Golden Circle – Geysir

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While driving on Golden Circle Route of Iceland, another popular attraction or stop over is to watch out for Geysirs. The hot springs are located to the east of a little mountain called Laugafell. This place is another wonder of nature where in you see huge springs spurting out of earth, roaring into steam and then disappearing into air.

I still remember that cold afternoon, temp was just around -10 degrees but it felt like -20. But nonetheless even though we could stand outside only for 10-15 mins at stretch, it was worth every second. And I would not mind visiting this place over and over again 🙂

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Strokkur (the churn) is currently the most energetic spouting spring in Iceland. It spouts every few minutes, sometimes to a height of 40 m, yet generally less than 10-20 m.

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Golden Circle – Þingvellir National Park

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Morning of another colder day in Iceland, we decided to go for Golden Circle Tour. The most popular destination in the Iceland, almost everyone who visits Iceland heads off to the golden circle, whether it is just a lay over in Iceland or a long trip. There is a well established road network on the golden circle which makes it easier to drive in summer months and a bit comfortable in the winter months as well.

We were happy looking at the weather from the window of our Air B&B accommodation, it was a bright & sunny day and were very excited to head out on to the roads. But as soon as we came out of the room reality hit us hard, it was sunny but it was freezing cold. Temperature was -5 degrees and winds were chilled as ice. We knew we might have to spend a lot of day in the car today.

Our first stop on the golden circle was one of the Iceland’s most popular park i.e. Þingvellir National Park. This park does not only have geological significance but it plays an important role in the history of Iceland. It is situated on the northern shore of lake Þingvallavatn, Þingvellir is the national shrine of Iceland. It is the oldest existing parliament in the world first assembled there in 930 AD. Þingvellir has for this reason been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over two weeks a year, the assembly set laws – seen as a covenant between free men – and settled disputes. You can still see the fragments of booths where assembly was held.  It also have a Þingvellir Church and adjacent farm.

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Another popular destination in the park is a major rift, which has produced dramatic fissures and cliffs demonstrating inter-continental drifting is spectacular. People flock to this point to see a continental drift between the continents. The water is so clear between the drifts that it has become a hot spot for scuba dive and you can always show off that you swam or dived between the continents. I did not swim or dive in there, I could not have in freezing temperatures, but I did threw a coin between the rift making a wish to come back to Iceland and another one that actually came true 🙂

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Me and Ash are wanderers and do not know how we managed to walk all the famous parts of walk. I can still feel the cold winds slapping my face and knocking me off the ground. I think the urge to travel and see more just makes you do anything. Oh!! I miss Iceland now.

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South Coast Iceland – Seljalandsfoss

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Seljalandsfoss, another breath-taking waterfall in south coast of Iceland. This waterfall is very difficult to miss as you will notice it while driving along the Ring Road. It is very popular among the tourists, and is always crowded with tour buses and cars. Many Icelanders choose this location as a wedding photography venue as well or even to exchange vows.

Another main reason it is particularly very popular as it allows people to able to go behind the waterfall on a well developed trail.

During the winter months with days short, we arrived at Seljalandsfoss after sunset. It was windy, cold but a clear night. And this waterfall is lit up during the night, and it looked wonderful. You could see water flowing down like a cotton candy from the height. It was a mesmerizing moment. And of course Ash was happy, he wanted that we should reach at this waterfall once it starts to get darker. Why?

So that he could take some beautiful pictures of the falls.

Unfortunately we could not walk behind the falls this time as it was too cold and we were sure to get wet if we walked behind it because of the force of the wind. Frankly I did not want it either as I was freezing from cold, temperature was around 0 at that time.

Like many other places, I had to look for Seljalandsfoss meaning as well over the internet. What I found is, Seljalandi meant ‘Seller’ and Foss meant ‘Falls’, so we can call it Seller’s Falls. Interesting isn’t it?

South Coast Iceland – Skogafoss

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Continuing my posts on the attractions on the South Coast of Iceland.

While driving on South coast you will notice waterfalls after every few kms. So we decided to make a stop at Skogafoss , one of the most popular waterfall in Iceland and a true rival of the Gullfoss.

