epiciceland

Best Icelandic Landscapes

Best Icelandic Landscapes

Best Icelandic landscapes in our humble opinion 🙂

9. REYNISFJARA BEACH

Basalt columns Reynisfjara beach

Basalt columns at Reynisfjara beach

Summary

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 15-40 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, just beware dangerous waves
Physical condition needed: little Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Reynisfjara beach is a beautiful easy-to-reach beach just next to the ring road, in the south, near Vik.

How to get to Reynisfjara

In summer, Reynisfjara is easily accessible by any 2wd car, by road 215. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

The main viewpoint for the beach with famous basalt columns is located here. That’s where we visited the beach. However, you may enjoy the beauty of the beach from several more viewpoints. For example, the eastern trail, which continues towards Vik to another black sand beach. If you are going for the Dyrhoaley cliffs, then there’s also a western viewpoint, here.

Reynisfjara beach

Reynisfjara beach at 9pm in the evening

Our experience with Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara was one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen around entire Iceland so it’s definitely worth a visit. All – the beach itself, the sea waves (which may be deadly, so keep a safe distance) and the nearby rock formations are stunning. Beware the strong wind, which we had a chance to experience, and I guess it may be even much stronger.

Tips about Reynisfjara

Don’t get too close to the sea waves. They may be deadly. Take care especially during windy weather. Several people have actually died at Reynisfjara beach, getting devoured by “sneaky” waves.

Reynisfjara beach is a touristy place. Want to avoid crowds of tourists? Read our guide on how to avoid tourists in Iceland.

There are also some beautiful Virtual Reality tours of Icelandic south coast and Reynisfjara beach.

8. STUDLAGIL CANYON

studlagil canyon west side

Stuðlagil Canyon, view from the western side

Summary

Distance from car park: 5 minutes / 30-40 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-40 minutes / 1-2 hours 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably 
Physical condition needed: little / medium 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Stuðlagil canyon is a picturesque canyon near Egilsstaðir, but away from the main tourist areas.

How to get to Studlagil

In summer, Studlagil canyon alone is accessible also by a 2wd car, via road Jokuldalsvegur. It’s a semi-gravel road with some parts paved better and some worse, without any river crossings.

If you want your ride to be less bumpy, or if you want to combine Studlagil with a trip to Askja as we did, definitely go for a 4wd car. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Two main viewpoints of the canyon do exist, i.e. there are two possible ways how to explore the canyon – from two different sides. Choose the side before your trip, because the time required for doing each side is significantly different.

The western side of Studlagil canyon

The western side we explored was the one suitable for those who don’t have enough time or energy to discover the canyon by walking along. On the western side (left from the south, right from Egilsstaðir) there’s a car park and stairs taking you down to the man-made viewpoint. It takes some 5 minutes to climb down the stairs. From there you may admire most of the beautiful views of the canyon. It’s not possible to descent down to the canyon itself though, compared to the other side.

studlagil canyon western view

Stuðlagil Canyon, another view from the western side

The eastern side of Studlagil canyon

The eastern side is the one where it’s possible to hike down right to the canyon itself. The car park you will aim for is this one. You have to first cross the small bridge to the eastern side of the canyon, where you have to leave your car (or eventually you may leave your car somewhere before the bridge). Then you have to walk along the bank of the canyon towards the south to see its most beautiful part. From there you are able to descent down to the river and make some amazing photos from the close distance.

The entire roundtrip including canyon exploration will take you some 2-3 hours to complete at minimum.

Our experience with Studlagil

We combined the visit of Studlagil canyon with a visit to Askja. Our priority for the day was Askja. That meant that, once we arrived at Studlagil, we had already been awake and on our feet for some 13 hours on that day. That’s why we chose an easier way to explore the canyon – from the western side.

The canyon was beautiful, and we were able to admire it from the bird’s eye view. The disadvantage, of course, was that we couldn’t make a descent to the base of the canyon itself (which is possible from the eastern side).

Tips about Studlagil

If you are lucky enough, water in the canyon will be crystal clear (as in our pictures). In case you are not, the glacier water of the Kárahnjúkar dam will change the colour of the water to a less picturesque one. Nevertheless, the canyon columns will remain the same at any time 🙂

7. LJOTIPOLLUR

ljotipollur

Ljótipollur

Summary

Distance from car park: 5 minutes ascent 
Time spent at: 15-30 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably 
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Ljotipollur is a breathtaking colourful lake near Landmannalaugar.

How to get to Ljotipollur

You have to use the 4wd car to reach Ljotipollur. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

road to ljotipollur

F-road towards Ljótipollur

If you put name Ljótipollur into Google maps, it will navigate you towards detour in the right direction from northern F208 road, coming from Landmannalaugar direction (left, coming from F26 direction). There aren’t any good road signs so just follow Google and you should be fine. You’re going to drive nice black gravel road in the middle of nowhere which will end with the sign “cars forbidden” again in the middle of nowhere.

ljotipollur parking

Ljótipollur “parking”

The place with the sign served as a car park at the time of our visit (2 more cars were parked there, what a crowd). We left our car at this improvised car park and continued walking towards Ljótipollur direction a Google was pointing at.

Our experience with Ljotipollur

The walk from the parking lot took us around 5 minutes and a majestic red volcanic crater suddenly stood in front of us. We were the only visitors admiring it at that time (I don’t have any idea where were the people who arrived by the other 2 cars parked in the car park). Just us, absolute silence and the picturesque canyon filled with crystal clear water.

Ljotipollur trail

Ljotipollur trail

You can also hike around the Ljótipollur area but that wasn’t our plan, because Ljótipollur was already supposed to be the highlight of the area and we were really tired after our Landmannalaugar hikes.

Tips about Ljotipollur

Ljótipollur is a remote canyon where you will meet out of this world colours on every corner. It definitely didn’t look like a touristy place at the time of our visit and we had it all for ourselves at around 3 pm which is I guess still a peak hour.

6. LATRABJARG

latrabjarg westfjords

Látrabjarg on a sunny day

Summary

Distance from car park: 2-15 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-60 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably 
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Látrabjarg cliffs are gigantic cliffs at the westernmost point of Iceland.

How to get to Latrabjarg

Latrabjarg is officially accessible also by the 2wd car in the summer. Nevertheless, I recommend you to have a 4wd car to get there. Not only will it be safer, but also quicker and less bumpy. The last part of the road 612 leading there could easily be an F-road. It’s a gravel coastal road full of potholes. It doesn’t contain any river crossings, though.

Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Latrabjarg

We spent some time observing strange puffin flights and their landing, often, right next to us. Truly once in a lifetime experience. You may hike along the edge of the cliff as long as you want. We did so for some 15 minutes and then turned back. Although Latrabjarg was the place where we saw the biggest number of cars parked in Westfjords, it still didn’t seem to be crowded because of the size of the entire area.

latrabjarg cliffs

Látrabjarg cliffs

To conclude – Latrabjarg is definitely worth making a detour.

Tips about Latrabjarg

Not only are Latrabjarg cliffs the westernmost place in entire Europe, it is also the place with one of the most unique floras and faunas. Secondly, the actual Latrabjarg cliff is more than just magnificent. It’s huge and admirable. And as a bonus, guess who is here? Puffins!

puffins at latrabjarg

Last puffins spotted during our journey. At Latrabjarg

During our entire 12-day trip this was the first and last place where we saw puffins. Later on, I read that Latrabjarg is a place where “it’s guaranteed to see puffins”. It seems to be so!

5. SIGOLDUGLJUFUR CANYON

sigoldugljufur canyon

Sigoldugljufur canyon. A remote, magical, non-touristy place.

Summary

Distance from car park: 10 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-40 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably 
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Sigöldugljufur canyon is a secluded canyon located north of Landmannalaugar.

How to get to Sigoldugljufur

Although the northern part of F208 leading to the canyon is just a normal gravel road, you still officially need the 4wd car, because it’s an F-road. You don’t need any hardcore jeep to reach it, however. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Google maps are quite precise with the location of the canyon, although you won’t find any road signs indicating it, so you have to rely solely on Google maps. The canyon is located on the right side of F208 coming from the Landmannalaugar direction (i.e. naturally on the left side coming from the F26 direction). The only sign telling you “there’s something nearby” is the little car park near the spot which is the closest point connecting the road and the canyon marked on Google maps.

When you leave the car park, you continue walking along the unmarked gravel road (used only by locals) and you keep on the left side of it, exactly as suggested by google maps. After some 10 minutes of walking, you will arrive at the right bank of the canyon and a huge network of small rivers and waterfalls of unbelievable colours will emerge in front of you.

sigoldugljufur canyon

All alone at Sigöldugljufur canyon

Our experience with Sigoldugljufur

You will literally find yourself as in the middle of the fairy tale, especially if you’re as lucky as we were, and will be there all by yourself.

Sigöldugljufur canyon was our favourite canyon in Iceland because it was the least touristy and, in our opinion, the most beautiful. With all its remoteness it embodies for me the spirit of Iceland, i.e. a picturesque hidden place in the middle of nowhere.

Tips about Sigoldugljufur

There’s actually no marked trail, so unless they make one anytime soon, you’re going to slightly break the rules, as you will be walking on an “unmarked path” and therefore destroying Icelandic nature a bit. We tried to go the same way back to spare the nature of our footsteps. That being said, I think it’s inevitable someone will build a marked trail heading to the canyon soon as it’s becoming more and more touristy from what I’d read before our trip.

It’s also possible to continue several kilometres ahead along the valley, so it’s just up to you how far you want to go. You are able to see the major part of the canyon already from the first moment you have it in your sight, however. That’s exactly what we did – admired it for a couple of minutes and didn’t continue further along the valley.

4. LANGISJOR AND SVEINSTINDUR

Langisjór lake

Langisjór lake next to Langisjór campsite mark on the map

Summary

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-45 minutes Langisjor, 2-3 hours Sveinstindur
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no 
Physical condition needed: little for Langisjor, advanced for Sveinstindur
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Langisjór is a huge glacial lake located far away from any populated areas.
Sveinstindur is the tallest peak in the area.

How to get to Langisjor

Langisjor and Sveinstindur are not easy to access. You will definitely need at least a medium-sized 4wd car. There are several river crossings, some of them with small rivers, some of them with medium-sized rivers. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

If you are interested in specific details about getting to Langisjor and types of river crossings you will have to encounter, read our post about getting to Langisjor.

We reached the “Langisjór camping”, or at least that’s what Google maps said, which was just a small cottage with 2 nice modern toilets at the end of the world. We continued to the point on Google maps named “Langisjór campsite” where the road ended.

Langisjór campsite

This was supposed to be Langisjór campsite according to maps. It just turned out to be a remote place with nobody being there.

Our experience with Langisjor

The water in Langisjór had been crystal clear and the complete silence surrounding the area was both amazing and a bit scary at the same time. First time in my life I experienced what one may call “absolute silence”.

You may just walk to the lake and enjoy its marvellous water and atmosphere around. There’s also a small hill nearby, which you may climb as well if you are up to.

Tips about Langisjor

The campsite looked a bit hostile for camping in our opinion. The only facilities there were toilets. So be aware of that, when planning your trip.

Langisjor was also one of the least touristy places we had been to during our trip around Iceland.

How to get to Sveinstindur

Sveinstindur is just next to the point named on Google Maps as “Langisjór camping”.

First of all, finding the start of the hiking trail was not an easy task at all. There are no signs indicating where should you go or park your car if you want to hike Sveinstindur. I just guessed – it’s not along the road we’d already driven (or at least I think so), it’s not near the lake, so let’s take the only road left – the road continuing on an unmarked F-road (described for example here).

Sveinstindur parking

Sveinstindur parking. This is how a parking lot in highlands looks like.

Shortly after pursuing the road, we found a car park with 2 cars, which I again guessed, is maybe a car park for Sveinstindur? Yes, probably I’m right – I realized shortly after seeing first yellow sticks indicating a hiking trail, though still no signs or names which would say “Sveinstindur”.

Our experience with Sveinstindur

Sveinstindur seemed to be a great fit for my itinerary – non-touristy, amazing views from the top, not so long hike, out of this world landscapes everywhere around. Unfortunately, the weather started to be much foggier at the time of our visit and it even started to rain. OK, Icelandic weather, I told myself, we shouldn’t get discouraged by this. Well, I changed my mind later. It’s not a very good idea to climb Sveinstindur when it rains and when you don’t see anything because of the fog.

Sveinstindur hiking trail

Sveinstindur hiking trail, somewhere near half of the road towards the peak. In the beginning, the hike seemed to be doable – the ground was OK to walk on, the visibility was so-so, the rain was light, so we continued. However, after some 20-30 minutes of hiking, we walked right into the big fog and we could see that everything above this point is covered in fog as well. Together with that, the rain intensified and the path got steeper and slippery.

At this point, we decided to turn back, as it was not worth it to continue the climb when we couldn’t see a thing. On our way back, we met a really fast hiker coming back from the top so I asked him whether he’d seen anything from the top. “Not a thing” he replied, which just reassured me to continue on our way back to the car. It’s a pity but what should we do – next time.

Tips about Sveinstindur

Sveinstindur near Langisjor

The upper part of the hike on Sveinstindur near Langisjor lake on a foggy day with slight rain

Quick advice – definitely go only when the weather is nice! It’s not a very pleasant experience when it’s not. Trust me, we’ve experienced it.

3. LANDMANNALAUGAR

blahnjukur top view

View from the peak of Bláhnjúkur towards Landmannalaugar camp, Laugahraun and 2nd (steeper) hiking trail

Summary

Distance from car park: 5-10 minutes 
Time spent at: from 3 hours to several days
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Landmannalaugar, or “rainbow mountains”, is a huge area full of breath-taking natural wonders of Iceland. It mostly refers to mountains and peaks of Brennisteinsalda, Blahnjukur and those nearby. It’s, however, huge and stretches itself all the way to Thorsmork. 

How to get to Landmannalaugar

There are basically two main ways to reach the area. The northern one and the southern one. I personally recommend you to take both of them, but your plans might be different. For both of them, you will need a 4wd car, but they are as different as the night and the day are. That means, also the choice of a specific 4wd car should be made according to which route will you plan to take. 

Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

The northern part of F208

F208 north is the easier route because there are no river crossings. The majority of guides and blogs would recommend you this route since it’s generally easier and safer. I do agree it’s easier, but I don’t agree you should take only the northern part of F208.

F208 north horses

Horses or “Icelandic ponies” blocking the F208 road Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri north of Landmannalaugar

There are several nice stops along the road like Ljotipollur lake or Sigoldugljufur canyon. Other than that, however, the landscapes around the road are not so spectacular. Definitely not, compared to the southern route. Read more about our journey along the northern part of F208.

The southern part of F208

Despite (or thanks to?) being long and containing several river crossings of different sizes, from small to medium-sized ones, F208 south is one of my favourite Icelandic roads. Landscapes surrounding the road are once in a lifetime experience and so is the drive itself. 

F208 Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri

F208, or Fjallabaksleið Nyrðri, after crossing with F235 towards Landmannalaugar

Choose your car wisely and you will never forget about your journey on the southern F208.

Our experience with Landmannalaugar

There are basically 3 types of activities you may do around Landmannalaugar. Hiking, bathing or driving. Hiking would probably be the number one activity visitors go to Landmannalugar for. That’s why we’ve put up a 1-day hiking guide in Landmannalaugar for you. 

On our journey, we linked together driving the southern part of F208, with the visit of Langisjor and Sveinstindur and finally with the arrival to Landmannalaugar. That being said, we arrived at Landmannalaugar in the evening, camped at the Brennisteinsalda campsite and went for hiking on the following day. 

blahnjukur hike views

Spectacular views right from the beginning of the hike on Bláhnjúkur and even on the slightly foggy day

We devoted just 1 (not even entire) day to Landmannalaugar so we wanted to see as much as we could with the best views over the area in the shortest time possible. That’s why we chose the combination of hiking the two most beautiful relatively easily accessible peaks – Brennisteinsalda (the orange mountain) and Blahnjukur (the blue peak). 

Tips about Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar may be a bit touristy. Read our tips on how to avoid touristy places in Iceland. 

Plan for the good weather. This one is a must. Strong wind or rain may even be very dangerous during the hikes in Landmannalaugar. 

Landmannalaugar Brennisteinsalda campsite

Landmannalaugar Brennisteinsalda campsite on a summer evening

If you are seeking tips for hiking in Landmannalaugar, read our hiking guide. If you are interested in our entire experience including what we’d done before and after Landmannalaugar or how we camped, read about day 3 of our journey and about day 4 of our journey.

There’s even a Virtual reality tour of Landmannalaugar!

2. KERLINGARFJOLL

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir stairs

Clay staircase in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjöll

Summary

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 1-3 hours (or more according to your hiking passion) Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Kerlingarfjoll belongs to the category of another “out of this world” Icelandic experiences. It’s an area full of orange mountains and sulphuric (mostly not for bathing) hot springs.

How to get to Kerlingarfjoll

There are two main ways to reach the area. From the north and from the south, both via F-road F35. Technically, from the south of F35, it’s a shorter route. But, it doesn’t matter much which way you choose to start from – north or south. What matters more is, what you plan to do before and after your Kerlingarfjöll trip. Read more about what route we chose here.

f35 kjalvegur

F35, aka Kjalvegur, near Hveravellir

Officially, you need a 4wd car to drive the F35. It’s a gravel road with many potholes, but it would be definitely doable also by a 2wd (if it were not for the 4wd restriction). By saying that I mean, F35 is not hard to drive and doesn’t contain any river crossings. 

The toughest part of the drive to Kerlingarfjoll is the last ascent towards the main area of Hveradalir. It’s quite steep and we’d seen several cars turning back, being afraid of making the ascent with their car. If you are interested in details, read our guide on Kerlingarfjoll. To sum up, you definitely need a medium-sized SUV to reach Hveradalir (or some big guts). 

f347 near hveradalir

F347 road next to Hveradalir hot spring area in Kerlingarfjoll

Our Dacia Duster has done its job well and we reached Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjoll without any problems. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Kerlingarfjoll

We chose to arrive at Hveradalir geothermal area by car and to explore it from there. You may hike around the area as long as you want and as far as you want and turn back at any moment. This is the most time-efficient option and allows you to see one of the most beautiful views of Kerlingarfjoll in quite a short amount of time.

Hveradalir area is one of the most beautiful and breath-taking places I’ve ever been to in my life – together with Askja, Landmannalaugar and the F-roads south of Landmannalaugar. You literally feel like you’re on a different planet. This time it’s not rainbow mountains, no black sand, no green moss. This time, it’s orange mountains mixed with wild sulphuric hot springs and snow. A lot of snow. And cold. And the wind. Welcome to Hveradalir.

kerlingarfjoll mountain resort

Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort campsite

There are several smaller hills and there are also smaller wooden stairs-like steps almost on each of them to help you with the ascent. And I do understand why. If it weren’t for them, every 10th visitor would have slipped on the clay and injured or killed himself. The views and the atmosphere of the place is truly amazing. Hot springs with hot sulphuric steam are everywhere and they help create an occasional feeling of warmth. There are, however, no hot springs to bath in Hveradalir area. This is contrary to Google maps calling the location “hot springs” or “geothermal area”.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir hike

One of the summits of the several smaller hills around the Hveradalir in Kerlingarfjöll

Interested in more details about hot springs or hiking options in Kerlingarfjoll? Read our guide.

Interested in what we’d done before and after the trip to Kerlingarfjoll, which routes we chose, where we camped and many more? Read about day 8 of our journey

Tips about Kerlingarfjoll

Once in Kerlingarfjöll, you have numerous hiking options. You may for example hike the red loop trail, getting to all of the biggest summits around the area, sleeping over at mountain huts. This is a very challenging hike, where you will be going to need very good gear (e.g. crampons) and be in a very good physical condition. And it will take you about 3 days. Read more here.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir trail

One of the numerous trails in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjoll

Also bear in mind, that on the 8th August, 3 pm in the afternoon (i.e. probably one of the warmest times possible) the temperature climbed to tropical 5°C. And the strong wind didn’t help it at all, making everything feel even some 5°C colder. If you plan to camp here, you’re going to be freezing for sure.

1. ASKJA

swimming in askja crater

Me swimming in 25°C sulphuric water of Víti crater in Askja

Summary

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes one way (from Vikarborgir) 
Time spent at: >1 hour
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced (depends if you want to climb Viti)
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Askja is a hidden gem of Iceland. It’s a picturesque volcanic crater filled with warm sulphuric water in the middle of nowhere. The drive to Askja is strenuous but more than worth it. 

How to get to Askja

To drive to Askja you definitely need a 4wd car.  There are two main routes available to reach Askja. The northern one (F88) and the eastern one (F905, F910).

The northern route is the toughest one because F88 contains several big, treacherous rivers. You will need a large super-jeep if you want to take F88.

f905 to askja

F905 to Askja on an exceptionally beautiful sunny summer day

The eastern route contains river crossings as well, but only small and medium-sized ones, so it’s doable also with a medium-sized SUV. If you are interested in specific details about each road and each river crossing, you may read our guide on how to visit Askja.

