Ice, Fire and Butter: an Iceland Experience

If you are interested in seeing the far north, I can’t think of a more exotic country to visit than Iceland. The whole island is formed by lava flows that seep from the divergence of two tectonic plates. This is what causes the volcanic eruptions, steam vents, earthquakes and other phenomenon that create a constantly changing landscape. And somehow, in spite of all this, there are flowers everywhere in summer. I’ll show you some later. First the Fire and Ice.

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The above photo is a place where molten lava burst from below, seeped out of the crevice and eventually hardened. Over vast time, weathering and glaciation created what you see above.

You might ask, as you read this, why I’m not telling you the exact location and name of each place where a photo was taken. Ah, you have not been introduced to the Icelandic language. Most of the names I could give you have six syllables and you most likely would get lost in the middle of the word anyway. If you wish for a tour guide to Iceland, you are reading the wrong blog. I did try, I really did try, to master some of the pronunciation, but to my ear, at least, the native speakers are swallowing half the sounds. I kept thinking of Klingon. But I digress. Back to the photo tour.

There are many hot spots, thermal vents, hot springs, whatever they’re known as, scattered through the country. I was fortunate to visit a volcanic region in the center of the country. This area is not easy to access. Often the road, which can be nothing more than a narrow bed of volcanic ash, disappears under a fast moving stream. There are many signs to warn drivers of this.


Personally, I would rather have seen signs to indicate that anyone without very stout ankles is going to fall flat on their face at least once a day trying to walk this landscape.

If you are lucky, there is some nice volcanic ash to walk on. If you’re not lucky, watch your feet. The location of the following photos is where NASA tested the moon landing vehicles in the 60s before their use on the moon! You can see why.

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In the midst of all this fury, the ice age has left its mark. You can walk on glaciers, and boat around with icebergs.


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I walked on this glacier. It’s not pristine white as you might expect because the whole country is an active volcanic area. Ash coats the ice. If you can see below, some of the blue ice shows. It’s also visible in floating ice.

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Today, most of the glaciers have retreated and carved fjords, valleys and lakes.

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This is NW Iceland. I boated in some of these fjords. There were many whales. I won’t post any whale photos because I was only able to get the whale tails. Not very exciting. I am sure other people got some good photos but I’m not tall enough! Most of the time the heads and bodies of other people on the boat got in the way and I doubt you want to look at the back of a rain slicker? I would rather show you scenery.

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I went by small plane from the NW to the North Central coast. This was taken from the window of the airplane (obviously).

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You might think there is nothing but rock and ice to see, but as you travel from one region to the next the landscape changes a great deal. Erosion has created a shallow layer of topsoil where a wonderful variety of plant life grows. The wild blueberries were ripe when I was there and we would pick them as we walked. Many of the plants seemed very exotic to me, but I know almost nothing about botany.


Or, should your feet betray you, you could always fall into a puffin burrow. In places where grass grows taller and the ground is spongy, a fall is nothing worse than landing on your own bed. How do you like the way I sneaked the puffins in?


The south coast was the greenest area of the country that I saw. Of course, there are still lots of thermal areas and volcanic rocks and volcanoes to be seen.

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I have to say something about waterfalls. There are zillions. One of the biggest, Dettifoss, is truly powerful. However, I was delighted by something that I discovered nearby. I’m not sure what it is, but I will call it a fairy circle.

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I don’t know how it got there. Oh, you want to see the waterfall, don’t you. Okay, but you can see waterfalls easily. When is the last time you saw a fairy…altar?

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By this time you have either decided you can’t live without seeing Iceland or you’re just scrolling down the page like mad. And there’s also the matter of the butter. I’m sure Icelandic butter is very fine indeed, and it is impossible to avoid, so it seems. It’s in everything, on everything and often has seeds in it. There’s butter all over the greenhouse grown veggies which are wonderful enough to not need it. The soups they make there are also fantastic. I’m sure there was some butter also in the moss soup. No, I did not make that up. Interesting it was, but I was only able to make it through half a bowl. I know, I just told you the soup is fantastic. Except for that one! I don’t understand why the population there is so long lived on their diet. Enough about food, only mentioned the topic as a point of interest.

So I leave you now with one of the highlights of my trip. An encounter with a badly behaved Icelandic goat.


Mickey is the author of two mystery novels. Visit for details.

~ by mickeyhoffman on August 23, 2017.

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