As of July 5th 2019 Iceland now has three Planet Heritage Web sites, with the newest becoming the Vatnajökull National Park which is dominated by a city sized ice cap. Along with the volcanic island of Surtsey and the Thingvellir National Park in the Golden Circle these protected regions cover a whopping 15% of the whole nation.
The Icelandic government understands the significance of sustaining and safeguarding its pristine atmosphere. Following all with no such raw beauty the Iceland economy would not be prospering to the very same extent it is currently. Katrín Jakobsdóttir is intending to make Iceland Carbon Neutral by 2040 and has launched a new Climate Approach. Defending and regenerating the all-natural habitat is just one particular of the approaches in which they will reach this.
“Heritage is our legacy from the previous, what we reside with currently, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and all-natural heritage are each irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.” UNESCO
This months weblog post will concentrate on why these three regions of all-natural and cultural significance have been added to one particular of the most coveted lists on the planet. I will also recommend the most effective approaches to see each and every UNESCO Planet Heritage Web site with no affecting the atmosphere.
Vatnajökull National Park (2019), South East Iceland
As you strategy the edges of the Vatnajökull National Park in the south east of Iceland the 1st point you will see is the largest volcano in the nation, Oræfajökull. It also occurs to be the tallest mountain as well, at two,119m. Along the edges of this towering peak you will see steep blue glaciers streaming down like slow moving rivers towards the barren sands in Skaftafell that resemble a black desert. The ironic point about most glaciers in Iceland is that they would not exist with no volcanoes. Iceland is basically not cold sufficient (think it or not) to produce glacier ice at sea level. And it is also far as well windy for the snow that creates glaciers to sit on the tops of mountains for any length of time. Thus you need to have a structure that is higher in altitude to permit the typical temperature to stay low all year round, and you need to have a bowl like function to hold in any fresh snow that would otherwise be blown away, or be melted by direct sunlight. How about the caldera (crater) of a tall strato-volcano?
It is this duality amongst fire (volcanoes) and ice (glaciers) that make the newest member of the UNESCO Planet Heritage Web site so unique.
“A prime locality for exploring the impacts of climate transform on glaciers and the land types left behind when they retreat. The volcanic zones of the house hold endemic groundwater fauna that has survived the ice age…that could replicate circumstances on early Earth and the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn.” UNESCO
As you continue exploring this one of a kind landscape you can quit off at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon which showcases the remnants of a melting glacier with constructing-sized icebergs frequently calving off from the distant glacier. It is not extended prior to the icebergs break down into smaller sized pieces and wash up on on the shores of the Black Diamond Beach, their final resting spot from an 800 year journey from snow flake to glacier to iceberg.
For the a lot more adventurous traveller you can join an professional glacier guide to take you hiking on any one particular of the dozens of glaciers in the region. In summer season the ice gains a ‘sun crust’ which tends to make hiking a small much easier. Numerous persons appreciate ice climbing on the warmer days.
The cold winter snap brings out the blue shimmering ice and freezes the speedy flowing rivers that invest the summer season carving out shapes in the ice. This provides rise to newly formed ice caves. Ice caves that will final only a handful of months prior to melting or collapsing prior to your incredibly eyes.
To appreciate this component of the nation I advise spending a minimum of two days exploring the region. Be wary of any travel businesses claiming to get you all the way to this spot and back from Reykjavik in one particular day. It is physically doable, but you will invest the majority of the day watching the views from the vehicle window. This secluded section of Iceland has far fewer vacationers and even fewer light sources so if you are coming in the winter this is a superb spot to hunt for the northern lights as well.
Surtsey Island (2008), South Iceland
The newly produced island of Surtsey completes the set of 15 volcanic islands off the coast of south Iceland. An underwater (sub-marine) eruption started in 1963 and continued to intermittently erupt for four years forcing out so considerably lava and tephra (ash/rock) that a new island was born. From the get go Surtsey was a protected region. Following all, it is not generally that scientists can study a brand new land mass. To this day, it is illegal to step foot on this island unless you are a scientist commissioned with studying the island. The handful of scientists who do get the possibility to frequent Surtsey’s shores have reported that there is currently vegetation expanding on the loose ground, seals have produced the beaches about the base their new lounging spot and there have even been reports of a tiny puffin colony utilising the cliffs of the island. It would look that life does not need to have considerably time to settle in.
