“… From the frozen, icy, snow capped peaks the smoke billowed outwards towards the heavens… For centuries the battle has waged between ice and fire here with neither yet the victor…”
When you think of Iceland, most people immediately think of snow and ice… It’s in the name, right? However, what makes Iceland so unique is a war of the elements… A war between fire and ice.
Formed along a geological fault line, Iceland was carved upwards from the ocean floor through the power of the earth. Temperatures greater than anything else witnessed on this planet forged this land with flame and anger… However, in a beautiful twist of fate, this land of fire was created in the land of winter and ice… The battle was set.
Now thousands of years later, the war still rages… Each year new snows come from the sky to coat this land white as cold winds and arctic temperatures turn what they can to ice. Yet from deep within the core of the earth the fire still blazes as strong as ever… Every now and again these two ancient elements collide and the results are spectacular.
We set forth from Olafsfjordur into the frozen wastelands of the interior, beyond Akureyri and towards Lake Myvatn. Only 20 years ago this land was aflame with the rage of nature as sweeping fires spread outwards from the core of the planet melting the snow and ice and forever leaving its own indelible mark upon the landscape. Today, the fires have receded, but just below the surface the beast waits sleeping lightly, ready to erupt again at a moments notice.
On the way we stop at Godafoss Waterfall where the spray from the falls turns to ice the moment it hits the ground. All around us are giant blocks of ice and mounds of snow burying the lava fields as if trying to hide any signs of the wrath of the fire. In this eerie landscape of ice and snow and freezing water, you cannot help but feel you are in the kingdom of the ice lords.
As we drive onwards towards Lake Myvatn and Krafla, the unmistakable smell of sulphur fills the air… A warning from fire to ice to remind it that it hasn’t gone away. Large black blocks of cooled lava, twisted grotesquely and resembling phantoms of the night lay half covered in the snow… The last eruption here was over 20 years ago, but even under this thick blanket of snow and ice, evidence of its destructive power surround us.
Against the bleak horizon of snow and inky arctic cloud, we start to notice plumes of smoke billowing outwards towards the heavens. In the windchill, it’s around -20, yet even here, in this kingdom of ice, the fires still rage.
Once at Krafla, the pristine whites and every shade of blue that the ice and snow cast begin to give way… In their place comes ochre, yellow, red, brass and green… A smoking stream snakes its way through the snow melting away any ice that dares to get too close…
Towering fumaroles of smoke are everywhere and the ground below our feet is noticeably hot… There is no snow or ice here… Only the featureless and barren stone and mud stained red and ochre by the minerals from deep within the earth… Every now and again a belching mud pot throws out a dark grey splodge of boiling mud… The air is now thick with the stench of sulphur with the sounds of gas and steam hissing away as they make their way up through the rocks.
As far as the eye can see, smoke billows forth from the earth… The snow survives in small isolated patches, but only just… This is the kingdom of fire. It was forged by the flames from deep within and the flames keep this landscape. You sense here more than anywhere else the anger bubbling away just below our planets surface… Biding its time, ready to strike at any minute.
Huge fault lines are still visible across the surface of this land; standing now as lone reminders of the last time our world pulled itself apart at its very seams to send forth its wrath… Now there is only smoke as the fires wait…
Fire and Ice will meet again in battle… One cannot thrive while the other still prospers, yet when they meet, they are capable of creating an indescribable beauty.
Iceland, forged by fire, shaped by ice, loved by all.
- Grjotagja Cavern where John Snow and Ygritte had their first liaison in Game of Thrones.
- The ghostly pseudocraters surrounding Lake Myvatn
- The otherworldly spectacle at Dimmuborgir
- Surveying the landscape from Hverfell
- The belching mud pots at Hverir
- Myvatn Nature Baths – So much better than their overrated cousins at Blue Lagoon!
- Eldhraun Lava Field – The flow of lava stopped just short of Reykjahlid Church.