Another satisfying scenic drive from Mývatn to Egilsstaðir in between all the tourist hotspots. 265 kilometres over 4 hours and 52 minutes.
The first (and the closest) was the Hverfjall volcano. It was another near zero-degree day and somewhat windy. The road to the volcano was mostly uneven gravel and made good use of our Toyota RAV4 – it was a gift that the car was not new (one of the benefits of being “upgraded” to an older car) as there were several cringe worthy moments when we heard rocks catapulting into and off the body of the car. We were concerned this might possibly add to the future misery of the final car inspection on returning the car.
The bumps, curves, dust and wind combined to create a rollercoaster of a ride – very exciting for our traveling Toddler. The desolate environment around the volcano added to the atmosphere too.
It was a good hike up to the top and the views were beautiful. Definitely worth the walk up with the toddler backpack and Mr Toddler approved. The desire to walk around at the top just wasn’t there though, and while we saw a few groups trudging around, it didn’t really entice us at all. No sign of lava, and the same view from around the rim meant we weren’t up the peak for very long.
After walking down the inactive lifeless volcano we went to what looked like a newly built, fresh and clean, unattended toilet block — great! Except for the fact that it had turnstiles and wanted to charge us something like $5- just to take a leak and change our Toddler’s nappy. You’re joking Iceland!? It turns out we are all pretty fit and flexible so a leap over or limbo under and voila, it was a gratis and very satisfying experience. From what we’ve read it looks like Iceland is in the process of preparing to charge for a lot of their natural highlights.
Hverir / Hverarond was next on the map — the gassy fields of Hverir were incredible. The spewing Sulphur that surrounded us was piercing to the nostrils. Toddler’s reaction was not so good initially, but the spirit of adventure inside him came out as soon as he saw some bubbling mud… bubbling mud at +100’C so be warned! For the most part common sense prevails, but occasionally you will see some idiot has made their mark and passed the rope fences… the single set of footprints in one direction leaving a possible tumultuous end to the imagination.
After Hverfjall and Heverarond there was Grjótagjá lava cave – famous for a certain Game of Thrones scene. This was a beautiful spot too with such a unique landscape; it is basically a huge crack in the earth and we clambered inside where the warmth was and the lagoon was just breath-taking. Oh Jon Snow how we envy you!
What made us laugh (after initially being mortified) was what happened once we did clamber down inside. Imagine standing atop a rock, amongst the other tourists, everyone staring at the stillness of water almost in silence, and then seeing what looked like a jellyfish float across the water — then realising it’s your partners used tissue. Hilarity ensues – or rather a quick escape!
One more stop before we hit the next town, and it was a hike around Leirhnjúkur. On the way there you pass the Krafla power station – which looked like it was definitely used to film some James Bond scene (I checked and looks like I was wrong, but it is similar to a power station filmed in SPECTRE (Oberhauser’s operations base).
Leirhnjúkur was magical – Lonely Planet calls it an “ominous looking sulphur encrusted mudhole”; ominous it is, and immense. These lava fields provided us with one of the most scenic and utterly majestic hikes. Words and photos can’t describe the feeling of looking out at the vastness, like something out of Tolkien’s Middle earth. Toddler approved, but it was cold and he didn’t approve of the cold too much. Did I mention it was a long walk from the carpark? That’s why I called it a hike.
Detifoss was next on the list. Cheeky-sneaky was asleep in the car so we took turns to walk down to it from the carpark. For me this was one of the heart-pumping, awe-inspiring highlights of Iceland — being able to experience the power of that waterfall so close was just utterly jaw-dropping — I’ll never ever forget it. I’m not going to describe it any more than that, so just get here and experience it for yourself! Although I can’t resist sharing a bit of a preview shot of Dettifoss; check out the people for comparison size… just wow.
N1 in Egilsstaðir was a haven for us after that day. The last few nights of cold finally hit our bones and we needed to thaw badly. While it was just another town Egilsstaðir provided us with warm food and another hot shower. It was enough to recharge the batteries halfway through the trip.
Today was definitely one of the more jam-packed days, but also one of the more if not the most rewarding of the days in Iceland.
Can Day 5 at Skaftafell top it?