The strict protection levels quit you from walking on this UNESCO protected region but it does not imply you cannot see it from the neighbouring islands, or by zodiac boat.
“Surtsey is a new island formed by volcanic eruptions in 1963-67. It has been legally protected from its birth and gives the globe with a pristine all-natural laboratory.” UNESCO
The Westman Islands, property to the biggest puffin colony in the globe have various ferry departures per day and sports their incredibly personal active volcano that is nevertheless warm from the 1973 eruption that would have destroyed the inhabitants residences if it wasn’t for the heroic work of the locals to douse the lava with sea water forcing most of the flow out to sea. It is pretty the moment after you have hiked to the prime of the volcano when you get your 1st glimpse of Surtsey in the distance. Making use of one particular newly formed volcano as a vantage point to see an additional is a surreal feeling certainly.
I advise only travelling to these islands in the summer season. The Westman Islands boast the strongest winds in Europe in the course of the winter months and a lot of of the neighborhood restaurants and attractions are closed till summer season as well. In the summer season the winds dissipate and islands can appreciate some of the warmest days in the nation. You can also join neighborhood zodiac speed boat tours, consume neighborhood make at GOTT restaurant and of course stroll along the sea cliffs to get a sneak peek at the millions of puffins that get in touch with the Westman Islands their property for a handful of brief months in the course of mating season.
Thingvellir National Park (2004), Golden Circle Location
The Thingvellir National Park was inducted in 2004 as considerably for its cultural heritage as its all-natural beauty. It is the property of the longest surviving democratic parliament in the globe. The parliament convened in the National Park till the finish of the 18th century prior to becoming relocated to Reykjavik. It acted as a law property, parliament and big trading ground for all of Iceland. It is also exactly where the selection was produced to convert to Christianity peacefully in 1000 AD, even though a lot of Icelanders practiced a dual faith in private for a lot of years following.
It is pretty the coincidence that the Icelandic persons chose Thingvellir as the location to unify the persons of Iceland below one particular parliament in the precise spot that Iceland also emerged from the sea. Iceland is a one of a kind landmass. It is a volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean that ought to be deep below the water. Following all, when tectonic plates pull away from each and every other (diverge) new oceans and seas type. But due to a exceptional geological phenomena this rift zone is situated straight on prime of a mantle plume (some would say, Super Volcano). This provides Iceland sufficient volcanic activity to produce new land to hold it above water as the plates split apart. In reality, Iceland has an typical of one particular volcanic eruption each and every four years, which is a lot more than sufficient to hold Iceland expanding from the inside out. Iceland accounts for 1/three of all lava flow in the globe.
“A rift valley with its higher cliffs tends to make Þingvellir National Park a magnificent all-natural backdrop for the open air parliamentary assembly (or Alþing) of Iceland, which was held there annually from about 930 AD to 1798.” UNESCO
The clear way to appreciate this region would be to combine it with the rest of the Golden Circle. This is correct. Having said that, bare in thoughts that this is the most common location in the nation. Maybe verify out the Secret Lagoon hot spring in the morning, dine in a tomato green property and take a look at the other spots of the region so that by the time you get to the Thingvellir National Park the sun will be low in the sky and the worst of the vacationers will be elsewhere. Stick to the paths even though as the moss and other vegetation are susceptible to degradation. You can invest the early evening exploring some of the a lot more hidden cracks and fractures that come with splitting tectonic plates.
Do all three in one particular trip
It would look that various visits to Iceland is necessary to expertise all 3 UNESCO Planet Heritage Web sites but it is physically doable to do all 3 in just one particular four or five day excursion to Iceland. I advise allocating two days to get to the Vatnajökull National Park and appreciate the region. On the way back towards Reykjavik you can do a day trip more than to the Westman Islands to get close to Surtsey. You ought to return to the mainland the very same day and sleep in a neighborhood hotel there so you can get up early to miss the crowds of the Golden Circle. The the final day can be committed to exploring the Golden Circle. Ultimately, you will get back to Reykjavik with sufficient time to attempt out some of the weird and great dishes in the city. You can do this all on your personal, but as often I advise going with a neighborhood guide on an organised trip to get to these hidden spots and get a correct understanding of what you are witnessing.
Ryan Connolly is Co-Founder of Hidden Iceland. Hidden Iceland specialises in private trips, taking you to some of the hidden gems of Iceland with a passionate and seasoned guide.
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