Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Borgarnes

Right outside our guesthouse this morning is the ‘most photographed mountain in Iceland’ – Kirkjufell.  Kirkjufell is 463m high and located on the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður. And this tiny looking waterfall, Grundarfoss, is probably a big part of that claim to fame… Because when viewed from a certain angle these two landmarks are literally ‘postcard Iceland’.  This image and this view can be seen on postcards everywhere… well maybe not looking like this, all overcast and moody but you Google image serach ‘Kirkjufell, ‘ you get the idea.
Getting a starring role in Game of Thrones probably also helped with the whole, ‘most photographed’ title; Kirkjufell featured as the “Arrowhead Mountain” that the Hound and the company north of the Wall see when capturing a wight in seasons 6 and 7.

Today took us around the Snæfellsnes peninsula which is famous for its gorgeous scenery.  It was looking a bit dismal when we set out – but one thing we have learned here, is that there is always a completely different view around the corner… and sometimes completely different weather too.

Olafsvikurkirkja – one of the more unusual churches we have seen here.  Traditionally churches appear to be white buildings with red rooves, but this 1967 modern design is unique compared to most others we have seen. There are so many churches dotted around the landscape that it sometimes feels a bit, ‘Oh there are three farms meeting in one place; we need a church’. Svöðufoss. There are so many waterfalls in Iceland that they are starting to feel like ancient ruins on a trip through the Mediterranean…

The welcome into the town of HellissandurA Hellisunder local, Kári Viðarsson who grew up and lives in the town started a street art project painting this local fish factory… we even spied some murals on some residential homes. Now the project has taken on a world of its own and he has murals on many local buildings including the local hostel.  The eventual plan is to have a mural on at least one wall of every building in town.  

Further down the road, we found ourselves driving through some now familiar but still dramatic lava fields to get to Djúpalónssandur beach.

Djúpalónssandur is a sandy beach at the base of Snæfellsjökull (the glacier on the Snaefellsnes peninsular). There used to be a thriving fishing village here with up to sixty fishing boats but today the bay is uninhabited and there is no sign of the old village.

On the beach, there are the scattered steel remains of the Grimsby – a British fishing trawler that was wrecked here in 1948.

Djúpalónssandur is also known for its four ‘lifting stones’ which were used by the fishermen to test their strength.

They are Fullsterkur (“full strength”) weighing 154 kg, Hálfsterkur (“half strength”) at 100 kg, hálfdrættingur (“weakling”) at 54 kg and Amlóði (“Useless”) 23 kg. Traditionally the stones were used to decide if men were strong enough to qualify men to work on fishing boats, A would-be fisherman would have to be able to lift the Hálfdrættingur onto a ledge at hip-height to get a job.  yale took these pictures and had a go at lifting them… he managed to lift the ‘weakling’ stone, so maybe he could have got a job as an oarsman.  😀

Snæfellsnes has several lighthouses, this one is the Malarrif Lighthouse, which is situated right beside this extremely rugged and rocky beachhead above.

We stayed for quite a while watching the rain roll in, as the waves crashed over the craggy black lava rocks. The power of the surf hitting rocks like this is always impressive.  This is the first place that I *didn’t* suggest that yale take a swim…

We left our Jeep at the visitor’s centre when we went to go for a walk to the lighthouse, but someone turned it into a Matchbox Car by the time we got back…Again, as we drive around, everywhere we look is simply stunning scenery – I have so many photos taken out the car window from discovering more pretty sights around every corner.

This is a monument to Guðríður Thorbjarnardótti who was orn at Laugarbrekka in Snæfellsnes. Guðríður appears in the Saga of ERik the Red and also in the Saga of the Greenlanders which combined make up the Vinland sagas.  She and her husband, Þorfinnur Karlsefni, led expeditions to Vinland,

She appears in the Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders, known collectively as the Vinland Sagas. She and her husband Þorfinnur Karlsefni led an expedition to Vinland (which is what the Norsemen called, areas of North America that they explored in approximated 1000AD).  Their son, Snorri Þorfinnsson is believed to be the first European birth in the Americas.