It’s important to choose your car carefully for your visit to Askja. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Askja

From the car park it takes some 20-30 minutes of walking via a well-marked path with yellow sticks to reach the place everybody sees in the pictures – i.e. Víti crater. Sun still shined, the sky was still clear and the wind was still mild – what a wonderful day! And Viti crater looked even better than in the photos! Fairy-tale-like blue water with moon-like surrounding landscapes. Askja was the highlight of our trip.

askja oskjuvatn viti

Amazingly beautiful Askja (the whole area), Víti (the crater lake) and Öskjuvatn (the bigger lake nearby) all in one picture

We also decided to descent down to the crater itself and take a bath. This was one of the two moments during our journey when I was a bit scared (first one when hiking up the Blahnjukur peak in Landmannalugar, climbing the steep clay slippery trail). Here again, the descent was steep and the ground was covered with slippery clay, which means you’re unable to control any fall of yours, in case it happens.

Nevertheless, it’s a short descent and not too dangerous, so in good weather, you should be able to make it. Once down in the caldera, you may enjoy swimming in the water with a temperature around 25°C, which is definitely not a hot spring but it’s definitely warmer than air (at the time of our visit around 10-15°C). Once in a lifetime experience.

Tips about Askja

  • Askja = name of the entire area.
  • Viti = volcanic crater you are probably aiming for as we were, with blue picturesque geothermal water.
  • Oskjuvatn = big lake just next to Viti, with no geothermal water (Google calls Oskjuvatn “Lake Askja”).
vikraborgir parking askja

Vikraborgir car park, the closest point available on your route towards Askja/Víti crater

Once you reach Viti, you may either:

  1. Just admire the beauty of Viti crater and monumental Oskjuvatn lake next to it, or
  2. Hike around the area, or
  3. As we chose (or as my girlfriend persuaded me), hike down the Viti crater and swim in the green/blue geothermal water.
oskjuvatn lake askja

Öskjuvatn lake in Askja area, next to famous Víti crater

Interested in more details on different hikes, map of the area and our experience? Read our guide on Askja.

Interested in how we combined Askja with the visit of Studlagil canyon, where we camped and where we went next? Read about day 6 of our journey.

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Posted by epiciceland in Top Places, 0 comments
Best Icelandic Waterfalls

Best Icelandic Waterfalls



Here are the best Icelandic waterfalls, with a focus on those that are easily accessible. According to our humble opinion B-). Based on the overall experience, i.e.:

9. GULLFOSS

gullfoss in the evening

Gullfoss at the time of our visit, i.e. 7 pm

Summary

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Gullfoss

In summer, Gullfoss is easily accessible by any 2wd car. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Gullfoss

The waterfall is very easily accessible, which probably explains why it’s usually so touristy. It’s also very picturesque. It wasn’t one of our favourites, though. We were already spoiled enough with all of the places we had seen already at that time. As someone on the Google maps had put it “3/5 Icelandic stars, that is 5/5 stars anywhere else”.

Tips about Gullfoss

Gullfoss is typically one of the most touristy places in Iceland. You’re going to notice it once you arrive at the gigantic car park next to the restaurant and a souvenir shop. However, we arrived in the evening during Covid-19 times. This meant an empty car park and a closed restaurant with a souvenir shop. And also – almost no tourists.

8. SELFOSS

selfoss east

The east viewpoint of the Selfoss waterfall

Summary

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes
Time spent at: 10-15 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little / medium 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Selfoss

In summer, Selfoss is accessible by any 2wd car. I do recommend renting a cheap 4wd, though. Especially the eastern access is a rough gravel road.  Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

You may reach the waterfall from 2 different sides – the west and the east. Read below in our Tips section details about both of them.

Our experience with Selfoss

You have to reach Selfoss by walking, there’s no car park. Nevertheless, it’s a short walk of about 10-15 minutes from Dettifoss, again on either stony or normal path. After the waterfalls we’d already seen at that point, we were not that overwhelmed by Selfoss. It’s a nice series of many small waterfalls, so what’s interesting about it is its width. Needless to say, it’s still a very beautiful place to see.

Dettifoss with Selfoss were also the only places during the Covid-19 times where we met Asian tourists. I just wonder how many tourists are here usually, when there’s no Covid? Probably a lot of.

Tips about Selfoss

You have two choices about how to get to these well-known waterfalls. From the west or from the east. There are endless debates all over the internet about which side is the best. I will make it easier for you. Eastern side is the best. No discussion. Easy.

Ok, let’s be a bit more serious now. Yes, I think the eastern side is much better. Why?

  • The road leading there is more adventurous
  • View from the eastern side is much better
  • Most likely you won’t get wet (much) on this side
  • Car parks are smaller, but that should mean fewer tourists, right?

