Client Adventures


Our Amazing Iceland Adventure

By Dan and Mary Comelli
 
 
This May/June we had the pleasure of visiting Iceland. It had been on our short list to visit since our interest was sparked by reading articles in National Geographic and viewing PBS documentaries describing the amazing volcanoes, glaciers and the stark natural beauty of this far North Atlantic Island. We decided to join a tour. Our local guide was perfectly suited to introduce us to his beautiful country having a long history of eco-tourism leading horse trips crossing the country.  We benefited from his deep understanding and ability to present the complex Icelandic socio-political-economic history, and he enthusiastically introduced us to rich Icelandic culture –particularly the literature and visual arts. We were impressed with his knowledge of flora, fauna, and geology - particularly volcanology and glaciology. 
 

One of the spectacularly interesting things we learnedabout Iceland is that it is roughly 300 miles E - W by 200 miles N – S, and positioned right over the northern Mid-Atlantic Rift where the earth’s crust is slowly splitting apart - “at the pace that your finger nails grow”. The part moving east of the rift is the Eurasian Continental Plate. The part moving west is the North-American Continental Plate. Iceland is a relatively “new” island in that it was created a mere 18 million years ago as volcanic magma surfaced from the depths of the Atlantic from this rift.  Iceland is constantly growing as volcanic eruptions create new “land”. Under Iceland there is a column of molten magma 100 miles wide and 400 miles deep – thus Iceland is a “hotbed” for geothermal activity boasting over 200 different 

active volcanoes, geysers and massive volcanic fissures. Because of Iceland’s position in the far north Atlantic the higher volcanic mountains accumulate snow and form massive Glaciers covering some 10% of the Iceland’s surface. The fact that glaciers sit on top of active volcanoes makes for intermittent dramatic volcanic eruptions that suddenly melt the glaciers and create catastrophic floods dramatically changing the surface topography of many areas on the island. Iceland’s hot magma relatively close to 

 the surface means Icelanders can enjoy tapping into the hydrothermal steam vents and hot water pools to generate electricity and to heat their homes and even heat their streets during winter to keep them from freezing.

Iceland’s population is about 337,000 mainly living in the few urban areas on the coasts. The capitalReykjavik,and the surrounding urban area is home for 2/3 of Iceland’s population! It is a picturesque city serviced by the Keflavik International Airport 30 miles from town – we were told the super-sized runways were built during WW-II by the US Military to service the far north NATO base and it also serves as part of the international airline safety network required to safely fly large aircraft over polar routes. Strolling the streets of Reykjavik we saw numerous hydrothermal stations. We were delighted by the many examples of public art in the parks, sculpture gardens, and museums. Examples of impressive architecture and public art include the modern Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral 
and the brand new strikingly modern Harpa Concert Hall. The buildings and homes were often colorfully painted and decorated.
 
In Reykjavík we met entrepreneurs taking byproducts of the fishing industry and converting them into diverse products such as fish skin leather clothing, delicious fish chip snacks and surprisingly palatable fish oil. We visited several areas in the
north coast learning about the life of original Viking Norsemen and women settlers who came to Iceland in the 9th and 10th century C.E. – their stories are well documented in the Book of Settlement. They were fleeing the tyranny of the Norwegian King who demanded tribute and fealty. We encountered several examples of the turf houses including a reconstruction of the house in which Leif Erikson grew up. We visited a farm where they specialize in processing the carcasses of Greenland sharks that wash ashore to produce the national dish “fermented shark”. We were given the opportunity to taste this somewhat stinky “delicacy” – it involves pinching your nose, eating the shark meat with a bit of bread, followed by a quick shot of brennivín (local akvavit). In Akureyri we experienced whale watching, fishing for cod, viewing seals on the beach, experiencing hydrothermal vents, mud pots, and boiling water lakes.

In southern Iceland we visited the historically important At Þingvellir (pronounced “Thingvellier”) - literally "Parliament Plains" – the place where the country’s general assembly was established around 930 CE. It is considered the earliest example of a governing parliament in the world. We also visited beautiful black sand beaches and saw puffins nesting on the cliffs. Other highlights included walking into a natural ice chamber inside a glacier and immersing ourselves in the Blue Lagoon hot springs.

Our short visit to Iceland left us wanting to see and experience more of the country and its people and perhaps even do a winter visit to catch the aurora borealis! 

