Iceland part 3: North Iceland

We are travelling clockwise through Iceland. After Reykjanes and West Iceland we are now in North Iceland. To me this may be the most beautiful part of the country. Stunning fjords, road blocks by horses, whales and lots of waterfalls!

Part 1 of this amazing Iceland adventure took place on the Reykjanes peninsula and part 2 continued in West Iceland. If you want to read those 2 blogs first before you start reading this one, then click here to go to part 1!

Day 4 of 14: from Stykkishólmur to Varmahlíð

We just survived driving the F586/ Haukadalsskarðsvegur (Haukadalsskardsvegur) with our little 4WD and we crossed the border between West Iceland and the Westfjords. At the end of the road we cross another border, this time between the Westfjords and North Iceland. I would have loved to have a 3 week holiday in Iceland, being able to visit the Westfjords as well, but 2 weeks off from work was the max I could get, so I had to make choices. But I know I will come back here one day!

We stop at the N1 Staðarskáli (Stadarskali) to fuel up the car. After this off road adventure the little 4WD looks really dirty. We go inside the gas station to use the rest rooms and before we move on, we enjoy a warm drink and a delicious hot dog (just what we needed).

We go further north on the ring road towards the Vatnsnes peninsula. The sun keeps on shining today and there is hardly any wind. It is really a perfect day (I feel a song coming up) and we notice that it gets less busy on the roads. West Iceland is more touristic than this part, or maybe it is the time of the year! We leave the ring road and continue on road 72 that becomes road 711/The Vatnsnesvegur after a few kilometres. Driving along the coast on a day like this is pure pleasure. Our first stop is a quick (and safe) one alongside the road to take a photograph of Skardsviti Lighthouse. Those who read my other blogs know that I have a thing for lighthouses and I have seen quite a few by now.

We continue our drive, but stop often enough to have a look at the beaches and to hopefully spot seals. Vatnsnes is an area which offers a variety of animal life and is home to the largest and best accessible seal sanctuary in Iceland. If you are lucky and have good eyes, you can spot the common seal lazing around. Our first stop is at Seal Beach and in the far distance we do see them (and my eyes are really not that good). But I cannot take clear photographs with my phone (although the phone has a great camera), they are simply too far away and I left my camera with zoom lens in the car (and I am too lazy to go and get it). We also stop at at Illugastaðir/Illugastadir beach, but no luck here! The unspoilt coastline makes it worth while being here though, seals or no seals and now and then a beautiful rainbow pops up out of nowhere!

We continue our tour around Vatnsnes and in the north part of the peninsula we stumble upon a road block: a horse road block! We have to stop and since we are the only car on the road we decide to keep standing still in the middle of the road, being surrounded by horses in the meantime. Even if we wanted to, we could not move the car any more. The Icelandic horses are so pretty, they have a thick furry coat and the colour of their manes are often in big contrast with the colour of their fur. We wait for a while and see if they will let us pass, but this horse patrol is probably hoping we may have some horse snacks in our car. I take lots of photographs and a hilarious video.

Icelandic horses at Vatnsnes

Of course we have something edible in our car, but we do not feed them! After a while we do want to move on and I manage to clear the road simply by clapping my hands against the door, although they are not in a rush when leaving the road. We drive away and after about 200 metres another horse is standing exactly in the middle of the road, like it wants to make sure we really have nothing to declare 😉 Slowly we pass the horse on the right side of the road.

Our next stop is at Hvítserkur, which is a 15 metres high basalt stack along the eastern shore of the peninsula. We park our car at the parking and it is actually really busy here and that is because this rock is a touristic highlight. The rock has two holes at the base and you need a bit of imagination to either see a dragon, rhino or elephant in it. I think it looks like a humpback dragon 🙂

The base of the stack has been reinforced with concrete to protect its foundations, otherwise for sure I will disappear into the sea. We see 2 paths going down, but neither of them appeal to us since they are very muddy and slippery. I am sure there must be a safer way to go down (maybe from the beach further down), but we do not have enough time as it is already getting late in the afternoon. Astrid and I decide to admire the view from above and we walk along the coastal path for a while to get closer to the rock formation. In the distance on our right we see a lot of seals lazing around on sandbanks.

