Travel Bulletin - - CRUISE REPORT -

The frozen re­mote­ness that once kept Ice­land out of mind has be­come its chief as­set. The land of fire and ice is now im­pos­si­ble to over­look.

When the Ey­jaf­jal­la­jökull vol­cano erupted in 2010 and threw Euro­pean air­ways into chaos, it was clear Ice­land was a land un­will­ing to be ig­nored. Its thun­der­ous wa­ter­falls, vast glaciers and ill-tem­pered vol­ca­noes were al­ways well­known to the out­side world, but some­how this icy out­post seemed too re­mote or ex­pen­sive to ac­cess. All that has changed and Ice­land’s in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors have surged from a few hun­dred thou­sand just a decade ago to well over 1.3 mil­lion al­ready this year. Ice­landic icons like the ther­mal wa­ters of the Blue La­goon and the steam­ing foun­tains of Geysir and Stokkur are fea­tured promi­nently in the brochures of the ma­jor tour op­er­a­tors, while the sim­ple prac­tice of hir­ing a car is now a rou­tine form of sub­Arc­tic ex­plo­ration. The coun­try’s heart and gateway is the small cap­i­tal of Reyk­javik, nes­tled on a penin­sula on the craggy coast of the west. Its brightly coloured houses are heated by ther­mal en­ergy and over­look sweep­ing bays to snow-capped moun­tains be­yond, while a small har­bour shel­ters fish­ing boats and the oc­ca­sional ice­breaker. From here, boat ex­pe­di­tions take vis­i­tors to sea in search of whales, or in sum­mer make the short jour­ney to is­lands like Akurey or Lundey where thou­sands of puffins and other seabirds main­tain their sea­sonal nests. Close to Reyk­javik are high­lights like the mighty Gul­foss water­fall, the Geysir and Stokkur gey­sers and the vol­canic rift at Thingvel­lir where the tec­tonic plates of Europe and North Amer­ica are draw­ing slowly apart. All can be seen in a day fol­low­ing the ‘Golden Cir­cle’ route. Fur­ther afield are spec­tac­u­lar sub-arc­tic land­scapes in­clud­ing black vol­canic beaches, gi­ant glaciers, soar­ing moun­tains and shel­tered in­lets har­bour­ing ice­bergs – not to men­tion dozens of barely rest­ing vol­ca­noes like Ey­jaf­jal­la­jökull.


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