A short trip to Iceland

I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for a long time and this summer I finally made it – I had a short trip there with my daughter Jane. This was a tourist trip rather than a photographic or backpacking trip so we went to the usual places – Reykjavik, the Reykjanes peninsula, the Golden Circle and the black sand beaches and waterfalls of southern Iceland.

I was completely knocked out by the fabulous primeval landscape – it gave the impression of an emerging land rather than the old eroded land in the Scottish Highlands. I’d love to go back there sometimes and do some hiking in that wild landscape. Tourism is the main industry there now and the main tourist areas are developed and busy. However, it was only at the black sands near Vik that I felt that the tourist presence spoiled the landscape – elsewhere it was pretty well managed.

Iceland is incredibly expensive and we discussed the reasons for this with local people. The main reason for the high prices are that their minimum wage is about 75% higher than the minimum wage in the UK. So, my impression is that there is less inequality and less absolute poverty than in the UK. Of course, there’s still problems – young people cannot afford housing and the infrastructure in some places is struggling to cope with the tourist influx.

Iceland is the first country I have ever visited where I didn’t carry buy any foreign currency at all. It’s close to being a cashless society and cards are universally accepted – even in a soup van deep in the countryside where there was no mobile signal at all. So, if you go there, don’t pay the rip off exchange costs – just get a card that doesn’t charge for overseas transactions.

My photos of Iceland are hardly original – the tourist areas of Iceland are amongst the most photographed in the world so originality is impossible. But I hope they give some impression of the fantastic landscape of the country. I’ll put up some more images on my photoblog when I have time.

The Blue Lagoon is a famous attraction where you can bathe in a hot geothermal pool. It's expensive and busy but if you go outside the main pool, you get an impression of the weird landscape in that area. There are geothermal areas all over Iceland where the land steams and there are hot springs and mud pools. This is the Krysuvik geothermal area in the Rekjanes peninsula. We walked up the hill for a better view. The 'standard' building material for the older houses in Reykjavik is corrugated iron, I guess lined with wood inside. Local building materials are in short supply in Iceland so this makes sense. It reminded me of the corrugated iron village halls that you used to see all over the Highland but which have now mostly been replaced.
Thingvellir National Park in Iceland is a major tourist destination with thousands of tourists visiting the site of the old Icelandic Parliament and the rift between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. But what struck me, on entering the park, was the emptiness of the landscape, which I've tried to convey in this image. I liked the road snaking into the distance through the empty landscape. Tourist sights are sometimes underwhelming but the Gullfoss waterfall, perhaps the most famous in Iceland, wasn't one of these. It was fantastic. I did a wee bit of photoshopping here to remove some brightly clad tourists that were a wee bit distracting. There are several black sand beaches in southern iceland, with the sand formed by erosion of the lava from the volcanos in the area. Some vegetation is just starting to colonise the area. This wrecked plane landed on a black sand beach in 1973 and the wreckage was simply abandoned. It's about 50 minutes walk from the road through one of the most surreal landscapes I have ever walked through. Almost perfectly flat, very stony with very little vegetation. Distances were incredibly deceptive - I originally predicted a 15 minute walk and it turned out to be three times that. The black sand beach at Reynisfjara with its basalt columns is a famous tourist attraction with literally hundreds of tourists visiting every day. But if you walk about a kilometer to the end of the beach, the numbers fall dramatically and there were only a handful of people viewing these fabulous sea stacks from close-up. Iceland is a country of waterfalls but this one at Seljalandsfoss is unusual because you can walk behind it (you do get a bit wet).

2 thoughts on “A short trip to Iceland

  • August 9, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    It’s a wonderful country, one which left a lasting impression on me. I backpacked for 17 days and loved every single minute. That was back in 1982 when carrying 20kilos or 40 odd pounds in those days was looked upon as pretty lightweight.

  • August 9, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    You know me Ian and how I don’t like to bring the tone down BUT that outer sea stack is exactly the same shape as the jobby Big Innis left in Isa’s lavvy in a ‘Still Game’ episode – check it out. Great pics given the limits.


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