We leave Hvítserkur and keep driving on the 711 for a while longer. This road around Vatnsnes is about 90 km and it is mostly a dirt road, but passable all year round. The speed limit is usually 60 kilometres on roads like these and that is fast enough for us, since there is quite a bit of gravel on the road. We stop a few times, since mother nature is treating us to some spectacular rainbows. We stop, take a photograph, only to stop 50 meters further because somehow the rainbow becomes more beautiful.

It takes us about an hour to drive to Varmahlíð (Varmahlíd). About 5 minutes before we get there we stop at the Stephan G Stephansson Monument, which is alongside the ring road between Hvammstangi and Varmahlíð. He was a famous poet, born in Skagafjördur but he emigrated to Wisconsin in the USA at the age of 19. The monument is not that spectacular, but important to this area I guess. We reach Varmahlid just when the sun is about to set.

The village of Varmahlíð is not that big, not at all actually. Around 140 people live here on the slope of the hill for which the town is named. I am glad we will be spending the night in Hotel Varmahlíð, because we have been on the road since early this morning. If we would have to drive any further, we would not have been able to do and see as much as we did today. This afternoon we ran into a young couple who are travelling around the country in only 7 days and they admitted being mostly on the road trying to get from one place to the other.

Hotel Varmahlíð is not a modern hotel, but the rooms are clean, the beds comfortable and the staff is extremely friendly! We check into our rooms and decide to take a shower before dinner. For the first time since we arrived in Iceland we have a shower with sulphur smell. The reason for this particular smell is because of the geothermal origins of the warm water that comes from the ground and is supplied by geothermal power plants. The warm water is ideal for bathing and the smell does not stick in case you are wondering! However, you cannot drink the warm water. We took a water sack with us, which can contain up to 9 litres of water and we fill it with fresh water whenever we need to. It has a small tap, so you can drink from it and we boil water for our thermos bottles, so we can have a cup of tea now and then. You do not need to buy bottled water in Iceland!

We have dinner in the restaurant of the hotel, which has a cosy atmosphere! The food is really good and I enjoy the most delicious pasta with chicken (and of course a Boli beer)! We sleep well at night, although I was hoping to see the Northern Lights, since I did get an alert. But after checking the app on my phone, it seems to be far away. I stop looking out of the window, I close my eyes and fall asleep.

Day 5 of 14: from Varmahlíð to Akureyri

We get up early as usual, we go down to the restaurant for breakfast and check out. Today we drive from Varmahlíð to Akureyri, but we will take a detour just like we did yesterday and drive another part of the amazing Arctic Coast Way. But first we go south for about 2 kilometres to the Church in Víðimýri (Vidimyri), which is close to Varmahlíð. Víðimýrarkirkja is one of Iceland’s very few turf churches to have been preserved and it is still in use as a parish church. It looks like it comes straight out of a saga and it is great to see that there are people trying to preserve these national treasures. We get out of the car to look around and take some photographs before we move on.

From Víðimýrarkirkja we drive north, it is just a 10 minutes drive to Glaumbær Farm & Museum. We are on a turf building tour. At Glaumbær (Glaumbaer) the old turf buildings are a great example of building construction on the larger farms in Iceland in past times. Apparently a farmhouse stood on the hill at Glaumbaer since the Age of the Settlements (900 AD). The buildings you can see today vary in age; the most recent addition having been built in 1876-79. We park our car and walk around the Glaumbær Church before going to the farm and museum. You can sit down in a cosy old tea room for a warm drink or a pancake if you want a break. Make sure you check the opening times before you go, they may vary depending on which time of the year you visit.

More information about Víðimýrarkirkja, the Glaumbær Farm & Museum and other interesting sights to see in Skagafjördur, you can find on the Visit Skagafjörður website.

We continue our drive on road 75 / the Sauðárkróksbraut and reach the Arctic Coast Way again at Skagafjördur where we go east on road 76 / the Siglufjarðarvegur. The sun has come out again and the weather today looks just as perfect as yesterday; maybe even better! Only the mountain tops are covered in clouds, leaving a fresh layer of snow.

We finish our turf buildings tour at Grafarkirkja, which is located south of Hofsós. This turf church is originally constructed in the late 17th century and known as the oldest Christian church in Iceland. When we arrive we are the only visitors. We park our car and walk towards the church, which is covered in its own shade from the morning sun. Through the windows I manage to have a look inside and take some photographs.

Where our car is parked I see a bit of rubbish lying on the ground (toilet paper and cups) and we simply do not understand that visitors (tourists) do not clean up after themselves. Such a beautiful place, an amazing country… Leave nothing but your footprints as the saying goes! Keep this country clean! We always have a bag in our car to put our rubbish in, although we try to prevent to create rubbish. Once the bag is full we put it in a bin, we do not leave our trash outside!

