We continue our road trip through Iceland. Like every day, we get up early. We had breakfast, which we had included, and we set off. First stop: Dettifoss.
After 124 km and a little less than 2 hours on the way, we arrived at the West Parking of the Dettifoss waterfall.
Located in the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, it is a spectacular waterfall 100 meters wide and 44 meters down. With a flow of between 200 and 500 m³ per second, it is the mightiest waterfall in all of Europe.
The car park is located 1 km from the waterfall, in a spectacular rocky desert landscape.
But first, we decided to visit Selfoss, which is 1km from Dettifoss and the parking lot.
Smaller than its neighbour, it is a beautiful waterfall that flows wide down the basalt columns that surround the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river.
On the way to Dettifoss a fog began to creep in and was becoming more and more dense. So much so that, when we got to the waterfall, nothing could be seen anymore.
Here a photo of the spectacular waterfall:
Since nothing was visible, we decided to continue on our way and would try again later. We went to Hljóðaklettar, 22 km north of Dettifoss.
Hljodaklettar (“Echo Rocks”) is a distinctive group of columnar rock formations, located next to Jokulsargljufur in Vatnajokull National Park.
These formations are divided into three different types of rocks and each of them has been given a name for its appearance and formation.
The first is Kastali or the Castle. It has two huge rocks that give it the appearance of a fortress.
The next formation is Tröllið, ‘the Troll’. Many rock formations in Iceland were believed to be trolls that would turn to stone if sunlight hit them.
Next is Kirkjan, ‘the Church’. This formation is an almost perfect arch that is actually the entrance to a cave.
Two hiking trails start from the car park. The blue route is about 1 km long and takes about 30 minutes. The red route, more complicated, takes about 2 hours to complete.
The landscape of Hljodaklettar is truly spectacular. It was worth going out of our way.
In the parking lot there was a small sign indicating that every day at 2:00 p.m. a one-hour free tour departs from here. We thought about it but it was too early and we would have to wait almost an hour. Time in Iceland is precious and we had a lot to see today.
We turn around and head to Dettifoss to see if there is more luck. There was. The fog has dissipated so we can see the spectacular waterfall.
Without much delay we leave behind the spectacular waterfall and head to the next destination.
We were going towards Myvatn, about an hour away. But since it was getting late we decided to find somewhere to eat on the way. We ate at a place called Fish and Chips Lake Mývatn. Guess what we ate… you would never guess…
The fish & chips was quite average and on top of that, expensive: 6,080 ISK ($43).
After eating we retrace our steps to Námafjiall in Hverir.
Námafjiall is one of the most active geothermal areas in all of Iceland. In it we find numerous boiling mud pits and fumaroles that spread over several kilometers.
At about 1,000 meters deep, the temperature is about 200ºC. The area smells “very rich” because of the hydrogen sulfide expelled by the fumaroles.
The truth is that it is quite a spectacle.
By the way, parking is 500 ISK.
With the wonderful smell of rotten eggs in our nostrils we got back in the car and headed for Krafla.
Krafla is a huge volcanic caldera about 10 km wide with a fissure zone almost 90 km long. Two of Iceland’s most famous volcanoes are located here. The first is Askja, which we could not visit because it requires an all-terrain vehicle and Víti.
The Víti crater was formed in 1724 by a massive eruption that lasted 5 years and was known as the Fires of Mývatn. Its diameter is about 300 meters, but what it is really known for is its interior lake. This lake stands out for its beautiful aquamarine blue color that remains throughout the year.
Nearby is the Leirhnjukur crater and its lava field. From the car park there is a circular route of about 5 km. In it we can see small crater lakes with boiling geothermal waters that produce steam vents and smoking fumaroles surround the volcano.
Taking a walk through the Leirhnjukur lava field is like taking a walk on the moon. Its last eruption was in 1984 but its activity is still monitored.
We get back on the road towards Lake Mývatn. On the way we came across something that I had already seen on the internet. A work of art called “The Eternal Shower”, which consists of a permanently lit shower. A nonsense like any other. We didn’t even stop.
Lake Mývatn is a large volcanic lake in which we have many tourist attractions. Its name means “the lake of the midges” since these small and annoying insects number in the billions in summer. The same ones that we suffered when we visited Þingvellir and that we would suffer later.
Lake Mývatn is the 5th largest in the country with a surface area of 37 km² and a maximum depth of only 5 metres.
Around the lake there are many points of tourist interest.
We went straight to Grjótagjá, a small cave that was used as thermal baths until the eruption of 1975 to 1984. That tremendous eruption is known as “The Fires of Krafla”. Then the temperature of Grjótagjá rose to 60ºC, for which bathing was prohibited.
Currently the water temperature is 43º but bathing is still prohibited.
As a curiosity, the scene from Games of Thrones was filmed here in which Ygritt steals Jon Snow’s… innocence from him.
A little further south is the Hverfjall crater. It is an almost perfect conical crater 400 meters high that was formed about 2,500 years ago.
You can climb up and skirt the crater but we didn’t do it because we were very, very tight on time.
We go straight to the parking lot of the Dimmuborgir lava field.
Dimmuborgir was formed about 2,300 years ago when incandescent lava mixed with an ancient swamp that was found in this place. It was this clash that originated the spectacular rock formations that we can see. Dimmuborgir literally means “dark castles”.
Several well-signposted trails start from the entrance to explore the area.
We take a little walk and get back on the road. We go to Skútustaðagígar.
Skútustaðagígar is the name of a row of pseudocraters throughout the area.
Here there is also a path to go around the small craters.
We set off to the next point, which catches us on the way to the accommodation: Goðafoss, located 53 km from Mývatn.
Goðafoss Waterfall is located on the Skjálfandafljót River, the fourth largest river in Iceland. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the country, falling from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters.
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The name Goðafoss means waterfall of the gods or waterfall of the ‘goði’ (priest) and comes from a fascinating story:
When Iceland was established between the 9th and 10th centuries, the majority of the population were Norwegian descendants who followed the Old Norse religion and worshiped deities such as Thor, Odin, Loki and Freya.
In 930, after establishing the Commonwealth, the pressure for its Christianization began. Around the year 1000, Norway threatens an invasion if they continue to maintain their pagan religion. This is discussed in Þingvellir where Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, the priest Ásatrú (or goði) and spokesman for the law, is given the responsibility of making the decision.
He spends a day and a night reflecting and praying to the gods for the right decision. He finally communicates that, for the people’s sake, Christianity would be the official religion, but pagans could practice the Norse religion in private.
To symbolize his decision, he returned to his home in northern Iceland and cast idols of the old gods into a beautiful waterfall. Since then, it would be known as Goðafoss.
Now yes, we set off for Akureyri, 30 minutes away, where we would sleep that night, before leaving the next day for the Westfjords.
We stayed at Akureyri Hostel, in a private room with a shared bathroom for €99. It was well located, with its own and quite complete parking.
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