She became a bit of an early explorer taking many voyages.


Bárðr Snæfellsnes is another character from Icelandic sagas; Bárðr’s mother was human, but his father was half giant and half troll. Growing up, he lived with Dofri, the “mountain-dweller” of Dovrefjell (in central Norway). He had three tall beautiful daughters with his first wife, Flaumgerðr (who had a human mother but was also Dofri the mountain dweller’s daughter): Helga, Þordís and Guðrún. With his second wife, Herþrúðr, who was human, he had six more daughters.

Bárðr and his family emigrated to Iceland at Snæfellsnes which they named Djúpalón and he built himself a farm which he called Laugarbrekka. Bárðr’s also had a half-brother, Þorkell, from his human mother’s second marriage, and Þorkell lived at Arnarstapi with his two sons, Rauðfeldr (Red-cloak) and Sölvi, who we will get to shortly…

The peninsula here with its amazingly tall basalt columns and natural arches is breathtaking.  Anyway, back to Bárðr and Þorkell and their children.  The sons of Þorkell and the daughters of Bárðr used to play together, as cousins do. However, one day, when there was pack ice along the shoreline, the sons of Þorkell, Rauðfeldr and Sölvi pushed Helga out to sea on an iceberg thinking she would drift for a while and come back. Unfortunately, she drifted out to sea, and unbeknownst to Bárðr, she drifted unharmed the 300 nautical miles to Greenland, where she ended up finding a lover and settling down. Bárðr, of course, thought she was dead and was infuriated. He pushed Rauðfeldr off the Rauðfeldsgjá, the high ravine at Arnarstapi and he threw Sölvi off a high cliff on the coast east called Sölvahamar. Þorkell was then infuriated too, and he and Bárðr fought until Þorkell ended up with a broken leg and moved out of the district. Rauðfeldsgjá ravine appears to be just a crack in the cliffline, but it is quite a long and steep chasm. 

More beautiful scenery appeared as we were founding the southern side of the peninsula – rainbows, mirror like lakes, snowcapped mountains and rolling green hillsides. This is a reflection in the lake! (below) We weren’t the only ones stopping to take photos… we were (mostly) the only ones taking photos of the scenery.  yale doing his best Chinese tourist impression and posing in the now way too familiar, and no doubt already Chinese-Instagram-Famous, Airing The Vagina Pose…!  We don’t know why they do it, but they are always standing around on one leg like this with their arms spread out in front of things?!?
Hitting the road to Borgagnes…

At Borganes we deliberately made a decision to drop a few IQ points and go to the Settlement Centre, where we were spoonfed some Icelandic sagas in easy tourist sized chunks with a handy audio tour and interactive displays. Personally, I fucking hate audio tours – they disconnect you from experience and your fellow traveller and put people in an even more self-centered bubble of not paying attention to those around them… but it is what it is, I guess.

The top half of the audio tour was about the seafaring voyages of the viking eras… where they went how and a little bit of the who.  I am hoping to get more solid/academically presented information on all this at the National Museum in a couple of days but it was interesting enough. The bottom half of the Settlement Centre’s display is an artistic representation of what is called Egill’s Saga.  Egill Skallagrímsson was a Viking warrior and poet, whose story is told here through a wide range of art pieces in varying styles, by many artists, in a diverse array of media.  I very much enjoyed the artworks – though it seems Egill was a bit of an arsehole. Wood carvings of the gods, Floki and Odin. Egill’s father, who was a very harsh man.  A representation of Egill’s first killing at age seven, when he became enraged in an ice game (a precursor to modern ice hockey perhaps) and took an axe and killed a man.An artwork showing his parents reaction to the killing – Mum: You good warrior you, one day we will buy you a ship.  Dad: Bad boy. You shouldn’t kill people.  (Shortest version of that anyone ever wrote)
Egill’s fantastically handsome brother who look nothing like his father… mentioned repeatedly. A scorn pole made to curse Egill by someone else he had crossed.An artwork representing some magic and shamanism.
Egill in his melancholy after losing his two sons.

