Tag Archives: must see

Off-piste and off-the-ground in Iceland.

Herewith, the penultimate installment on the enchanting island of Iceland; namely, on traveling off the beaten track on the ground, and up off the ground too – in a helicopter.

In just four days we covered more than a thousand kilometers of Iceland, but these were anything but boring kilometers. From one place of – particular – interest to the next, there are hundreds more exceptional sights to be seen: ludicrously breathtaking landscapes made up variously of volcanoes, cliffs, glaciers, waterfalls, dark gray fields of volcanic slag, and lava fields coated in seas of green or the lilac of lupine, plus distractingly dazzling dusks and dawns, pastoral scenes with sheep and horses… in short, a veritable feast for the eyes!

The Ring Road's total length is 1,332 kilometres (828 mi)The Ring Road’s total length is 1332 kilometers (828 miles)

Ring Road crosses a few glacial outwash plains, which is subject to frequent glacial outburst floodsThe Ring Road crosses a few glacial outwash plains, which are subject to frequent glacial outburst floods

Icelandic roads

Read on: How we very nearly found ourselves in a drowning incident…

Have an Ice day!

All right folks, now for glacial Iceland

Now, Iceland’s glaciers aren’t the biggest in the world, but all the same, the grand glacial vistas, the glacial lakes with icebergs, and the phenomenon of natural might… in sum it’s all fairly spellbinding.

We checked out two glaciers while on the island. First up: Langjökull (here).

It was here I had a go on a snowmobile for the first time! Have to say, I was expecting an easy, comfortable glide across the snow… Turns out snowmobiling at 50+ km/h on wet and powdery snow – neither comfortable nor easy.

There are two highland tracks in Langjökull, but we used none of them. We drove snowmobiles!There are two highland tracks in Langjökull, but we used none of them. We drove snowmobiles!

Read on: more glacierities…

Icelandic tectonic.

Everyone’s got a basic idea of how this planet of ours is constructed, even primary school kids. It goes something like this: in the middle of the planet is the core – the nucleus; then there’s the mantle, and on the outside there’s the hard crust, upon which you’re reading this blog.

But the earth’s crust isn’t a single whole piece – it consists of tectonic plates, which float around mostly imperceptibly on the surface of the magma. And they float around in different directions – into one another, perpendicularly, or away from each other. That is, they converge, chafe one another, or diverge from one another. Along the edges of the plates there are frequent earthquakes and all sorts of volcanic activity. For those interested, check out the links above.


Where plates converge are to be found mountains, volcanoes, and their associated features of terra firma. We’re talking: Japan, Kamchatka, the Kurils, the Aleutians, the Andes, the Cordillera, the Himalayas, etc. Places where plates diverge are usually are on the seabed, visible on maps of sufficient quality and detail: here, under the Atlantic for example is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It’s here where tectonic plates move away from one another, with the space between them being filled with magma.

One of the few places where this divergence of plates occurs on land is Iceland: it’s situated along the seam between the North American and Eurasian plates. The former is moving ever-so slowly to the west, the latter ever-so slowly to the east – at a speed of 2cm a year. That is, the width of Iceland increases by two centimeters every year (not taking into account coastal erosion or, just the opposite, the expansion of the land mass on account of lava flows). 2cm a year – that’s two meters a century, 20 meters a millennium, 20 kilometers in a million years. So, if things keep going as they do, in 200 million years Iceland will become the length of Chile, and in in 300 million – the length of Russia!


The crack in the ground along the fault line is best observed in Iceland at Þingvellir (Thingvellir).

Map of Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

There’s an uneven and craggy crack around five kilometers long that crosses the landscape here, plus a nice lake. This is how it all looks:

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Read on: Canyons, canyons, canyons!…

The tiniest biggest country in the world.

Hi folks!

This here post is the last in my mini-series from St. Petersburg. It continues the ‘places to visit‘ theme, but with a difference; for the place it describes resembles a museum, but it isn’t a museum really, I think. Or maybe it is. It claims to be one… Hmmm, whatever it is, it’s unusual, unique, and a must-see!

