ICELAND - “Land of FIRE & ICE”.

Gearoid Mannion on 01 November 2016

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That’s what the ads say, but there’s a lot more to Iceland than fire & ice.

I travelled there for 4 days and I would highly recommend it to anyone. It’s just over two hours flying time from Dublin, with five flights a week, plus occasional charters, Iceland is certainly accessible. Most Icelanders speak excellent English and are very friendly if somewhat quirky! Their Viking heritage has moulded a proud and confident nation and there is a feeling of optimism and prosperity, particularly in the capital.

Iceland sits on the meeting point of two of the world’s tectonic plates. Their constant movement results in active volcanos including the un-pronounceable Eyjafjallajökull which gave us that famous Ash-Cloud in 2010 which caused havoc with aviation worldwide. Its immediate and more ominous neighbour Katla is actually overdue an eruption, but so far nobody seems too put-out about it.

Reykjavik in the south-west is the capital city and its greater area is home to the vast majority of Iceland’s relatively small 230,000 population. It’s a vibrant city with plenty sights to see by day and no shortage of shops, bars, restaurants and night-clubs. Icelanders like to party!

The international airport is 40 miles further west at Keflavik. Interestingly, the world-famous Blue Lagoon is right by the airport so, Iceland Tip Number One: Visit the Blue Lagoon on the day of arrival or departure at Keflavik. The hot bathing pools are an invigorating and unique experience. The lagoon was formed in 1976 following the opening of a natural Geothermal Power Plant. Incredibly, the bathing waters and silica mud which come directly from the power plant have soothing and healing powers, particularly for psoriasis and other conditions. This has spawned a Blue Lagoon Spa & Skin Care industry, with beautifully packaged pots of mud selling for silly money (and main courses in its posh Lava Restaurant coming in at €50 a pop). Yes, Iceland is expensive. But with a little planning you don’t have to spend too much.

Next on your ‘must-see’ list is the full-day ‘Golden Circle Tour’, starting in Reykjavik this takes in some of Iceland’s highlights, including Thingvellir National Park, the huge Gulfoss Waterfall and the Valley of Geysers one of which erupts every seven minutes! During the day, you will encounter stunning scenery, mountains, lakes and barren landscape mostly devoid of trees and power lines.

Other excursions offer Glacier walks, Rugged Jeep Safaris, more waterfalls, Horse-riding and lots more depending on the time of year you visit. In Autumn, you have the best chance of seeing the famous Northern Lights, the Aroura Borealis, tho’ this dependent on ‘atmospheric conditions’ - cloud-cover basically. And you need to get out of Reykjavik to see the lights.

Anytime of the year you will be well rewarded by a visit to amazing Iceland. And by the way, that volcano is pronounced ‘Aya-Fiyatla-Yokult’ - and you heard about Kalta here first!

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