That’s why we went for the eastern side.

7. GODAFOSS

Godafoss before sunset

Godafoss before sunset

Summary

Distance from car park: 10 minutes
Time spent at: 10-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Goðafoss

In summer, Goðafoss is easily accessible by any 2wd car. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Goðafoss

Godafoss is a waterfall on a bucket list of everyone driving the entire ring road. You’ll most likely find it in every Icelandic guide. That means we’re talking about a touristy place again. Reaching Godafoss is easy. You may leave your car at the Fossholl parking lot. From there you take a 10 minutes’ walk either from the south or from the north of the waterfall. We took the southern route and I can recommend it, views from there were very nice.

Tips about Goðafoss

We were lucky again to have beautiful sunny weather and arrived at the waterfall around the sunset time. Path to the Godafoss is paved and literally, everyone can make this little walk. Goðafoss is very nice and definitely worth visiting, though not our favourite Icelandic waterfall.

6. HAIFOSS

haifoss

Just Haifoss

Summary

Distance from car park: 5 minutes
Time spent at: 15-30 minutes
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Haifoss

In summer, Haifoss is accessible by any 2wd car. I do recommend renting a cheap 4wd, though. The road 332 leading there is a rough gravel road, so you may save your car by using an SUV. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Haifoss

Once you reach the well-marked car park, Haifoss is just a few steps next to it, in a huge moss-covered green valley with many sheep around. Haifoss is supposed to be more touristy, due to its accessibility also by 2wd cars, and yes it was even during our visit. There were some 3-4 cars other than us parking at the car park, which seemed like a lot compared to our experience at that time.

There are several viewpoints of the waterfall, all next to each other so you will have enough space to admire the waterfall from and make some nice pictures. Despite the weather being cloudy already, we were able to make some nice pictures anyway.

Tips about Haifoss

The road leading to Haifoss (332) is the gravel road which you will be able to drive fast on with any 4wd car because it doesn’t have any potholes just a lot of gravel on it. That’s also why it’s not marked as an F-road. With a 2wd car, you would need to slow down, however.

5. DYNJANDI

dynjandi waterfall trail

Dynjandi waterfall trail

Summary

Distance from car park: 10 minutes 
Time spent at: 30-45 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little to medium
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Dynjandi

In summer, Dynjandi is accessible by any 2wd car. I do recommend renting a cheap 4wd, though. Westfjords’ roads near Dynjandi may get tough to drive in rough weather. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Dynjandi

Probably the most beautiful waterfall in Westfjords (and one of the best in Iceland as well) – that’s Dynjandi waterfall. The huge car park and the entire infrastructure around the waterfall suggest that Dynjandi waterfall is apparently a very touristy place during normal times. Not during Covid-19 times, though. When we reached the parking lot at 8 am, we were the only car parking there. Just us and the beautiful Dynjandi.

There are several smaller waterfalls below Dynjandi and you will meet them along your trail towards Dynjandi. The actual Dynjandi definitely belongs to the top Icelandic waterfalls we’ve seen. Its unique shape makes it more than just memorable.

Tips about Dynjandi

I had read before, that the hiking trail towards Dynjandi takes about 45 minutes to complete. That’s not true. It takes only some 10-15 minutes of light hiking to arrive at the base of the waterfall. Maybe there’s a trail continuing even further to the upper part of the waterfall (which takes 45 minutes to complete), I don’t remember any though.

4. SVARTIFOSS

svartifoss viewpoint

The closest viewpoint to Svartifoss after sky finally cleared a bit. Still, we are wet in the pic as you may see.

Summary

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes one way
Time spent at: 15-30 minutes
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to

In summer, Svartifoss is easily accessible by any 2wd car. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Svartifoss

This was a touristy day and we were aware of it, as we were visiting the most touristy part of an Iceland – the south. Svartifoss waterfall is famous mostly thanks to the Vikings series. Once we reached the car park of the Skaftafell national park, we realized what “touristy” actually means here. The car park and entire infrastructure around the entrance of the park were huge compared to all other sites we’d seen before. So we did park our car along 40 other cars and went for the Skaftafell trail towards Svartifoss.

The trail takes some 20-30 minutes to reach the Svartifoss waterfall and it’s a fairly easy one. Here is a map of the Skaftafell area. You’re going to probably meet a lot of fellow tourists, as we did, along the path. When we reached the Svartifoss, however, there were just 2-3 couples together with us and shortly thereafter we were there all by ourselves. The weather was so-so with cloudy sky and slight fog. Still, Svartifoss was really beautiful and worth seeing.

