Tag Archives: Lava

Lanzarote, Day 2 – A Salt Course

Saturday February 26, 2022  – The hotel breakfast was the first opportunity we’d had for A Decent Cup Of Tea since 4am the previous day, so a couple of mugs of Twining’s finest Earl Grey were a welcome part of our breakfasts. We’ve brought a decent number of tea bags with us, and I think we’ll end up taking quite a few back with us, as the opportunities for cups of tea seem to be limited to breakfast time this week.

After breakfast and a short pause to work out whether the weather was going to be right for a day’s relentless tourism (it had rained pretty copiously overnight, it seemed), we decided to get out and get on with the gawping. This turned out to be the right decision, as it was a very good day, full of rewarding sights, or, as I think of them, photo opportunities.

Jane constructed a route based once again on the “Walking in Lanzarote” book, which, those of you who followed the link in yesterday’s effusion will know, suggests some driving tours as well as walks. Our first destination was El Golfo, which has a rugged coastline upon which waves regularly smash themselves, driven by a ceaseless and brisk wind.


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A short walk along a coastal path brings you to a view over a green lagoon, the Charco de los Clicos) .

The green colour comes from particular types of algae which grow there.

The next stop was a place called Las Salinas, which – the clue is in the name – is the site of very extensive salt pans. Very extensive.

It’s difficult to do justice to the place through photos, but it’s striking sight.

Our next stop was to be a volcano called El Cuervo, but en route via Femés, which gave an opportunity to visualise how windy the place is:


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we stopped to see a couple of interesting sights, such as a roundabout with huge camel statues on it.

This roundabout marks the start of an area called La Geria, which offers a striking insight into the local wine-growing, which is a significant part of Lanzarote’s industry.  Almost wherever we went, we could see the traditional near-circle walls constructed from lava rock.

Each circle surrounds a deep pit filled with lava gravel. A vine is planted in each circle. The walls offer protection from the north-easterly trade winds; and the gravel (because it’s volcanic and therefore somewhat porous) leads water into the soil to irrigate the vine. And you can see that the circles are extensive, stretching right up hillsides.  Interestingly, also on show was a more modern take on viniculture.

Straight walls are replacing the circles, and are more efficient because less wasteful of space, and also easier to harvest using mechanical aid.

Our route continued through a desolate, rocky landscape.

This is reminiscent of the lava fields we saw in Iceland; and, similarly, the only thing that can grow here appears to be a lichen.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at El Cuervo, a volcano which is worth a visit because you can actually walk into the crater.  It’s about a mile from the car park to the volcano, and you can walk around the whole of the outside of the volcano if you want.  But time was running short so we headed straight into the caldera,

which is quite impressive.

We made a note to visit a neighbouring volcano, called Caldera Colorada, because – again the clue is in the name – the rock is brightly coloured. However the light wasn’t going to be too favourable, hence it will be better to visit another day. However, we decided that we could make time to visit a wine museum, somewhat north of La Geria.

Exiting the La Geria area takes you through a village called Masdache, where the lava flow was of a different sort, pahoehoe lava, characterised by surface ripples created when molten lava flowed beneath the solidified outer crust. (The caldera at El Cuervo, by contrast, was built up from “spatter” – rocks thrown up during an eruption and settling back into a volcano-sized heap.)

And so it was that the El Grifo wine museum was our next stop.  El Grifo has been a site for wine making on Lanzarote since 1775 – it is the oldest working winery in the Canary Islands (and one of the ten oldest in Spain). The existence of the museum is down to our man César Manrique, who prevailed upon the owners to preserve old equipment and create the museum during modernisation.  It’s an interesting place to wander around.

There’s a cooperage display,

many different types of wine press

and I’m particularly pleased with this picture. It’s a corker!

(Yes, a machine for inserting corks, itself inserted into one of the old wine storage tanks.)

El Grifo also has quite a remarkable cactus garden.

Our final call en route back to the hotel was at the Monumento al Campesinos, a museum
dedicated to the island’s farming history,

and also the site of a substantial work by Manrique, the Monumento a la Fecundidads.

As well as the view (above) of the museum buildings, the Manrique work also gives a pleasingly zen view back towards the road.

With the light fading and the threat of rain in the air, we headed back to the hotel for a light bite or two and a gin or two.  Thus ended a surprisingly full day – very enjoyable and with a good overview of some of the key sights on the south of the island.  We haven’t worked out a full plan for tomorrow, so you’ll just have to check back and find out what we did, won’t you?

Day 12 – Yes, We Canyon!

Saturday 10th July 2021. One loses track of time on an excursion such as ours. It was something of a jolt to realise that it was the weekend, at least for everyone else; we just carried on in our little dream world as we explored the southern region of Iceland before joining the “Golden Circle” route tomorrow. And, probably, hordes of bloody tourists.  We’re now within range of day trips from Reykjavik, and it showed in the number of punters and the number of coaches at the various places we stopped for a gawp.