The meaning of the name of this waterfall is “skógur” meant “forest” and “foss” meant waterfall. That means somewhere in the old days this must be a “Forest Falls”. But it does not look like a forest at the moment, but has a lush of green all around. The tall waterfall (of 25 metres (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft)) surrounded by green mountains makes it spectacular.

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Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. But we could not capture that as given the time of the year we visited Iceland, there were very minute chances of Sun itself 🙂

During my time in Iceland, I was very much mesmerized with the stories behind each attraction. So I would like to share an Icelandic tale behind this waterfall 🙂

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According to Icelanders, the first Viking settler in the area, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum. How interesting, that chest actually disappeared.

If you did not have enough of the sight, you can choose to hike the path that climbs up the cliffs surrounding the recess containing the falls to yield top down views of not only the waterfall but also the view towards the Atlantic Ocean as well.

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Just before leaving Skogafoss, we took a small turn around the area to have a quick look at the open air museum that shows the houses during old times in Iceland. When I looked at the houses it definitely looked pretty, but then the thought of how people managed to live is such a small space and how bad it would be during rainy and snow days.

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South Coast Iceland -Black Sand Beach,Reynishverfi

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Reynishverfi beach, near the village Vik in Myrdalur on South Coast of Iceland, is very popular and the most impressive black-sand beach in Iceland. It is also a popular destination for day tours that are organized by different tour companies in the Reykjavik.

We arrived at Reynisfjara on a winter but warm afternoon 🙂 To our luck it was sunny today and as a cherry on top, there was no wind. It was cold, very cold but these added benefits just made the day. Before heading to the beach, we took a short lunch break at Strondin Bistro and Bar, where they served Icelandic Meat soup, in addition to many other options. Food was warm and tasty to keep us happy. Infact through the windows of the bar, you can enjoy the Vik side view of the beach on a rainy day or a windy day.

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But if would like to see those huge 68m high rocks into a different perspective then you should take a right-turn about 10 km before Vík. A road sign will take you in the direction of Reynishöfn where you can take a look at the Reynishverfi beach. It is a black pebble beach and has an amazing cliff of basalt columns resembling a a rocky step pyramid, which is called Gardar.

You will several caves under these basalt columns, according to Icelandic stories, a monster was supposed to have lived in one of the many caves at the bottom of the cliff for many centuries. But since a landslide more than 100 years ago, the monster seems to have disappeared.

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Looking towards the sea you can see spectaculary shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar.  This beach is a nesting area of puffins, they migrate back to Iceland in summers for breeding season.

According to another Icelandic tale, two trolls attempted to drag a ship to land but were turned to stone as daylight broke, turning them into into the Reynisdrangar stacks. But Geological experts have a different view from those who think they are the stature of trolls 🙂

It is a beautiful landscape that is formed by motlen lava and you can see the effect everywhere around you.

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Hunting for Northern Lights, Iceland

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Like many of us, I also had one item in my bucket list to see dancing Northern Lights. And I have been so lucky to see those lights dazzling and dancing for us for one night during our trip. One of the most amazing nights of my life.

The Northern Lights are one of nature’s great exhibitions: a mysterious, colourful show in sky when suddenly it gets lit up with green, red, yellow lights twisting and dancing around like disco lights. It is an indefinable thrill that can make anyone overwhelmed with humble feelings.

One of the many reason to plan Iceland trip in winter was to try our luck to see Northern Lights. They are active and mostly visible during winter months.  The lights are formed from fast-moving, electrically charged particles that emanate from the sun. These are driven towards the poles by the Earth’s magnetic field – their varying colors are a result of the different gases in the upper atmosphere. Mostly green because of the oxygen present above  us.

While in Iceland, me & ash had a duty to check the Aurora forecast after every few hours.  The day we arrived in Reykjavik, it showed the Aurora forecast as Moderate. From what I have read that Aurora lights can be a mesmerizing affair even with moderate levels. Me and ash were in Iceland only for 5 days, so we did not want to miss the chance of hunting the moderate Northern Lights as well.

