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Reykjavik

Reykjavík is the capital and largest city of Iceland. Its latitude at 64°08' N makes it the world's most northern national capital. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay. With a population of 119,000, it is the heart of Iceland's economic and governmental activity.

Reykjavík is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, which Ingólfur Arnarson is said to have established around 870. Until the 18th century, there was no urban development in the city location. The city was founded in 1786 as an official trading town and grew steadily over the next decades, as it transformed into a regional and later national center of commerce, population and governmental activities.

Today, Reykjavík is the centre of the Greater Reykjavík Area which, with a population of 200,000, is the only metropolitan area in Iceland. As a highly modernized capital of one of the most developed countries in the world, its inhabitants enjoy a first-class welfare system and city infrastructure. Its location, only slightly south of the Arctic Circle, receives only four hours of daylight on the shortest day in the depth of winter; during the summer the nights are almost as bright as the days. It has continued to see population growth in past years as well as growth in areas of commerce and industry.

Reykjavík was recently ranked first on Grist Magazine's "15 Greenest Cities" list.

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Photo: Chris Rijk



Viking Monument, Reykjavik

Viking Monument
Photo: Günter Borgemeister


Around Midnight at Mt. Hekla

Hekla is a stratovolcano located in the south of Iceland , with a height of 1,488 m (4,882 ft). Hekla is Iceland's most active volcano; over 20 outbreaks have occurred in and around the volcano since 874. During the Middle Ages, Icelanders called the volcano the "Gateway to Hell."

Hekla is part of a volcanic ridge, 40 km (25 mi) long. However, the most active part of this ridge, about 5.5 km (3.4 mi) long, is considered to be the volcano Hekla proper. Hekla looks rather like an overturned boat, with its keel being in fact a series of craters, two of which are generally the most active.

Hekla
Photo: Günter Borgemeister

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Landmannalaugar

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Photo: Halldór Eiríksson

Hjörleifshöfði

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Skógarfoss

The waterfall Skógafoss, IPA: ['skou.aˌfos], is situated in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline. After the coastline had receded into the sea (it is now at a distance of about 5 km from Skógar), the cliffs stayed behind parallel to the coast over hundreds of kilometers, creating together with some mountains a clear border between the Lowlands and the Highlands of Iceland.

The Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls of the country with a width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. A local boy found the chest years later, but was only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister


Núpsstaður

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister


The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon (Icelandic: "Bláa Lónið") geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The steamy waters are part of a lava formation.

The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis.[1] The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 40 °C (104 °F).

The lagoon is fed by the water output of a nearby geothermal power plant. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal hot water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.

The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. It is situated approximately 13 km from the Keflavík International Airport and 39 km from the capital city of Reykjavík.

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Farm north of Reykjavik

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Iceland Ponies

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Hvalfjörður

Hvalfjörður (Icelandic: Whale-fjord) is situated in the west of Iceland between Mosfellsbær and Akranes. The fjord is approximately 30 km long and 5 km wide.

The name Hvalfjörður is derived from the large number of whales which could be found and caught there. Until the 1980s, one of the biggest whaling stations in Iceland was located in this fjord. In the past the fjord also contained a large number of herring fisheries.

During World War II, a naval base of the British and American navies could be found in this fjord. One of the piers built by the United States Navy was later used by the Hvalur whaling company, until commercial whaling was shut down in the 1980s.

Until the late 1990s, those travelling by car had to make a long detour of 62 km around the fjord on the hringvegur (road no.1), in order to get from the city of Reykjavík to the town of Borgarnes. As of 1998, the tunnel Hvalfjarðargöngin, which shortens the trip considerably, was opened to public traffic. The tunnel is approximately 5,762 m in length, and cuts travel by car around the fjord by about an hour. The tunnel runs to a depth of 165 m below sea level.

On the other hand, travellers will miss a rather beautiful spot of Iceland this way, the innermost part of the fjord shows an interesting mixture of volcanic mountains and green vegetation in summertime. At Botnsá f.ex. lupins are to be seen, different sorts of other flowers and moss, as well as small forests of birchwood and conifers. The area displays a good example of the planting of forests, a project that has been going on in Iceland for some years.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister

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Þingvellir

Þingvellir (Icelandic: Þing: 'parliament', vellir: 'meadows')(usual transliteration:Thingvellir ), is a place in the southwest of Iceland near the peninsula of Reykjanes and the Hengill volcanic area.

The valley is one of the most important places in Icelandic history. In the year 930, the Alþing, one of the oldest parliamentary institutions of the world, was founded here.

Alþingi (“the Alþing”) met yearly, where the Lawspeaker recited the law to all of the gathered people and decided disputes as well. Criminals were also punished at these assemblies; to this day, visitors can see the Drekkingarhylur ('drowning pool') in the river, where female lawbreakers were drowned.

In 999 or 1000 the Lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. After his conversion it is said that, upon returning from the Alþing, Þorgeir threw his statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall that is now named Goðafoss (“Waterfall of the Gods”).

At this historical place, the independence of the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed on June 17, 1944 and the park is also home to the summer residence of the Prime Minister of Iceland.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister


Þingvallavatn

Þingvallavatn is a lake in the south-west of Iceland. With a surface of 84 km² it is the largest (natural) lake of the island. Its greatest depth is 114 m. At the northern shore of the lake the parliament of Iceland, Alþing, was founded in 930.

