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Geology

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Geology

East Iceland is a wonderful place for the geology enthusiast. Everywhere from the undulating, green, soft valleys to the steep fjords, you are reminded of how the Earth became. The steep mountain sides in the Fjords are formed of thousands upon thousands of basaltic lava layers as wonderfully displayed in Breiðdalur and the Súlur mountain peaks. Often these are highlighted by bright red intermediary layers of ancient soil, most beautifully visible at Hengifoss and the neighboring Strútsfoss. The ancient volcanoes have been eroded by the Ice age glaciers, thus displaying the myriad of dikes and other intrusions cutting like veins through the lavas and strata.

The coast is fascinating in it variability, where the black sand meets the sunlit yellow and pink cliffs of the ancient, eroded, volcanoes in areas such as Þerribjörg and the Víknasloðir by Borgarfjörður eystri. You can follow the lifecycle of Volcanos from the ancient Dyrfjöll with their magical Stórurð at the coast, getting younger as you travel inland to the dormant Snæfell to the highly active Kverkfjöll.

The region is famous for interesting minerals, such as the zeolites at Teigarhorn and jasper, onyx, opal, agate and amethyst are found from Breiðdalur north to Borgarfjörður eystri. Fossils, such as the temperate fossilized forests in the tertiary basalt strata, cast a new light on the early history of the North Atlantic and climatic change, and remains of a deer found by Bustarfell in Vopnafjörður raise speculations about a long gone land bridge to Scotland.

Vatnajökul National Park

Vatnajökull national park , established 7. June 2008, is the largest national park in Europe, covering a total area of 13,600 km2 (13% of Iceland). The eastern covers 2.384km2. There are many places to visit and experience , the contrasts in the unique nature are magnificent. The battle between ice and fire still rages within the National Park's boundaries. Few other places in the world exhibit the effects of such wide range of natural phenomena.
Among highlights of the east are Kverkfjöll, the home of Ice and fire, the oasis Hvannalindir, Snæfell the ancient volcano, where the reindeer roam and Eyjabakkar the celebrated home of the Pink-footed goose.

Among highlights of the east are Kverkfjöll, the home of Ice and fire, the oasis Hvannalindir, Snæfell the ancient volcano, where the reindeer roam and Eyjabakkar the celebrated home of the Pink-footed goose.

Gerpir

Gerpir is the easternmost tip of Iceland.
Magnificent view, high rocks and cliffs (661 m alt.) Making your way along the edge of cliffs some 12 million years old is an experience you´ll never forget. Throughout the area ( "Gerpissvæðið") there are many marked trails, walking paths and hiking routes, construed by the hiking club Ferðafélag Fjarðamanna. Prior to visiting, obtaining a good map of the area is a sensible optinon - or getting in touch with a local information centre. The area is also popular among kayak enthusiasts and mountain bikers.

Hengifoss

Apart from having recently been re-defined as Iceland's second-highest waterfall,the Hengifoss is particularly picturesque. The layers between numerous Tertiary lava strata yield a reddish colour particularly salient in the cliffs around Hengifoss. Moreover, underway towards Hengifoss, the Litlanesfoss presents impressive stands of basalt columns on both sides of the gorge. Usually the climb ends well below Hengifoss, at a point where it can easily be admired without crossing the river. However, if the flow is scarce - as is often the case in autumn - it is feasible to go closer and even enter a shallow cave behind the waterfall.
There is an easy walking path from the highway to Hengifoss

Stórurð

One of East Iceland's most illustrious spots is the Stórurð ("The Giant Boulders"), located to the east of the road leading to Borgarfjörður eystri. Stórurð lies below the small glacier west of Dyrfjöll mountains. It consists of gigantic tuff boulders, charming meadows and attractive ponds. This wonderful scene can be reached in 2.5 hours on foot from Vatnsskarð pass. To enjoy Dyrfjöll and Stórurð a whole day plan is highly recommended.

Rauðubjörg

The cliffs of Rauðubjörg at Barðsnes in Norðfjörður are endowed with a constant glow, as if they reflect ceaseless sunshine. The name means "Red cliffs" which is appropriate since rhyolite is a dominating ingredient. The cliffs can be visited by boat with Fjarðaferðir of Neskaupstaður.

Skálanes

Skálanes nature and heritage centre is situated in a beautifully restored Icelandic farm house set in its own nature reserve at the mouth of Seyðisfjörður East- Iceland. Dramatic snow capped mountains, vast sea cliffs, secluded shoreline and coves and a vibrant bird colony make Skálanes a place for relaxation, research, contemplation and a different pace of life. For further information call 861 7008 or skalanes@skalanes.com.