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So we headed out for our first NL hunting tour [ Organised by GrayLine Tours – http://grayline.is/] , our guide drove us into the darkness, away from the city lights and we reached Borganes. After spending few good hours in the darkness and cold night, very cold, we finally left the hope of seeing NL tonight. Just when we were walking back to bus, something appeared in the sky. It brought the excitement, we waited another 15mins for that something to glow a bit darker. And the there it was our first glimpse of  NL, a very low light in the sky. It was not dazzling, but were happy to see something and returned back to our hotels.

We still kept a check on aurora forecast over the week, and to our luck one of the nights NL became active again. Again that night we headed out towards Thingvellir National Park, and to out luck NL appeared and they were just not beautiful ,dazzling and bright, but they danced  for us for 4-5 hours. We were happy as a kid, at that moment it did not matter to us that weather outside is -10 degree C, what mattered was that lights decided to appear for us and the whole sky was lit up in green. And these moments were captured once again by Ash and his love lens 🙂

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Some interesting stories/myths/beliefs about Northern Lights that was told to us by our guide;

  1. Many beliefs around the northern lights see the phenomena as a good omen.
  2. Lights were the gods of harvest and hunting.
  3. It is still believed that a child conceived under the northern lights will be blessed with good fortunes.
  4. On the contrary Icelanders believed that it would ease the pain of childbirth for pregnant women, but they also believed that pregnant women looking at the Aurora would have cross eyed children. [ I do not think so it is true, as I haven’t met anyone in Iceland who was crossed eye 🙂 ]

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Blue Lagoon, Iceland

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Iceland – Finally!!! After planning for a year, postponing and cancelling the plan many times , we made it to Iceland. And I am so glad that we finally did that. It is truly the most volatile and magical place on earth,  its vivid stories, molten lava fields, sea, geothermal pools and much more.

For next few weeks, I will be sharing my Iceland stories on my blog. I hope you will like them. I would also like to thanks my very dear blogger friend Gin (http://darwinontherocks.com/) who helped me with her suggestions on the itinerary. Her Iceland journey is fantastic.

So we landed at Keflavik airport on a cool Sunday evening, picked up a booked car at Budget/Avis Company and headed straight to Blue Lagoon.

So I did not drive during this trip, Ash did all the driving/photography  and I did my part of reading maps/directions/planning J  It was Ash’s first experience of driving in Europe on right hand side, as UK and India have left hand drive plus the added snow/ice made it even more trickier. But as good as he is at lens, he is no less on steering wheels as well, with in 30minutes he was comfortable and cruising over Icelandic roads.

Blue lagoon is not far more from airport, just 30-40 minutes drives towards Grindavik. You will see sign boards on the road with Bláa lónið, so no chance you will miss it.

At this time of the year there was not much of traffic, from what I have heard during the summer months as well it is more or less same, we reached on time at Blue Lagoon. It was surrounded by snow and snow-capped peaks.  Blue lagoon no doubt is very famous and touristy place. When we reached the parking, there were a number of tour buses and cars that were already parked out there. So we already knew, we will not have this place to ourselves (just kidding!!! 🙂 )

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When you enter the building, you will be provided with a wrist tag that you will be using to lock down your lockers, pay for drinks if you fancy one when you get into the pool, or a meal or even a fack pack or massage. You can pay all of it together while leaving the lagoon.

So when you will come out of changing rooms and head out to the pool,  I bet the first reaction will be something like – OMG, WOW, Am I really here 🙂 , I have been seeing these pictures from last year and Yey finally I am here.  Oh yes I was so delighted and joyful to be here. Initially Ash was not that interest in going to blue lagoon as he thought pictures on internet makes it look beautiful, one might not know how it will look in real. But guess what after an hour in the pool, ash was the one who was not ready to leave the pool 🙂 🙂

This pool is magnificent, with it’s blue waters & steam looks like a fairy tale place. It is truly in the lap of Mother Nature. Who will not want to have this experience once in life.

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The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.

The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica  and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C . It also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the mineral-rich water. Few pictures from our trip.

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Treat: WPC

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It is once again the favorite time of the year, not because of gloomy, windy and cool weather. But because it is the season of festivals and treats. Diwali and Christmas are on the way, definitely a lot more reasons to have more treats.