The Settlement Centre was interesting enough – if you have no actual interest in dark ages history and don’t mind being treated like a school kid.  I am glad the place was empty when we were there – or I think I would have left.

After this, we went to find our guesthouse, Hotel Hafnarfjall and ferret out some dinner.  We checked in and I was disappointed to see we had been allocated a room looking towards the mountain and not over the fjord. Not that it wasn’t a very pretty snow-capped mountain behind us, but we were finally expecting a really high probability of an opportunity to see the northern lights tonight, and it would have been better to have a more open view. No sooner had we walked into the room when the owner came around to get us, walked into the bathroom and tut-tutted about the ventilation fan not working and he moved us to a fjord view room!  Sweet.  😀

So, the aurora forecast, that I have been watching like a hawk since we got here was finally showing levels of 4 and 5 over most of Iceland… it had been hovering around 2-3 for most of our visit.  But the bigger problem was that with all the snow, rain and overcast weather we were having – even if it had been peaking, we were unlikely to see it wherever we were due to the dense cloud cover.

Well tonight, we were near those three sunny patches on the left-hand side of the country… so I had high hopes we would see at least a little something.  yale just made me a supercool .gif of all the screen grabs I have been taking as I watched the forecast today!
And just after dinner we went for a little drive away from the city lights and managed to spot the aurora peeking out between the clouds. It’s a stunning phenomena, and very hard to capture with a handheld camera and no tripod!  😛  Yeah, well equipped photographer I am.  We drove around a bit chasing the brightest green in the sky. I had to include this – we drove to a dark space behind the Settlement Centre in town and found others attempting to photograph the aurora too… and would you believe this:  it’s pitch black, the sky is green and a Chinese couple are here and the guy is trying to photograph his partner in front of the northern lights.
*rolls eyes so skyward, I think I am going to fall over*
ALL the portraits – WHY?Later on – just before we were getting ready for bed, we stuck our head outside the door and saw what looked like lights… so we quickly got dressed and ran outside. As I said, I didn’t have a tripod, so these are 8 second, handheld exposures… but I didn’t really care too much about the photos – the experience was the important bit.  I took a handful of photos and then stuffed the camera in my pocked to just watch.  We’ve had so much cloud cover, rain and bad weather that we didn’t think we were going to see the aurorae at all. Stunning!  And on that note – bed time.

Below the waterline.

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a new camera lately – yes, I know, another one… but one that can be used underwater when snorkelling or sailing etc.  Mostly I am keen to acquire one because I missed some great opportunities for beautiful photographs when I was up in the Whitsundays recently… but what is putting me off is that the underwater digital camera feels like the waffle iron of the photographic world – the single use appliance that will rarely get used, which, when weighed up against the cost, turns out to be a rather poor consumer decision.  Then I saw all these gorgeous photos on Distractify (No, I will not link to it – ridiculous, bullshit click bait website that it is!) and it is rapidly stiffening my resolve to acquire my own waterproof camera…


Underwater fishes off Sipadan Island, MalaysiaUnderwater Sipadan Island Malaysia Underwater in IcelandUnderwater Iceland Underwater in CubaUnderwater Cuba Underwater in the Caribbean Sea, off MexicoUnderwater Caribean Mexico Underwater in the Flores Sea, IndonesiaUnderwater Flores Sea Indonesia Underwater ice in SwitzerlandUnderwater Switzerland Underwater in BrazilUnderwater Brazil Underwater diver off the coast of SpainUnderwater Spain Underwater at the Palawan Islands, PhilippinesUnderwater Palawan Islands Philipines Underwater in the Blue Grotto, Isle of Capri, ItalyUnderwater Blue Grotto Capri Italy Underwater at Pig Beach, BahamasUnderwater Pig Beach Bahamas Underwater in Green Lake, AustriaUnderwater Green Lake Aust Underwater in The Everglades, FloridaUnderwater Everglades Florida Underwater in Bora Bora, TahitiUnderwater Bora Bora Underwater bathing elephants in Andaman Islands, IndiaUnderwater Andaman Is India Underwater Mystery?Underwater Mystery2 Underwater seal in the Magdalen Islands, CanadaUnderwater Magalen Islands Canada Underwater trout in the Smalblaar River, South AfricaUnderwater Smalblaar Rv Sth Africa Underwater diver in FijiUnderwater Fiji Underwater fishes at Raja Ampat, IndonesiaUnderwater Raja Ampat Indonesia Underwater at Crystal River, FloridaUnderwater Crystal River Florida Underwater Mystery Underwater in Zanzibar, TanzaniaUnderwater Zanzibar TanzaniaUnderwater in Mare, New CaledoniaUnderwater Mare New Caledonia Underwater off a jetty at Nuweiba, Egypt.Underwater Neweba Egypt Underwater off Eilat, IsraelUnderwater Eilat Israel

