Iceland

On October 7, 2010 during the Adventure Travel World Summit in Aviemore, Scotland, the International Appalachian Trail welcomed nine new European chapters to the IAT, including Iceland. Other new chapters were Ireland, England, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Wales.

The IAT in Iceland is represented by the Icelandic Touring Association (ITA), which was founded in 1927 to promote and organize traveling within the country. It brings together hiking and nature enthusiasts and enables them to experience Iceland within a group hike by local guides. Everybody is welcome, both foreigners and locals.

The ITA has over 7,000 members and owns a number of mountain huts, where hikers and other travelers can get sleeping bag accommodations in backcountry locations. Fifteen clubs work locally around the country, maintaining trails and huts, and offering guided hiking tours.

 

 

Geography

Iceland is a volcanic island in the North Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Greenland (to the west) and the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Scandinavia (to the east). It is volcanically and geologically active, with an interior plateau consisting of sand fields, mountains, and glaciers. It is warmed by the Gulf (of Mexico) Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just south of the Arctic Circle.

The Republic of Iceland is an independent country that encompasses the entire island, with a population of about 320,000, and a total land area of 103,000 km2 (39,769 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Reykjavik (population 120,000), with the surrounding area in the southwestern region home to two-thirds of the country's population.

 

History

According to the Landnámabók (i.e., "The Book of Settlement", a medieval Icelandic written work describing the settlement (landnám) of Iceland by the Norse in the 9th and 10th centuries AD), the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norse settler on the island.

 

 

Over the following centuries settlement continued, with Norsemen bringing slaves of Gaelic origin. By 930, most arable land had been claimed and the Althing, a legislative and judiciary parliament, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Christianity was adopted c. 999–1000, and from 1262 to 1918 Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies.

 

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside of Bolungarvík

 

Geology

A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.

 

 

 

Iceland also has many geysers and hot springs, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000, but has since grown more quiet and rarely erupts.

 

Strokkur Geysir

 

The island itself is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism, as has also occurred in Hawaii. However it has a variety of volcanic types (Composite & Fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. The island has hundreds of volcanoes within approx. 30 active volcanic systems.

 

 

Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Vatnajökull glacier - one of Europes largest - is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes'. On May 21, 2011 a powerful eruption ejected debris 20 km (12.43 mi) in the atmosphere, creating a large ash cloud that for a time was thought to pose a danger to jet aircraft over a wide area of northern Europe.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a mid-ocean ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, and part of the longest mountain range in the world. It separates the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate in the North Atlantic, and the African Plate from the South American Plate in the South Atlantic. The Ridge extends from a junction with the Gakkel Ridge (Mid-Arctic Ridge) northeast of Greenland southward to the Bouvet Triple Junction in the South Atlantic. Although the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is mostly an underwater feature, portions of it have enough elevation to extend above sea level. The section of ridge which includes the island of Iceland is also known as the Reykjanes Ridge. The average spreading rate for the ridge is about 2.5 cm per year.

 

 

By separating the North American and Eurasian plates, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has been dividing the "Appalachian" terrains (e.g. the Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America, the Caledonian Mountains of Scandinavia and the British Isles, and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco) since they were joined under the super-continent Pangea, more than 200 million years ago. However in the words of British Geological Survey Team Leader Hugh Barron, "the International Appalachian Trail is now bringing these related mountains and lands together again."

 

Iceland Map

 

 

ITA Trails

Icelandic Touring Association hiking trails include Laugavegurinn - Þórsmörk (Laugavegur hiking trail), Hveravellir - Hvítárnes (The old Kjalvegur - Kjölur hiking trail), Skógar - Þórsmörk (Fimmvörðuháls between Eyjafjallajökull glacier and Mýrdalsjökull glacier), Herðubreiðarlindir-Svartárkot í Bárðardal, Öskjuvegurinn (the Askja hiking trail), and Snæfell - Lónsöræfi.

 

 

Location of Huts

The Iceland Touring Association maintains 38 huts across the country. It is necessary to book accommodation before a trek begins.

 

 

 

For more information on ITA Trails, Huts, and Tours, go to their website: www.fi.is/en