… of Volcanoes!

We’d decided for our last day to go down a volcano! The þríhnúkagígur volcano is one that’s been inactive for over 4000 years; it’s also very unusual in that it’s got a large magma chamber left after the last eruption (they generally collapse in on themselves), so for the last two summers, they’ve opened it to tourists. It’s definitely an attraction that’s outside of the usual tourist regime, to start with, you have to walk 3km across a lava field (only 1000 years old), which isn’t the easiest of routes, especially in the rain. Arriving at base camp, you’re fittted with a climbing harness & helmet, before walking another 500 m or so to the crater. Then, a cage that’s used for window cleaners is lowered in – the chamber is tall enough to fit the statue of liberty in. (And 3 or so baseball fields … oh well, makes a difference from double decker bus / football field measurements!) The cage was first installed for National Geographic to film it. It’s a little unnerving going in, but once in the colours are amazing! I’ve been to over caves before – limestone mostly (and one filled with bats). This was very different – and clearly a very new attraction. Great to see it when it was so new & clearly not that developed.

A fabulous end to a great holiday!  (And a reminder, yet again on this trip, of why I enjoyed Geography so much at Uni!)

… of Geysirs & mud …

… hot bubbling mud & cold wet mud!

We headed off to Geysir – normally part of the “Golden Circle” along with Þingvellir & Gullfoss, but as we’d all done it before, we went for just the Geysirs. We got there a little before the worst of the coach trips, and as we weren’t on one, had a bit longer than we’d had before, so much more time for photography, albeit in less good weather conditions. However, it was still spectacular!

After that we stopped off at Skálholt, which for quite a few years had been the centre of the church in Iceland, and thus its largest town. It’s now just a fairly isolated church; the current one (the 10th, I think) is very simple inside – and they have a replica of the original one outside.

The weather deteriorated,so a visit to the shopping centre – one that has a volcanic rift in the floor ensued, then  a short stroll through the fumaroles in the centre of Hveragerði (not that exciting). Finally, we went for a very wet walk up to see a “warm river” at Reykjadalur – we saw some bathers (didn’t join in) – and waded through lots of sticky mud, though avoided the boiling mud!

… of a lot of weather!

Today we started off by heading for Fjaðrárgljúfur, a canyon fairly close to the ring road. It was pretty impressive – we walked along the top of it – there was a river in the bottom. At this stage it was drizzly (dreich according to Janine). Next we headed across firstly a lava field (from the 1762 eruption), then another Sandur plain – looking very eerie in the mist, before arriving at Vik. We had lunch in a diner that’s got a view somewhat better than your average diner-in-a-service-station (or would have, had the mist not hidden the sea stacks). Still, we tried to get a photo, but it wasn’t easy! Next stop was Dyrhólaey – the most southerly point of mainland Iceland. (Today, I think it was also the windiest, my waterproof trousers made several bids for freedom every time we opened the boot).  We  were nearly blown off the top of the rock, luckily it was a bit calmer down at a lower level, from where we had a great view of the sea stacks we’d missed at lunch – and the black sand beaches.

Given the weather, we decided to abandon the idea of another couple of waterfalls (well, other than the view from the car), and just stopped at a volcano exhibition at a farm more or less below the Eyjafjallajökull volcano – they’d got videos of them trying to repair the damage done. Today, there was no obvious evidence of the ash – unlike other areas that had been totally black, this area was as green as you could have expected.

Got to the hotel somewhat earlier than usual, which gave us time to check out the pool -lovely & warm, and the steam hut (judging by the smell, right on top of a fumarole)

Black sands, Dyrhoaley

Black sands, Dyrhoaley

Farmhouse below Eyjafjallajökull

Farmhouse below Eyjafjallajökull

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Skaftafell National Park

After yesterday’s sun, today started rather overcast. We headed back along the route we’d come last night, aiming for fjallsárlón – a lagoon with ice calving into it. Unlike Jökulsárlón it wasn’t nearly so crowded – when we arrived, we had the place to ourselves, though that didn’t last long.

The next stop was Kviarjokull, a glacier that gets pretty close to the road; however, the main attraction today was the Skatafell national park, where we went for a walk up to Svartifoss – (black waterfall), passing a couple of others on the way.

By then, the weather had closed in, so we just headed for the hotel, though that did include a long drive over Skeiðarársandur, a massive (largest in Europe) sandur plain – an outwash plain from the glaciers. At its maximum, it’s 30km from the edge of the sea to the firmer land – and 50km across. There are several main rivers, crossed by bridges – only built in the 70s (& washed away by a glacial flood 20 years later). All very grey – grey plains, grey sky …


A long drive today, we left Breiddalsvik and headed for Djúpivogur, which is meant to be the prettiest town on the Eastern Fjords. While it might not be as attractive as some I’ve seen elsewhere in the world, it certainly had a stunning location, and was well worth the detour.

At the point, the road hugs the coast, so we were in and out of a series of fjords; all of which were spectacular. Several had spits – presumably of glacial deposits, right across their mouths, leading to very calm bays. (Actually, not sure they were all technically ‘fjords’ – as some were very wide.)

We’d seen a few fairly tantalising glimpses of the icecap –Vatnajökull– 3rd largest in the world after Antarctica & Greenland, but as we approached a road tunnel, there was a viewing point just off the road (actually it was the old road, from pre-tunnel days), here we got a fabulous view over Skarðsfjörður (one of the wide bays), towards Vatnajökull – it was stunning.

