Surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful vistas, Iceland is an isolated island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean, renowned for its rugged coastlines, mountains and glaciers, and, in particular, its high concentration of geothermal wonders. This article will explore the science and beauty of Iceland’s geothermal features, including the various types of geothermal features found here, common environmental attributes related to geothermal activity, and some of the great opportunities to view and explore these magnificent sights.
The Land of Fire and Ice
Iceland offers an abundance of geological and geothermal attractions, making it a favorite destination for visitors from around the world. The country’s name, Iceland, is believed to signify its gift of fire and ice – referring to its active volcanoes and glaciers. Geothermal activity in Iceland is caused by the volcanic activity underneath the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and results in some of the most striking hot springs, steam vents, and fumaroles.
Types of Geothermal Wonders Found in Iceland
Iceland’s most famous geothermal wonders include hot springs, mud volcanoes, steam vents and fumaroles.
Hot springs are a common sight in Iceland, created when water from underground aquifers is heated by a nearby volcano or geyser. The natural hot springs of Iceland provide hot pools of water for bathing, and are also popular for therapeutic treatments due to their mineral content. The nation’s most famous hot springs are the Blue Lagoon and Myvatn Nature Baths, two of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
Mud volcanoes are the product of volcanic activity, but rather than producing molten lava, they produce hot fluid and sediment. Many mud volcanoes can be found in Iceland, including the sizeable mud volcano in Reykjanes. These geological wonders are fascinating due to the evidence of geological activity they present, as well as their incredibly unique shapes.
Steam vents are commonly observed in Iceland, due to the high levels of geothermal activity found around its volcanoes. These vents are created when hot steam is released from underground sources, and the vapor released can often be seen rising high in the sky. The most famous steam vents can be found in the Geysir area of southwest Iceland.
Fumaroles are another result of the volcanic activity found in Iceland. These gaseous vents give off an abundance of steam and other gases, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Fumaroles in Iceland can be found in various volcanic regions, and are known for creating highly acidic and sulfurous environments due to the gases emitted.
Environmental Attributes of Icelandic Geothermal Wonders
The geothermal wonders of Iceland give the nation not only a beautiful landscape, but also provide a wealth of environmental benefits.
Due to the abundance of geothermal features found in Iceland, much of the country’s energy is generated through geothermal power plants. By tapping into geothermal resources, Iceland is able to utilize a reliable and renewable energy source, as opposed to relying on unsustainable fossil fuels.
Habitat Creation and Protection
Geothermal activity also creates an ideal habitat for a variety of animal species, many of which are endemic or otherwise of conservation importance, such as the geothermally adapted hawk moths. Hot springs are also known to possess distinctive microbial communities, making them incredibly valuable ecosystems unto themselves.
The geothermal wonders of Iceland also provide unique opportunities for local and international businesses to take advantage of. For instance, the Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country and brings in huge amounts of business for the local economy.
Exploring the Geothermal Wonders of Iceland
Iceland offers a wealth of opportunities for exploration of its geothermal wonders, from the peaks of volcanoes to the mudflats of Reykjanes.
One of the most popular ways to explore Iceland’s geothermal wonders is by taking a drive along the scenic Ring Road, which circumnavigates the country and offers stunning views of lava fields, geysers, hot springs and more.
Hiking and Trekking
If you’re looking for a more active experience, Iceland has no shortage of hiking and trekking trails that offer up close views of geothermal features. Prime locations to explore by foot include Reykjavik, the Mývatn and Langjökull regions, and the Vatnajökull glacier.
Icelandic off-road and Super Jeep tours offer a unique way to explore geothermal features, usually in areas and landscapes that are difficult to reach by foot or car. Popular tour spots include the black beaches of Reynisfjara, and the Askja and Laki volcanoes.
Kayaking and Boating
For a more relaxed approach to geothermal exploration, kayaking and boating are popular activities in areas that are easily reached by water. Popular boating routes include the fjords of north Iceland, and the geothermal-heated water of Reykjavik’s Hafnarfjordur.
Iceland is a nation blessed with a high concentration of geothermal wonders, making it a unique and attractive destination for travelers and scientists alike. From hot springs and mud volcanoes, to steam vents and fumaroles, there’s a multitude of geological activities to explore, each encapsulating a unique beauty. Not only do these features provide Icelandic locals and tourists with a wealth of environmental benefits, but they also provide a variety of economic opportunities. With so many opportunities for exploration, be it via scenic drives, off-road tours, kayaking and more, it’s no wonder that Iceland is such a popular destination for geothermal exploration.