Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Typical old lava field and cinder cone
My ten-hour tour of northern Iceland was stellar in every respect: remote, contrasts, nature's power, desolate, and sunshine.

Saga Travel gave me their Diamond Circle tour that travelled 300kms through terrain that changed round every corner: Farmland, ancient and modern lava fields, lakes, their two biggest waterfalls, geothermal activity, and glens. Some of the roads were very rough with potholes and deep washboard surfaces that just about loosened every filling in my teeth. The wind blew strong and very cold, so my scarf, hat, and gloves were essential outside the van.

Saga's tour was essentially private, with only one other, my hubby, and our terrific Icelandic guide "Paul" who was knowledgeable and fun. We were all firm friends at the end. To some extent, Paul customized the tour to fit our interests and need for photography. One participant typified the ancient and modern for me. We were driving through a region with two houses in 100kms and he was Facetiming his mother in New York. Charles introduced me to her and we conversed, then he showed her the wild landscape out of the van's windows. Even in the remotest areas, Iceland has strong cell signals. Hilarious!

At every stop, there were spotless, flush toilets. Iceland is clean, clean, clean everywhere. Icelanders are an independent, hard working people who are very proud of their country.

The easiest way to show the story of this tour is with some images, rather than a long text post. So here are a few:

Iceland's top two waterfalls: Godafoss (L) and Dettifoss (R). The roaring waters of both are deafening. The hike to Dettifoss from the carpark is steep and tricky, but worth it. Hiking boots are the safest footwear and the spray blows over cameras if the wind changes.

High up in a remote plateau is a hot spot — fumaroles that roar, mud that boils, and cracks in the hills. Spectacular!

The Icelandic horses and sheep are unique breeds to Iceland and they are kept pure by law. No other breeds are allowed on the island.

The northern coast has cliffs, mountains, and islands. Puffins breed here (R) and on an uninhabited island in the spring so I didn't see any. Here too the earth's crust is thin and the European and North American tectonic plates are splitting apart by earthquakes and about 2cms per year. The last earthquake changed the course of the river from Dettifoss.

On the delta, are many sheep farms. At this time of year the flocks are gathered from the mountains and brought down to fields by the farms for the second shearing. They winter in barns.

Tomorrow we do the tour of Akureyri and its surrounding countryside and the fjord. Can't wait.

IMAGES: Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved.