Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Iceland - Day 2

May 13, 2015

We woke early on our second day in Iceland to drive from Selfoss to Þingvellir National Park for our Scuba/Snorkel adventure. The contentinal divide between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate runs through Iceland and can be experienced in many ways. One of the coolest is by snorkeling or scuba diving in Silfra. Silfra is a tectonic fissure formed by the opening of the tectonic plates. It changes often due to earthquake activity as well as to the spread of the plates. The water in the fissure is glacial melt. It travels underground for many, many kilometers before reaching the fissure and is filtered extensively as it moves through the soil. As a result, Silfra is one of the clearest diving spots in the world with a visibility near 100m. It is also very cold, averaging 2°C year round.

L and I both wore thermal teddy bear suits under our dry suits. I wish I could have taken that teddy bear suit home, it was amazing. L's head and hands were wet most of the time. While my face froze in the water, the back of my head (and most of my hair) stayed out of the water and dry. My hands were pretty cold but not unbearable. The key is to try to keep them out of the water, either by your head or on the small of your back. While the visibly was amazing, there really wasn't all that much to see. L was much more impressed than I was. I definitely think it was worth it, but I wouldn't do it again.

After our dive/snorkel, we explored the rest of Þingvellir National Park. The park is located at the sight of the original Icelandic Parliment, or AlÞing. The AlÞing was established in 930 and is the oldest parliament system still in use today. The park was established in 1930 on the 1000th anniversary of the AlÞing. It was later expanded to include areas of natural phenomena.

The view of Öxarárfoss from Silfra. 

In the Almannagjá fissure. 


Lögberg, the Law Rock, where the law was read each year

View of Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland

After exploring the park, we headed towards our guesthouse for the night in Skógar. On the way, we stopped to check out Seljalandsfoss, which is super popular because you can walk behind it!

On the far side of Seljalandsfoss was a path towards a couple other falls. The smaller ones didn't have names but the furthest fall was called Gljúfurárbui (I think). 

One of the smaller falls

L found a hiding spot
Gljúfurárbui is located in a bit of a fissure. From the bottom, this is all you can see, but you can climb up to the top, which it a bit nerve wracking, but totally worth it.

View from the top of Gljúfurárbui

You can also walk into the fissure to the bottom of the falls if you don't mind damp shoes!

Its hard to tell from the pictures, but the air and mist were rushing very fast out of the fissure due to the power of the falls!

View of Seljalandsfoss and a couple smaller falls.

Outside of Gljúfurárbui, there was a small information sign, which is common for Iceland. It indicated that there was another trail climbing up one of the smaller falls to the top of the cliffs. Of course we had to climb it! This was the first time we really got a feel for how little trust I have in my knees. They are pretty weak and I feel like I have to be super careful and slow climbing down steep slopes. 

View from the top of the cliff


We finished our day at the Skógar Guesthouse. It was run by a lovely grandmotherly lady named Sigga (?). It was definitely one of the house-turned-guesthouse type of places. We used the kitchen to make dinner (cheese tortellini with broccoli, hot dogs, and spaghetti sauce) then spend a good while in Sigga's geothermal hot tub! In Iceland, a significant portion (including all of Reyjavík) of the hot water is directly from hot springs around the country. Its a bit sulfur-y but FREE! This guesthouse was particularly nice because we got to socialize not only with Sigga but also with a couple from Switzerland and a man from somewhere in Europe who moved to Iceland a few years earlier and does construction work for Sigga. It was a great day!

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