A Travellerspoint blog

a tale of gullfoss

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getting wet is no big deal in iceland with winter showers, snow, hot springs, lagoons and its many rivers, tributaries and waterfalls carving a strong identity on the country’s almost supernatural landscape.

locals are just used to being surrounded by water and moisture no matter what time of year it is and gullfoss is one such magnificient display of such beauty. check out the video i shot of gullfoss below.

a hot tourist attraction, gullfoss sits pretty in the southwest of iceland, on the golden circle route and despite all the human traffic that comes through each day here, you’re still going to be guaranteed a jaw-dropping time because that’s what such wondrous natural formations can do to your soul.

gullfoss is a water fall that gushes into the canyon of the hvítá river which flows down to the south of iceland. water speeds get up to 109 m³/s with volumes of water varying depending on the season; 140 m³/s in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the winter.

the first fall involves a “three-step rock staircase” after which there are 2 stages involved in its flow into a v-shaped crevice, one of which is 105 feet deep (32m) and runs the length of 2.5 km.

gullfoss is a real beauty but it has had a past full of struggle.

since the early 1900s, gullfoss and the land around it has been very much sought after for hydro-electric power (HEP) purposes but thanks to the efforts of one sigríður tómasdóttir of brattholt, gullfoss has been able to remain untouched and preserved.

sigríður tómasdóttir was born at a farm near gullfoss called brattholt and with the exception of a few visitors back then, nothing much ever happened in the area. in 1907, the government granted local folk with special permission to acquire waterfalls near their own lands and tomas, the father of sigríður came into legally owning the land around gullfoss.

during this time, the family was approached frequently by speculators and energy companies to try to get tomas to sell gullfoss and the lands near it for HEP development but the family fought tooth and nail constantly to never do so.

the battle carried itself over to the next generation, when sigríður’s foster son, einar guðmundsson, turned part of the brattholt property back to the government’s nature conservation council in 1979. the ministry of culture and education then signed an agreement creating a nature reserve around gullfoss on March 9 of that year, thus helping to keep the waterfall the way it was always meant to be - a natural wonder….

Posted by icecoldland 16:59 Archived in Iceland Tagged landscapes waterfalls water rivers and photo of river countryside waterfall photos natural wonder pictures iceland video flow gullfoss hvítá Comments (0)

staying warm n dry in winter iceland

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rather than be a poor traveller who blames his clothes for not standing up to the bitter cold of iceland in the late fall/early winter, i thought i’d do a quick post on how one can prepare wardrobe-wise for a journey that’s relatively warm and dry.

when travelling to a cold country, finding the right winter-wear in the tropics is a challenge. most coats, jackets or parkas are over-priced and most likely than not, do not do the job of keeping you warm or dry, especially when you have to contend with sub-zero temperatures during outdoor tours.

i myself had to nip into Sydney to find a tri-climate jacket from Columbia at a decent discount because i couldn’t find anything that fit my budget or my warmth requirements in singapore/malaysia.

while my travelling companion and i got most of our woolly socks, sweaters and hoods in singapore, we both found that these could still not keep our hands and feet warm.

we eventually wisened up and realised that if one wants to find proper winter gear, it’s best to set aside 10-15% of your travel budget to get warm winter wear at the country of your destinations because hey, when in Rome, wear as the Romans do.

icelanders will proudly tell you that for a country situated 64 degrees North, that their temperature is fairly mild because of the Gulf streams, (which is true or we would be walking, talking, mobile igloos) be not fooled. temperatures are always ready to dip to zero and below (up to -3 0r 4) on very windy, snowy days so staying reasonably warm is important if you’re going to enjoy a winter holiday in iceland.

while iceland is cold, they have very tax-friendly shopping incentives that’s enough to get anyone ready to shop till they drop in the country. if you spend 4,000 kronos and above (about SGD$45/RM100) you get 15% back on taxes. your receipt will come with a tax-back form which you will fill with your particulars. you can choose to get cash back or have the amounts deposited into your credit card account. we chose the latter coz we didn’t want to deal with having any left-over kronos once we left iceland. you can make your tax-free shopping claims at any tourist information points within the country or at Keflavik International Airport, before you depart.

tax-free shopping is all about spending money. obviously, the more you spend, the more you get back and one good place to start your winter-wear shopping is at the Handknitting Association of Iceland’s retail store located at the 101 Reykjavik area.

yes, there is an actual Handknitting Association in iceland. i mean what else can people do during those long, dark days of winter eh? ;)

handknitting is a big business and hobby here, so buying a wool sweater, glove or hat from this shop is a way of supporting local handknitters. prices for their famous ‘lopi’ peasant sweaters range from 12,000 to 25,000 kronos. a bit pricey but it’s definitely worth it in the long run especially if you travel quite frequently to places with cold climates. wearing these peasant sweaters will keep you warm and snug on your journeys.

the other local designer store to nip into is 66North. their tagline reads “Keeping Iceland warm since 1926″ and appropriately so.

this homegrown label is iceland’s answer to Timberland, The North Face and Columbia. their products are less pricey but does a helluva job in keeping you snug.

iceland’s fickle weather also means that it rains and flurries a lot during early winter, so make sure that while you can look for water-resistant hiking pants at 66North, not all stores in Reykjavik carry them. you’re still better off finding a pair of hiking pants from home or trying to buy them online; that is, if the brand isn’t restricted.

next, we’ll talk about what to pack when you’re heading out to iceland during October – late November which is iceland’s late fall/early winter season.

