Iceland, 12th-19th October 2014
Iceland seemed like an interesting place to have a short family holiday, so we gave it a go. With young kids, we wouldn't be able to do a lot of the things we wanted to - but there still seemed to be plenty that would make it worthwhile.
We booked cheap flights and a self-catering apartment in Reykjavik, and hired a car for getting about, so it was not ridiculously expensive. Grocery prices are high in Iceland, but not prohibitively so for a week's holiday.
We spent Monday in Reykjavik:
Reykjavik from Hallgrímskirkja
Even igneous passion is no excuse for apostrophe abuse
Reykjavik Phallus Museum
The plan for Tuesday was to have a look at some of the sites on the 'Golden Circle'.
Setting off - Reykjavik sunrise. The weather was good for most of our trip due to high pressure, however this meant that the fumes from the ongoing Holuhraun fissure eruption in the centre of the island were building up, keeping views very hazy - and making the sunrises and sunsets very colourful
On Route 1, heading East, between Reykjavik and Hveragerđi
Kerid crater - a collapsed, extinct volcano. Also, it's hard to get Isla to agree to being in photos just now.
Boiling hot pools at Haukadalur geothermal area
Strokkur erupting at Haukadalur geothermal area - this geysir fires every 5-10 minutes or so, often twice in quick succession. 'Geysir' itself is the steaming pool on the left of the picture above, but rarely erupts now
Colours at Haukadalur - sediments and algae
Laugarvatnshellir carved cave dwellings (last inhabited 1922!)
Rift crack near Gjábakka (at the European side of the Thingvellir rift, part of the Mid Atlantic Ridge)
It was getting a bit late but we wanted to try to find Gjábakkahellir lava cave, a sizeable through-tunnel where lava had continued to flow under the solid crust, leaving a tube-like cave. We weren't exactly sure where it was, but found Gjábakka and explored up a dirt track from it (which became properly surfaced after the first section). We noticed we were driving along beside a gully - a collapsed lava tube - and I got out to explore. I found an entrance, and scoted it out to see that it looked safe; I emerged 20 minutes later 3-400m away, on the other side of the track, and went back for Jen and the girls.
Entering Gjábakkahellir Lava Tube
Gjábakkahellir Lava Tube - roof texture
Exploring Gjábakkahellir Lava Tube. The floor is mostly rough, with many boulders which have obviously come from the roof and walls.
Gjábakkahellir Lava Tube - lava stalactites
Deep in Gjábakkahellir Lava Tube
Exiting Gjábakkahellir Lava Tube in the dusk
That night, we watched the aurora over Grótta lighthouse, at the point West of Reykjavik. Unfortunately, it's hard to get good photos with compact cameras, even with a tripod
On Wednesday we took it easy, and went on a whale watching trip
Whale watching watching
Dolphins. We saw lots of these, and one whale. Apparently there were porpoises too, but I'm not convinced
We saw a crocodile, tooOn Thursday we headed North to have a look at the Snćfellsnes peninsula:
Horses by Eldborg volcanic crater
Crossing a small (very cold) lake to get to the Landbrotalaug hot spring. We later discovered that it is possible to go around the lake instead, which might be better for circulation in the extremities
Landbrotalaug hot spring - worth freezing your feet for!
Gerduberg Basalt Columns
Bjarnafoss, Snćfellsnes peninsula
Ondverdarnes lighthouse. And Isla in a better mood.
Skardsvik beach, beautiful sand amongst the stark black lava fields
Kirkjufellsfoss and Kirkjufell
Aurora seen heading back South from Snćfellsnes after dinner in Stykkishólmur - it was quite amazing watching the waves move and ripple directly overhead. And this was still just a minor display
We had another easy day on Friday, heading to Reykjavik Family Park and then the open-air swimming poolSaturday was our last full day. We headed to Thingvellir first - the edge of the rift valley where the Mid Atlantic Ridge runs through Iceland and the island is graduallyu spreading apart (at about 2cm per year)
Pahoehoe lava at Thingvellir
Rift Fault at Thingvellir
Thingvellir - this rift is the edge of the North American plate; Europe's just across the valley, visible in the distance
Bubbling mud near Seltún geothermal area, where we headed next
Colours near Seltún (sediments and algae)
Seltún geothermal area
Heading on up the hill above the main geothermal area
Seltún geothermal area - getting a warm seat!
The pass behind the hill above Seltún geothermal area, even more impressive than the main walkway, with steam and fumes constantly pouring out of a fault
On the hill above Seltún geothermal area. The lake is Grćnavatn - a steam eruption crater, and only a few thousand years old
Sunday was our last day. We went out for breakfast before heading for the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport
Outside the Blue Lagoon - warm, mineralised water output from the geothermal power station is used to form an unusual outdoor swimming pool
In the Blue Lagoon - expensive, but fun! (This photo by a member of staff)
And then it was time to go home again. We'll go back soon, hopefully - we'd barely scratched the surface.