One of the most interesting things that we’ve seen in our travels are the black lava beaches in Iceland. There are several of them on the island, but we visited the ones that are on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. They are especially interesting when seen during winter when the black of the lava contrasts with the white of the snow. As time goes by, the larger lava rocks slowly erode to an almost sandy appearance, but it is still quite rough. We stood for quite some time just watching the waves pounding against the rocky shore, the power of nature in all of its glory.
To get to the black beaches on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you go into the Snæfellsjökull National Park and head toward the Malariff Lighthouse. From there you simply continue to the shore where the beaches line the coast. You will also get a chance to see the twin peaks of Lóndrangar, which are huge lava rocks along the shore that have survived years of erosion. As we continued down the coast away from Malariff, we came across even more dramatic lava rocks on the shoreline. The lava has been carved into sheer cliffs with the waves crashing along their base. Even further along the coast, we came across large lava fields along the shore that almost looked like we had been transported to a foreign planet.
Visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which has been described as Iceland in miniature, is definitely something that should be seen during any trip to Iceland. For many reasons, seeing the black beaches along the coast is something that we found extremely beautiful as well as geologically fascinating.
One of the highlights of the Golden Circle, which is a loop that takes you to several key tourist sights near Reykjavik in Iceland, is Gysir. It is a geyser that erupts every few minutes, often very dramatically, as well as a hot springs area with mud pits. Crowds gather around to watch Geysir as it bubbles and surges until it finally sprays hot water and steam hundreds of feet into the air. The area has been active for over a thousand years and there are many smaller thermal pots in addition to the impressive Gysir.
Upon arriving to the parking area, you will join large crowds that gather around the geyser to wait and watch for it to erupt. Visiting Geysir during the winter months will really give you a sense of how much the thermal activity effects the area as you go from a completely frozen landscape to one with vegetation and steam coming from the ground all around you. We are sure that it is equally dramatic at other times of year, but the contrast between the ice and snow to the steaming mud pits and grassy areas was quite fascinating.
As you stand around Geysir waiting for its next eruption, the bubbling and boiling of the water in the mouth of the geyser is almost mesmerizing to watch. Waves of water roll out towards the edges as the water literally seems to boil. We watched several smaller eruptions that only went several feet into the air, although you could still sense the power of the geyser, until finally the main attraction occurred and Geysir spewed water and steam hundreds of feet into the air. We have seen other geysers, including Old Faithful in Yellowstone, but seeing the power of Geysir was certainly an incredible sight.
If you visit Iceland during the winter, as we did a couple of years ago, you will certainly be surrounded by some harsh conditions. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t beautiful, though, as we found so many sights that were absolutely stunning. There is something about the sun shining through the wintery clouds and then reflecting off of the frozen tundra that is hauntingly attractive. Having just gone through the “bomb cyclone” here in Colorado where we were buried with snow and ice, it definitely brought back thoughts of our time in Iceland. As we drove around the countryside, we were constantly amazed by the incredible scenery and could only imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have the comfort of a car to return to. Here are a few of our favorite photographs of sun reflecting across the icy terrain.