The first of these was yet another Interesting Church, this one on the site of a medieval convent at Kirkjubæjarklaustur, very near our hotel.

Like almost every Interesting Church we’ve come across, it was closed, and I have yet to hear a credible explanation of how come there are all these churches which seem almost universally to be unused on any kind of a regular basis.  Is there a vicar or priest? Is that person a visiting official? Who pays for the upkeep? etc, etc. Anyway, it’s lovely to see such interesting church designs; and this one is not the last of this trip.

The next place we went to has to be one of the most arresting sights of our holiday in Iceland. It’s called Fjaðrárgljúfur and is billed as a canyon.  As you approach it, you begin to get some idea of what awaits.

Then you look carefully and you can just make out a couple of sheep as the merest dots (just left of centre in this picture)

and then you climb to the observation platform and see this

This was the first Shot Of The Day. It is a truly awesome sight, without being completely overwhelming (like, say, the Grand Canyon is).  A remarkable start to our day. You can walk down towards the other end, passing some sheep

(one was sleeping and we hope it didn’t really drop off) and have a look from there.

There’s a figure on the right bank as we look along it from here, and that gives some idea of scale.

We next got a chance to see a couple of uniquely Icelandic things.  The first was a sheep rounding circle.

There are half a million sheep in Iceland – more than the number of resident people – and they are basically free to roam.  This means that you can come across them almost anywhere, sometimes, alarmingly, in the middle of the road as you drive along.  Somehow (by horse, dog, 4×4, anything that works), every September these wandering sheep are rounded up from wherever they’ve got to, a convulsive effort over around three days which is a massive part of Iceland’s culture and something that all farmers have to join in on.  The sheep are herded into the central pen and then individual farmers pick out their sheep (they all have ear markings) and separate them into that farmer’s segment.

The second insight came as we got a chance to try to grasp the impact of an enormous event in Iceland’s – and indeed the world’s – history – the Laki Eruption of 1783-5.  This was of staggering size and impact: an outpouring of an estimated 42 billion tons or 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide compounds that contaminated the soil, leading to the death of over 50% of Iceland’s livestock population, and the destruction of the vast majority of all crops. This led to a famine which then killed approximately 25% of the island’s human population. The lava flows also destroyed 20 villages. The eruption and its aftermath caused a drop in global temperatures, as 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide was spewed into the Northern Hemisphere. This caused crop failures in Europe and may have caused droughts in North Africa and India.

We stopped in the middle of the huge lava field resulting from this eruption.  It’s difficult to convey the scale of it – kilometre after kilometre of moss-covered lava, because only moss – nothing else – will grow on lava, and this takes centuries to develop.

I created a Facebook 3D photo which might help to underline the scale of this.

Our next port of call was what Dagur called the “Yoda Cave” – actually used as the setting at the star of Star Wars – Rogue One, as the cave our heroine dashes into to escape from some band  or other of marauding riffs.

It looks quite impressive from the inside as well.

This is in a part of Iceland that used to be an island, but the volcanic actions raised the land up around it.

This is close to a town called Vik, which has an Interesting Church, more for its location than its architecture.

In the distance to the left can be seen the “Three Trolls”, Reynisdrangar, rocky outcrops off the beach, Reynisfjara. You can get a closer view of them from Vik’s black sand beach.

We headed over towards them and I guess this was the first time we came across hordes of tourists – Reynisfjara is a popular spot and the car park was crowded. There are a couple of lava caves

one of which has basalt columns by it – popular for kids to climb on.

We carried on along the coast a short way, stopping at the clifftop at Dyrhólaey, which has a view over an impressive rock arch

as well as the surrounding countryside

it’s own troll

and – delightfully –

puffins!  Dagur explained that these are often blown over from their usual colony to the east during August.  The fact that some are here at this time of year, and that they appear to have burrows that they are using, implies that this is becoming an established puffin colony in its own right.  I took loads of pics, obvs, and even nearly managed an in-focus one of a puffin flying off.

But the wind was gale force and so hanging about to try to get a better photo was not a comfortable option. We moved on.

The southern region is marked out, as I posted yesterday, by glaciers and the road to our next major stop offered a chance to get a nice picture of one of them – an offshoot of Vatnajökull, but I don’t know which one, I’m afraid.

The rest of the day was almost exclusively about waterfalls, which was a relief.  It’s been ages since we saw a decent waterfall and I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms.  Our next stop, then, was at Skógafoss, but we were hungry so stopped for lunch at the hotel there before exploring the waterfall itself.

And it’s a splendid sight.  The car park was crowded, as was the shoreline, with lots of people getting in each other’s way as everyone tried to get fucking selfies, which always enrages me. Mind you, I did manage to get something out of other people’s cavorting.

By aggressive use of sharp elbows, I got to the front where I had a few seconds to get a view of the falls unsullied by tourist vapidity. But actually, the second Shot Of The Day came about as a girl walked in even further through the spray towards the falls and gifted me with the perfect shot.

