Mexico23rd December 1998
Maldives22nd January 2000
Country number: 49
Territory number: 54
When? February 1999
How? Bus, snowmobile
Who? With Neil
‘If ever I hear again of any lapse from a proper standard of infantile decorum, I shall ask for your transference to a Sub-Centre–preferably to Iceland. Good morning.’
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
- The exotic scent of stink bombs greets me as I alight from the plane at Reykjavik and accompanies me for most of my stay. Nowhere is far from volcanic fumes.
- The capital is typical scandi style -a hill crowded with gaily painted houses and arty shops crowned by an elegant modern cathedral.
- It’s eye wateringly expensive. Nearly all the food has to be imported and alcohol is so dear the wine is provided in bottles marked by rubber bands. You pay for what you drink – only the super-rich consume the whole thing.
- The food is eclectic- everything from fermented shark and puffin burgers to smorgasbord and pizza.
- Everyone speaks excellent English and wears woolly jumpers.
- We visit the Golden Circle and the lava filled landscape, more of a moonscape, is extraordinarily eerie. First, there’s the spectacular Geysir area, where the active hot spring of Strokkur spouts steaming water 30 meters into the air habitually, every 8 minutes. Then, one of Iceland’s most iconic features, where the Gullfoss Waterfall (Golden Falls), plummet into a 32-metre deep crevice. Onto Þingvellir National Park, at the Continental Divide, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year. Þingvellir is also the site of a stunning rift valley and the Rock of Law – the first Viking parliament. Finally, the volcanic crater at Lake Kerið.
- The Northern Lights are elusive on this trip.
- I opt not to visit the Blue Lagoon. It’s at the top of most visitors’ agendas, but it sounds like an overcrowded tourist trap and what’s more you also get covered in mud.
- I am persuaded into a snow-mobile ride on the glacier, however, a decision I later regret. Neil professes to be able to drive one. It is a terrifying experience.
Iceland was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans
Most of the population of Iceland (over 60%) lives in the capital, Reykjavik, which runs on geothermal power
There is a volcanic eruption every 4 years on average.
There are no surnames or family names in Iceland – Icelanders use the traditional Nordic naming system, which includes a last name that is comprised from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son. First names not previously used in Iceland must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.
Consumption of Coca–Cola per capita is higher than in any other country.
A majority of Icelanders believe in elves.
To see more of my photos of Iceland, visit this page.