We drive further north and the scenery gets more stunning every minute. It is quiet on the road and we feel like we have this part of Iceland to ourselves today. We stop alongside the road when we reach Cape Þórðarhöfði (Thordarhofdi) and park our car somewhere safe. Thordarhofdi looks like an island, but it is connected to the peninsula by sandy beaches. I guess you can go there by foot if you fancy a walk, although I am not sure if this is allowed or if there are any walking trails. The water in the lagoon, lake Höfðavatn, is like a mirror since there is no wind at all today (not even a little breeze). We just stand here for a while to admire the view; WOW!

We get back in the car, because we do have something planned this afternoon and we want to be on time. Since we will probably encounter more stunning views on this road, we want to have some time left to stop at other locations. We have another stop at Miklavatn, a lake divided from the ocean by a narrow gravel barrier. It is a popular fishing lake with slight salty water. Next to it is Hópsvatn, a smaller lake surrounded by road 788, the Haganasvikurvegur.

We have almost reached the northern point of the Tröllaskagi peninsula and see the orange lighthouse with the same name on our left before entering a number of tunnels. The tunnels are toll free and some of them are quite long. We go trough (hopefully I got them all) Strákagöng, 800 metres, Héðinsfjarðargöng (Hedinsfjardargong) I and II, 7100 metres and 3900 metres and Mulagong, 3400 metres. Astrid and I are amazed, these tunnels must have cost a fortune to create, but more important than that: a lot of hard work. The tunnels are well lit and camera’s keep an eye on the traffic. In between the tunnels we see the fishing villages Siglufjörður (Siglufjordur) and Ólafsfjörður (Olafsfjordur). After the last tunnel we arrive in Dalvik, a popular place for whale watching. However, we do not stop and continue our drive to Hauganes.

Although summer season is over, we want to give whale watching a try. We were not sure if there are still whales around this time of year, but I checked various websites and social media before flying to Iceland, to find out that this was still the case. Dalvik and Husavik are probably the most popular towns for whale watching tours, but I found the website of Whales Hauganes and decided I would book a tour for us with them! Somehow Hauganes looked more friendly and inviting and a photograph of the classic oak boats made me feel this was the company to book a tour with.

We arrive in Hauganes on time, a village with only 120 inhabitants. It feels very peaceful and relaxed and I am sure the beautiful weather today adds to that feeling. We are on time and have a noodle soup outside while enjoying the view over Eyjafjordur bay. Then we walk to the Whale Watching company. Here we get a thick thermal suit to put on, which will keep us warm during the tour.

Whale Watching Hauganes is the oldest whale watching company in Iceland and it is said that Northern Iceland is known as the best location to experience whales in the world. I would have loved to go out on a kayak to spot whales, but I am not experienced. We leave the little harbour on this perfect sunny day. Just being on the water makes me happy and Astrid and I are sitting high in the crows nest for the best view (we hope). Our guide explains to us how she will indicate the location when seeing whales, so we can spot them as well. She tells us that of course we can help her spotting.

We are lucky, because close to us in the fjord there are 3 humpback whales who come up often for air. The captain of the boat is really respectful towards the animals and since there are no generators on board, the engines are switched off when approaching the whales. The company wants to be sure that the approach is as gentle and non-intrusive as possible. Seeing the gentle giants makes me feel so humble, I am so grateful and happy. After taking plenty of photographs and even a short video, I put the camera and phone in my back pack and just enjoy seeing the whales coming up and going down. There are other species of whales, but not today. I guess it depends on the time of year and the company can tell you more about the different whales and when is the best time to see them. Seeing 3 humpback whales on this amazing tour has been a late birthday gift and the best gift I could wish for!

Once we are back in the harbour we return our thermal suits and thank the staff for the wonderful tour. We walk around Hauganes and have a look at the hot tubs at the little beach. It is a perfect spot to end your day and just relax in either the tubs or the little boat which is filled with water, while overlooking the fjord. I would love to put on my bathing suit and get in, but we are a bit hungry, so instead we go for a meal at the Baccalá bar and have an early dinner. The Baccalá Bar is a fish restaurant in the middle of the village and here we enjoy the most delicious fresh fish & chips. Hauganes may be small, but it really has all you need!

