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Over Vatnajökull and the Westman Islands

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It was a beautiful morning when we arrived at the Reyjavík city airport for our third flight into the skies above Iceland. Our trips over the Golden Circle and the Westfjords had been outstanding, and today we’d be soaring over Iceland’s four biggest glaciers, the Þórsmörk Valley and the Westman Islands.

Strange Landscapes Iceland
Near the Langisjór Lake, Southwest of Vatnajökull

Soon after settling into our four-seat Cessna, we were climbing above a sleepy Reykjavík still shaking off its morning mist. We headed east over the Hengill Mountains and Þingvallavatn Lake on our way to Langjökull, the second-biggest glacier in Iceland. Langjökull is shrinking rapidly and climatologists believe that it may disappear entirely within a couple centuries. Thanks to global warming, all of Iceland’s glaciers are losing mass, with the sole exception of Drangajökull in the Westfjords.

Leaving Langjökull behind, we soared over the highlands, passing the Klöjur Road which we would soon be driving across, and skirting the southern end of Hofsjökull. Soon enough, we were approaching the big boy: Vatnajökull. With an area of 8300 km², this enormous chunk of ice is about the size of Puerto Rico. We only saw the southwestern corner of it, but even this was enough to boggle the mind.

Now we turned around, following the Mid-Atlantic Ridge southwest. This was an area we had hiked across on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, but from above it took on whole new dimensions. In a single, spectacular panorama, we could see craters, the valley, rivers, lava fields and volcanoes. I couldn’t help but be amazed that we choose voluntarily to walk across this murderous landscape.

From here, it was a short hop across the water to the Westman Islands, which we had recently spent a couple days visiting. From the air, the damage wrought by the Eldfell explosion was much more apparent than it had been on the ground. It was shocking to see the size of the area which had so swiftly been covered by lava in 1976. We moved on to some of the other islands in the archipelago, including Surtsey, which was formed in 1963 during a four-year-long eruption. The island was immediately declared off-limits to humans and is now being used to monitor how life develops on a brand new patch of land.

An amazing flight, and one we were very lucky to experience. If you’d like to hire a pilot for a similar flight, get in touch and we can put you in touch with our contact. You truly haven’t seen Iceland, until you’ve seen it from the air.

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September 30, 2013 at 9:20 am Comments (4)

Halló Iceland!

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Iceland, a small island stranded in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic, was our home for 91 days. The country’s 300,000 citizens lay claim to some of Europe’s most remote and beautiful terrain. Massive glaciers, simmering volcanoes, geothermal pools, puffin colonies, Viking sagas, whales and nerve-wracking road trips conspired to provide us with an exhilarating summer.

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We had spent the previous three months in Istanbul, which although technically on the same continent as Iceland, couldn’t be further apart in spirit. Istanbul is one of the Earth’s biggest cities and, upon leaving, we felt the need to reconnect with nature. In Iceland, we would experience the outdoors at their most extreme. We’d do a lot of hiking, participate in adventure tours, and bathe in hot springs. We’d visit frontier fishing villages, scale glaciers, and get to know a sizable percentage of the country’s population on a first-name basis (the only such basis Icelanders know).

We rented an apartment in Kópavogur, just south of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and by far its biggest city. Our apartment would serve as a base while we set off to explore the country, using buses, cars, hitchhiking, and even planes. About the size of Kentucky, Iceland isn’t big in terms of area, but the harshness of its terrain makes getting around a tricky proposition. Almost the entire interior is covered by glaciers and mountains, and is nearly impassable, let alone inhabitable. Icelanders live and work almost entirely around the coast.

After exploring Reykjavík and the surrounding southwest corner of the island, we would make our way up the west coast, to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords. We’d spend time in the north, visit Akureyri (Iceland’s second city) and lounge around picturesque Lake Mývatn. We’d see the stunning Eastfjords, the glaciers and waterfalls of the South, the vast and barren interior, and even ferry out to a couple outlying islands.

Amazingly, we were able survive all of this without going broke, finding ourselves stranded on a glacier, or falling into a raging river of lava. It was an incredible 91 days.

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July 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm Comments (2)
Over Vatnajkull and the Westman Islands It was a beautiful morning when we arrived at the Reyjavík city airport for our third flight into the skies above Iceland. Our trips over the Golden Circle and the Westfjords had been outstanding, and today we'd be soaring over Iceland's four biggest glaciers, the Þórsmörk Valley and the Westman Islands.
For 91 Days