Iceland

ICELAND:  After Ireland our next stop was ICELAND!

Below are 2 maps of Iceland.  See where it is in relation to mainland Europe? It is the island on the left.  Iceland it is considered part of Europe and it uses its own money currency.

Before I start writing about what we did, let me get this striat that ICELAND IS NOT ALL ICE. Its true. Greenland is the icy one. Why Iceland is named Iceland, I have no idea? You can see the ice caps (large and small) in the map photo.

Icelanders speak both Icelandic (you should hear that language) and English very well.  All street signs are in Icelandic.

FUN FACT: The Icelandic language has the LONGEST words in the world!

try saying these names of the towns out load. I dare you!…IMG_7011 IMG_7024

Iceland Quick & Fun Facts
Iceland has the most active volcano area in the world, the largest waterfall and glacier in Europe, the cleanest capital in the world, a population with the longest life expectancy and had the first democratically elected female president in the world, Mrs. Vigdis Finnbogadottir.

There are ONLY about 300,000 people that live in the entire country. Most live in the Capital area, Reykjavik or the northern city of Akureyri.  The rest spread about the country in small villages. I think we drove past most of them and stayed in several villages for the night. Here we are at the Hofn Hostel in Southern, Iceland.

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Two surprising things we learned were about the Heat and Water. About 85% of all houses in Iceland are heated with geothermal energy.  Hot water and heat are extremely cheap. The heat is always on and in the freezing cold outside the windows are open for air because it is hot inside.  Even in the places we stayed we had to open the windows.  The other surprising thing is the Water.  TRUST ME, you never, ever, go into a store and ask for bottled water.  They thought we were crazy….”you must mean flavored water or seltzer, right?” They asked. “Why would you want to purchase regular water, the Iceland water is the best in the world!”

They don’t sell water because it is amazing straight from the tap. And bottled water is TAP water here! ICELANDIC water is incredible, filtered through lava rocks and it does have a different taste. No Icelander buys “water.”  By the end of the week we were hooked on Icelandic water, so much so that as I am writing this (I am in Scotland now) I miss the Icelandic water a lot.  Mom wants to get it shipped to us….(lets see if that really happens). It is extremely good and is healthy. The water is one of the reasons why the locals are so healthy and live long.

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The main tourist thing to do in Iceland is the BLUE LAGOON. It is very close to the Airport when you arrive.

 

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My famliy and I LOVED the blue lagoon. It was so warm and very relaxing. The blue lagoon in Iceland is a geo-thermal heated lagoon. The water comes from under ground. The blue lagoon is not man made. Tt is naturally heated.  Iceland has made it tourist friendly by adding locker rooms, a restaurant and a bar on the water. They are currently constructing a hotel here too. May I also add that the blue lagoon is REALLY BIG! We stayed in here for 3 hours and didn’t even go in every place.

FUN FACT:The blue lagoon produces SULFURIC MUD. It is at the bottom of the lagoon and feels very squishy. The mud is very good for the  skin and keeps you looking young. The mud is one of the reasons why the blue lagoon is so famous.

I put the silica mud on my face 3 times! Mom, Dad and Sawyer did it only twice. You leave it on for ten minutes and then rub it off. When you first put it on, it feels very watery and slippery. But after ten minutes it feels extremely dry and crackily. Dad had the mud all over his face, neck, back and arms. He looked like a snowman!

Fun Facts:

The Blue Lagoon was formed in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plant. In the years that followed, people began to bathe in the unique water and apply the silica mud to their skin. Those with psoriasis noticed an incredible improvement in their condition. Over the years, Blue Lagoon has been innovative in harnessing this gift of nature to develop different spa services and products.

I think the silica mud was the best part about the Blue Lagoon. I also liked the water. It was very salty and extremely warm. Some spots of the blue lagoon were more warm then other spots. And there were some cool areas too. I personaly liked the cold area better. Some of the hot spots were way TOO HOT for me. I had to get out and walk on the bridges that go over the blue lagoon.

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We rented a car and drove around the “ring road” in Iceland for 8 days.  This is the main road that circles the Island…Once you get out of Reykjavik you cant get lost.  There are not many main roads.  In certain areas of the country the lava fields are the only thing around. For miles and miles and miles, they built roads over the fields. IMG_6444 IMG_6429

Very few natural trees grow here in Iceland. The entire country is very short on trees.  In fact, we could drive for 3 hours at a time and not see one tree.  BUT, they do have some, planted specifically in certain areas (the size of a city block perhaps) and they have done quite well. They have recently planted mini forests.

