Fears of a volcanic eruption have led to the closure of the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa near the town of Grindavik, not far from the international airport. The spa’s temporary closure occurred after a series of rattling earthquakes. Grindavik has now been evacuated.
The country “Iceland” has the word “ice” in its name, but ice is not the problem here. The path leading to the steamy lagoon demonstrates that.
Iceland’s terrain is earth still in the making. There are lava rocks as far as the eye can see, and patches of billowing steam add to the atmosphere.
The enormous, natural outdoors jacuzzi is heated by volcanic lava bubbling underneath.
Iceland sits in the middle of the Mid-Atlantic Rift, which makes it a hotbed for geothermal activity. There are over 130 volcanoes here, as well as a variety of geysers and volcanic fissures.
It makes for a dramatic landscape, but the dangers of an eruption lurk in the conscious of the inhabitants.
The 1947 eruption of Mt. Hekla was the first volcanic eruption in Iceland to be photographed and filmed, and Fox Movietone News was there to bring the coverage to American moviegoers.
Iceland is a Nordic nation. The first people said to have explored this frigid island were the Vikings from Norway, who settled here as early as the ninth century. They were hardened Norsemen accustomed to braving cold elements.
They created an Icelandic Commonwealth, which eventually fell under Danish rule. Iceland became an independent republic in 1944.
Not far from the fishing town of Grindavík sits the capital city of Reykjavik. With over 123,000 inhabitants, it’s the most populous city in Iceland. Its most recognizable landmark is Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran parish church, one of the tallest structures in the country.
In front of the church, stands the statue of Icelandic Viking hero, Leifur Eiríksson (aka Leif Eriksson). This monument was a gift to Iceland from the United States in 1929. Erikson, the son of Erik the Red, is thought to be the first European man to set foot in mainland North America, around the year 1000.
Iceland is proud of its Viking heritage, and all sorts of souvenirs relating to the Viking culture can be bought here.
The island is not very well suited for agriculture, and the traditional Icelandic cuisine may surprise some visitors. Smoked Puffin and Whale Pepper Steak are on the menu.
Christmas, known as “Jól” (Yule) here, is Iceland’s favorite holiday. Oddly enough, for a country with such a small population, they boast not just one but thirteen slightly mischievous Santa Clauses.
This picturesque island, known for glaciers, hot springs and its natural beauty, remains on edge, holding its breath as it awaits to see whether the current seismic activity will awaken another volcanic giant.