The 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iceland
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The Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iceland

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As of July fifth 2019 Iceland now has 3 World Heritage Sites, with the latest being the Vatnajökull National Park which is dominated by a metropolis sized ice cap. Along with the volcanic island of Surtsey and the Thingvellir National Park within the Golden Circle these protected areas cowl a whopping 15% of the whole nation.

The Icelandic authorities understands the significance of sustaining and defending its pristine setting. After all with out such uncooked magnificence the Iceland economic system wouldn’t be prospering to the identical extent it’s right this moment. Katrín Jakobsdóttir is meaning to make Iceland Carbon Neutral by 2040 and has launched a brand new Climate Strategy. Protecting and regenerating the pure habitat is simply one of many methods by which they’ll obtain this.

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.” UNESCO

This months weblog publish will deal with why these Three areas of pure and cultural significance have been added to one of the vital coveted lists on the planet. I will even recommend one of the best methods to see every UNESCO World Heritage Site with out affecting the setting.

Vatnajökull National Park (2019), South East Iceland

As you method the sides of the Vatnajökull National Park within the south east of Iceland the very first thing you will note is the largest volcano within the nation, Oræfajökull. It additionally occurs to be the tallest mountain too, at 2,119m. Along the sides of this towering peak you will note steep blue glaciers streaming down like gradual transferring rivers in direction of the barren sands in Skaftafell that resemble a black desert. The ironic factor about most glaciers in Iceland is that they’d not exist with out volcanoes. Iceland is just not chilly sufficient (imagine it or not) to create glacier ice at sea degree. And it’s additionally far too windy for the snow that creates glaciers to take a seat on the tops of mountains for any size of time. Therefore you want a construction that’s excessive in altitude to permit the common temperature to stay low all yr spherical, and also you want a bowl like function to carry in any contemporary snow that may in any other case be blown away, or be melted by direct daylight. How in regards to the caldera (crater) of a tall strato-volcano?

It’s this duality between fireplace (volcanoes) and ice (glaciers) that make the latest member of the UNESCO World Heritage Site so particular.

“A prime locality for exploring the impacts of climate change on glaciers and the land forms left behind when they retreat. The volcanic zones of the property hold endemic groundwater fauna that has survived the ice age…that may replicate conditions on early Earth and the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn.” UNESCO

As you proceed exploring this distinctive panorama you may cease off on the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon which showcases the remnants of a melting glacier with building-sized icebergs commonly calving off from the distant glacier. It’s not lengthy earlier than the icebergs break down into smaller items and wash up on on the shores of the Black Diamond Beach, their ultimate resting spot from an 800 yr journey from snow flake to glacier to iceberg.

For the extra adventurous traveller you may be part of an professional glacier information to take you mountain climbing on any one of many dozens of glaciers within the space. In summer the ice beneficial properties a ‘sun crust’ which makes mountain climbing somewhat simpler. Many folks take pleasure in mountain climbing on the hotter days.

The chilly winter snap brings out the blue shimmering ice and freezes the quick flowing rivers that spend the summer carving out shapes within the ice. This offers rise to newly shaped ice caves. Ice caves that can final only some months earlier than melting or collapsing earlier than your very eyes.

To take pleasure in this a part of the nation I like to recommend spending a minimal of two days exploring the world. Be cautious of any travel corporations claiming to get you all the way in which to this spot and again from Reykjavik in sooner or later. It’s bodily attainable, however you’ll spend nearly all of the day watching the views from the automobile window. This secluded part of Iceland has far fewer vacationers and even fewer gentle sources so if you’re coming within the winter it is a unbelievable spot to hunt for the northern lights too.

Surtsey Island (2008), South Iceland

The newly created island of Surtsey completes the set of 15 volcanic islands off the coast of south Iceland. An underwater (sub-marine) eruption started in 1963 and continued to intermittently erupt for four years forcing out a lot lava and tephra (ash/rock) {that a} new island was born. From the get go Surtsey was a protected space. After all, it’s not usually that scientists can research a model new land mass. To this present day, it’s unlawful to step foot on this island until you’re a scientist commissioned with learning the island. The few scientists who do get the possibility to frequent Surtsey’s shores have reported that there’s already vegetation rising on the free floor, seals have made the seashores across the base their new lounging spot and there have even been reviews of a small puffin colony utilising the cliffs of the island. It would appear that life doesn’t want a lot time to settle in.