 Resources:

Overseas Adventure Travel – specializes in small group travel. We highly recommend this company.   https://www.oattravel.com/

The 10 Weirdest Things About Icelanders: Text by Nanna Gunnarsdóttir https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/the-10-weirdest-things-about-icelanders

History & Culture https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/

How Hard is it to Speak the Icelandic Language? https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/the-difficult-icelandic-language

Preparing and eating fermented shark: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1karl 


This May/June we had the pleasure of visiting Iceland. It had been on our short list to visit since our interest was sparked by reading articles in National Geographic and viewing PBS documentaries describing the amazing volcanoes, glaciers and the stark natural beauty of this far North Atlantic Island. We decided to join a tour. Our local guide was perfectly suited to introduce us to his beautiful country having a long history of eco-tourism leading horse trips crossing the country.  We benefited from his deep understanding and ability to present the complex Icelandic socio-political-economic history, and he enthusiastically introduced us to rich Icelandic culture –particularly the literature and visual arts. We were impressed with his knowledge of flora, fauna, and geology - particularly volcanology and glaciology. 
 

One of the spectacularly interesting things we learnedabout Iceland is that it is roughly 300 miles E - W by 200 miles N – S, and positioned right over the northern Mid-Atlantic Rift where the earth’s crust is slowly splitting apart - “at the pace that your finger nails grow”. The part moving east of the rift is the Eurasian Continental Plate. The part moving west is the North-American Continental Plate. Iceland is a relatively “new” island in that it was created a mere 18 million years ago as volcanic magma surfaced from the depths of the Atlantic from this rift.  Iceland is constantly growing as volcanic eruptions create new “land”. Under Iceland there is a column of molten magma 100 miles wide and 400 miles deep – thus Iceland is a “hotbed” for geothermal activity boasting over 200 different 

active volcanoes, geysers and massive volcanic fissures. Because of Iceland’s position in the far north Atlantic the higher volcanic mountains accumulate snow and form massive Glaciers covering some 10% of the Iceland’s surface. The fact that glaciers sit on top of active volcanoes makes for intermittent dramatic volcanic eruptions that suddenly melt the glaciers and create catastrophic floods dramatically changing the surface topography of many areas on the island. Iceland’s hot magma relatively close to 

 the surface means Icelanders can enjoy tapping into the hydrothermal steam vents and hot water pools to generate electricity and to heat their homes and even heat their streets during winter to keep them from freezing.

Iceland’s population is about 337,000 mainly living in the few urban areas on the coasts. The capitalReykjavik,and the surrounding urban area is home for 2/3 of Iceland’s population! It is a picturesque city serviced by the Keflavik International Airport 30 miles from town – we were told the super-sized runways were built during WW-II by the US Military to service the far north NATO base and it also serves as part of the international airline safety network required to safely fly large aircraft over polar routes. Strolling the streets of Reykjavik we saw numerous hydrothermal stations. We were delighted by the many examples of public art in the parks, sculpture gardens, and museums. Examples of impressive architecture and public art include the modern Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral 
and the brand new strikingly modern Harpa Concert Hall. The buildings and homes were often colorfully painted and decorated.
 
In Reykjavík we met entrepreneurs taking byproducts of the fishing industry and converting them into diverse products such as fish skin leather clothing, delicious fish chip snacks and surprisingly palatable fish oil. We visited several areas in the
north coast learning about the life of original Viking Norsemen and women settlers who came to Iceland in the 9th and 10th century C.E. – their stories are well documented in the Book of Settlement. They were fleeing the tyranny of the Norwegian King who demanded tribute and fealty. We encountered several examples of the turf houses including a reconstruction of the house in which Leif Erikson grew up. We visited a farm where they specialize in processing the carcasses of Greenland sharks that wash ashore to produce the national dish “fermented shark”. We were given the opportunity to taste this somewhat stinky “delicacy” – it involves pinching your nose, eating the shark meat with a bit of bread, followed by a quick shot of brennivín (local akvavit). In Akureyri we experienced whale watching, fishing for cod, viewing seals on the beach, experiencing hydrothermal vents, mud pots, and boiling water lakes.

In southern Iceland we visited the historically important At Þingvellir (pronounced “Thingvellier”) - literally "Parliament Plains" – the place where the country’s general assembly was established around 930 CE. It is considered the earliest example of a governing parliament in the world. We also visited beautiful black sand beaches and saw puffins nesting on the cliffs. Other highlights included walking into a natural ice chamber inside a glacier and immersing ourselves in the Blue Lagoon hot springs.

Our short visit to Iceland left us wanting to see and experience more of the country and its people and perhaps even do a winter visit to catch the aurora borealis! 

 Resources:

Overseas Adventure Travel – specializes in small group travel. We highly recommend this company.   https://www.oattravel.com/

The 10 Weirdest Things About Icelanders: Text by Nanna Gunnarsdóttir https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/the-10-weirdest-things-about-icelanders

History & Culture https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/

How Hard is it to Speak the Icelandic Language? https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/the-difficult-icelandic-language

Preparing and eating fermented shark: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1karl