From Iceland with love

Iceland is currently number one on my wish list of countries I want to visit. I am fascinated by it and everytime someone I know visits it, I can't help feelng jealous. Here's a selection of photos by Catalin Marin, a Dubai based photographer who was there a few weeks ago. He was kind enough to agree I post some of his photos and video here to share the splendour of Iceland.  

This is a shot of the waterfall Gullfoss (which in Icelandic means the “golden falls”), which is one of the most impressive sites I’ve ever seen. It’s located on the river Hvítá and it’s actually made of two consecutive stages, one 11m high and the other 21m high. Although the water plunges into a 32m crevice, from certain angles it just looks like the river is disappearing underneath the ground. The photograph was taken at 12:30am (yes, past midnight!) when the sun had just set.

A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found Iceland to be the world’s most peaceful place. It has no army and the lowest ratio of people in jail. It was also declared the world’s most developed country and the life-expectancy for men is the highest in the world! So I had to see this with my own eyes and after seeing some of the landscapes here and the happy people that inhabit this land it must be true.

How can you not be the happiest people in the world when you come up with ideas like in the photo below. As you might or might not know Iceland is full of geothermal springs and one of the favourite pastimes here is to sit in a hot pool while the outside temperature is anything from -20 to 20 degrees. The pool below is located in the remote Icelandic Westfjords in a place called Krossnes and this is basically the end of the road. You can’t drive any further West or North from here and the pool is right on the beach. When I was in the pool the temperature outside was about 7 degrees Celsius and the sea temperature about the same. You have to realize that this is just about 50km south of the Arctic Circle! You just can’t describe the feeling of chilling in the hot pool while the cold waves are breaking on the beach!

During my trip through Iceland, I spent a lot of time exploring each road around the fjords in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (in the West part of the country) and in the Westfjords (a huge, wild region in the North-West of the country). I did most of this exploring late in the day when the 3-4 hours Icelandic sunsets were at their best.

Most of the big peninsulas have some beautiful lighthouses at their tips and although I don’t think these lighthouses get much use during the summer (since it’s daylight for 24 hours), they are beautiful things to photograph, particularly with the sunset light hitting them straight on. This particular lighthouse is at the tip of the Ondverdarnes peninsula, the westernmost tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

When driving through the rolling hills of Iceland, you constantly see horses grazing peacefuly. When you look closer, you realize that these are not quite like the horses in the rest of the world. They are Icelandic horses, a breed developed only in Iceland. They are smaller than normal horses with quite long hair, generally long-lived and hardy. They are also extremely friendly and most of the times when you stop next to a farm fence they will come and check you out.

As I’m sure you all know, for a couple of months this year, Iceland has been in the daily news because of the havoc that the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano played on the airline industry. When I got to Iceland last month, the volcano was pretty much quiet, but all around it you could see the aftermath of the eruption. Because Eyjafjallajökull is under a glacier (jökull means glacier) a lot of the ice melted and caused big floods at the base of the volcano. The eruption also threw a lot of ash in the air and most of the glaciers in the south of Iceland (where the volcano is located) got covered in ash.

One funny thing about Iceland and ash. The Icelanders have dificulty pronouncing the “sh” in ash and most of the times end up saying “ass” instead of “ash”. So, for the whole time I was in Iceland I heard “there’s a lot of ass around here”.

This is a video edit of four of my favourite landscapes I filmed while in Iceland. In the order they appear in the video they are the famous Geyser geothermal area close to Reykjavik, the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, a volcano crater in the Mývatn region and a beautiful sunset in the Westfjords.

See more photos from Iceland on Catalin's blog