Guess who is another happy person with me. It is Ash, my baker, photographer and a cook 🙂 He is baking every weekend, a lot of experiments are being carried out recently. Like for this weekend it’s going to be Cinnamon Buns.

Here is picture from last weekend, another treat of Coconuts Lamingtons. In response to https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/treat/

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The Long Walk – Windsor

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I stay in the royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and lucky enough to have access to beautiful walks around the county of Berkshire & Buckinghamshire. This area os just beautiful with a lot of traditional English villages, woodland walks, riverside walks and forest walks.

It is not possible to go for a holiday away from home every weekend, so me & ash use this opportunity to go walking in these hidden treasures, which are known only to locals. So I thought of sharing these little quaint walks with all of you so that if you are in the area you can have an opportunity to roam in this beautiful wonderland.

Those of you who love visiting Windsor or have not been there yet, I will recommend a beautiful walk at The Long Walk that is just behind the magnificent Windsor Castle.

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From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George II (The Copper Horse) , it is a 2.64 miles walk. It is here at Snow Hill  where, King Henry VIII sat and waited for news of the execution of his second wife, Queen Anne Boleyn. The Long Walk was commenced by Charles II by planting a double avenue of elm trees on entire length of the route. There were 1,652 trees planted to create the basis of the landscape we know today. Charles wanted to remodel Windsor in a modern popular style and the Long Walk was just one aspect of his improvement scheme.

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Later in 1710 Queen Anne had a road constructed down the centre of the tree lined avenue with a comfortably smooth surface.

The Long Walk is still used by the royal carriages every year as part of the route from Windsor Castle to the Ascot Races. Cycling is not permitted on any part of the Long Walk.

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Another beautiful attraction of this park is the a large number of deers grazing around the park. Yes at times when deer are crossing the road to get across to other part of the park, you have to wait. Deers have the priority over humans 🙂

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It is a beautiful for all the seasons. I love going back there again & again.

 

Mount Snowdon – Highest in Wales

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Snowdon Mountain.

Snowdon Mountain.

Earlier this month, myself and Ash finished our long awaited hike to Snowdon Mountain. We have visited wales a number of times, but because of the famous welsh weather we could never hike this peak. But finally we got such a weekend with a bright beautiful sunny day to hike the summit.

Snowdon is the highest mountain in the Wales, at an elevation of 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level. It is located in the very famous Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd. It is beautiful from every corner of North Wales.

There are number of paths to start your Snowdon hike to summit from easy grade to hardest one.

1.Watkin Path 2. Llanberis Path 3. Pyg Track 4. Miner’s track 5. Snowdon Ranger 6. Crib Goch

We took a combination of two routes to see different types of world around Snowdon, and I am very much glad that we opted for that( You will see in the pictures, why am I saying so) We went up by Pyg track and came down via Miner’s track. Both of the path starts at the same point at Pen-y-pass car park. If you are planning to drive there, I will suggest you to reach early as on a good day you will not get a parking space. If you do not get a parking here, your next parking point is 3miles down towards Llanberis, so either you come back via a Sherpa bus or walk (Pheww!!!)

Pyg Track-  It is not known how the Pyg Track got its name – it could be as it passes over the Pigs’s Pass (Bwlch y Mocl), because it is close to the Pen y Gwryd Hotel, or because pyg, in welsh, also means pitch, and part of the surface of the path looks like black pitch.  Whatever the origin, this path starts 1,170 feet above sea level which gives you a helpful start on the way. This walk is rugged, and very challenging, but the scenery is absolutely stunning.

View from Pyg Track

View from Pyg Track

Miner’s Track – The track was built during the 1800’s to serve Britannia Copper Mines which were abandoned in 1917.  Mine Manager Arthur Lockwood drove his car to Llyn Glaslyn, and the track to this point at the lake still resembles a road so is a good walking surface.  The track does get considerably steeper towards the summit.

At the foothills on Miners Track

At the foothills on Miners Track

Do not worry if not in the mood of walk, during the summer months you can reach the summit via Snowdon Mountain Railway.

Whatever path you choose believe me you will never fall short of mesmerizing views around you. Here are some pictures of the day, as always feel free to get in touch if you need help in planning a similar trip.

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Done & Dusted -We did need a celebration 🙂