Wild nights Iceland 

click to flip through (5) PHOTO BY LISA TE SONNE - A striking Rainbow over the Blue Lagoon in one direction and a fiery sunset in the other.
  • Photo by Lisa TE Sonne
  • A striking Rainbow over the Blue Lagoon in one direction and a fiery sunset in the other.
 

My eyes were closed as my husband held me in the soothing warm mineral waters of the renowned Blue Lagoon of Iceland. Time and stress floated away.

Then he quietly urged me, "Open your eyes!"

Before us was the end of a stunning rainbow. The curves of distinct colours arched completely across the sky, so we could see the half circle over the blue pools and their dreamy steam. I resisted splashing up to get a camera, and we let the beauty soak in.

A half hour later, when we did emerge, the rainbow was a little more gossamer pale, but still a full arc of colours. A long-time staffer said, "That's the tallest rainbow, I have ever seen here. Exceptional!"

When we turned around in the opposite direction, a fiery sunset made the volcanic landscape even more dramatic. My cell phone showed it was almost 11 p.m. Our first night in Iceland. The wildness of the wilderness wowed us.

Awe

The next evening in the land of the midnight sun, we were sprayed by the voluminous, thundering waterfall of Gullfoss. The beloved and unique falls cascade off the edge of the highlands cliff in three levels that zig-zag to create diagonal walls of white water, huge amounts of mist, and wild noise.

We had spent the day on a rental-car road trip, setting our own pace to tour the "Golden Circle" in Southwest Iceland. We were enthralled with the combination of culture and nature, going from the lava-walled passage to the location of the "law rock" and possibly the world's first Parliament (10th century) to the place where the eruptions of Geysir (an Icelandic word meaning "to gush") gave the world the term "geyser."

In grounds pocked with holes that boiled and burbled and gushed, Strokkur erupts every eight to 10 minutes, sometimes with a warning bubble forming before a huge upward thrust of hot water. We stayed for several eruptions, as my husband imagined the climax of the "1812 overture" cannons. (His video is at www.OneMinuteTrip.com)

Ahhhh

For our third wild night, after the gigantic rainbow and waterfall, we wanted some animal magnetism. We took the afternoon car-ferry to the Westman Islands, where we asked around about the puffins —endearing creatures that look a bit like small penguins with toucans' bills. We were sent to the Natural History Museum of Vetmannaeyjar, where two rescue puffins can be adored as they waddle up to your camera.

An islander also marked a map to a favourite sheep trail along the cliffs of the southernmost promontory with the recommendation to "go about 9 p.m." When we arrived, a man was herding some sheep away, leaving us alone with the puffins in a dusky light. Those puffins taking off and landing from the cliff's edge were as entertaining for us as any night show.

Continental

I dove into my next wild night. One of Iceland's dramatic distinctions is how very continental it is, as well as divided. The island is composed of both the North American and the Eurasian continental plates, which are drifting apart very slowly. At Silfra in Thingvellir National Park, one can snorkel or dive in a fresh-water fissure that is part of the widening ridge between the plates.

Even at 8 p.m., the waters are strikingly clear — purified naturally by lava filters for great visibility of layered blues and greens that seem dreamlike.

My wild nights with Iceland's wild waters and wildlife were well-worth losing sleep over.

Writer Lisa Sonne has a new book out called The Great Outdoors: Nature's Bucket List, see www.LisaSonne.com

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