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Iceland

Iceland was not in our radar for travel plans even a few years ago.  The first time it really came to our attention was when they had their bank crisis in 2008 and then the two volcanic eruptions in 2010 made world news.  We even spent a restless night in Milan then as we were due to fly via London back to Toronto the next day but the volcanic ashes were playing havoc again and there was threat that the English airports might yet close for the second time.   In hindsight, the Icelanders thought the eruptions were a classic example of “blessing in disguise” because people started to take notice of them and the natural disaster put Iceland on the map.  Today, tourism became the number 2 industry right after fishing and the economy for this island country with 320,000 people is bouncing back.

While not too many people will be interested to visit Iceland in the winter when the days are really short and the snow season can run from September to June in some areas, seeing it in the summer can be very pleasant.  Midnight sun, active volcanoes, craters, lava fields, glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and geysers are not sights found everywhere.  Since sixty per cent of its population reside in the capital, Reykjavik, in the south west, the rest of the country is just miles and miles of unique and expansive landscape.  Spending leisurely time roaming the country makes a good and relaxing holiday.

 

One of the most popular sights is the Blue Lagoon.  It is located about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik.  It is touted as a geothermal spa and the warm and mineral rich water is rumoured to have curative powers.  However, it is not as romantic as it is made out to be.  It is man-made and the water comes from the Svartsengi power plant, which pumps up the geothermally heated water from a full mile below the surface.  After being used to generate both heat and electricity, the excess, which is clean, is ejected into the lagoon.  We took pictures but did not dish another forty Euros to go in for a dip in this fountain of youth.

 

 

We were very pleasantly surprised to visit the Gullfoss Waterfall.  There are many waterfalls in Iceland, big and small, but Gullfoss is a must-see.  It is not as wide as Niagara Falls, but it is wild and wide enough to make a great spectacle. Water tumbles on the Hvita River in two distinct tiers at right angles to each other.  It has been justifiably named as one of the ten greatest waterfalls in the world.

 

 

Our personal favourite is the sulphur field near Akureyri in the north.  Set against red rock mountains which were not unlike the Flame Mountain (Huo Yan Shan火焰山) in China, the field sent off a very strong sulphur smell when we were near it.  Boiling springs and bubbling mud pots abound and we had to be careful to walk around them. Another geological spectacle.

 

 

Iceland indeed can be very expensive probably because it is isolated and everything has to be imported.   However, the landscape is truly unique.  Going in as a tourist, especially when we were on a cruise ship, makes it a very worthy destination in our opinion.    ---- By Dominic Chan

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