By Chuck Woodbury
Originally published in September, 2011
In his 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne’s characters descend from an Iceland volcano and discover a fascinating subterranean world. From what I can tell, now three days into my one-week RV trip in Iceland, they could have just stayed right on the earth’s surface. This is one incredible country!
The weather has been lousy so far — off-and-on rain showers, heavy mist and even pea-soup fog, yet the countryside, as it passed by outside my little campervan as it rolled down Highway One, has been stunning, often unworldly, ever-changing and, in a word, magnificent. I only wish I were a geologist to understand more about what I am seeing. But what I do know is that the land here was created by volcanoes — some from ancient times, others from geologically “yesterday.”
I spent my first day and night in the capital of Reykjavik, a “cute” little town that could borrow the phrase “Biggest Little City” from Reno, Nevada for its own. It’s huge by Icelandic standards — about 200,000 people, which accounts for two-thirds of the entire country’s population. The driving is easy in the mini-metropolis. At night, the locals and visitors dine or sip coffee at cafes. Reykjavik feels European, which makes sense because Iceland is part of Europe.
THE FOLLOWING DAY, in a period of only about eight hours, I stood where the North America and European land plates are slowly separating, pushing the two continents farther apart. Then, just down the road a bit I visited Europe’s largest waterfall at Gullfoss; it took my breath away. Then, I finished my day camped in a two-minute walk from the Strokkur geyser and the others in its field where the word geyser originated.
Now, as I write you, I am about to visit the Vatnajokull glacier, just a short walk from my campsite. Waking up this morning and sipping my coffee with a glacier as a backdrop was an incredible treat.
I return home on Monday after three wonderful weeks away, two weeks in England and now a week in Iceland. I urge you to visit here. Make this a stopover on a trip to Europe. If you fly Iceland Air you can get off, stay a week, and then get back on your plane for no extra fee.