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Before the volcano eruption, Iceland seemed like an overlooked European country. No one really knew much about this small island east of Greenland and northwest of the United Kingdom.
Today, however, because of its volcano, whose name no one can pronounce except an Icelander (Eyjafjallajökull), the island has become a world famous focal point.
Apart from the ash clouds that have closed down international travel and the spewing lava, Iceland is actually blessed with natural beauty.
A colleague who operates a tour company there, Iceland Encounter, sent me an email about the recent events, “Fortunately, no one has been hurt. Elsewhere in Iceland, life goes on as usual.” he said. “It would be fun to show you guys the eruption! Even if it has stopped, it would be fun to travel by snowmobile to view the new craters and lava.”
By an amazing coincidence my crew and I had just been to Iceland two weeks before the volcano erupted. Back home in North America, we were wrapping up our filming of The Travel Guy Iceland Episode as well as a new cooking show with celebrity chef Massimo Capra when I heard the news break. All I could think about was, “Man, we were there. It’s too bad we didn’t start filming a few weeks later. We would have a heck of a hot show.”
As small as the island is, it has 22 active volcanoes, but that’s not all. Iceland is also known as the land of 10,000 waterfalls. These waterfalls are created from the Glacier runoffs. They fall from dramatic heights and amaze onlookers who watch in awe. The few waterfalls I visited were truly spectacular. Two that stand out are Gullfoss (meaning Golden Falls) and Skogafoss (see photo at left) that is fed by the glacier surrounding the erupting Eyjafjallajökull Volcano.
As you drive along the south coast you will see amazing mountains and glaciers and many open fields where Viking horses run wild. These horses are very friendly and are curious about anyone who stops by. If you pull over and step outside of the car, they will come to you looking for food. Having some bread handy is a good idea. They’ll eat from your hand, stick around and follow you for more.
The main city in Iceland is Reykjavik. About two-thirds of Iceland’s population lives here. Reykjavik is where everything happens. If you’re looking to explore the restaurant scene, interact with the locals, or go clubbing, this is the place. On Friday and Saturday nights, nothing really begins until 12 midnight (and even that is early) and continues through the wee hours of the morning.
A unique structure that can be seen when entering the downtown core of Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral; it stands taller than all other cathedrals in Iceland. It is shaped to resemble a geyser spewing into the air. At the front of the cathedral is a statue of explorer Leif Ericson. He first set foot on North American soil 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The statue was a gift from the USA.
If a food experience is what you are after, then visit a restaurant/lounge called Orange located at the edge of the club district in Reyjkavik. The owner and executive chef, Thor, creates a number of gastronomic masterpieces with a flare for presentation. Picture yourself at your table and all of a sudden a few large orange helium-filled balloons float to your table with a delectable desert or sampler plate. Each person helps themselves to the delicious items and then gives the balloon a gentle push and it glides to the next person. Not only is the food a work of art, but half the enjoyment is the surprised look on peoples’ faces as the balloon floats from person to person.
Just a short drive out of the city is The Blue Lagoon Spa—one of the world’s premier spas. Picture a natural pool fed by underground geothermal water rich in minerals. The water originates 2,000 metres beneath the ground. As it climbs to the surface it captures minerals, resulting in a unique natural resource known for its healing powers. The water has a high level of the mineral silica (which is fantastic for cleansing the skin). Many people claim they have been cured of ailments and joint pains after sitting in this mineral rich water. Once in the water, you’ll begin loving the tingly, cleansing feeling engulfing your body.
Iceland was originally created as a result of volcanic activity. Driving around the Blue Lagoon area, you can see lava rock formations that are centuries old. Highly dramatic, they are an ideal subject for exotic photography.
The simplest way to get to Iceland is by flying Iceland Air. They have regularly scheduled, direct flights departing Toronto from May to September. Other than the direct flight, there are various hubs (like Heathrow in London, England as well as various airports in Ireland) that have connecting flights to Iceland.
The new buzz in Iceland is “Volcano Tourism.” Locals are using the eruption to draw more tourists and it’s working. No matter what, the island is simply magnificent. The volcano just adds to its already stellar attractions and its friendly, welcoming people.
In addition, with Iceland’s geographic position on the globe, the summer months deliver 24 hours of sunlight. Getting to sleep may be somewhat difficult for visitors, but no matter what time of year, Iceland puts out its welcome mat. GL
Skogafoss Fall is fed by the glacier that covered the erupting
This aerial photo of the eruption is courtesy
of The Iceland Coast Guard