Then to Höfn for a late lunch, before heading off again. The scenery was changing; raw landscape, clearly in some areas the ice hadn’t long receded (geologically speaking), so the plants were just getting a foothold. Several of the mountains appeared to be nothing but screen. There was a broad, flat plain at the base of the mountains, presumably where the outwash had accumulated. At times, the tongues of ice got quite close to the road, though none as close as Jökulsárlón – where they’re calving into a lagoon, before heading out to see. The tide was high, so they were somewhat trapped in the mouth of the lagoon. Clearly the fishing was good here – lots of sea birds and seals. The colours in the ice were fabulous – one was a phenomenally clear blue,, others whiter – and quite a few grey.

Our hotel tonight was right by another tongue of the glacier, we went for a short walk after we’d arrived, and got good views within minutes.

We’d been so lucky with the weather today, almost wall to wall sunshine. Which, as these altitudes is a lot of sun. OK, so there was a fair bit of wind to accompany it …




… of fjords and foreigners.

Today we headed off down the East Coast. The first planned port of call was Seyðisfjörður, one of the main ferry ports that has ferries from the rest of Europe. For an international port, it was pretty small. We retraced our steps, had a delicious lunch, before heading first to Reyðarfjörður, a not particularly attractive town, in a very attractive fjord. A long tunnel took us to our next town, the much prettier, Fáskrúðsfjörður, an old French town, where we stopped to look at the French fishing museum, and to have tea in their cafe.

From there, the road hugged the coast, in and out of two more fjords, before we got to tonights stop, a converted school  – in a pretty isolated position. Luckily, there was a German Cafe not too far away, where we had dinner.

One of many today

One of many today


And a rainbox

And a rainbox


… of whales & wilderness.

Got to do the Whale watching on Sunday – an early start & up to Húsavík for whale watching. After getting all togged up with their (lovely & warm) overalls, we set off. There was a minke whale, though I only got to see its back (but we all got to smell its breath … ) . The white beaked dolphins were, however, much more co-operative and put on a fine display. Apparently their leaps are part of their hunting technique (and I thought it was when they were trying to avoid killer whales .. .but no such luck!)

Then back to Lake Myvatn for lunch at the Bird Museum, before heading out for Egilsstaðir, our next night’s stop. We’d decided to listen to the CD they gave us – which sent us on a detour – that was out of this world. Möðrudalur is an isolated farm (one that’s on the old ring road) – in the driest part of Iceland. Leaving it, the road crossed desert – very dry; very big; very Icelandic.


… of waves, wind & waterfalls.

We set out this morning, North towards Húsavík, hoping to go on a Whale trip. The weather won 🙁 (Though we did have a very nice lunch in a “warm tent”). So, plan b, we headed further out of town round the Tjörnes peninsula. Again, more stunning views – of landscape that’s just very big, bleak, yet beautiful (but not so photogenic, especially when it’s overcast).

Next stop was Ásbyrgi – on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. It’s at the head of a small enclosed canyon – which was, apparently, most likely formed by a massive glacial flood. One book’s blaming an eruption under Vatnajökull glacier – another the “end of the ice age” (though guess the latter could have triggered the former). Whatever – it’s a stunning gorge, called Horseshoe locally – and it is just like a hoof print (of a non-shoed horse); complete with the central pad. A short stroll up there & then heading back, via a gravel road – and stops for two waterfalls; the first, Holmatungur was fairly deep and thus hard to see from the height we were at. The second, Dettifoss was much more spectacular – it’s the most powerful in Europe – and it certainly looked powerful!

Photography today wasn’t as good as yesterday, it was so grey & overcast (though on the positive side, it didn’t rain – just freezing!)

Land of ice, fire & rainbows.

What a day!
After breakfast in the dining room (great view of lake Mývatn), we headed off out. First to Höfði, a peninsula into the Lake. Mývatn was made following several lava flows overlapping each other – leaving lower areas of land that have now filled with water. So, lots of inlets and a very raggedy edge.
Höfði was on such, a great place for a wander, looking at bizarre formations from made by the lava flows. Next, it was on to Skútustaðagígar, with its ‘pseudo-craters’ – formed when hot lava flowed over wetlands.
Following lunch – the first time I’ve ever had lavabread (cooked in lava, apparently), lava tea (herbs that grow on lava) in a cafe with a window to the milking parlour, we headed for hell.
The Stora-Viti (aka Hell) is a crater on the Krafla Volcano. It’s a highly geothermal area – you have to drive through a powerplant (including under a vast pipe), to get to it. We arrived in a downpour – albeit a sunny one, so got to see a wonderful double rainbow. There’s a walk round the crater, at one point we dipped down to another smaller area, one that had remnants of the snow & boiling mud within 10m of each other.
Next, we headed to Námaskarð – for more steam, boiling mud, volcanoes. Finally, to the local hotsprings – the sort you can actually swim in.


A fairly uneventful flight – a bit late from Heathrow, but not enough to miss the next plane – so, met up with Janine, Sara & Steve at Reykjavik Airport – in order to fly on to Akureyri. As we headed North, so we got to see more & more snow on the ground. Akureryi itself is in a spectacular location, at the end of a long fjord – with the airstrip surrounded on all sides (well, 3 of them) by water.
Learnt Icelandic for “ripped” (it’s “rifin”) due to an accident with my case (luckily, nothing seems to have escaped!), picked up the car and headed off for Lake Myvatn (Midge lake), our first nights stop; a handy waterfall providing a photo and leg stretch opportunity enroute.