While enjoying our meal I look online on the map to see how far we have to drive towards Akureyri, which is our next stop. And when looking at the map I find out that between Dalvik and Hauganes we passed The Beer Spa without knowing it! Oh no 😉 That is a place Astrid and I would have enjoyed as well! I have one more reason now to come back to Iceland.

We leave Hauganes and it takes about 30 minutes to drive to Akureyri. Akureyri is known as the capital of the north and is home to about 20.000 inhabitants. After visiting only small villages this seems like a big town. It is a town full of life and after Reykjavik the most densely populated community. Akureyri is home to 2 of the largest fisheries in Iceland, but tourism is becoming more and more important. I guess that is because more tourists discover that there is more to Iceland than the Golden Circle in the south. The north has so much to offer like the Diamond Circle and Akureyri is a perfect base to start from. There are plenty of tourists who do not drive around themselves and stay in Akureyri for a few days up and go on tour during the day. We flew to Reykjavik to start our holiday, but soon after we booked, it was announced that one can also fly from Rotterdam, The Netherlands to Akureyri.

It is around 6 pm and we park our car next to Hotel Kea, where we will spend the night. The hotel has the most perfect location, right in the middle of the centre. In Akureyri it is difficult to find a place to park in the centre, but we are lucky to find a spot. The shops are closed now (shopaholic Astrid is slighty disappointed), it is dinner time and not so busy any more. During the day you can only park for a short while and you have to indicate your time of parking. Our dirty little 4WD stands out between the clean cars, we should really give it a wash, but we might go back on dirt roads tomorrow, so we leave it as it is.

Since it is still light outside, we check in quickly and go for a walk. Next to our hotel are the steps toward the Akureyri Church, which is a big symbol of the town. We walk up the stairs, but the church is closed this time of day. The view over Akureyri from above is pretty good, so the climb was worth it. From the church we continue our walk on the Eyrarlandsvegur passing the Katholska Kirkjan (catholic church).

At the end of the road we enter the Botanical Garden of Akureyri which is still open. I have seen quite a few botanical gardens in the world and this may not be the biggest or most beautiful, but I am pleasantly surprised by all that grows here. I see native species but also plants from all corners off the world and the garden is a colourful place to visit. After about half an hour we leave the garden and take a walking path down towards the water and from there we walk back to the centre of Akureyri.

The sun is setting as we walk on the viewing platform and from here the view over the end of the Eyjafjörður (Eyjafjordur) and the mountains surrounding the fjord is just beautiful. The Solfar sculpture stands out and sometimes I wish I was an artist who could creature beautiful sculptures like these. It is a Tuesday night and Akureyri is quiet tonight. When paying a visit to Akureyri make sure you check this website, because usually there is plenty going on in this town.

Astrid and I had another long day full of impressions and we decide to go back to the hotel to have a drink (or 2) in the hotel bar before we go back to our room. It is unbelievable what North Iceland has to offer, what we have seen so far and we still have plenty to see the next 2 days! I cannot wait!

Day 6 of 14: from Akureyri to Mývatn

Hotel Kea is big and that means the breakfast buffet is big as well. At the breakfast table we check our map. We want to go to the famous Goðafoss (Godafoss) waterfall. There is a toll tunnel you have to drive through, although there is a way around it. But it is the quickest way to get to Goðafoss, so we register the car’s license plate and pay our toll online. We check out of Hotel Kea and leave Akureyri, but not before I take a photograph of the traffic lights! Love is all around in Akureyri ❤

We enter the Diamond Circle. The sun does not come out today, so we drive in a grey landscape, but for most of the day it will remain dry. We have been spoilt I guess with the weather and 4 days of sun is more than we could have hoped for. It only takes us about half an hour to get to Goðafoss. We park our car on the first parking we see (on the west side) and this means we have to walk a bit. We put on our rain coats just in case and walk alongside the river, cross the bridge and then take the path down to get as close to the waterfall as possible. It is really impressive!

The Goðafoss waterfall is truly one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, dropping the water of the river Skjálfandafljót (try to prenounce that name quickly) from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters. The sound of the water is overpowering and I cannot stop looking at it and stop every 5 metres to take another photograph.

