Did sunlight turn witless sea trolls into stone? The ‘trolls’ jut out of the Atlantic Ocean off the Black Sand Beach.
Ice, Fire and Light
Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2018 - 12:00am

(Second of two parts)

We drove through vast expanses of seemingly endless snow. The weather became milder as we drove to the southern tip of the country facing the Atlantic Ocean. Icelandic horses, smaller than the regular ones but heavy and prized for their hardiness, grazed in lush grasslands. Sheep – fat, creamy white with an ample smattering of black ones – looked like cotton balls in the meadows.

Iceland imports many food items, but it produces a lot of lamb and luscious fresh butter. Its unique dairy product called skyr – a cross between cheese and yogurt – is not to be missed. Its fresh Atlantic salmon and cod, the latter served with a crispy crust at the Lava Restaurant in the Blue Lagoon, are to die for.

Nila Layug of Icelandair / Royal Nordic experiences the interior of a glacier at the Perlan Museum in Reykjavik.

Finally we reached another top attraction in the country: the Black Sand Beach in the fishing village of Vik. Here again the unique lighting made everything look brilliant even in the diffused light on a cloudy day: the ebony volcanic sand; the cavern with geometric columns of basalt rock. Perched on the cliffs were the adorable-looking birds that have become symbols of the country – the Atlantic puffins.

On the ocean, the waves are so powerful even so close to the shore visitors are advised not to even wade on the beach. Towering stacks of basalt jut out from the water; locals say they were sea trolls that tried to drag a passing ship to shore, but didn’t notice the sun coming up to turn them into stone.

On the long drive back to Reykjavik, uninhabited and without any manmade lights for miles around, lucky visitors can spot those curtains of light called the aurora borealis. On a cloudless night, the Northern Lights can be seen even when approaching the city lights of Reykjavik.

Yellow light for crops

Winter is good for aurora watching, but the absence of the sun during the winter months can be not only depressing but also bad for agriculture.

And yet among my most memorable experiences in Iceland was biting into the most delicious cherry tomato I’ve ever tasted in my life. Newly picked, the skin was unusually thick and crunchy, with the juice bursting into your mouth.

Perhaps the sub-polar climate, even in the temperature-controlled greenhouse of the Fridheimar farm, produced extra layers of skin and that incredible crunch. The natural pollinators – cute, honey-producing, yellow-spotted bumblebees – may also be adding to the unique succulence of the tomatoes.

The Strokkur geyser puts on a show every 8 to 10 minutes.

In the inhospitable landscape of lava and glaciers, agronomist Knutur Rafn Armann and his horticulturalist wife Helena Hermundardottir together with their five children grow tomatoes all year round in artificial light, harvesting a ton a day, for sale all over Iceland and even for export. The farm, which also features an equestrian center, is organic and eco-friendly.

Naturally, tomato figures prominently on the farm’s restaurant menu. Not just tomato soup, tomato-speckled bread and pasta with various types of tomato sauce preparations, but also tomato ice cream. Yes, my initial reaction was also eew! But one taste of the vanilla ice cream with tomato chunks topped with flavored tomato sauce and you’re hooked. This is farm tourism you can’t miss.

Natural energy

Iceland promotes environmental issues not just in tourism but also in everyday life. A visit to the Lava Center in the South Shore will show you how the country was formed from the rise of magma to the surface. That action continues so the land area of the country continues to expand.

All that volcanic activity has not gone to waste. Nearly all households in the country are heated by geothermal energy; only homes in the remotest areas that cannot be reached by the energy grid must rely on other forms of fuel for heating.

Hydropower also accounts for much of the energy mix. Icelanders are proud to point out that their country runs on 100 percent renewable energy. Only automobiles and various forms of mass transportation still use fossil fuels.

Icelandic horses are prized for their hardiness in extreme weather.

Manifestations of the massive geothermal power are top tourist draws. Geyser is derived from the Icelandic word geysir. At the Geysir Hot Spring, with its boiling mud pits, nature does not disappoint. At an average of 8- to 10-minute intervals, visitors can watch the most active geyser, Strokkur, beginning to bubble up, heaving a few times as it rises into a dome before exploding into an awesome spout of water up to 30 meters high.

If you can’t climb a glacier, you can experience what it’s like in an ice cave at the Perlan Museum, which also gives a panoramic view of Reykjavik from an observation deck.

The interactive multimedia museum, which also features realistically rendered models of Icelandic fauna such as the Arctic fox, polar bear and puffins perched on a sea-bird cliff, shows the origins of the volcanoes all over the peninsula, including the tongue-twisting Eyjafjallajokull, as well as the glaciers.

From the viewing deck on a night bursting with stars, you might get lucky and see the Northern Lights. It would be the perfect ending to your Icelandic adventure.

Fridheimar farm grows the crispest, juiciest tomatoes in a yellow-lit greenhouse, producing a ton every day.

Icelandair flies to Reykjavik twice daily from Copenhagen, once a day from Stockholm, and three times daily from London.

Those traveling via Stockholm can also enjoy a free stopover in the Swedish capital complete with one-night hotel accommodation with breakfast and a 24-hour Stockholm pass to explore the city.

The package is offered by Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Icelandair accredited travel agents.

 Singapore Airlines flies to Singapore four times daily from Manila while SilkAir flies from Cebu and Davao to Singapore once a day. From Singapore, SQ flies to Copenhagen five times a week (except Tuesdays and Sundays), Stockholm five times weekly (except Sundays and Wednesdays), Frankfurt twice daily, and London four times daily.

Singapore Airlines and SilkAir passengers also get to enjoy Changi Transit Rewards with a SG$20 voucher which can be claimed at iShop Changi and spent on shopping during transit via Singapore Changi Airport, while Singapore Stopover Holiday packages are available for those who want to spend a day or more in Singapore before continuing on their inbound or outbound journey. You may find further details on the following links: 

http://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/vn/plan-travel/local-promotions/cdv-vn/  and https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/hk/plan-travel/packages/singapore-stopover-holiday/

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