1998 Trip to Iceland and Greenland

 

Introduction

OK, so they are not the most conventional countries to visit for a holiday - there is no lying on the beach, in Iceland beer is 5 a pint, and you don't expect to walk around with your shorts on, but then, we've all done that before, so why not do something a bit different, and see some of nature's work first hand? Well that's exactly what I did, so if your still interested, why not read on?

You have to ask why anyone even lives in Iceland or Greenland! Iceland is just south of the Arctic circle and Greenland, well that goes about as far north as you can go! So, having established that due to its northern-ness (is that a word?) its dark for most of the time in winter in Iceland, you then have to take into account that much of the country is covered in ice and furthermore, is on a tectonic plate boundary so has more than its fair share of volcanoes, earthquakes and the like, ready to destroy areas almost randomly and without notice. For the tourist though, this all means that there is spectacular scenery across the country, and I can honestly say its one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

As a contrast, Greenland has not seen any earth moving activity! but has all the same glacial features and more. Indeed most of the country is covered in ice - its only the coastal regions where settlements exist. There are a number of communities and towns on the coasts of Greenland, and to this day, due to the nature of the landscape and the density of population, I am led to believe that there are no two towns or villages connected by road. The only way around is by boat or by helicopter. Never mind the expense of that though, because the beer comes in at a mere 3.50 a pint in the pubs in Greenland!

For all you softies worried about freezing your bits off, summertime daytime temperatures in both countries are around 15 degrees C.


 Iceland

I thought I'd include this photo of Hafnarfjordur harbour at sunset as the colours have come out quite well. Hafnarfjordur is a small fishing town about 15km from the capital Reykjavik.

They haven't bothered building many roads in Iceland, but that's understandable when you consider that the population is around 250,000, which is roughly the same as any London borough, but the area is much greater. Furthermore, massive expense is hard to justify, considering the nature of the country, where part of the road is likely to get blown or washed away 'just like that'. Consequently, a lot of people have 4 wheel drives, and you regularly have to go through rivers etc just to get from A to B. Our vehicle for the trip was a 4WD bus as you can see.

We only really spent one day at the 'seaside'. Here is one of the rock formations at Vik on the south coast. If you travel due south from here, the next land mass you hit is Antarctica, but we didn't really have time to try.

Sorry, just had to put this in because it 'looked nice!' Its one of the many spectacular views en route from Kirkjubaejarklaustur to Skaftafell.

A few if us climbed Hvannadalshnjuker on one of the days, which at 2,119m is Iceland's highest mountain. It was hard work and about half of the walk was on a glacier. From the summit you can see up to 100km.

One of the crevasses on Hvannadalshnjuker just as a reminder as to how dangerous these places can be.

The glacier lagoon at Jokulsarlon is incredibly picturesque. We took a ride around it in an ex US Navy amphibious landing craft.

We saw many waterfalls whilst in Iceland. Perhaps the most spectacular was at Gulfoss. Apparently, the locals ice climb some of the smaller waterfalls when they freeze up during the winter! Why? I'm told that the answer is simply 'because they can'. Strange people - I put it down to them spending too much time in the dark.

Strokkur the geysir is apparently the most active in the world. The day we went it was a bit cloudy, but I've done my best with this photo.

Thingvellir is the site of the worlds oldest democratic Parliament. It seems however that those 10th century leaders hadn't realised that it was also the site of the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, so one would perhaps have suggested with hindsight that they could have chosen a more stable site. In their defence, it is a beautiful location and the plates are only moving apart by 2cm per year - I don't suppose Reagan and Gorbachev even noticed when they had their arms summit here in the 80's.

I couldn't finish the Iceland section without a view of Reykjavik, so here goes. Notice the multicoloured roofs.


Greenland

Sorry, another picturesque view, this time taken whilst en route to Igaliko in Southern Greenland.

As a contrast to Iceland, it seems that in Greenland, they all paint their houses various colours and don't bother about the roofs! Here are some buildings in Qaqortoq.

Aurora Borealis or The Northern Lights. After missing them whilst in Iceland, we were lucky enough to see them a couple of times from Igaliko in Greenland. I am extremely pleased with this photo; its my only one of them that came out.

Apparently, when icebergs are formed from extremely old glaciers, they have a blue appearance due to having had all the oxygen squeezed out of them. I believe this to be a fine example.


Finally

The trip was arranged through Exodus in the UK and a local company in Iceland, and I don't mind giving them a plug since they seem to have done quite a good job. If you want any more information then please email me at steve@tijou.co.uk. For more general travel info, why not visit http://www.travel-library.com?


This site was last updated 21 January 2001.

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