From the path below we walk towards the path above the waterfall. The higher we get, the better the view is and we see how wide the river is that supplies the water. We see some pretty birds sitting on a rock and I have no idea what they are. Later in the car I google and I think they are Snow Bunting birds, but please have a look at the photograph below and if I am wrong and someone knows what they are, please leave a comment 😉

We have spent at least an hour and a half at Goðafoss. We walk towards the restaurant and the shop at the main road to have a look at souvenirs. Astrid being a shopaholic, will go inside any shops she sees! It gives me the opportunity to use the restroom, although they ask a ridiculous fee.

We walk back to the car and decide to take road 844/843 that will lead to Aldeyjarfoss (or so we think). It is a bumpy road and it takes us about 45 minutes. This time we did not check directions correctly. If you want to visit Aldeyarfoss without walking too much, the best way to go is to cross the bridge over the river towards road 842 and continue the last bit on the F26. We find out too late and we drive on the 843 as far as possible and we do find a sign for Aldeyjarfoss and we turn onto a small dirt road that leads to a few farm houses and when we find the sign for the walking trail which leads to Aldeyjarfoss, we park our car, have a snack and go for a walk.

The dirt road we are walking on is accessible for the 4WD, but we misread the sign and were not sure if it was allowed to drive on it and we did not want to get stuck (the road will end at some point). So we could have driven for a while longer, leave the car at the end of the road and go for a shorter walk towards the waterfall. I actually would not recommend driving on this dirt road unless you have a really good 4WD. Big gaps and holes make it a dangerous road and there is no parking and for sure you must not damage the beautiful vegetation when leaving your car next to the road. I have no idea how it will be during summer if more cars meet on this road (we cannot be the only ones who decide to take this road). If you are up for a good hike, then leave your car at the signs (where we left it) and walk this beautiful trail, but it will take you a few hours to go and come back.

Anyway, the waterfall seems to be too far away for us. Although I love to push myself, this year I started having problems with my knee and this combined with a few other problems in the same leg, the walk turns out to be too much. We walk downwards now and I will be able to make it to the bottom of the waterfall when taking this trail, but then we need to go back on the same road as well with means walking upwards. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is, but we decide to turn around and walk back to the car.

The travel agent who is usually quite prepared, made the wrong decision and underestimated the walking distance to the waterfall from this side of the river. Once we are back in the car we wonder if we should still take the other road to go and see Aldeyjarfoss, but we have lost quite a lot of time and Astrid does not really want to go any more and we decide that this will be the story of the most amazing basalt columns waterfall that we did not get to see. We actually have a good laugh, because we know that this is one of those moments we will not forget. When you think about it, it is quite hilarious. And hey… there is another name on the “things to visit when coming back to Iceland” list. 😉 I could have skipped this part of the blog, but I am so grateful to other Iceland bloggers out there, from who I learned so much. So that is the reason I wanted to share this part of our journey with you as well.

We drive back towards the ring road. The next 2 nights we stay in Myvatn, but we will take a detour and go to Husavik first. When in Iceland you have to go for warm baths and there are so many great places you can go bathing. The Myvatn Nature Baths were on my list as an alternative for the Blue Lagoon which we skipped. But then I saw an item online about the recently opened GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths. I visited their website and booked us tickets for the end of the afternoon to hopefully catch a beautiful sunset while bathing. I would advise you (when going here in high season) to book tickets ahead (you book an arrival time). So, having booked these tickets is also part of the reason we did not take the other road to Aldeyjarfoss.

When arriving in Husavik it is raining and there is a lot of wind. Husavik seems to be deserted, since we are the only ones here. We quickly stop at the harbour to have a look around, but we are cold and move on to GeoSea.

At GeoSea no smell of sulphur, but warm salty sea water at the most perfect location (right by the sea, next to a lighthouse) and that sounds like my kind of place! When we arrive we first enjoy a warm soup with bread rolls. The little restaurant area at GeoSea offers soups, sandwiches, cakes and snacks during the day. The warm soup is just what we needed and it will do as dinner. Then we get changed (great changing facilities), have a shower (soap, shampoo and conditioner are provided) and let the warm waters of GeoSea do their magic!

If you have any tension in your body, muscle aches, tired bones… then the GeoSea baths will do some healing for sure! There is no sun or beautiful sunset tonight, but we do not care and are happy we came here. Because the location is beautiful even without the sun showing itself and the warm salty sea water does a lot of good to the body and mind. Thanks to underground heat, the seawater in the baths is warm and also full of minerals (good for the skin). We relax, laugh at a group of Italians taking photographs (hilarious selfies) and have a drink while looking over the mountain range to the west, Skjálfandi Bay beneath the cliffs and somewhere in the distance there is the Arctic Circle. GeoSea is a hot spot, but rightfully so. I would go back for sure!

After bathing about an hour and a half at GeoSea we drive to Mývatn. It is dark when we arrive, but so far our hotels/accommodations have been easy to find. We stay at Vogafjós Farm Resort for the next 2 nights and what a great place to stay! I really love the fact we have different kind of hotels during this road trip. Vogafjós Guesthouse is a family run guest house and seeing the reception area upon arrival, we believe this is a cosy place. The main building is at on side of the road. In this building we find the reception, a small shop, the restaurant and the farm. We drove straight to the main building to check in. The bathing has made us sleepy and we are still sticking to being on Dutch time. We check in and drive across the road towards our room.

The guesthouse consists of 3 log houses (offering double and family rooms) and we stay in the last log house. All rooms have with private bathrooms and well furnished. We park our car close to the log house and are happy we get to stay here for 2 nights. We put on some music, have a glass of wine and crisps to nibble on and we are so relaxed. I get another alert for the Northern Lights, but it is cloudy, so no luck. But I am so grateful for being here, being able to experience this amazing country. I consider myself lucky anyway, even without seeying the northern lights! We have a good night sleep and tomorrow morning we will have breakfast with the cows :).

Day 7 of 14: more of the Diamond Circle

If you stay at Vogafjós Farm Resort and want to see the cows being milked, you have get up early. We decided to “sleep in” a bit. So far we got up really early every day and today we decide to take it easy. The milking has just finished when we walk towards the main building, which means the restaurant is less busy I guess. We get to see where we are staying by daylight, the place is really lovely. From the restaurant you can see the cow shed through big glass windows. It makes having breakfast a totally different experience. Vogafjós offers the most delicious breakfast and that has to do with the fact that a lot of their own produce is being served. Yum!

The Mývatn area offers a lot to do and to see and for today I had so much on the wish list. But as we find out once more, I planned too much and we do not want to rush and remove a few things of our list (more to see a next time). It is cloudy today and now and then a bit rain comes down. We drive to Blue Lake first, it only takes a few mintues, which is located next to the ring road at Bjarnarflag Geothermal Power Station. The colour of the lake is amazing, there is a dramatic sky above it and seeing places like this is the reason I (and you will) fall in love with Iceland, because its nature is so stunningly beautiful, bizarre and diverse. I have not visited another country that comes close to Iceland.

Next stop is Namafjall (Namaskard), which is the name of the mountain and Hverir the name of the hot springs. We have visited other geothermal areas in Reykjanes and West Iceland, but this area is probably the most spectacular. Mud pools and mud pots, hot springs, fumaroles (steam springs) are boiling away here and the colours are out of this world. It is like we are on another planet! You can walk here for quite some time and if you are into geology, then this is your place to be! Dangerous areas are fenced with ropes, although that does not stop everyone; a group of young Asian girls do anything for a good selfy and I watch it in horror. Silly tourists (or Irresponsable)! We take our time to look around but do not go up the mountain.

Only a few hunderd meters further on the ring is the road to Krafla. On the right side of this road we see a hot spring shower (as if someone will take a showere here, but then again you never know). We pass Krafla Power Plant and park our car at Leirhnjukur Parking and go for another walk. I somehow have a feeling I need to prove myself today, that I can walk as much as I want to (since I feel like I failed yesterday). Leirhnjukur means ‘Mud Peak’ and it is a 525 m high active volcano and part of the Krafla caldera. At its foot are also mud pots and fumaroles and this landscape is just as bizarre and beautiful as the rest around geothermal Mývatn!

From Leirhnjukur we go to Víti, which is a huge explosion crater, about 300 metres in diameter. The sign says that the crater was formed during a massive volcanic eruption at the start of the famous Mývatn Fires in 1724. Víti is close to Krafla, all that we have seen so far today is all within just a few kilometres from each other! We admire the view over the crater, but do not walk around it. We move on and want to go to Dettifoss next.

The drive to Dettifoss is about 1 hour and 15 minutes and from the ring road we take the 864 on the east side. Upon arrival we park our car and have a warm noodle soup in the car (there is nothing here, no shop, restaurant or cafe). The waterfalls on river Jökulsá á Fjöllum are Selfoss, Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss and Réttarfoss, all powerful and very impressive. We first walk towards Selfoss. Iceland is the land of waterfalls and you think you may get an overdose and this is true, but we cannot get enough of the waterfalls and each and everyone of them is different. The area looks impressive and that is because of the rough and dramatic looking Jökulsárgljúfur canyon where all these amazing waterfalls are located! It could be a movie decor. Where does all the water come from?