It is a bit like a museum or art gallery in that you’re not allowed under any circumstances to touch the… exhibits, even though they’re not really exhibits… Confused? You won’t be…


'He touched the exhibit/model!'Sign: ‘He touched the exhibit/model!’ On shirt: ‘I’m being punished’

This is Grand Maket Rossiya! Maket is a Russian word with numerous, similar meanings, but choosing the right one to translate into English can be tricky. This is perhaps proved by the people behind the maket having left it as just that – maket, even though it isn’t an English word. When they describe the place on the site it’s put as a ‘layout’. They mean a scale model of the Russian landscape – a miniature version of the layout of the country, making it the smallest maket of the largest country in the world for sure. It’s also the second largest scale model of its kind in the world – behind Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.

This is a truly unique, mind-blowing, thoroughly enjoyable place. From the outside it’s nothing much – a not-so-large, unassuming building; inside – OMG. It’s like Dr. Who’s TARDIS! A massive miniature (!) scale model – an impossibly large kid’s toy; an impossibly large adult’s toy. Again though – not really a toy; what sort of toy is one you can’t touch? :)


Read on: railroads and highways, cities, towns and villages, factories, power stations… everything!…

A quick guide to Utah arches.

Why this national park is called the Arches is a rhetorical question. But if you haven’t been following this mini-on-the-road series from Utah, then read this.

Yes, you want huge natural rock arches – you need to come here. There’s just so much awesome archness here. Wikipedia says there are as many as 2000 here, ranging from the meager to the massive, and from the weird to the wonderful. In our day here we managed to see just nine! They were: Surprise, Skull, Delicate, Tower, Skyline, (the two) Windows, Turret and Double Arch.

Let me jump in here at the deep end: the most beautiful and most famous (and that takes into account desktop wallpaper:) arch of them all is… this one here – Delicate Arch:

Arches National Park Utah

Read on: 70 spellbinding sights…

The Utah Saints: Crimson columns and massive mushrooms.

Since the previous day my brain had been variously boggling and boiling. This was eased a little by steam being emitted from said boggling and boiling brain out via my camera, but that alleviation process then went too far, leading poor brain into a state of half dehydration.

The diagnosis sounds like this:

I’ve (finally) been to the canyons of Utah!

Eyeballs fairy exploded, jaws drooped down to waist level, tongues hung out of mouths, minds… simply blown. Cameras – white hot with non-stop use! The latter in fact were the only things that didn’t completely lose the plot. The human beings and their mentioned body parts however just conked – unable to the take in unencompassable – in the red and white canyons of Utah.


Read on: Not bad, eh? This pic was just for starters…

Crocs in the shade – in the Everglades.

To be in Miami as a tourist and not get a visit to the Everglades in is a bit like… going to Manhattan as a tourist and not seeing Broadway and Times Square: it just doesn’t make any sense. Mind you, visiting the Everglades in anything but an airboat makes little sense too: going ‘on foot’ – or swimming (!) – is out of the question: the Everglades are crocodile infested swamps; and going on any other means of transport is also a no-no: only airboats manage to navigate these unique swamp-scapes cut with dense grassy shrubbery.

Florida, Everglades National Park

Read on: Crocs & yikes!…

Guatem-ooh-la-la volcanism.

Turns out the Ring of Fire affects Guatemala too. But then that country classic affects many, and always will :). But no, it’s the seismic-lithospheric-tectonic Ring of Fire that ensures Guatemala is fully sorted in the volcano department.

In all there are around 30 volcanoes in Guatemala – impressive for a country of its modest size. Taking a peek at trusty old Wikipedia, we see Guatemala covers approx. 100,000 square kilometers, so if we divide that by the number of volcanoes… ooh la la!: the volcanism force is strong with this one! It’s nothing on the Kurils of course (68 volcanoes in 10,500 square kilometers!), but the Kurils aren’t a whole country…

Antigua is surrounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Fuego and Acatenango – all of which were visible from our hotel:

Guatemala volcanos

Read on: Ahhh, so great being up a mountain!…

Bowled over by the White Cliffs of Dover.

Last week’s busy overseas business itinerary, this time in London, ended with the usual installment of micro-tourism.

We rented a car and drove down to the White Cliffs of Dover, the sheer façade that drops into the English Channel. I’d long dreamed of getting down to the southern coast of England, the place where d’Artagnan came ashore (seeking out the queen’s diamonds wasn’t it? Will have to re-read the book), as did William the Conqueror, and I’m sure a whole hoard of other invaders and the like did…

White Cliffs of Dover in January

Read on: Cliffs, roads, jams and floods…