10 Days in Iceland...Part 2
Akureyri to Eglisstaoir
After a quick breakfast and a petrol stop we said a sad goodbye to Akureyri and headed east. Having visited the mighty Godafoss already we aimed straight for Lake Myvatn instead. There is so much to see in this area and we wish we had stayed overnight and had more time but we fitted in what we could and we’ll save the rest for next time.
Our first stop was Hverfjall, one of the best preserved circular volcanic craters in the world thought to be almost 3000 years old. It looks like a massive big black ash cone with the top cut off from a distance. It’s popular to hike the 400 metres up to the rim (via one strict walking path only) and take in the view from the top. The hike up took about 20 mins but it was a good incline so definitely challenging. And though it was only slightly windy on the ground, up on the rim it felt like a gale that could sweep you off your feet, definitely not the place for hats or anything not firmly secured to you! It was very cool to see inside the crater though and the views were amazing.
Next stop was the magical Dimmuborgir, a 2 kilometre valley of huge lava rock formations that truly ignite the imagination. I was seeing faces and shapes in the formations everywhere. It’s no wonder that this place is also believed to be the home of the Yule Lads, mischievous pranksters from Icelandic folklore who you can come and visit in the lead up to Christmas. You could spend several hours here walking the different paths and exploring all the caves. We only had a short time but it was a great spot and lunch at the café was delicious.
From here we started heading east again but had to stop at Namafjall Hverir, also known as Hell’s Kitchen, an incredible geothermal area with boiling mudpools and steam fumaroles and not a lot of fences!
This place was like walking on another planet so it’s no wonder that NASA has a training camp not far from here!
And last but not least to top of an already massive day we decided to squeeze in a visit to Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss.
By the time we’d finished here it was past dusk so our drive across to Eglisstaoir was uneventful and our lovely Airbnb host greeted us and got us settled into our cabin in the dark. I would definitely recommend spending more time around the Lake Myvatn area rather than trying to do everything in a day. It was hectic and we still missed so much!
Eglisstaoir to Kalfafell
This day was all about driving in the rain and the driving taking much longer than we expected. We had booked a boat tour to check out the floating ice in Jokulsarlon Lagoon but given the rain the lagoon was so full of ice that the boats weren’t running. Thankfully we’d packed some good wet weather gear so we layered up and got out to explore the lagoon regardless.
The ice formations were amazing and we used our imagination (and a postcard) to picture the incredible view of the glacier as a back drop through all the rainy mist.
It had been a long day driving and we were pretty damp so we headed straight to our Airbnb for a hot shower and a good nights sleep. This was the only shared place we stayed in and as a light sleeper I was glad I packed my ear plugs. The hosts and provided breakfast were amazing though.
Kalfafell to Thykkvibaer (via a hike up a glacier)
Thankfully the weather had cleared up and our tour with Extreme Iceland (https://www.extremeiceland.is/) to hike up the Vatnajokull Glacier was a go! Vatnajokull is Europe’s largest glacier covering 8% of Iceland’s land mass, also concealing Iceland’s highest peak and some of the most active volcanoes in the country.
We did a half day hike up the Falljokull glacial tongue in Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Being shoulder season during our visit we were somewhat restricted in choices but the half day trip was great. We got to see internal waterfalls, drink glacial water, and walk across and through crevasses which was pretty special.
Our guide was fantastic and we were well kitted out for the experience. We did the morning tour which was perfect as the ice gets really shiny and a bit slippery by midday when it starts melting a little. Definitely a highlight of our trip and we highly recommend it!
After some massive days we decided not to try and fit anything else in this day and just chewed through the three hour drive to our next Airbnb in Thykkvibaer.
Staying two nights here gave us the luxury of not having to pack up and check out so we had a slow morning, eggs for breakfast, got to know the resident horses etc.
Then we headed straight for one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss. Apart from being magnificently beautiful, it’s famous for the fact that you can walk all the way behind it. Be prepared to get wet though! Even though we had proper rain pants and coats we still got drenched but it was well worth it and the heater in the car had us dry again in no time.
Next stop was one of Iceland’s newest attractions, Lava Centre (https://lavacentre.is/) This place was one of the best interactive exhibitions we’ve been to and such a great way to learn more about the volcano’s in Iceland and how they have shaped the island (and continue to do so). If you choose to drive anti-clockwise around the Ring Road it would be great to visit here at the start of your journey as it really puts a lot of the landscape into perspective. The gift shop here is amazing too (we did a lot of our Christmas shopping here J) and the restaurant served a really great meal. All in all highly recommended at whatever stage of your journey you can do it!
By the time we finished at the Lava Centre it was quickly getting dark but we still wanted to visit the famous Black Beach before heading back to the Airbnb for a good nights rest.
Thykkvibaer to Keflavik
By the time we got to our last full day in Iceland the weather was really turning. It was amazing how quickly both the weather and the length of the days had changed in our 10 days. As we were driving we saw farmers pulling their sheep and cattle in to barns for the winter, businesses starting to shut up shop and hibernate, and we even got a few snow flurries along the way!
The snow really started coming down as soon as we stopped to visit Gulfoss, another of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls. On the Golden Circle and not too far from Reykjavik, Gulfoss is a bit packed with tourists but I really loved it here. The sound of the water rushing through the caverns was amazing and even though a number of the walking paths were closed due to the weather the view was still breathtaking.
Side Tip: Given the number of visitors here the Visitors Centre is really good, they have an amazing gift shop that actually had some good quality outdoor gear (and not exorbitantly priced) if you need to pick up anything along the way!
Our next stop was Haukadalur Vally, also on the Golden Circle so generally packed with visitors but seeing the spectacular geysir Strokkur, is something on everyone’s list.
The valley is home to a number of thermal springs and geysers and definitely worth the visit. We thought the thermal area up in Myvatn was a bit better for the mud pools, steam vents and general exploring though so if you can it’s worth visiting both!
We chose to drive back to Reykjavik via Thingvellir once again and it was amazing to see how much the mountains had been covered by snow in the 8 days since we had been there. It was also a wonderful way to “close the loop” on our journey around Iceland.
Our last night was spent at a lovely Airbnb apartment in Keflavik, beautifully placed 5 minutes from the airport for our 7:45am flight the next morning.
Thank you Iceland, until we see you again!!!
Lessons Learned for next time:
Well worth taking the time to map out what you want to see beforehand and getting timings for driving etc but allow LOADS of extra time for all the amazing random things you’ll come across and driving in bad weather.
Stay at least 2 nights in each place to slow things down a little.
The day tours/activities may seem expensive but they’re definitely worth it if you can stretch the budget for some incredible “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences.
Iceland is one of the most special, magical, welcoming, grounding, eye-opening places on the planet. Go visit!!
And just a little something Icelandic to leave you with. Be warned, it’s catchy:
Egilsstaoir: The place we stayed at here is no longer listed but this one is in a similar location https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/25212916
Thykkvibaer: The place we stayed at here is no longer listed but this one is in a similar location https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/30078936
If you're new to Airbnb, sign up using this link and you can get $55AUD off your first booking!
For more tips on the Lake Myvatn area: