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Iceland The Globe Travel Guide
© David Williams

Iceland: what to see and do


This article gives a brief introduction to some of the most popular tourist sites in Iceland.
This is Hekla, Iceland`s most famous volcano. A light wisp of vapour is given off from the summit crater and below it is a wasteland where ash and lava have inundated the land.
The waterfall Ófærufoss cascades into the eruption fissure of Eldgjá. Unfortunately the natural bridge has collapsed since this photograph was taken.

Of all the countries in the world, Iceland has possibly the most varied scenery for such a compact area. Volcanoes, geysers, bubbling mudpools, glaciers, deserts, mossy lavafields and verdant valleys — the country has all of these on an island less than half the size of Britain.

Iceland was the last inhabitable outpost of Europe to be settled and since the ninth century, the Vikings and their descendants have been at the mercy of the twin threats of ice and fire. As if one or other of these dangers was not enough, great volcanic eruptions under the ice-caps have produced terrible catastrophes. One such volcano, Katla, can cause a massive flood with a rate of flow greater than that of the River Amazon!

While previous generations were at the absolute mercy of these elemental forces, today`s Icelanders have learned to live with the dangers and they now exploit the natural wonders as tourist attractions. With few large towns, virtually no pollution, wide open spaces and incredibly beautiful scenery, Iceland is now becoming a fascinating tourist destination for those seeking the peace and quiet so lacking in today`s world.

The uninhabited interior of the country dominates Iceland`s landscape and greatly influences its climate. The interior is essentially a high mountain plateau with extensive cold deserts and it is dominated by the three main ice-caps Vatnajökull, Langjökull and Hofsjökull. The ice-caps` glaciers erode the mountainsides and the huge quantities of sand and gravel they produce form the deserts and the large sandy areas ("sandur") that are so common along the southern coast. Many visitors venture into the interior, though a four-wheel drive vehicle is needed. Much of the interior`s landscape is untouched by "civilisation" and there are fascinating places to be seen, like Eldgjá, the world`s largest eruption fissure within which is the waterfall Ófærufoss, which has a natural bridge over the lower of its two falls.

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