Breiðdalseldstöð

Breiðdalur central volcano is an ancient volcanic area above Breiðdalur valley and Berufjörður, It was the object of extensive research carried out by the English geologist George D.L. Walker who made East-Iceland teritary volocanologic phenomenons the main object of his professional work. The Breiðdalur area of volcanism is set with rhyolithic-inserts producing the mainstay of majestic mountain range separating Breiðdalur and Berufjörður, e.g. Mt. Flögutindur , Mt.Smátindar, Mt. Röndólfur, Mt. Slöttur and Mt. Stöng. The southern side of the volcanic formation is highly colourful and the intrusions assume an irregular aspect, set with tephra-layers . The site of the central volcano extends between Mt. Fossárfjall south of Berufjörður to Mt. Bæjartindur which towers above farm Þorgrímsstaðir in Breiðdalur. The western slope runs along Mt. Ófærunafir towards the west, whereas the eastern side - although highly eroded - extends east of Mt. Kerlingartindur, S- Breiðdalur. The southern region of Breiðdalur - the very centre of area - forms a basin where the excruciating heat has transformed the rock to such an extent that the basalt and the andestite have turned pale-green, making it problematic to tell them apart from the rhyolite. This can be clearly detected at river Innri-Ljósá Blágil ravine. The beforementioned chain of mountains was formed at a later date as the rhyolite wielded its way to the surface through the basalt layers, forming insertions on top of the massive tephra layers along the edges of the crater. Their remnants are visible in rhyolithic-rocks throughout the Breiðdalur region. This central volcano is considered to be of later date than its Álfta- and Reyðarfjörður counterparts. The Reyðarfjörður ignimbrite, a pyroclastic flow made as a burning hot mixture of particles and gases flew from the volcano, originated from Mt.Röndólfur, covering about 430 km² with a diameter of about 6 m. þykkt. This layer is linked the Mt. Skessa south of Reyðarfjörður, best known as the Skessulag. The immense volcanism of the area has resulted in a great variety of rare minerals and semi-precious stones on display at Petra's wonderful stone collection in Stöðvarfjörður and The Breiðdalur mineral museum in Breiðdalsvík.

Helgustaðanáma

Helgustaðanáma is an old Icelandic spar mine, located above the trail leading from Eskifjörður til Vödlavík inlet. It is partially open to visitors and there is good walking path leading up to it.

All removal of the spar is forbidden and the area is a protected nature reserve.

The Icelandic spar is made out of especially pure cristalls of calsit. Characteristic for the Icelandic spar in Helgustaðanáma is its size, purity and clarity. The spar was used in telescopes and other technical instruments in times gone by. Icelandic spar can be found in several stone collections and geological museums around the world.

Snæfell

Snæfell, towering to 1,833 m, is the highest mountain in Iceland outside the glacier regions. Even so, and despite the omnipresent snow, (Snæfell = "The Snow Mountain), it is fairly accessible from Snæfellsskáli hut. While Snæfell boasts a splendour of its own, it offers a fabulous view, partly overlooking the oasis of Eyjabakkar. Eyjabakkar is a choice habitat for geese. Reindeer can frequently be spotted west of Snæfell, towards Hálsalón reservoir, in addition to other territories in the East Iceland highlands.

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The George P.L: Walker geology centre Breiðdalsvík

The geologist Dr. George P. L. Walker was one of the first to study the geology of the East, especially the Breiðdalseldstöð, an ancient volcano, which has not been active during historic times. Walker studied the geology of the East of Iceland with great enthusiasm, spending many summers in the area, often along with his wife Hazel and some of his students.

Walker was especially conspicuous in the fifties and sixties. Many of the older folks of the area still remember him driving around in his Land Rover and camping out the whole summer with his wife. The work and the stories of this extraordinary character can be seen in an ongoing exhibition at Gamla Kaupfélagshúsið in Breiðdalsvík.

Víknaslóðir

In Borgarfjörður Eystri is the starting point for one of the best hiking areas in the country, the so-called "Víknaslóðir" or "The trails of the Inlets". This area is an extensive one but the trails are clearly indicated. A 10 days hike in area is recommended - or a 5 day hike either around the Southern or the Northern area. In the village of Bakkagerði in Borgarfjörður the traveller will be provided with good preparatory assistance in most fields relating to a visit to Víknaslóðir.

East Iceland

Towns & Villages

Each town in East Iceland has its own characteristics. In some of the coastal villages the influence of North European neighbours is obvious to everyone. 

The French made a strong impact in Fáskrúðsfjörður where the road signs are made out in French as well as in Icelandic. Norwegian influence is easily detected in the Eskifjörður and Seydisfjörður architecture. No such roots are to be seen in Egilsstadir which is latest addition to East Iceland agglomeration, founded in the late forties of the 20th century.  

Map Vopnafjörður Borgarfjörður Eystri Egilsstaðir Seyðisfjörður Mjóifjörður Fljótsdalshérað Neskaupstaður Breiðdalsvík Eskifjörður Reyðarfjörður Fáskrúðsfjörður Stöðvarfjörður Djúpivogur