Underwater in ArgentinaUnderwater Argentina

Underwater at Laguna de los Burros, MexicoUnderwater Laguna de los Burros Mexico Underwater in the Mediterranean Sea, FranceUnderwater Mediterranean France Underwater in Jellyfish Lake in PalauUnderwater Jellyfish Lake Palau Underwater off Danko Island, AntarcticaUnderwater Danko Island Antarctica Underwater in a French LakeUnderwater France Underwater sharks off South AfricaUnderwater South Africa Underwater in Papua New GuineaUnderwater Papua New Guinea

As someone who travels as much as they can (see tag: ‘twavel’ on the right) I think that maybe I might be able to get some good use out of it after all.  I’m off to New Zealand at the end of this year and hopefully off to Japan in the middle of next year… so maybe it would be a good time to buy a photographic waffle iron.

Where to next?

I’ve been home from my travels for about a month and thoughts tend to turn to what amazing place can we go to next?  😀  Everyone has to have something to look forward to right?  So I’ve been looking for pictures of where you can go to see the auroras (north or south, I’m not fussy) and instead keep stumbling onto pics of some The Most Amazing Natural Phenomena in The World!  This is a list of some of the cool stuff I have found so far…

Asperatus clouds – apparently so rare they have only been classified since about 2009, no one knows much about them, so it’s hard to predict where they may occur.

asperatus clouds Bioluminescent waters of the Maldives – can you imagine swimming in this gorgeous phosphorescent sea?  Caused by phytoplankton in the sea, I have seen tiny examples of this in beaches in Australia, but this would be magical! bioluninescent waters maldivesbioluminescent Calcifying lakes in Africa – beautiful and dangerous, with such ridiculously high salt content, that animals that get to close literally calcify from dehydration and look like they are turning to stone.calcifying lakesColumnal basalt rock formations – okay, this is definitely on my list thanks to the Great Puffin Incident of 1995… seen at the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland as well as Fingal Caves in Scotland and created by lava plateaus that cooled and fractures into these unique landmarks. columnar basalt Painted Danxia Landforms – beautifully surreal mountains created by sandstone and layers of minerals shaped by wind and rain into ravines, pillars and rock formations.danxie landforms china

Eternal lightning storm in Venezuela – at the mouth of the Catatumbo River, weather conditions and topography exists that creates an almost permanent storm that creates what is known as Catatumbo lightning on up to 160 days a year, for up to 10 hours a day and 280 strikes an hour.  Would love to see that!Everlasting storm Venezula Fairy rings in Namibia – thousands of circles up to 30 feet across that are apparently made by termites killing off vegetation so that any moisture is available for the insects’ use and not plants.  Looks interesting, but the bugs would out me off looking for this place.Fairy circles namibia fairy circles namibia2 Spider webs in Australia after flooding – thousands and thousands of spiders spinning webs above floodwater level just to freak us out.  Yep, so not ever putting this on my ‘to go to’ list, but it is a cool photo.fields of spider webs 1 Fire rainbows – created by light reflecting from ice crystals in very high clouds, often appearing parallel o the horizon.  Looks beautiful, sounds really bloody rainbows Great flowering desert in Chile – obviously you need to pick to go at the right time of year, because this doesn’t look too appealing.  Second view in spring however, looks amazing.flowering desert chile 1 flowering desert chile 2 Frost flowers – so pretty.  Mostly found in Arctic ares (why is all the pretty stuff in the freezing cold!), the flower ice formations form on thin sea ice when the atmosphere is colder than the ice.  When the warmer air from the ice meets the colder air, funky ice crystals form making fields of frosty flowers.frost flowers arctic 2 frost flowers arctic

Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan – da.da.da!  Sounds dramatic and probably looks awesome.  It’s been burning since 1971 when natural gas emitted from cracks in the land were set alight.  Apparently there is another similar phenomena in Iraq that they claim has been 4,000 years… why does the cool stuff have to be so remote?  🙂Gateway to hell turkmenistan 1 Gateway to hell turkmenistanUnderground glacial caves – ice caves formed by water erodes into the glacier. So beautiful from the blue glacial ice, which is formed by tightly packed ice.  I went to the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska (bottom photo), but oddly enough, there were no guided tours offered for your average tourist to go adventuring in enormous underground ice caverns.
Glacial Ice caves 1 glacial ice caves mendenhall Blue holes in Belize – these were apparently formed during the last Ice Age when the water level was much lower and the holes were basically formed by erosion.  The sea water rises and the holes filled up, creating a unique scuba diving opportunity and a rare underwater environment.  Very cool. Great Blue Hole BelizeHorsetail Falls – tumbling down the side of El Capitain in Yosemite, these enormous waterfalls have a few days a year in February when the light hits them just so, causing them to light up like they are on fire.  Yosemite is definitely on my list.
jorsetail falls california Lenticular cloud formations – these clouds are created by layers of moist air flowing over a mountain and they pile up into a strange UFO/hat shape.  I saw tiny lenticular cloud forms when I was in Canada an they were way cool – but probably hard to go hunting as a holiday destination.lenticular clouds 2 lenticular clouds Russian light pillars – these pillars of light are formed by natural light reflecting off flat and smooth light crystals but are only visible under extremely cold weather conditions … which I imagine for Russia, is bitterly cold.  So maybe not.light pillars russia 1 light pillars russia Maelstroms – this one is called Saltstraumen, located off Norway.  These powerful whirlpools are created by conflicted tidal flows meeting and can easily suck down swimmers and small boats.   I’d love to see one, but have a feeling going near anything like this is just bloody stupid.maelstomsMonarch butterfly migration – from North America to Mexico, the butterfly migrate 2,500 miles to seek out warmer weather for winter.  Millions of them swarm together filling the sky with black and orange… ooh.  aah.  pretty.
monarch butterfly migration us 1 monarch butterfly migration us 2 Nacreous clouds in the Arctic – these gorgeous formations actually appear very rarely in the stratosphere due to a complete lack of moisture closer to the earth for cloud formation.  Apparently they have been seen in extreme polar winters when there is just enough moisture to form, and occur about 12 miles above the earth.  I would love to see that.  So cold though.nacreous clouds arcticSailing Stones, Death Valley, California.  These are so cool.  Always wanted to go hunting for rocks that creep along the ground by themselves.  For ages, no one knew how they moved, but it turns out that in the winter, tiny ice crystals formed around the rocks and then slide across the moisture in the mud, leaving crazy trails behind them.  Some of them are like, 300kgs!
sailing stones death valley california 2 sailing stones death valley california Now this would be cool – the Sardine Run off South Africa.  Apparently the sardines move by the billions from cool waters at Cape Point to the East Coast of South Africa.  When the sardines are on the move, there are so many of them, they can be seen from satellites in space and sharks in feeding frenzies take full advantage of their sheer numbers.  Scuba diving anyone?sardine run south africa 2 sardine run south africa Sky punch clouds – a sky punch appears in clouds when ice crystals in the middle of a cloud formation begin to evaporate.  No idea how you predict where they would be – but cool natural phenomena.  sky punch 1 skypunch 2 skypunch3Fumarole snow chimneys – normal fumaroles are vents which allow steam to vent from areas of volcanic activity.  If these vents are in Arctic areas, the moisture venting from the fumarole freezes as soon as it meets the air creating funky looking snow chimneys.  Again… why is so much of all the groovy stuff in the areas of the earth where you’re likely to freeze your fricken butt off?snow chimney arctic Fly Geyser, Nevada – this unusual place was discovered accidentally sometime in the 60s when well drilling for geothermal energy sources was being performed on the Fly Ranch in Nevada.  So while not 100% a natural phenomena, the resulting geyser has brought to the surface numerous minerals that have been flowing into 30-40 pools across a 34 hectacre area, enabling thermophilic algae to thrive, which creates the beautiful striped colours on the geyser.  It’s on private property though, so bugger on that front. fly geyser nevada fly-geyser3 flygeyser2Moeraki Boulders, South Island, New Zealand – these rock formations are naturally formed spherical boulders at Keokehe Beach.  The giant balls were formed up to 60 million years ago under the seafloor by compressed sediment hardening into stone.  I have been to these boulders three times – taken pics of my kids clambering on them! – and think they are one of the coolest natural phenomena ever.Spherical Boulders moerakimoeraki-new-zealand-

