Nature & Environment Mar 29, 2018

All About Iceland’s Lava Fields

Guest post by Anne Aultman.

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Iceland, the land of waterfalls, was my first solo travel adventure. I love waterfalls and Iceland certainly had plenty. Traveling alone meant that I had to research the best sights to see and places to stay. In reading reviews on travel sights, I was surprised to see comments about the lava fields. How can lava fields be something that was so beautiful people would mention them in their reviews? But I am a nature-seeker, so on my lists of places to stop while driving in Iceland included various waterfalls, including Vic’s black beach and Jokulsarlon Glacier. I chose not to stop at the lava fields because they just sound like geological formations.

After landing in Reykjavik in misty rain, I rushed to my rental car and headed toward the major road around the island called Ring Road. Driving over a hill near the famous Blue Lagoon, I saw a green covered landscape that formed a lumpy carpet across the land. I pulled over onto a side road and got out of the car to absorb this amazing site. The soft green moss covered every space you could see except for the roads. The green was vibrant, with spots of yellow and red flowers. I wondered, “What is this beautiful scenery?” I immediately looked it up on Trip Advisor and surprised to learn that it was part of the lava fields. I now see why there were so many comments about it.

Back in my car, after I snapped several stunning pictures, I continued on my route. Heading toward my first waterfall, I was full of excitement despite the weather. Outside my car on the right were grassy fields that turned into miles of mossy lava fields. On the left, at the base of mountains, there were grass fields with lambs rooming the land, farmhouses and waterfalls at every turn. My pace slowed as I continued to take in the beauty around me. This view of the moss covered lava fields created a soft canvas of green. There were no billboards, no power lines, and no tall fences, just lumpy lava fields. I traveled around Iceland for five days and each day, I would come across more lava fields that continued to take my breath away.

After returning home, I continued to wonder what caused this landscape to grow? I learned it evolved from lava cooling and forming lumpy masses of acidic rock over the years. Lichen composed of algae and fungus sprout on the lava as the winds blow debris from the land. Lichen, also referred to as moss, not only needs an acidic condition to grow, but also a clean environment. As moss grows, they draw nutrients from the environment, but they can be easily contaminated and die from the environment.  Since the air, water and land in Iceland is so pure and free from most pollutants, the moss grows extremely well over the vast lava fields and the mountains. Icelandic moss is called wooly fringe moss. It is very delicate and if trampled by walking or cars, it could take hundreds of years to grow back.

If you are visiting any of these lands that have lava fields, please be careful. Enjoy the beauty, but from the road or a gravel driveway. If you see someone walking or driving on it, please ask them to stop. Lava fields are special and their beauty needs to survive.