Posted by icecoldland 04:56 Archived in Iceland Tagged snow winter travel photo iceland blog tax article Comments (0)

day 1: arrival at iceland

rain 28 °C

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we arrived at keflavik on the 29 october – a calm and pretty day in iceland.

keflavik airport is iceland’s main international airport that houses the country’s main carrier, iceland air. it’s also the only airline, besides SAS and another one or two european airlines that brings you to iceland. it has great connections from europe, england, ireland, the united states and canada so getting there isn’t as tough as you may think.

on our flight into iceland, my travelling companion and i remember looking out the window right before touchdown going ‘wow! look at the surreal landscapes!’. we saw moon-like crater landscapes welcoming us as the plane descended to this moon-like country and i regretted not bringing my spacesuit for this trip of a lifetime. (darn gravity!)

once we got out, we were surprised to find that we didn’t need to clear immigration if we were entering the country via europe. another perk of visiting planet iceland. however, if you’re an ‘alien’ coming in from the united states, canada or london, you’ll unfortunately have to get stamped. but since lines are rather short, expect to get this done quickly and efficiently.

then, once you’ve gone past all the usual airport procedures and collected your baggage(s), here are the things you might want to do next, whether you’re travelling alone or in a small group.

change money - there’s a money changer to your left when you get past the baggage collection area and approach the airport’s arrival lobby and exit. here’s where you can change your euros to icelandic currency which is kronos (KR). you’d probably also get a better rate doing it here instead of in europe as it’s not a very heavily circulated currency. try to spend all this money in iceland as well because it will be hard to change it back to euros in other destinations or you could retain some leftover currency as souvenirs if you’d like a nice memory of your trip. :)

tourist desk - at the exit lobby, you’ll find a tourist desk with heaploads of brochures. feel free to stack up on as many of those as possible if you didn’t have time to do your icelandic research. they’ll be useful for your current or future journeys.

bus to reykjavik – then head straight to the bus booth where you can opt to buy a ticket to reykjavik using either the Grey Line Airport Express or Fly Bus. these buses also do a stopover at the Blue Lagoon but only on certain times and days, so be sure to ask when.

1. Grey Line Airport Express – the grey line airport express is run by grey line’s iceland excursions. they have tours to most parts of the country which you can book online or in person once you’re in reykjavik but they also run bus services between reykjavik and keflavik airport. you can find info on the grey line airport express website here.

one-way transfers: 2.200 ISK per person
return transfers: 4.000 ISK per person
youth from 12-17 years: 50% discount on adult fares
children 0-11 years: free

(all prices quoted above are from Nov 2012. please refer to the website for updates in pricing.)

2. Fly Bus – fly bus is the other bus service that will get you from keflavik to reykjavik although pricing varies with grey line by a few hundred kronos, however if you’re internet savvy, then you might want to get on-board this bus since it comes with free wi-fi.

once you’ve purchased your ticket is to head to the buses waiting outside the terminal building at the parking lots, load up your luggage and enjoy your ride to reykjavik.

Posted by icecoldland 20:41 Tagged flying travel photo bus in flight airport from air to travellers fly europe flights tips money line express post iceland blog currency grey excursions changer reykjavik icelandic article keflavik advise kronos Comments (0)

welcome to iceland

rain 28 °C

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journeying to iceland is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetimes if nature and a love for geology are things close to your hearts.

the country is a wonderland for geology enthusiasts and nature lovers. scenic breath-taking landscapes are minutes away from the capital, reykjavik and adventure tours are available for people of all sizes, shapes and frames on most days of the year except on bad weather days and to most icelanders already used to living in an unfriendly climate, those days are few and far between seeing how most locals consider what foreigners think is bad weather as normal days.

so now that we've briefly covered what iceland is, let's get to what it is not.

it's definitely not a country of shopping malls, designer brands or nauseating traffic jams. if you're looking for mcdonald's or starbucks to ease your way here, forget it.

instead enjoy fare from local cafes and hot snack stands, the almost empty roads of reykjavik, winter wear shopping at 66north, iceland's biggest winter wear brand and the dark humour of the icelandic people. trust me, everyone has at least one joke to make you smile or burst out laughing.

and just like the unexpected jokes of the icelanders, the country is full of surprises.

every 5 minutes, landscapes change dramatically as glaciers give way to endless lava fields and deserts or black-coasted beaches. the weather is also as fickle and temperamental as a woman with severe PMS.

on our journey in early winter alone, we experienced sunshine, gale winds, showers and a sudden snow storm all in the space of 10 days! that's a weather feat I have never experienced in all my life, unless you consider new zealand in early spring, another volcanic beauty of a country that rains and shines every 5 minutes.

so that's iceland for you in a nutshell, no, wait a minute....that should read, in a crater.

now just put on your gloves, coats and hiking boots and explore the country with me in this blog.

Posted by icecoldland 20:20 Archived in Iceland Tagged mountains people snow winter travel photo deserts weather surprises tour travellers lava europe humour travelling post iceland reykjavik icelandic article Comments (0)

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