Spotted Lake, British Columbia, Canada – as the water evaporates from this lake near Osoyoos, various minerals pool together together to form what look like large lily pads.  Each pool of minerals has a different shape and colour due to the wide variety found in the lake.  spotted lake canada

spotted lake candada 2 Steam towers in Iceland – the region of Hverir is naturally high in geothermal activity which sees large towers of steam emanate from the boiling water and mud in the area.  When combined with the ethereal beauty of the northern lights, the steam towers create an otherworldly landscape.   Steam Towers Iceland Hverir striated icebergs antarctica Striated glacial icebergs – the gorgeous stripes form in icebergs in various ways.  Sometimes when crevices fill with water and freezes so quickly that no bubbles form creating bright blue stripes.  Green stripes appear when algae attaches to icebergs as they tumble into the seas, and the brown, black and yellowish lines are caused by sediment, exactly the same way stripes are formed in glaciers.  Very cool… whether at a glacier face or floating along in the ocean as an iceberg.

striated icebergs antartica 1 Supercells – I know a lot of people chase tornadoes and they can be dangerous and exciting and crazy to watch.  I don’t think I am one of those people.  Supercell storms are formed the same way as any other storm, but they have a vertical rotation which allows the storm to sustain itself much longer.supercells Underwater crop circles?  These strange 7 foot diameter ‘crop circles’ were first seen on the ocean floor off Japan and for a long time puzzled divers as to how they were created.  Turns out they are made by tiny male puffer fish, no bigger than 5″ long, and the crazy little guys make them in the hope of attracting a mate.

underwater crop circles japan 1 underwater crop circles japan 2 Volcanic lightning – volcanic eruptions create an extraordinary amount of static and electrical charge, which on rare occasions can cause a violent lightning storm to spark in the volcanic plume.  I think this would be amazing to see!  Slight downside, it probably involves risking life and limb to get anywhere near it…volcanic lightningAnd this must be my favourite weird arse natural phenomena…
Frozen Methane Bubbles!  Methane bubbles form, when dead organic matter falls to the bottom of a body of water and is decomposed by various bacteria.  The methane gas becomes frozen in the water, creating beautiful patterns of frozen bubbles.  It’s really quite stunning, but I don’t think anyone would let me anywhere near them… I’d be sitting there with a lighter waiting for them the bubbles to melt out!   😛

frozen methane bubbles 1 frozen methane bubbles 2Next week:  a look at The Most Abhorrent Phenomena in the Known World.   😛


The Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World

I can’t remember where I found this (apologies to OP), but I stumbled on it sitting on my desktop this morning and found myself lost in the images.

Places, once places thriving with industry and activity, abandoned to be slowly taken over again by the earth.  These places have not rotted away or decayed due to neglect, they have revealed a beauty that lays hidden when the tide of daily humanity is regularly maintaining over them.  The world is a truly wondrous place…