Ancient Ring of Fire; Planting for the Future Geothermal Iceland: Today & Tomorrow
This is a predominantly green-focused tour that circles the active central Hengill Volcano, located just a couple of miles from Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík. Hengill last erupted approximately 2,000 years ago, but it is still very active. Numerous natural hot springs, colorful steam vents and fumaroles dot the surrounding landscape. The 2,635-foot volcano and its exotic environs cover an area of approximately 38 square miles. Hengill produces impressive amounts of energy by way of hydro and geothermal power—both of which provide the capital and nearby municipalities with plentiful hot water and electricity. You’ll stop at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Plant Visitor Center to learn a little about volcanoes, geosciences, geothermal technology, the environment and the history of the area. Continue to the town of Hveragerdi located on top of an old magma chamber which accounts for the abundance of hot springs that bubble and hiss all around this unique little community. Take a short, scenic drive past the town’s trademark greenhouses, stopping for a short walk to the new hot spring area. Refreshments will be served, then you’ll follow the River Sogid past the Ljóssafoss Hydro Station which has been in operation since 1937. Your next destination is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Thingvellir. Approach Thingvellir, you’ll literally drive from one continent to another as you cross the neo-volcanic rift zone that slices through Iceland from northeast to southwest. Pause at the viewpoint to soak up a little of the nation’s history, for it is here that the world’s oldest existing parliament was formed in AD 930. At the time of Iceland's settlement (in the 9th century) an estimated quarter of the country was covered by birch woodlands. Today, forests cover just a little over 1% of Iceland. The forests were felled for timber, cleared for agriculture by burning, and grazed by domestic animals brought by the settlers. Together with the harsh climate, volcanic activity and vulnerable soil formation, this forest clearance led to massive subsequent soil erosion. The need for remedial action has long been acknowledged, and since 1950, the emphasis has been on reforestation and afforestation (planting of forests where they didn’t previously exist) through an extensive planting program. Because you have chosen to participate in a Cruise With Purpose shore excursion, you will receive a small, boxed souvenir containing a piece of lava from the 2010 volcanic eruption. A note enclosed with the lava states that by participating in the tour, you have contributed to Iceland's afforestation program by the planting of one tree in your name. Onwards, past Iceland’s largest natural lake at Thingvallavatn, the road leads to a viewpoint located on the lower flanks of the volcano. From there you will take in the fascinating sight of the countless hot springs that continuously belch their sulfur-rich deposits over amazing scenery. The drive back to Reykjavík takes you through a lunar-like landscape of volcanic phenomena and other geological wonders.