Visits like this take more time than you think and that is where I went wrong with planning too much. The first viewing point may be only a few hundred metres away from the parking, but the next viewing point is a bit further and offers a better view. And then you walk a bit further to get even a more impressive view. In the end we spend about 2 hours at both Selfoss and Dettifoss. Dettifoss is not hard to describe, it is a force of nature and overwhelming! It is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and throws 500 cubic metres of water per second over the edge. Dettifoss is 45 metres high and 100 metres wide. The sound of the water rushing through the canyon and going down at Dettifoss is so loud, but what a beautiful sound!

There is a great hiking trail of 34 kilometres that goes along the canyon from Dettifoss to Asbyrgi. I wondered weather visiting Dettifoss should be done from the east side or west side. I guess it does not matter, because both sides give an impressive view! If you are all about waterfalls, then you can do a tour around the canyon, going up north on one road and down south on the other. Just check before you go, because not all roads are open all year round!

Asbyrgi is also on our list today as well as Hafgragilsfoss, but by the time we leave Dettifoss it is around 4 pm and we decide to return to Mývatn, having a dramatic cloudy sky on our way back. We are really having the best of time here in Iceland, but we both realize that we were pretty tired before coming out here (both working full time all year round and I had no time off bedore departure day) and although we try to see as much as possible, it is not possible to see all! Today we let go of the urge to see a 100 things in 1 day and take it easy.

When we get back at Mývatn, we stop at Grjótagjá cave. It is busy and if you want to have a look inside you need good shoes and a bit of courage. Well, good shoes you need almost everywhere. I say this, because it is not the easiest cave to enter. But once inside the view does make a pretty picture. Grjótagjá is a small cave and used to be a popular bathing place. However geological activity caused the temperature of the water in the cave’s pool to rise and bathing is no longer possible for quite some years now.

In between the cave and Dimmuborgir lies Hverfjall, which is a large, circular explosion crater. It is about 140 metres deep and has a diameter of 1,000 metres. Hverfjall is one of Iceland’s most beautiful craters and we agree. It looks pretty amazing. We will not go up any more (there is a path that goes up), since it will be dark soon, but it looks pretty impressive.

Just a few hundred metres from the cave are the amazing Mývatn Nature Baths. They are also on my wish list of things to do the next time I visit Iceland (I better start saving money). We could go tonight, but we want to have a walk at Dimmuborgir before it gets dark and since we had no more than a noodle soup for lunch, we want to go for a proper dinner tonight.

Dimmuborgir is an area of lava rocks and cliffs, surrounded by typical Icelandic vegetation. Dimmuborgir look beautiful with all its autumn colours and we go for a short walk until the sun sets.

We decide to go back to Vogafjós, but fuel up the car first at the centre of Reykjahlíð, so we can skip that tomorrow morning. Fuel up where you can is the rule when driving around in Iceland! Next to the gas station is a supermarket and next to the supermarket we see a “car wash”. It is not a classic car wash, but there are (big pressure) hoses with brushes on them, the use is free of charge and we decide to clean our car. It looked pretty horrible from all the dirt roads and now it is white again!

We return to our room and relax for a while and have a glass of wine and sort our clothes a bit, since we have to pack up again, leaving Mývatn tomorrow morning. We have dinner at Vogafjós at night: a delicious burger with a Boli beer. I think by now we have become representatives of Boli ;)…

Day 8 of 14: from Mývatn to Hallormsstadur

We have a good night sleep and the next morning we feel like our batteries have been fully charged; we did good by taking it easy yesterday. We have another delicious breakfast and then check out of Vogafjós and leave North Iceland and drive towards the east. We have spent 4 days in this immensely big area, have seen most of the high lights… but North Iceland has more to offer and you can easily spend a week in this area!

Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller

September 20, 2019

my Travel Tips for North Iceland

Do you want to continue reading about this amazing journey? Click here to read the travel blog about the next part of our road trip: East Iceland!

For more information on North Iceland, visit!

Author: Travel Planet Lisette

Once a Traveller, Always a Traveller Amateur photographer who loves to travel our beautiful planet

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