Other areas outside Britain to visit for wildlife, Iceland

Normally billed at the land of ice and fire since it has glaciers and volcanoes. Not somewhere to visit for beaches or city breaks and everything tends to be very expensive. However if you are into boiling mud, geysers, seabirds or ducks then its the place to go. There are also dramatic landscapes and adventurous treks.

As far as wildlife is concerned there are a quarter or less (?) the number of flowering plants species compared to Britain and virtually none different except river beauty (Chamerion latifolium). Trees are rare and then often only a few centimetres tall, there are however huge larva deserts covered in mosses. There are very good seabird colonies especially on the north coast and also sites for skuas [especially Skeidararsandur on the south coast]. Lake Myvatn [pictured left in the distance taken from Krafla volcano] is one of the best European sites for ducks [16 species]. It is also said to be plagued by biting flies. While walking besides the lake the sky darkened with a swarm of insects, there was no shelter for miles and I thought we would be eaten alive however they just flew on by - possibly something to do with the fact that we were backpacking and had not been able to wash for some considerable time!

Having circumnavigated the island by bus and foot I can recommend taking out a second mortgage and hiring a four wheel drive vehicle instead - at least for a return visit as there are so many other exciting places to visit off the beaten track. The standard tourist spots are gullfoss/geysir (close together and not too far from Reykjavik), the southern part of the main Vatnojokull glacier - where icebergs break off, and the Namaskard geothermal area/lake Myvatn. There are many other geothermal areas, volcanoes, waterfalls and glaciers. Well worth taking the right equipment, doing plenty of research before going and treating it more as an expedition than a holiday.

Below boiling mud at Namaskard, Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) growing in a larva desert, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geyser.


National parks and reserves of western Europe (1982). Duffey, E. Macdonald & Co. London. 288p.

The illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. (1989). Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. Hodder and Stoughton.

Hamlyn guide to the birds of Britain and Europe (1970). Bruun, B. 319p. 516 bird species illustrated and distribution maps given, a pocket guide.

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