Europe Travel News

Go with the flow of Icelandic falls

Flow is the natural wonder of Iceland. Waterfalls tumble down the landscape, glacial waters pool into lagoons and hardened lava paints a stilllife of the awesome forces that originally formed - and continue to build - this subarctic island. A tour of Iceland must make pilgrimage to the wending, whorling powers that so beautifully sculpt these youthful lands.

Over the cliffs
Mighty and stoic glaciers dominate over 11 percent of Iceland's terrain, and seem to impart their grandeur to whatever mesmerizing waters are freed to run their course. A beautiful and fluid mimicry of those icy monoliths takes place when t
hose waters drop like a veil over Icelandic cliff faces.

Fortunately for travelers, there is no shortage of this display in Iceland. Gullfoss is the gold standard of waterfalls, a two-tiered tabletop fall in the midst of a gorge that sends up ethereal mists near the nation's capital. For a more powerful hydraulic display, head northwest to the wildlands of the northeast to Dettifoss, which drops more water over its edge than any waterfall in Europe.

In the northwest of the country is Aldeyjarfoss, where a trim and surging river cascades down into a fanning reddish basin before continuing on its way. The walls framing this fall are lava-borne basalt, petrified into vertical columns whose path the water endlessly traces. 

One of the most eye-catching shows, however, are the small streams of Glymur, which weave into Iceland's tallest waterfall. Gushing white was not enough for this display, and the gorge into which these waters plummet is draped in rich green mosses, a sight that makes the trying hike worth the effort. 

Forming the land
The moving sight these waters offer so readily, one can only imagine of Iceland's suggestive lava landscape. Leirhnjukur is a lava field settled in a cauldron of a landscape, knotty, reddish earth cracked wide enough to let out breathy and ethereal steams across its surface. 

The Laki Craters are the serial aftermath of an eruptive fissure from 1783-1784. These ripped, mossy and massive craters are a monument to that cataclysmic event, known as the Laki Fires. It started out as Iceland's largest volcanic eruption in history, which then plagued the people and their livestock with a toxic ash and a poisonous spray that citizens called the hardship of the mist. 

Perhaps the perfect harmony of all of these water and lava flows is Raufarholshellir, a lava-tube nearly a mile in length that is decorated with standing, bulbous ice formations and ceiling-hung icicles. 

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