THE MIGHT OF NATURE: Gullfoss, a waterfall in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.
THE MIGHT OF NATURE: Gullfoss, a waterfall in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. Yvonne Gardiner

Nowhere else on earth like land of fire and ice

Our travelling retirees John and Yvonne Gardiner take their journeys to another level when they walk through the snow, ice, caves and waterfalls of Iceland

ICELAND has the most dramatic scenery of any country I've visited. Its diversity of attractions is breathtaking.

Raging waterfalls, soaring geysers, snow-capped mountains, stunted birch trees, vast glaciers and a picture-perfect coastline make this big island entirely unforgettable.

It's not a place where I'd like to drive, as the weather can change quickly, producing dangerous icy conditions and gale-force winds. Far better to book one of the many expert tours led by knowledgeable guides.

In nine days, my travelling companion and I had time to complete the Golden Circle tour, seeing a host of major tourist sites, plus overnight stays on the south and west coasts.

Hunting for the northern lights (or aurora borealis) was thrown in at every available opportunity.

 

This famous fountain geyser, Strokkur, erupts every six to 10 minutes.
This famous fountain geyser, Strokkur, erupts every 6-10 minutes. Yvonne Gardiner

Expect to stay up late, or be woken during the night, if you're keen to see this most spectacular of the world's wonders.

The night-time tours included a cup of warming hot chocolate, which was very welcome when the temperature dipped below zero and we'd been outside the bus for a good hour gazing at the sky.

Trust me, when that coloured light dances across the sky, the experience is worth all the discomfort.

Iceland, known as "the land of ice and fire", is a destination that offers any number of energetic adventures.

As a senior with a dodgy back, I was hesitant to visit the blue ice cave.

As it turned out, the trip wasn't as strenuous as I'd imagined, requiring a speedy ride in a super-jeep across the glacier - accompanied by the rousing AC/DC hit Highway to Hell - then a slow walk across the ice wearing crampons, and short climbs up and down steps at the cave.

 

A supremely graceful waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, on the south coast of Iceland.
A supremely graceful waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, on the south coast of Iceland. Yvonne Gardiner

It's no wonder the unique and other-worldly Icelandic landscapes have been the backdrop to countless TV series and movies, including Game of Thrones, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Star Wars, Tomb Raider, Thor and Noah.

Many scenes in two James Bond movies were shot in Iceland, taking in amazing snowboarding and an epic car chase across the frozen glacier lagoon, meandering between giant blue icebergs.

The lagoon, Jokulsarlon, had an ethereal beauty about it at twilight.

Dozens of slowly melting icebergs jutted out of the river, with the glacier in the background and the sea in front.

Afterwards we drove through miles and miles of snow and moss-covered lava, punctuated by high mountains and glaciers, wide rivers, brown grasslands and small settlements.

Our west coast tour guide, Christian, was a rock-loving bikie with leather waistcoat and long, grey hair.

 

Jokulsarlon, also known as the glacier lagoon, is one of the most awe-inspiring and popular places in Iceland.
Jokulsarlon, also known as the glacier lagoon, is one of the most awe-inspiring and popular places in Iceland. Yvonne Gardiner

He showed his six passengers sputtering geysers, an isolated church, towering waterfalls, a lava cave, and yet more stunning scenery.

In November the capital, Reykjavik, was a delightful scene of pre-Christmas sparkle.

A plethora of toy trolls of all shapes and sizes populated the shelves among the souvenirs.

A visit to the Saga Museum gave us a fascinating insight into the island's heritage, beginning with the Viking settlers, in a series of tableaux containing wax figures.

A rare treat before we caught the plane out of Iceland was a few hours' dip in the fabulous Blue Lagoon, a gigantic thermal heated pool complete with bar and restaurant.

Said to contain healing qualities, the lagoon was a perfect finale to a captivating journey through an amazing country.