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While driving we stopped on the side of the road to see these Icelandic horses

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I liked petting and feeding these horses. We gave them bread and apples that we had in the car.  Icelandic horses are a little different then regular horses you would find in the USA.  They are shorter and have a longer mane. Their backs are curved eliminating the need for a “saddle.”  You just get on and ride, they don’t bump around like horses in the USA>  These Islandic horses are found all over Iceland. We past hundreds of them.IMG_6686 IMG_6693 IMG_6681

Fun Fact: Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported in the country.

Since 982 AD, Iceland has banned the importation of horses. and any horse that has been exported cannot return again. This means that the Icelandic horse living in Iceland today has never been around another breed of horse than its own. This has also led to the native Icelandic horses to have very few diseases

Icelandic horses originally came to Iceland on Viking ships.  The Icelandic Horses were brought by Viking ships to serve the purpose of being the sole source of transportation over Iceland’s rough terrain. They remained the only mode of transportation for centuries, until the first automobile arrived in 1913.

We also passed some wild reindeer that are located in the North East part of the country. IMG_6967 We saw a ton of antlers in a pile that were shed or fallen off the reindeer. My parents wished they could bring one set of antlers home. But how?  I could just see the hauling a big set of reindeer antlers through the airport security. Now that would be a funny sight! They were mostly down by the shore near the water.  Cool.  IMG_6925

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Above is pictures of volcanoes. The cool part is that we saw many VOLACONS. They all have  sunk down in the middle. If you click on the picture to make it bigger, you will see that one of the volcano’s appear flat at the top like a plateau. Its top blew off when it erupted.

FUN FACT: Iceland has many active and inactive volcanoes (about 130 all together!) due to it being situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Basically, the country is in the middle of or on top of two tectonic plates and has 30 active volcanic systems running through the island.

Glaciers and volcanoes side by side
Contrasting forces of ice and fire exist side by side in Iceland. Some 11% of the country’s surface is covered with glaciers and about 30% is lava fields. On average, a volcano erupts every five years, but fortunately only rarely where anyone lives. Vatnajökull glacier, measuring 8,400 km=, is the largest ice cap in Europe in fact it is larger than all the other glaciers in Europe combined.

One time my famliy and I were driving and we saw 4 volcanoes all while standing in one spot. It was so cool that they were all close together.

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Some scenic photos from our drive around Iceland. During our drive we stopped in several villages, with populations of between 75 people and 500 people. (my school has more people then that)! We stayed in guest houses/apartments for rent or hostels. Sometimes we visited the town swimming pools (geo thermally heated) also. Each town has an outdoor pool or “hot pots” or a lagoon thermally heated,  opened all year. It is the place where people go to meet up after school or work. Anyone can go.

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Dad took this photo of the reflection of the mountain in the lake.

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All of these photos were taken from the side of the road. You can stop anywhere because you don’t pass many cars on the road…ever.  Unless your in one of the 2 cities I mentioned. Iceland has very different landscapes depending on what part of the country you are in.  One day we were very high up in the mountains and the weather went from sunny to a TOTAL WHITE OUT in 5 minutes. Mom had to get out of the car to read the sign because we couldn’t see anything. What you cant tell here is that the wind was blowing so fast she could barely walk.

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IMG_6744We would often stop and play soccer someplace. IMG_6736

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I purchased a book about Iceland to learn more about it. The opening paragraph says it all. I will repeat it here for you….

ICELAND: Few places on Earth can match the raw and intense beauty of Iceland.  Both fiery and cold, forbidding and inviting, it is a place of dramatic contrast.  Home to immense ice fields, bubbling pools, colossal waterfalls and hot springs.  Although Iceland has a long, rich history it is the land, sculpted by the forces of nature into a unique place, that tells the country’s true story. The presence of so much natural energy sitting just below the ground makes it possible to see, hear and smell the power of nature. 

Which brings me to my next point….. WATERFALLS.

There are so many waterfalls. Some huge, some small, some with paths leading to them, others right off side of the road. All the water from the glaciers and rain. They are generating electricity from the forces of the water. Most falls we passed along the road were not “picture worthy” enough but these were…

IMG_6723IMG_6760 See the rainbow.

IMG_6825IMG_6827 iceland-UK+June-July 2016 588iceland-UK+June-July 2016 188

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IMG_7047IMG_6749We walked up 438 steps (I counted) to get to the top of this one here. We got a great view from the top!IMG_4082 Look how small everything looks!!! You can bearly see the parking lot with the cars in it! There are so many fantastic waterfalls in Iceland. Huge, small, powerful, wide, thin, tall, long, you name it and there is a waterfall to fit any description. The locals know where they all are, of course the bigger ones are all written in the guidebooks and are right off the road.

