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Iceland: The Land of Fire & Ice

After visiting Swedish Lapland in 2013 and seeing all winter beauties and magnificent Northern Lights, I simply couldn’t stop myself from booking another destination to see them again. My main purpose was to see the Northern Lights once again and after I looked for Iceland photos on the web, they just amazed me. The lights can be seen from almost everywhere in Iceland and best thing is that you don’t experience extreme cold like I did in Lapland last year.

There is no direct flight from Turkey to Iceland so I had to choose a connection and that was Copenhagen, Denmark. After 3 hours flight with Icelandair, by the way it’s a very cool airline, I arrived to Reykjavik, the Capital of Iceland. Iceland population is over 330k people and 200k are living in Reykjavik and rest of them are living in rest of the country and it’s not a small island (World’s 108th ranked in total area size). They speak Icelandic language and that language is the same language of Vikings. Other Scandinavian languages are interfered with German and English, so they told me. Most of them can speak and understand English very well.

Wooden crafts is a tradition in Iceland.

On the way from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik City Centre I’ve seen some road signs and it’s written as “Welcome to the land of Elves, Vikings”. It really makes you feel great that you are actually in the land that has been a stage for many great movies and TV shows apart from many great historical events and sagas. You can check the list by clicking here.

Jokulsarlon. James Bond movie was filmed here.

By the way most of the population believes in ghosts, trolls and elves. I don't believe them but check the photo below.

Did you spot them?

I traveled Swedish Lapland alone but for Iceland I attended a tour program and it’s called Northern Lights Exploration Tour. The program covers North West, South West and South Iceland. I was afraid of doing a solo trip because of Icelandic climate. It can change so fast and many roads are closed duo to winter season. So somehow I believed that a tour program would be much safer. It was safe indeed and I’ve seen so many great places but now I realized that my fear was unnecessary and I can say that you can easily do a solo trip if you want. All you need is a useful map and an internet connection to check road and weather status on hourly or daily basis. If you stay in touristic routes then you can see hotels or gas stations on your way. Of course there are some extreme places but if you are thinking about going to those places then you better research a lot before. Iceland is a country that anything can change in any second. People experienced this so many times. On a sunny day a volcano suddenly erupted or a great flood came from a glacier. Yes these things can happen but do not afraid of visiting Iceland because of that. Whole country is seriously prepared for any natural disaster. In fact now I believe that Iceland could be the only country that may survive World World III if it happens.

Gullfoss "The Golden Falls". How big it is and how small we are.

Let’s talk about some other facts about Iceland. They don’t have an army. Not a single fighter jet or a tank or a soldier. Iceland is a member of NATO and that’s all. Almost whole country is very eligible for geothermal energy. They can heat their houses and water by using geothermal energy. They also produced electricity with using geothermal power.

Hot tub anyone?

They can even heat streets and pedestrians walks because of hot pipes under the Reykjavik City. Cold tap water is probably the World’s best clean water. It’s so fresh and purely drinkable. They don’t even filter the water. Nature does this itself. Many water sources are coming from lava fields and they say lava is filtering the water in the best way.

Cleanest water on Earth, filtered by Lava.

Hot water is very hot and smells funny because it contains sulphur and sulphur makes it smell like a rotten egg. I wasn’t aware of this before I arrived Reykjavik. First night at the hotel I discovered the smell after I opened hot water. First you don’t want to smell it but few days later It will be OK for you, just prefer cold water for drinking, catering or brushing your teeth. You can have a shower with hot water, don’t worry smell don’t stay on your body.

Geysir errupts just in seconds.

Weather really surprised me. Usually it’s cold, rainy and snowy in February and March but when I was there I didn’t see any single rain drops or snow flakes in the air. 7 days with open clear blue sky, awesome sunrises and sunsets, beautiful cloud formations. It did not only surprised me but our tour guide and other Icelanders were very surprised too. They say that they have usually 1 or 2 days with great weather but whole week is not something that can happen every time. We were very lucky. It was very windy sometimes. Iceland has different wind streams and drifts and sometimes they collide and make a very strong wind. We did not experience any High Wind. They say foreign people don’t understand this High Wind. It’s such a strong wind that can make anything let fly into the air. If you see a closed road you might think it’s because of snow but probably the reason could be this High Wind. During the day the temperature was around 3-5C degrees. In last two days it was 8-12C degrees. At night it was around -3 to 1C degrees but you don’t feel an extreme cold at all. During 7 days of trip no one has complaint because it’s cold outside or inside in accommodation places.

Every corner has a unique landscape, filled with beautiful colors.