The lake is part of the Þingvellir National Park. The volcanic origin of the islands in the lake is clearly visible. The fissures around it - the famous Almannagjá is the biggest of them - indicate that here the tectonic plates of Europe and The Americas are in a conflict. The only outflow from lake Thingvallavatn is the river Sog.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister



Reykjavik Lighthouse

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister

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Skorradalsvatn

Skorradalsvatn is a lake in the west of Iceland. It is situated in a narrow valley between the Hvalfjörður and the valley Reykholtsdalur (see Reykholt). Its length is about 15 km.

Around the lake there are some high mountains, for example Skarðsheiði. People are often surprised when they see the shores of the lake which are quite forested. That is due to reforestation that was started by a governmental initiative. Consequently, the valley looks a bit like some regions in the Alps, for example near Salzburg in Austria.

The lake is also a reservoir so that the level of the water surface has been lifted.

There are no villages on the shores, but a lot of summer houses.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister


Geysir

Geysir (sometimes known as The Great Geysir), in the Haukadalur valley, Iceland, is the oldest known geyser and one of the world's most impressive examples of the phenomenon. The English word geyser to describe a spouting hot spring derives from Geysir (which itself is derived from the Icelandic verb gjósa meaning to erupt. The English verb gush is probably related to that word). Geysir lies on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill at [show location on an interactive map] 64°19′0.05″N, 20°17′59.64″W, which is also the home to Strokkur geyser about 400 metres south.

Eruptions at Geysir can hurl boiling water up to 60 metres in the air. However, eruptions may be infrequent, and have in the past stopped altogether for years at a time.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister


Gullfoss

Gullfoss (English: Golden Falls) is a waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.

Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The wide Hvítá rushes southward. About a kilometer above the falls it turns sharply to the left and flows down into a wide curved three-step "staircase" and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. The crevice, about 20 m (60 ft) wide, and 2.5 km in length, is at right angles to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140 m³/s in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the wintertime. The highest flood measured was 2000 m³/s.
As one first approaches the falls, the crevice is obscured from view, so that it appears that a mighty river simply vanishes into the earth.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister

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Svínafellsjökull

Svínafellsjökull is the long tongue just south of Skaftafellsjökull. Its tininess in comparison to the whole of Vatnajökull stands out, but since you can't see the main part of the big glaicer from your entry point on the tongue, it's hard to get a mental picture of it.

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Úthlíð Chappell

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Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón is the best known and the largest of a number of glacial lakes in Iceland. It is situated at the south end of the glacier Vatnajökull between Skaftafell National Park and Höfn. Appearing first only in 1934-1935, the lake grew from 7.9 km² in 1975 to at least 18 km² today because of heavy melting of the Icelandic glaciers. Approaching a depth of 200 m, Jökulsárlón is now probably the second deepest lake in Iceland.

Jökulsárlón is separated from the sea by only a short distance, and the combined action of the glacier, the river that empties from the lake, and the ocean may eventually transform it into an inlet of the sea. There are plans to prevent this from happening, since the only road in the area passes over the narrow isthmus.

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Fjallsárlón

Fjallsárlón is a glacier lake at the south end of the Icelandic glacier Vatnajökull. Fjallsjökull which is part of the bigger glacier reaches down to the water of the lake and some ice-bergs are drifting by on its surface.

It is situated not far from Skaftafell National Park and the better known glacier lake Jökulsárlón. From the glacier lake Breiðárlón a little river flows into the Fjallsárlón.

Above, there is looming the famous volcano Öræfajökull.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister



Skaftafell and Öræfajökull

Öræfajökull is an ice-covered volcano in south-east Iceland. It is the largest active volcano in the country and on its north-western rim is Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland. Geographically Öræfajökull is considered part of the Vatnajökull glacier and the area covered by glacier is inside the bounds of Skaftafell National Park.

Öræfajökull has erupted twice in historical time. In 1362 the volcano erupted explosively with huge amounts of tephra being ejected. The district of Litla-Hérað was destroyed with floods and tephra fall. More than 40 years passed before people again settled the area which became known as Öræfi. The name literally means an area without harbour but it took on a meaning of wasteland in Icelandic. An eruption in August 1727 was smaller, though floods are known to have caused three fatalities.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister



Frostastaðavatn

Frostastaðavatn is a lake in Iceland. It is situated in the Highlands of Iceland, not far from the famous mountains of Landmannalaugar and the volcano Hekla.

Evidence of volcanism shows around this lake, for example, green and blue water is often found around volcanoes.

Two highland roads run along its shore, Fjallabak syðri and Landmannaleið.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister



Svartifoss, Skaftafell

Svartifoss (Black Falls) is a waterfall in Skaftafell National Park in Iceland, and is one of the most popular sights in the park. It is surrounded by dark lava columns, which give rise to its name. The hexagonal columns were formed inside a lava flow which cooled extremely slowly, giving rise to crystallization. Similar well-known lava formations are seen at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, and on the island of Staffa in Scotland.

The base of this waterfall is noteworthy for its sharp rocks. New hexagonal column sections break off faster than the falling water wears down the edges.

These basalt columns have provided inspiration for Icelandic architects, most visibly in the Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík, and also the National Theatre.

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister



Fjallabak, S-Iceland

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Vik

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Photo: Günter Borgemeister