Mist from the Beast

I know, I know! That silhouetted figure seems too close for comfort.

Trust me, she was fine. And given that Ushrayinee is our eldest daughter, she better be. We took time to inspect that her vantage point was in no immediate danger of being engulfed by the raging waters of Dettifoss. 


Extremely jagged rocks and a precipitous drop make Dettifoss waterfall quite formidable; most rock faces here are impassable and much of the grassy area is slippery and treacherous. Arguably the most powerful waterfall in Europe, it is situated in Vatnajökull National Park in northeast Iceland and requires about a thirty-minute hike to reach. Where Godafoss waterfall has been compared as “The Beauty,” Dettifoss gets the reputation as “The Beast,” and what a raging beast it makes, vying for attention through every drop of gushing water along its 150-feet tall stature, huffing and fuming powerful sprays of mist high up in the Icelandic sky! So unless you’d like to get drenched by its steamy breath, bring your rain jacket along. 


Later that afternoon, I came across warning signs noting several recent accidents on the jagged rocks, but that wasn’t enough to stop the intrepid explorer in me. Eventually, my foolhardiness got the better of me as I suffered an ugly fall on the icy rocks, where I bruised more than my ego. Thankfully, even though my lens filter had been shattered, I was able to save my precious 28-300mm Nikkor lens. Both my knees and both my elbows had been badly injured. Lessons had been learned.


Another mighty Icelandic waterfall, Skógafoss, is unusual due to the vast open expanse leading up to the fall, where you can walk right up to it. In fact, a clear demonstration of this could be the Jesus Christ pose assumed by Zahradinee, the only one among us who was brave enough to be drenched. Standing right in front of this giant pillar of water is a sight to behold, and frankly, one that’s quite overwhelming. We didn't plan on catching that rainbow, but that is definitely a big bonus near this waterfall. Frankly, landscape photography in Iceland assumes a different meaning altogether.

One of the most popular attractions in Iceland, the waters of Gullfoss seem to magically vanish within a crevice that's hidden from view. Noteworthy here is that the immensity of this waterfall becomes evident once you compare the size of the tourists traversing the trail on the left leading up to the fall.

Remember that erupting volcano that was seen from space? No? How about the one that shut down air-traffic around Europe for a week? Or perhaps you recall hearing about the word Eyjafjallajökull thinking it was the week of the Spelling Bee?

If you don’t, know that the ash clouds from this volcano in 2010 caused the largest air-traffic shutdown since World War II, and it continued for weeks, with millions of passengers being stranded across the world. And that’s precisely where the waters of Seljalandsfoss begins.

But its claim to fame lies elsewhere. Unlike others that you can only adore from the front, this one lets you admire its beauty from behind as well. And what a beauty she is!

Falling two-hundred feet and visible from the main highway, this waterfall beckons the romantic in you. We fell in love at first sight. The area around it was wet, damp and cold. That late afternoon, with the chilling Icelandic air gripping but not yet menacing, it took some extra work to keep all of our camera lenses from fogging out, and indeed, at times from getting soaked.

But fret not! If you’d like to capture the ambiance in a well-composed shot, the mossy grass and the moist air can help you add to the overall contrast of the mesmerizing scene. Photography here is always a hassle, but always worth the extra effort.

Godafoss, or “waterfall of the gods” in Icelandic, is arguably the most spectacular of Iceland’s waterfalls, which speaks volumes about it in a remote paradise that has too many to name. You don’t really have an excuse not to visit the alluring beauty of this horseshoe-shaped falls. That’s because it’s right off the Ring Road, which is the main (read: only) road that loops around Iceland.

No, you can’t really rank Godafoss as the highest or largest or oldest or most powerful of waterfalls, even within Iceland; where it truly shines is its picture-perfect beauty, where isolated cascades of water from around it forms an elegant semicircular arc. The eddies caused by the water create patterns of crystal blue and green hues. Underground lava which surrounds most of Iceland gives a bizarre bubbliness to the water. All around the waterfall the rocky landscape is enchantingly green.


    Ice caves are a special feature that only form in certain conditions, and if you want to ever step into one of these on your Iceland trip, you better make it there in the winter. In the past, documentaries such as those on National Geographic that show the intricacies of these ice caves have inspired us to take part in professional tours, and the winter weather in Iceland seemed like the perfect condition for getting inside one.


    But is it okay to bring your family along for the ride? Aren’t ice caves nature’s freak shows, ready to buckle anytime under their own weights? Turns out, a family visit to these places will make you wiser in more than one way. And your children will thank you for not leaving them behind.


    We had been to Iceland on one occasion before, but that was during October, which is considered to be the shoulder month. For venturing inside ice caves, you need to wait until at least after the second week of December – or if global warming changes the equations – likely forever. There's another reason to experience this while you still can, for climate change was  very much on the back of our minds during this return visit.


    So, early one morning we journeyed to the top of Vatnajökull glacier, which happens to be the largest one in Europe. What we saw there left each one of us speechless. 





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