An adventure in the land of ice and fire

Pristine plains of purple.

Time to celebrate my 70th birthday, and we were searching for somewhere different that would appeal to our family in the UK and ourselves, with a mere 40 years between us.

So in mid-June, we flew on the pink Icelandic airline WOW from Stansted to Keflavic, the airport outside Reykavik, for a week of summer in Iceland – temperatures between 6C and 14C degrees, sometimes tempered by the sunshine but often chilled by the icy winds.

Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, Icelanders developed a rich storytelling tradition of folk tales about trolls, elves and outlaws.

It is a complete Sagaland and has an ancient and mystical aura, an isolated and peaceful expanse of waterfalls, glaciers and snowcapped mountains dotted in between with erupting geysers, active volcanoes and ancient lava fields. The fertile land in parts is luxuriant in the short summer and such good grazing for the Icelandic sheep that they often have twin lambs.

We were fortunate with only our last day in rain. We drove ourselves in a comfortable 4×4 with welcome heated seats and explored the South West, South and East of the island. There is a ring road circling Iceland with a few offshoots – we were strongly advised by the car hire company not to venture off the beaten track.

The main road is well maintained, but there is water everywhere under the ground and unseen among the rocky landscape, so a likely hazard.

At our first cabin in the woods of Laargarvatn we were treated with an outdoor jacuzzi filled with hot sulphur water from the geo-thermal springs… most soothing after the flight and drive inland.

The cold water comes from mountains springs and is filtered through lava, making it among the purest in the world. While there, we took a walk around Geysir, a geothermal field of bubbling mud pots and steamy erupting geysers, then to the majestic and breathtaking Gulfoss waterfall.

Then, before driving south, a walk around Kerio, a volcanic crater filled with azure blue water formed about 6 500 years ago.

Just offshore from the black sand beach in Vik, an overnight stop on the southern tip, the balsalt rock formations, Reynisdrangar, stick up out of the Atlantic like fingers.

As the folklore goes, these spindly rock formations are actually trolls frozen in time. There too, in the evenings, the most famous sought-after puffins, with their decorative beak and clumsy flying style, swim in to their land colony.

At Skaftafell in the National Park in South Iceland, we took an amphibian boat trip into the lagoon among the icebergs.

There the artic terns congregate until the glacier melts along the edges, and the smaller icebergs turn and produce a moving mass down towards the sea. Earlier we watched as our two young travellers kitted up for a hike up the glacier itself.

The Icelandic horse has its origins traceable to the arrival of the Vikings, who brought with them these Nordic horses. A myriad of colours, surefooted and sturdy to handle the rough Icelandic terrain.

Susan Crole is a Somerset West resident.