IMG_6665 iceland-UK+June-July 2016 024 iceland-UK+June-July 2016 010This is one of the pipelines that are above the lava fields carrying thermally  heated hot water to everywhere in Iceland.  iceland-UK+June-July 2016 116iceland-UK+June-July 2016 638 iceland-UK+June-July 2016 020

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ICE BERG LAGOON: Known officially as Jokulsarlon.

This is off the road and where slabs of ice from the Breioamerkurjokull Glacier (try saying that) fell off and float around the lagoon.  When I was holding the ice my hands were freezing.  The clear ice means that all the air has compressed out of the ice, the other ice that you can not see through floats.  Sawyer and I liked pitching and throwing rocks at all the floating ice bergs that passed.  See the rocks we threw on this slab of ice… We saw seals floating on the ice in the distance. I wonder what else lurks in these cold waters?  The time of year we visited here there was not as much ice floating around as other times of the year.  See last photo from internet…

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Geo-Thermal Areas of Iceland.  I will not lie, the steam coming from the Earth smells like a rotten egg farting.  We also saw Geyser’s erupting, steam coming out of the Earth, Lakes bubbling up and volcanoes that still have lava under the ground that is smoking. Sawyer and I liked walking around these areas. We were able to get really close to the smoking vents in one area. We saw the Geyser erupt about 5 times. It was so cool and went 200 feet into the air.IMG_7075IMG_6614IMG_6609

IMG_6642IMG_7073iceland-UK+June-July 2016 624IMG_7081IMG_7103this was a great stop on our road trip.

 You may be wondering “how do geysers erupt?” …

Every geyser has a hole that goes into the ground. Water from deep into the Earth and from rivers fills the hole. When the hole is full and the water has reached the surface, the heat from under ground makes it start to bubble. Then a couple of seconds later the geyser EXPLODES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then the hole starts to fill back up again and the whole system repeats itself!

All geysers have different time schedules. The one we saw erupted every couple of minutes. But some can erupt only once a day, or less!

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Tectonic Plates.  You may not realize this but everywhere you stand you are always standing on a tectonic plate.  BUT, in Iceland, you are actually standing on either the North American Tectonic Plate or the European Tectonic Plate.

 Look at Iceland right in the middle of the Plates….ICELAND is right underneath the second “t” in Tectonic, it is the small island.

During this trip I have stood on many tectonic plates (by looking at this map). In Iceland, we saw and walked through where to Earth divided because of the plates shifting over time.  Look at Sawyer standing on a small crack in the Earth, there were baby cracks all over this field. The big split (on the left) was clearly noticeable along the pathway . It would be very cool to be an Earth Scientist and study this stuff.  I love learning about this. It is very interesting that all the continents on Earth were once together (called Pangea) and shifted due to the plates moving. Wonder what the Earth will look like in another million years?

 

IMG_6534IMG_6525IMG_6529 The crack that Sawyer is standing on is only a baby one about 20 feet long. There were a lot of baby cracks in the area of the main BIG one.

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Glaciers. They are very cool and very large and from the road at times you can see 3 or 4 coming down from the mountains.  That was neat.  They are much larger and look more solid and compact and bluer than the ones we saw in Alaska. By the way, here in Iceland the land is very deceiving, it appears that the glacier is a short trek away, but actually it is a long drive. We picked up 2 hitch hikers who didn’t realize how long the walk actually was. They were from France and were glad “someone” was driving up the road to see them. We walked or drove  to 3 different glaciers.

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MY FAMLIY AND I ALL LOVED ICELAND!!!!!!!!!!!!! THERE WERE LOTS OF THINGS TO SEE AND LEARN HERE.  It is a very interesting place and like the book said, there is no place on Earth quite like Iceland!

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Here is an extra bonus that we didn’t plan to see…..the AUROA BOREALIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Many of you reading this are probably thinking “aurora what”? But the more common term is  the Northern lights.  Here is a photo from the internet.

Just so you know we did NOT SEE IT LIKE THIS. This is a “high scale” aurora with lots of raging colors. My family and I only saw a level 2 or 3 aurora with a couple of green lines moving around the sky.  We couldn’t take a picture of it though because it woudn’t come out. Even though it was only green  lines it still moves a LOT! Mabey one day I will see it like the photo.

I thought this was really interesting- here is a picture of the Aurora taken from space over the northern Ice Cap. I can see Greenland and Iceland here too.

Awesom right! Here is what I learned from my research.

 How the Aurora happens- The earth is protected by a ‘force field” ( the atmosphere) Sun particles  fly off the sun hitting the Atmosphere but we cant see it because of the atmosphere.  At the north pole, the “force field” is the weakest and the sun particles can slip through and get in. When you see the Aurora Borealis, it is actually particles  from the sun. It appears in lights because the atmosphere tries to fight off the particles.

If you have any questions or comments about Iceland or any part of my travels you can email me at   rileymeckley@yahoo.com