I recently brought home a t-shirt that read, “What part of Eyjafjallajökull don’t you understand?” I loved it, even if I didn’t totally understand this souvenir of Iceland, where we had visited as part of a 14-day Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise in September, 2012.
Eyjafjallajökull, better known by many as simply “e15” is the Volcano that caused such havoc in northern and western Europe when it erupted on April 14, 2010, causing the cancellation of thousands of air flights throughout the region over a six-day period. e15 is only one of many volcanoes in Iceland, and it is not a particularly large one, simply a very active one that has been erupting for hundreds of years. And that’s not all that makes Iceland such an intriguing place to visit.
Think boiling mud pools, spurting geysers, glaciers and waterfalls. Add the unique Icelandic horses that often dot the breathtaking landscape. Breathe the unpolluted air that seems to belong to only you in this least densely populated European country, and you begin to get an idea of what awaits you during a visit to the land of ice and volcanoes and steam heat that warms the feet and the cockles of your heart.
Deciding that it might be fun to “discover” a place upon arriving instead of pouring over guide books until we fairly knew a place before we even set foot there, we did not know really what to expect when we arrived in Iceland. Reykyavik, the largest city of this island that only has about 13% of its landmass available for human living, didn’t particularly impress us in the gray, dripping early morning light.
But as our guide took us beyond the city and into the surrounding moonscape of Iceland, we began to appreciate the vastness, the remoteness, and the beauty of “Island,” or Iceland. Depending on the season in which you visit, you can scuba dive in thermally warmed waters, mountain bike, hike or camp in places where you would swear no one has ever been before.
Stand in a place where two continents, North America and Europe meet and are now slowly breaking apart from one another. Watch the plume of a geyser that puts Old Faithful to shame, take a super jeep or even a snowmobile onto some of the world’s largest glaciers, and more.
Here’s more: lounge in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon, where the warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur (a smell that is rather noticeable along the roadways as you pass Thermal Power Stations). Bathing in the Blue Lagoon’s waters that reach temperatures of 980102 degrees F., is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. Not only is it a spa, but it also operates a Research and Development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the mineral-rich water. The lagoon is fed by the water output of a nearby geothermal power plant, where superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines to generate electricity. After going through a heat exchanger for the municipal water heating system that keeps Icelanders warm for very few krones, the water is fed into the lagoon.
You might want to relax in the Blue Lagoon after a strenuous day hiking, or perhaps taking a riding tour on the special breed of Icelandic horse, known for its sure-footedness and ability to cross the rough terrain that is so much of Iceland. This is a five-gaited breed of horse, like the American Horse, or Kentucky Saddler of Revolutionary Days, which can perform not only a typical walk, trot, and canter, but also more “ambling gaits” often performed at a speed only slightly faster than the walk.
Icelandair and other airlines maintain regular scheduled flights throughout the to Iceland from London, Glasgow, Copenhagen, Manchester, Oslo, Paris, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Boston, New York and Seattle, as well as from Minneapolis / St. Paul, Toronto, Orlando, Halifax and Helsinki during warmer months. Princess, Seabourn and NCL visit the port of Reykyavik, Iceland each year during a variety of venues throughout northern Europe and Greenland.
For more information about a trip to Iceland, contact Geri Wagner, Cruises and Tours Unlimited, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 315 337 6463. Geri is a cruise specialist with NCL and serves the traveling public with most every type of travel.