Mount Taranaki looms majestically over New Plymouth, on its own peninsula on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The mythical mountain is obscured from view most days of the year, shrouded by its low-hanging clouds. But now it stood there, clearly visible and beckoning in all its glory. I literally skidded to a halt when I saw it, and changed my direction there & then. It was calling me and I had to go. Mount Taranaki draws you in to explore its lofty top and many hiking tracks.
There are few natural phenomena as awe-inspiring as the magical northern lights. When the skies open up and flares of charged particles & energy from out of space come pouring in, it creates a display of light so magnificient it takes your breath away. Massive green curtains dropping down with purple tips on their edges, shifting and changing in all directions. It is literally out of this world. The northern lights will completely overwhelm you, to an extend where you can only utter sounds of sheer admiration, with a fading voice due to being blown away. But when can you see northern lights? Read about hunting the elusive Aurora Borealis in Iceland in this story.
Reykjanes Peninsula is smoking hot. It may look desolate on first sight, but there are a lot of hidden treasures in its rugged interior. Including active (and sometimes erupting!) volcanoes. You will also find a myriad of steaming vents, bubbling mudpools, colourful rocks & mountains, tranquil lakes, faulty fissures and lava flows covered in thick fluffy moss. It’s a volcanic playground well worth exploring.
What is it with this spell that Iceland does to you? My first visit was a sponttaneous short trip to see a concert of Sigur Rós in Reykjavík. Little did I expect to be blown away in more ways than one… I got lost in some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. It was full of steaming fields and craggy mountains with countless waterfalls tumbling from their hallucinating green edges. The overwhelming beauty of Iceland just keeps you coming back for more.
Opal fever is real. It will draw you in and take hold of you if you venture into the opal fields of Lightning Ridge and The Grawin. The only place in the world where the elusive black opal is found. It’s like northern lights and a volcanic eruption simultaneously frozen into iridescent stone, forged from the ancient depths of Gondwana. And it’s difficult not to get enchanted by its beauty.
Eyjafjallajökull, the unpronounceable one, silently looming in the background. Nobody knew its name, or could even pronounce it. Until that day in April 2010, when it literally erupted into world fame, and stopped the whole of Europe in their tracks. Eyjafjallajökull rules them all. This beautiful volcano is surrounded by hiking tracks in Thórsmörk around the back and Fimmvörðuháls over the top.
Pico del Teide on Tenerife is the biggest mountain of Spain. Surrounded by a huge caldera, its peak rises up an astonishing 3718 metres into thin air. Its flanks are a volcanic playground, with a multitude of colourful cones and bizarre cathedral-like formations, and winding roads along titled layers of rock. You can go all the way to the top of Pico del Teide by cable car and enjoy amazing views over the Canary Islands.
Haleakala is the House of the Rising Sun – literally. The sunrise on this volcano on Maui is of such an epic magnitude that it draws people to get up at ridiculous o’ clock at night and drive up its endless hairpin roads to the summit, in order to gawk over the ethereal beauty of its caldera when the sun lights up and paints it in otherworldly colours. You can hike all the way to Halemau’u on the other side of this vast caldera, and explore its countless craters and cinder cones.
The enigmatic Big Island of Hawaii, where flows of lava tumble down its rocky shores into the sea. I walked across the fields of fire from Kalapana to the Kilauea lava flows and stood utterly mesmerized looking upon the creation process of Earth itself. It is one of the most mindblowing things one could hope to see.
El Hierro, the most remote and authentic of the Canary Islands, with volcanic activity still bubbling underneath the sea. Once considered as the edge of the known world, El Hierro consists mostly of huge cliffs rising straight up from the sea to over 1000 metres high, and an enormous crescent shaped valley. It’s absolutely spectacular.