Iceland provides a convenient stopover on flights across the Atlantic. If you fly Icelandair they will allow you to make a three night stop in Iceland on your flight across the Atlantic for no extra airfare. Ellen and I jumped at the chance to visit provided by our flight home from Sweden.

Iceland is geologically strange. It is made by a hot spot pumping magma up through the mid-Atlantic rift. The rift is the crack between the European and American plates. The magma overfills the crack creating a large island in the middle of the Ocean. An island on which lava and rifting battle it out creating a truly different landscape.


One indication of the volcanic activity on Iceland are the numerous fields of geysers and hot springs. We stopped at Geysir the geyser that gave its name to all the other Geysers.

Geysir hot spring field
The volcanic geyser field at Geysir Iceland.

the original Geysir
The eponymous Geysir. It's not dead, it's just sleeping.

We stayed at the Geysir hotel. The Geyser field is across the road from the hotel. Geysir itself is dormant and does not erupt anymore unless it is triggered by the addition of soap flakes. However, the next door geyser, Strokkur erupts every 10 minutes.

Strokkur Geyser May 2000
Strokkur geyser.

A rope surrounded the hot spring from which Strokkur erupts. I walked up the the rope and waited. I didn't wait long. With no warning there was an impressive whoosh and I found myself involuntarily backing away from a wall of hot water and steam that blotted out the world in front of me. Wow! That was impressive. I was standing upwind and avoided the falling drops of boiling water. Then I backed off a ways to get a few more photos of eruptions.

There were hot springs near Geysir. One spring glowed blue.

A blue spring near Geysir, Iceland. The blue is due to Rayleigh scattering by small silicate solids suspended in the hot spring water.

Only one of the springs was this eerie blue color. I suspect that the color is due to Rayleigh scattering by silicate solids that condense in the spring as the hot water cools in contact with the air. The silicates would have to be much smaller than a wavelength of light. 100 nm in diameter or smaller.


After a wonderful nights stay at a two bed cottage near the hotel Ellen and I headed to Gulfoss, where the Hvit (white) river pours into a slot in the earth. The Slot was carved by jokulhlaups, glacial floods, which were bigger and more numerous just at the end of the ice age 10,000 years ago. On the average the gorge has retreated a third of a meter a year for 10,000 years. It is thus a 3 km long gorge.

Gulfoss Iceland May 2000
Gulfoss, where the Hvit river drops into a gorge. Upper fall is 11 m high, lower fall 20m.

Gulfoss looking downstream and into the gorge.

The plateau above the falls is covered with layers of gravel dropped by the great glacial floods. Getting to the falls before 10 AM allowed us to beat all of the tour busses and to hike around without running in to hoards of tourists.


Pingvellir national park also featured a waterfall flowing into a volcanic rift. The fall was much smaller than Gulfoss, but quite beautiful.

Falls in Pingvellir Iceland.

Below the falls the river flowed off down the cracks in the lava flow.


We had excellent food in Iceland, the fish and lamb were particularly good. However, restaurant prices tended to be expensive.

One of the most fun things to explore in a new country is the grocery store. Ellen put together a great lunch of fresh bread and cheese, salad, fried fish and chicken. Eating at the store is one way to beat restaurant prices.

Getting dinner at the grocery store.

As you can tell we had a fun visit to Iceland.

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