Öxarárfoss, Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

I recently visited Iceland for a long weekend break, and was awed by the culture and scenery of the island. This was the first stop on the classic “Golden Circle” tour of Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss: Thingvellir is an extraordinary place even by Icelandic standards. Here you can see the river Öxará flowing over a cliff which marks the edge of the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian plates: you couldn’t ask for a better demonstration of continental drift if you tried. Apparently the valley gets wider by 2cm every year: I can empathise with this case of middle-aged spread.

Rather than facing the tribulations of a coach tour, we hired a car and drove through the increasing wild countryside before getting to the National Park, about 40km east of Reykjavik. I caught a glimpse of this waterfall as we arrived, and so we parked up to take a look. The car park was like a skating rink, and the path up the hillside to the cliffs was perilous, but the ensuing view of the falls was worth every gingerly-taken step there. Best of all, the place was deserted (Thingvellir is excedingly important to the Icelander’s pysche and culture but a wet Sunday in November was obviously not the most popular time to visit) so we got to clamber about and take a load of photos of this extremely picturesque waterfall, before wandering under the brooding cliff face to view where the national assembly met for almost 1000 years. The clouds hung low and obscured the scale of the site somewhat, but there are fews better ways to appreciate the raw beauty of this landscape than to see it swathed in snow and cloud.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.


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