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An Aerial Tour of Iceland

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You Might Also Like Our Flight Over The Westfjords

As amazing as it was to stand on the cliffs of Þingvellir and survey the rift valley where two tectonic plates are separating, it was even more amazing to fly over that same valley. I think I know why so many birds spend their summers in Iceland. The views are hard to beat.

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Aerial tours of Iceland are a booming business, and it’s not hard to understand why. Most of the country is inaccessible by car. Only a handful of roads crisscross the ungovernable interior and even these can only be traversed with 4-wheel drive jeeps. And even then, they’re dangerous, requiring river fording, and are completely off-limits during the winter. There are a lot of spots in Iceland which you have to see from the air, if you want to see them at all.

Our first aerial tour brought us from Reykjavík to the Langjökull Glacier, over Gullfoss, then around by Geysir and Þingvellir, and onto Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull. The country’s astounding geological diversity is truly evident from the air; we passed over fertile valleys, icy glacial expanses, still-smoking volcanoes, and steaming fields of geothermal activity, all within minutes.

This was my first time in a small propeller jet, but I was soon at ease. The flight was smooth and I was too engrossed staring out the window to remember my fears. The plane was a Cessna, a four-seater, and we were allowed to open the windows to get some spectacular shots from above. An unforgettable experience.

If you’d like to take a similar tour, get in touch with us. We have an excellent contact, who will be able to arrange a personalized tour from Reykjavík.

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August 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm Comments (15)

Þingvellir – The Historic Heart of Iceland

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Reykjavík may be the capital, but the rift valley of Þingvellir (pronounced “thing-vet-lir”) is the true heart of Iceland. Over a thousand years ago, the country’s first parliaments were convened here, adding historical significance to an area of unbelievable natural beauty.

Nomansland Iceland

Þingvellir lies right along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and European continental plates are pulling apart from each other. It’s unlikely that the 10th-century Icelandic councilmen understood tectonic theory when they selected Þingvellir for their yearly assembly, the Alþing, but they couldn’t have chosen a more impressive setting, nor one more symbolic. This is, after all, the spot where Iceland is literally growing.

Our short walk through the park began at the lookout near the visitor center, where we had a great view over the valley. Not far off, we saw the Þingvallavatn Lake (Iceland’s largest), lava cliffs, and narrow rifts like scars scratched across the earth. As the plates drift apart, the rifts are becoming bigger and, standing here, you can almost see the growth happening. It leaves you with a very vivid sense of the earth’s instability.

From the lookout, a path leads down into the Almannagjá gorge, marking the eastern edge of the North American continental plate. We walked along the canyon wall until reaching the Öxaráfoss waterfall. During the days of the Vikings, the Öxará river was redirected here, so that it would splash down into the canyon near the Alþing and provide drinking water for participants.

Þingvellir Waterfall

From Öxaráfoss, we left the cliff and went further into the valley until our progress was blocked by the fissures which have opened in the earth. With amazingly clear blue water filtered through miles of lavastone, you want to jump right in… and in fact, you can. It was inside one of these fissures that we had recently been snorkeling.

Our path now led to the Þingvallakirkja Church. Although the present wooden building was only erected in 1859, this has always been one of Iceland’s oldest and most important churches. While there’s not much to see inside, the front yard is occupied by a lovely cemetery and, around back, you’ll find an elevated, circular grave which houses the bones of two of the country’s favorite poets.

Þingvellir is the first stop on the “Golden Circle” tour and we left the park immediately after visiting the church, in order to have time for Geysir and Gullfoss. Þingvellir has a lot to reward a longer stay, with plenty of hiking trails and opportunities to fish, dive or go horseback riding. It’s fascinating for both its unique geology and its history. And on top of that, it’s simply a beautiful place.

Location on our Iceland Map

We booked our rental car from SADcars for this trip!

Þingvallavatn Lake
Bigggest Lake Iceland
Iceland 2012
Þingvellir Viewing Spot
Iceland Blog
Iceland Great Photos
Þingvellir Blog
American and European continental plate
Þingvellir Blog
Iceladn Pulling Apart
Iceland Flag
Iceland Nature
Þingvellir Waterfall
Öxaráfoss waterfall
Þingvellir Church
Þingvellir Fissure
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August 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm Comments (5)

Snorkeling at the Silfra Fissure

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Floating on your stomach in near-freezing water is normally an experience one has only after being murdered by the Mafia. But in the right circumstances, it can be enjoyable. When you’re alive, for instance, and looking through crystal clear glacial water at the Silfra Fissure.

DIVE.IS
All the underwater shots in this post are courtesy of Dive.is

As the North American and European tectonic plates drift away from each other, Iceland is being stretched apart. The island is growing at two to three centimeters a year, and the rift valley near Þingvellir provides an incredible view of tectonic motion in action. Silfra is just one of the many fissures in the valley. Deep and narrow, it’s filled with glacial water that’s been filtered through miles of volcanic rock, and is of absolute purity.

We went on a Silfra snorkeling excursion with the folks from Dive.is, and had an amazing time. I had been worried about getting into such freezing water (around 2°C / 35°F), but we were wearing drysuits which kept the cold out and the warmth in. After driving to the site and suiting up, we hopped into the water. In addition to keeping you dry, the suits also keep you bobbing on the surface, making it easy to float… or rather, impossible not to. We popped the snorkels in our mouths, flipped onto our stomachs, and the show began.

What a show it was. Silfra is heralded as one of the best freshwater dive sites in the world, thanks to the flawless visibility of its water. Even though the sky was a bit overcast, the rift was colored a rich, dark blue, and we could see clearly for hundreds of feet, as we floated with the current. The initial section was fairly shallow, but then we entered into Silfra’s “Cathedral”: a chamber over 60 feet in depth and about 300 feet wide, ringed in by walls of lava. It’s breathtaking… especially when your breaths are being taken through a snorkel tube.

Dive.is provided a top-notch experience. We had an excellent guide and the equipment was flawless. The company also offers diving excursions into the fissure, which I would have loved to do. Snorkeling was nice and, considering the water’s perfect clarity, might even offer the better views, but scuba diving into the rift between two continents must be an amazing adventure.

Location of the Silfra Fissure
Dive.is – Website

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Tauchen Silfra Fissure
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August 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm Comments (9)
An Aerial Tour of Iceland As amazing as it was to stand on the cliffs of Þingvellir and survey the rift valley where two tectonic plates are separating, it was even more amazing to fly over that same valley. I think I know why so many birds spend their summers in Iceland. The views are hard to beat.
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