Landscape is the thing I like most in Iceland. It’s so unique and different than in any other countries I’ve been before. You would expect a land covered by snow and ice everywhere but actually it isn’t. Most of places in west and south Iceland are covered with birches, turfs and bushes. Whole Iceland is lack of trees and you don’t see large forests. Instead of forests you see a lot of mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls, icebergs, tectonic plates, geysers, lagoons, lakes and so on. Just open a book of Geology or Geography and you’ll probably see that most terms are representing in Iceland.

Grabrok, a large crater.

There is a place called Golden Circle. There you can actually see a row between North American and European tectonic plates. That is the exact spot where to continents are separated.

Left side European and right side North American tectonic plate. Literally.

One night I walked into the glaciers, Vatnajokull. It was close to where I stayed but I had to walk alone on a mountain path. I was all alone there under the stars and no silence at all. But those glaciers are cracking and cracking and you really hear those massive cracking sounds. It’s very frightening but yet awesome to hear.

Vatnajokull, the largest Icelandic glacier.

All those lava fields, erupted volcanoes and craters are a whole different experience. There are still active volcanoes in Iceland and they expect more eruption in near future. I went to Eyjafjallajokull that erupted in 2010. You know that time that no one could fly because ash clouds are closed whole air traffic in Europe. After 4 years of eruption nature has totally cleaned there. No remains at all. They expect Hekla mountain to be erupted very soon.

The Famous Eyjafjallajokull, 4 years later of eruption.

Iceland has some unique beaches with filled of Ice blocks and black sands. Ocean is very vicious. It's impossible to swim but a peaceful and exciting experience to watch those huge waves.

Black Sandy Beach, Crystal ice blocks are everywhere.

Wildlife. If you love animals it’s a good place to visit Iceland. There are not many mammals live in Iceland. The Arctic Fox is the only unique mammals in Iceland. They have Icelandic Horse everywhere. There isn’t any other horse kind in Iceland, only Icelandic Horse. Icelandic Horse is also a local food. I ate it and yes it’s delicious. They say a horse is not a pet for us. We love them so much but some horses are not meant to be a good ride so we use them for other purposes including eating. Actually Icelanders are very respectful to nature and other animals. For example they release all horses into the country lands between September to March and they can be free in the nature. Remember when I wrote the population is about 330k? Well there are over 100k Icelandic Horses in Iceland.

Icelandic Horses. They are really cute and super friendly, very delicious too.

They also have Icelandic sheep and they have basically all colors. You can observe seals next to glaciers. Of course Iceland is one of the richest country of fishing. Salmon, shark, whale etc. They have fermented sharks to eat. It’s a matter of taste. Some likes, some dislikes. I tried it and it wasn’t so bad at all.

Iceland is also a popular place for bird’s visits. You can see cute puffins along with many other birds.

Northern Lights. In 2013 it was the peak year of the current solar cycle. That means sun was very active so was Northern Lights. Luckily I’ve seen my first Northern Lights last year in Swedish Lapland. 2 nights in Porjus and 1 night in Abisko. I was reading some articles about sun activities this year and scientists believe that sun is going to in a sleep status so they don’t expect big solar storms this year and upcoming years. So I was curious about seeing them again in Iceland. Iceland has a very changeable weather and it’s a bit remote from arctic circle. I was checking some photography websites and people are sending beautiful aurora photos from Iceland so they must be there. First 3 nights nothing was there. Just a glimpse of Auroras, very weak lights. On February 25 NASA has announced a X-class flare from sun.

Auroas are lasted from dusk till dawn. (Time frame: 150 seconds)

Spaceweather quotes: X-FLARE! Long-lived sunspot AR1967 returned to the Earthside of the sun on February 25th and promptly erupted, producing an X4.9-class solar flare. This is the strongest flare of the year so far and one of the strongest of the current solar cycle.

AR1967 EruptsSource: NASA

Of course this was a great news and indeed on February 27 I’ve seen one of the most wonderful auroras in my life. They were everywhere in the sky and they lasted for hours.

I lost track of time.

Not only green but red color was also visible to naked eyes.

All colors included

Cameras could capture wonderful combination of red, purple, violet and green colors. First time I could see them appeared as a corona.

Corona is about to open its mouth big. (Time frame: 30 seconds)

Not only in Iceland but some other Europeans were also very lucky because this solar flare was so strong that red and green Auroras could be seen from Scotland, England or even Germany or Holland!

Auroas are dancing in the sky. (Time frame: 20 seconds)

In my last night in Iceland I could see them one more time over Blue Lagoon Sky and that was a perfect farewell. The X-flares from February 25th was still effective that time.

A perfect farewell to Iceland.

There's a lot of interesting things to do and amazing places to see in Iceland. I can’t write them all because I believe in my 7 days long trip I managed to discover only 15 percent of Iceland or perhaps much lesser. It’s a good thing because I want to visit Iceland again and discover more things. Iceland is a land of fire and ice but also a heaven for an explorer. Do not miss this opportunity and visit Iceland while you can!

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