Alaskan Lupines were spread around Iceland to help combat soil erosion, which has been a problem since early settlers cut down trees to build homes and use for fuel. They look pretty, clustered around the landscape in the Summer months, but they have now been classed as an invasive species and are harming Iceland’s existing plant species.
Aside from the famous Geysir and Strokkur, there are a series of smaller geothermal springs. The hot springs of Haukadalur have been active for almost 10,000 years. The azure blue colour of the water is from dissolved silica.
Strokkur is a smaller, but more active spouting spring, than its famous resident, Geysir. It generally reaches a height of 10 – 20 metres, but can reach up to 40 metres. Quite often, geyser activity subsides (they become ‘quiescent’), but they can be set off again by strong earthquake activity. There are between 150 to 400 earthquakes a week in Iceland, though these are generally too small to be felt and only register on a Seismometer. Geysers can also sometimes be re-activated by adding soap to them, or by drilling holes into the basin underneath, or scraping them clean by removing accumulated sinter. (Information obtained from the website, ‘Extreme Iceland.’)
Gullfoss means ‘golden falls,’ because on a sunny day the water appears golden-brown due to the sediment carried from its source, the glacial water of Iceland’s second biggest glacier, Langjökull. On bright days, you can see lots of rainbows.
It is an extraordinary sight. Its average flow is 1400 cubic metres of water per second. It can partially freeze over in the winter, reducing the flow to 80 cubic metres per second.
The water plummets down 32 metres, over two tiers. It gives an illusion of there being two waterfalls flowing and disappearing into an abyss.
In 1907, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson, who owned the land, sought to void a contract between her father and an Englishman who wanted to harness the waterfall’s energy to produce electricity. She even threatened to throw herself off the top of the waterfall. She is thought of as Iceland’s first environmentalist. In 1979 the area was designated a nature reserve by the Icelandic government.
þingvellir National Park is sited in a rift valley and lies on the tectonic boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Iceland is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. Earthquakes occur along the plate boundaries in Iceland. At þingvellir, the tectonic plates are pulling apart. Also in þingvellir, is Lake Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland, with a diverse ecosystem.
It is an important location for the country’s history. In 930 AD, the Alþing (Althing) general assembly – Europe’s oldest (outdoor) Parliament began here.