá the waterfall has a sentimental reference and historical value. It is an important place in our most precious and sacred place Þingvellir. It is positioned inside Almannagjá in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The waterfall is rather small, only about 20 meters high, but is an important part of the overall natural wonders in the Þingvellir National Park. Depending on the season, the waterfall may differ in volume as the source, the river Öxará or Ax river, is quite different from one season to the next.

Not entirely the work of mother nature

Interestingly the waterfall Öxarárfoss is actually a human-made waterfall. As strange as this may sound geologists and historians have discovered that the river Öxará was moved hundreds of years ago, to channel the water into the ravine Almannagjá in the ninth century. The purpose was to provide water for the members and visitors of the Icelandic parliament Althingi in the 9th century. This was documented in the saga Sturlunga written in the 12th and the 13th century.   The name, according to folklore, came from an Ax that killed a notorious and a very unstable female troll famous for killing and terrorizing visitors, inhabitants and travelers in the Hengill area not far from Þingvellir.  Long after the blade was put into her back, between her shoulder blades, it surfaced near the place where Öxarárfoss is now.  According to another folklore, the river changes to wine on new year's eve. If true you should be able to sit by Öxarárfoss and drink good wine from the waterfall until midnight when the river changes back to wine. Not something we recommend as king winter has all the power at Öxarárfoss and Þingvellir at that time. He might be drinking from the waterfall and probably quite drunk. 

Access is relatively simple but requires a short walk

When driving from Reykjavík, you take the Ring Road Nr. 1 through Mosfellsbær and take a turn west on Þingvallavegur Nr. 36. When you reach a sign that says Öxarárfoss near the entrance to Þingvellir National park you park the car.  You can also go to the Service Center for Almannagjá and walk through the riff to Öxarárfoss. 

 

Interestingly the waterfall Öxarárfoss is actually a human-made waterfall

Most of the natural wonders attractions in Iceland have easy access and are relatively straightforward to view and visit. Some of the places need caution as they have high cliffs, powerful rivers, boiling water, dangerous waves, landslides and slippery ice.  Some areas require more caution than others and all visitors to such places should read warning signs and take notice of the warnings.  One such place is Kirkjusandur beach east of Dyrhólaey arch in the Southern Region in Iceland.  It is a fascinating and beautiful place that can turn lethal in seconds. The beach is stunning and wonderful to visit and walk when the tide is low and the weather is calm. Preferably not windy. Even on such a day a walk near the cliffs on the beach can be dangerous as the cliffs can burst with a landslide at any time.  Especially after days of rain.

Don't not enter the Kirkjufjara beach when tide is high

There are two parking lots to view Dyrhólaey arch. One at the highest point by the small lighthouse and the other one is a bit east by Kirkjufjara beach.  From the parking lot you have an excellent view to Dyrhólaey arch from the cliffs and you also have a spectacular view of the Reynisdrangar stacks and Reynisfjara beach to the east.  From the parking lot, there is a narrow path down to Kirkjusandur beach with two to three meter small cliffs on both sides.  This is the only entrance to the beach. The beach is located under a much higher cliff with the immensely forceful the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Anyone entering the beach should understand that waves are not equal in size. Every 15th or 20th wave there is a much larger wave that stretches much farther inland than others, and that is the highly dangerous sneaker wave.  So even if the waves seem calm and innocent on a day with high tides, a much larger one is due at any time floating up the walking path. On such a day, especially when the winds are strong and the tide is high no one should enter the Kirkjusandur beach. If a wave from the Atlantic Ocean grabs you, the fight is extremely tough.  Enjoying the view to the east and the west from the parking lot is great and gives everyone great photographic opportunities.

Access is easy from the Ring Road in the Southern Region

Entering the parking lot to Kirkjusandur beach is the same road as the road leading to Dyrholaey arch.  On the Ring Road Nr. 1 you turn south to Dyrhólavegur road Nr. 218. This Road will lead to both parking lots to view Dyrhólaey and Kirkjufjara.  

Some of the places need caution, one such place is Kirkjufjara

At the height of the cold war people everywhere on the globe were affected by the threat and hostility of the two superpowers, the US and the USSR, towards each other. Both superpowers represented conflicting ideologies, and both had nuclear weapons. It was generally felt that a nuclear war was possible or even imminent.  As such international politics had a psychological impact on everyday life as a lot of people had the consequences of the nuclear bomb in their minds as it had been used in Japan only 40 years earlier.

Höfði house is an ideal place for Putin and Trump meeting

Stakkholtsgjá or Stakkholts Canyon is a beautiful natural wonder, a canyon in Þórsmörk in the Icelandic Highland. From the entrance of the canyon, it is surrounded by high and straight one hundred meters high palagonite cliffs.  Hiking the two kilometers to the end of the canyon is one of the most rewarding short hiking trails in Iceland.  Inside the canyon is a small creek that runs on a bed of pebbles, enhancing the landscape within the canyon. The track is not smooth and crossing the river, that can at times be quite high in volume, takes caution. But on the other hand, it is not a particularly tough hike. The palagonite cliffs have many forms, suspicious caves, shelves with vegetation and deep and narrow ravines, to name a few.  Once inside the canyon you will experience a remarkable peace that embraces your thoughts and you simply can't avoid thinking of creatures from other dimensions. It is an exotic place as the canyon narrows, and you approach the bottom, turning into a very high cave open at the top, at the end of your track. In the cave, the water falls like a dreamlike shower with both light and drizzle falling on your face as you look up.  It is one of those phenomenon in the landscape, in nature, where your mood and feelings change while walking, viewing and experiencing.  

Stakkholtsgjá is a perfect place to take kids

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is a natural wonder that plays with your mind and imagination.  It is not merely a beautiful place but a place that starts all kind of ideas in your head, even at the entrance.  You can't help thinking if this is one of those places where elves live and as you get deeper into the canyon if there might be creatures living there up in the cliffs, less attractive.  A picture of a troll climbing into one of those caves might pop up in your mind.  This is one reason why Stakkholtsgjá is an excellent place to take kids, especially energetic kids with lively imagination.  It is one of those places Icelanders have loved and visited for many decades and just perfect for families to hike. 

Access to Stakkholtsgjá is a bit difficult and requires a full-size 4WD vehicle

Access to Stakholtsgjá is not simple.  It requires a 4X4 vehicle of the larger kind.  From the Ring Road Nr. 1 in the south you turn north on Road Nr. 249, the same turn you take to see Seljalandsfoss and the road that takes you to Þórsmörk. When you continue on Road Nr. 249 you quickly enter the mountain road F249 that is both rough and requires river crossing. Done correctly and with caution, it is a major adventure to visit Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk.  

The palagonite cliffs in Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk have many forms

There are not many places on the planet where you can put boiling clay surrounded wit hot steam from the ground and a melting snowdrift into the same motive. A place where heat meets cold. There aren't many places where you can see and view such rare natural wonders, at least not side by side. Especially during summer.

Hveradalir in the Icelandic highland

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