July 2017 • Canon 60D camera
Reykjavik Domestic Airport
Nauthólsvegur 58d, 101 Reykjavik
Iwoke up early today as I was super excited to go on a helicopter tour. It would be my first time flying in a helicopter and I could not wait! I booked through Nordurflug Helicopter Tours after reading the excellent Iceland guide by Alex Cornell. Nordurflug offers a variety of tours and I opted to go on the 2 hour “Fire & Ice”, as it combines two landings—one on a glacier and another in a geothermal area. The weather was cloudy and grey this morning. The office was based at Reykjavik Domestic Airport which I could walk to from my hostel. Our pilot for the trip, Fedrik, gave us a brief overview of the flight path and alternative routes, should the weather turn for the worse when we were up in the air.
The helicopter was smaller then I expected from the outside but quite spacious inside. It took around 6 mins before we actually lifted off as Fedrik had a long procedure to double check everything. We all had headsets on so we can block out the noise and speak to each other during the flight. We ascended quite high above Reykjavik which looked like a Lego town set from above. I was pleasantly surprised how smooth the flight went. The helicopter was more sturdy then I had expected. It did not feel light like the ballon ride I had in Cappadocia.
As we slowly went higher, above the dark grey clouds we were met with bright blue skies and the sun which was previously hidden above the clouds. We were now flying over the western Icelandic highlands towards Þorisjökull Glacier.
On the way we flew over the second highest waterfall in Iceland—Glymur. It was at one time the highest waterfall in Iceland, until it was overtaken by Morsárfoss in 2007. The land become more mountainous as we went ahead. The clouds casting dramatic shadows on the landscape below.
64° 32′ 31′ N, 20° 42′ 56′ W
As we approached Þorisjökull Glacier we had good news from Fedrik—the clouds at the top of the glacier was clearing. That meant here was a possibility of us landing on the glacier. The landscape had changed from the green mountains in the sun to rocky grey mountains in the dark clouds. Þorisjökull Glacier is actual a small glacier volcano and is next to Iceland's second biggest glacier, Langjökull.
We arrived at the glacier rim which was spectacular to see from above. The cracked ice surface went on forever. From the dark grey mountains the atmosphere changed to a bright white and black environment. It was quite an atmospheric experience to be flying sandwiched between the white glacier and the dark grey clouds. Fedrik circled a few places that was flat enough to land on the glacier before touching down.
It was colder then I expected as I got out onto the glacier. The air was cool and crisp as I breathed. The surface was icy, but you could still walk around without slipping. Just like on the Perito Moreno Glacier, there were pockets of water holes around the place so you had to be careful where you stepped.
We only had around 15 minutes on the glacier which was long enough as we slowly got colder because we were not dressed to be out on a glacier. After talking a few photos we jumped back into the helicopter to make our way to the next stop.
The name of the glacier, Þorisjökull, comes from the name of a troll, Þóri, which is said to have lived nearby in a cave (sjökull is glacier in icelandic).
As I'm sitting in the front cockpit, I get this epic 180° view ahead of me flying through the sky. The Icelandic highlands is a huge uninhabited area of Iceland covering the center of the country. It is inaccessible most of the year, with June to September being the only window to visit by land.
It is filled with natural wonders and breathtaking landscapes. The landscape looked and felt otherworldly with majestic mountains rising up to the dramatic heavy clouds. As the clouds cast its shadows below it made the land feel like it was alive and moving.
64° 15′ 13.7′ N, 21° 2′ 14.1′ W
We flew over the Mid Atlantic Ridge of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. These plates consists of a solid rock that comes loose from other plates that moves against each other. The continents are on these plates and move along with them. When the plates interact with each other it can cause earthquakes.
From above you get a perfect view of the large cracks on the land. You can get an even closer look at the boundaries of the plates by visiting Þingvellir National Park where you can walk and even scuba dive between the tectonic plates.
64° 5′ 8′ N, 21° 8′ 48′ W
The second landing of the tour was in the Hengill Geothermal area. Hengill is a volcanic system in the South West of Iceland and named after the central volcano Hengill, which is still active. This valley is filled with boiling mud pots and hot springs, steam rising out from the ground. I was really surprised how hot the temperature was by standing near a mud pot. I could fee the heat burning on my face.
The area was in steep contrast to the icy cold glacier—the tour living up to it's name of “Fire & Ice’. The ground was soft and moist because of the hot springs. There was also a strong smell of sulphur in the air because of the mud pots. There was a small stream nearby where we could touch the water which was hot but not boiling. After spending around 15 minutes here, we boarded the helicopter to head back to Reykjavik.
All I can say is wow! I had always dreamt of flying in a helicopter and I was not disappointed. I was expecting the helicopter to be less sturdy in the air and experiencing a bumpy flight... it was the total opposite. The flight was so calm and chilled. Sitting in the front cockpit with the large open glass window, it immerses you in the surrounding landscape, like you were floating on air.
It's an amazing experience to see Iceland from above, flying over areas you would never see unless you were in an helicopter. I definitely recommend Neurodflug and this tour if you get an opportunity when you are in Iceland. Be aware that flights do cancel at the last minute because of bad weather. Check out their website for more details.
Sunrise hot air ballon ride over the unique landscape of Cappadocia
Trekking to the summit of knúkur, the highest mountain on Mykines