The strict safety ranges cease you from strolling on this UNESCO protected space but it surely doesn’t imply you may’t see it from the neighbouring islands, or by zodiac boat.

“Surtsey is a new island formed by volcanic eruptions in 1963-67. It has been legally protected from its birth and provides the world with a pristine natural laboratory.” UNESCO

The Westman Islands, residence to the most important puffin colony on this planet have a number of ferry departures per day and sports activities their very personal lively volcano that’s nonetheless heat from the 1973 eruption that may have destroyed the inhabitants properties if it wasn’t for the heroic effort of the locals to douse the lava with sea water forcing a lot of the movement out to sea. It is kind of the second when you’ve hiked to the highest of the volcano while you get your first glimpse of Surtsey within the distance. Using one newly shaped volcano as a vantage level to see one other is a surreal feeling certainly.

I like to recommend solely travelling to those islands within the summer. The Westman Islands boast the strongest winds in Europe throughout the winter months and most of the native eating places and sights are closed till summer too. In the summer the winds dissipate and islands can take pleasure in a few of the warmest days within the nation. You also can be part of native zodiac pace boat excursions, eat native produce at GOTT restaurant and naturally stroll alongside the sea cliffs to get a sneak peek on the tens of millions of puffins that decision the Westman Islands their residence for a couple of brief months throughout mating season.

Thingvellir National Park (2004), Golden Circle Area

The Thingvellir National Park was inducted in 2004 as a lot for its cultural heritage as its pure magnificence. It is the house of the longest surviving democratic parliament on this planet. The parliament convened within the National Park till the top of the 18th century earlier than being relocated to Reykjavik. It acted as a legislation home, parliament and main buying and selling floor for all of Iceland. It can be the place the choice was made to transform to Christianity peacefully in 1000 AD, although many Icelanders practiced a twin religion in personal for a few years after.

It is kind of the coincidence that the Icelandic folks selected Thingvellir because the place to unify the folks of Iceland underneath one parliament within the actual spot that Iceland additionally emerged from the sea. Iceland is a singular landmass. It is a volcanic island in the midst of the Atlantic ocean that needs to be deep underneath the water. After all, when tectonic plates draw back from one another (diverge) new oceans and seas kind. But as a consequence of a exceptional geological phenomena this rift zone is located immediately on prime of a mantle plume (some would say, Super Volcano). This offers Iceland sufficient volcanic exercise to create new land to maintain it above water because the plates cut up aside. In reality, Iceland has a mean of 1 volcanic eruption each four years, which is greater than sufficient to maintain Iceland rising from the within out. Iceland accounts for 1/Three of all lava movement on this planet.

“A rift valley with its high cliffs makes Þingvellir National Park a magnificent natural backdrop for the open air parliamentary assembly (or Alþing) of Iceland, which was held there annually from around 930 AD to 1798.” UNESCO

The apparent approach to take pleasure in this space can be to mix it with the remainder of the Golden Circle. This is true. However, naked in thoughts that that is the most well-liked place within the nation. Perhaps take a look at the Secret Lagoon sizzling spring within the morning, dine in a tomato inexperienced home and go to the opposite spots of the world in order that by the point you get to the Thingvellir National Park the solar will probably be low within the sky and the worst of the vacationers will probably be elsewhere. Stick to the paths although because the moss and different vegetation are inclined to degradation. You can spend the early night exploring a few of the extra hidden cracks and fractures that include splitting tectonic plates.

Do all Three in a single trip

It would appear that a number of visits to Iceland is required to expertise all three UNESCO World Heritage Sites but it surely’s bodily attainable to do all three in only one four or 5 day tour to Iceland. I like to recommend allocating 2 days to get to the Vatnajökull National Park and benefit from the space. On the way in which again in direction of Reykjavik you are able to do a day trip over to the Westman Islands to get near Surtsey. You ought to return to the mainland the identical day and sleep in a neighborhood resort there so you may stand up early to overlook the crowds of the Golden Circle. The the ultimate day will be devoted to exploring the Golden Circle. Finally, you’ll get again to Reykjavik with sufficient time to check out a few of the bizarre dishes within the metropolis. You can do that all by yourself, however as at all times I like to recommend going with a neighborhood information on an organised trip to get to these hidden spots and get a real understanding of what you might be witnessing.

Ryan Connolly is Co-Founder of Hidden Iceland. Hidden Iceland specialises in personal journeys, taking you to a few of the hidden gems of Iceland with a passionate and skilled information.

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