Before the next waterfall, we stopped briefly to view some turf houses in a place called Drangshlíð.

I found this post about them on the web, but it didn’t really leave me any the wiser.

A few kilometres along the road we stopped at Seljalandsfoss, which is another great sight.

It’s very popular, as it’s a waterfall you can actually walk behind

after having done which, you can walk along to another one, called Gljufrabui.



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And that was nearly it for the day’s interesting bits.  We are staying the night in the Sel Guesthouse near Skalholt, and it is a charming place.  Though the charm is somewhat rustic, it has WiFi and other mod cons, geothermal hot water in the bathroom, but no restaurant.  So we made our way to the Farmhotel Efstidalur, which really is a working farm.  From the cafe, you can see the cows

and upstairs in the restaurant you can eat them.  We had a pulled beef salad which was absolutely delicious.  Then we indulged ourselves with some of their home-made ice cream downstairs.

Thus ended our day. We will be Doing The Golden Circle tomorrow, with the major tourist sites and sights that this offers. It should be a good day, and it’s our last day on this tour, so let’s hope for a final Grand Day Out. Please check in tomorrow to see what actually happened, why don’t you?

Day 7 – Fossicking

Monday 5th July 2021. We had the luxury of a slightly late start in that we were leaving the hotel as late as 10.30. This gave us the opportunity to have a wander around Akureyri.  We’d been past the botanical garden en route to the hotel yesterday, and thought this might be a decent starting point. And There Was A Church….

Akureyri is the capital town for the region and, like the UK’s capital, has charm in sporadic doses among other, less appealing, aspects.  But there is quirkiness, such as the pavement outside the art museum

and the steps that lead to the college.

There are also fine edifices, such as the college’s main building

and other residences.

The botanical garden, one of the most northerly in the world at only 50km south of the Arctic Circle, was created in 1912 and has extended over the years to form a pleasant oasis, free to enter and walk around.

Worth a visit for all floraphiles, but I won’t bore you with too many photos.  It’s only flowers, after all…

On the way down, we passed the church, which shows some art deco influences

and featured ravens on its spires.

The town has some pleasing buildings among the workmanlike ones.

As we left, Dagur was upbeat about the weather prospects for the day.  Akureyri, however, was pretty much blanketed by fog.

But, as we emerged, blinking, from a tunnel shortly after we hit the road, the weather on the exit side of the hill was completely different

and stayed pretty good for most of the day.

The first two ports of call were waterfalls. (The Icelandic for waterfall, by the way, is “foss”, just in case you were wondering about the title of this post.)

Dagur decided on the hoof to visit the first one, which is called Aldeyjarfoss.  There’s a slightly precarious walk down to it, but it was definitely worth the diversion.


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The second styles itself, rather immodestly, as “The Waterfall of the Gods” or Goðafoss. It is an impressive sight, one has to admit.



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Since the sun was out, rainbows were on offer in the spray.

There was a restaurant by these falls, at which we bought some (sadly not particularly appetising) lunch. But at least they also had beer and Earl Grey tea, so all was not lost.

After lunch we headed for our overnight destination, beside Lake Myvatn. The landscape changed as we approached, from the rolling, farmy sort of countryside to a more austere, rocky appearance, which signified that we were in an area of geothermal activity – hot springs, in other words.  The water can come out of the ground at 100°C (as they discovered the hard way when excavating the tunnel that led us through from Akureyri), and so has obvious uses for heating, such as the Myvatn Nature Baths nearby.

What I couldn’t show in photos was the seething, steaming cauldron nearby with “Danger – 100°C” warning signs on it.

The rest of the day was spent exploring this new, extraordinary – and active – landscape. We stopped first at the Námafjall Geothermal Area. which features smoking fumaroles and boiling mud pots, surrounded by sulphur crystals of many different colours. This sulphur gives the area an overwhelming smell of eggs, and ones that have not been treated well, at that.

It really is an extraordinary landscape

but then almost everything in this area is.  There’s a geothermal energy plant

a volcanic mountain, Kafla, with its very own crater lake

and a huge area called Leirhnjúkur, which is basically a field of lava from eruptions over a period during the 1970s and 1980s.  A walking trail leads across it to the crater of Hófur, and the entire landscape is utterly extraordinary.  I took loads of pics, obvs, and here are some of them.


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(Jane has to take the credit for setting up the last shot for me – pointing me in the right direction after I’d been looking in the wrong place.).

We walked the area for about 90 minutes, marvelling all the way at the amazing landscape – just another facet of Iceland’s stupendous geology.

We then went to our hotel, the Fosshotel

which proved to be very good – excellently organised rooms, good food in the restaurant, and it will be our pleasure to stay here two nights.  Mind you, Jane thinks the cocktail barman needs to up his game a bit.  We’ll see how he gets on when asked for a Boulevardier tomorrow evening…..

We have more waterfalls to see tomorrow, among other delights which I shall be sure to report in these here pages.  So do please come back again to catch up with the delights of our next day out.