Tips about Svartifoss

There are many other hiking trails in the Skaftafell national park, so if you are into hiking you have several options to go for. Since Svartifoss is supposed to be the highlight of the entire area, we again didn’t go for any other trail and went just for Svartifoss. After seeing it and enjoying the views we turned back towards our car.

3. SKÓGAFOSS

Bottom part of Skógafoss

The bottom part of Skógafoss waterfall (and a wedding in the background ☺) at 8 pm

Summary

Distance from car park: 2 minutes (lower part), 7 minutes (upper part)
Time spent at: 30-60 minutes
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Skógafoss

In summer, Skógafoss is easily accessible by any 2wd car. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

Our experience with Skógafoss

The entire area around Skógafoss is just incredibly pretty. There’s a campsite just next to the waterfall so if you have a chance to camp in here, definitely go for it! The next time we visit Iceland we would definitely camp in here. Waking up to the sound of bursting water and seeing the magnificent waterfall right after getting out of your tent must be an unforgettable experience.

With regards to the waterfall itself, you may walk literally into its bottom part. We were surprised that in most of the cases there were no barriers restraining you from going as close to the waterfall as you want. Which of course means, you have to take care of any danger for yourself.

Tips about Skógafoss

You may also climb a few stairs to get to the upper part of the waterfall, which we again definitely do recommend (especially in good weather) because you will be rewarded with a really nice view. Near the upper part, you will probably meet some sheep and you will see the path continuing more deeply into the national park. We didn’t go further as Skogafoss was supposed to be the highlight anyway.

2. DETTIFOSS

tourists at Dettifoss

Observe tourists on our side (east) and the other side (west) of the Dettifoss

Summary

Distance from car park: 5-10 minutes
Time spent at: 10-15 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little / medium 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Dettifoss

In summer, Dettifoss is accessible by any 2wd car. I do recommend renting a cheap 4wd, though. Especially the eastern access is a rough gravel road. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

You may reach the waterfall from 2 different sides – the west and the east. Read below in our Tips section details about both of them.

Our experience with Dettifoss

We visited Dettifoss on Day 7 of our packed 2-week trip. Dettifoss is close to many other beautiful sights in the Mývatn area, which we definitely recommend visiting too! We arrived at the eastern bank of the waterfall (see below, why the eastern one).

It will take you some 5-10 minutes to walk from the eastern car park on a stony but perfectly safe trail to reach the waterfall. Dettifoss is one of the most beautiful Icelandic waterfalls we’ve seen. Mostly, because its massive water volume is really impressive. It’s also said to be the most powerful Icelandic waterfall, and one of the most powerful ones in Europe as well. For those interested, there’s a nice website summarizing all waterfalls here. We were also lucky enough to catch Dettifoss with a rainbow over it.

Tips about Dettifoss – Which side to choose?

You have two choices about how to get to these well-known waterfalls. From the west or from the east. There are endless debates all over the internet about which side is the best. I will make it easier for you. The Eastern side is the best. No discussion. Easy.

Ok, let’s be a bit more serious now. Yes, I think the eastern side is much better. Why?

  • The road leading there is more adventurous
  • View from the eastern side is much better
  • Most likely you won’t get wet (much) on this side
  • Car parks are smaller, but that should mean fewer tourists, right?

That’s why we went for the eastern side.

1. SELJALANDSFOSS

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss at 7 pm

Summary

Distance from car park: 5 minutes
Time spent at: 20-60 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Seljalandsfoss

In summer, Seljalandsfoss is easily accessible by any 2wd car. Read about how we chose our car. Or just get free discounts for your Icelandic car rental.

The car park in front of the waterfall is a paid one (7eur). Nobody had been checking the tickets at the time, however, we didn’t want to risk getting any infamously high Icelandic fines (e.g. 10 000 USD here) so we headed to the ticket machine. Over there my girlfriend realized that somebody had left their used parking ticket for someone else to use again, which seemed a really nice gesture, although I’m not sure whether this is, in reality, good or not (depends on, whether the area is being maintained using the fees collected from the parking or whether just someone is getting rich by renting a piece of ground for parking).

Our experience with Seljalandsfoss

Anyway, Seljalandsfoss was amazing. We were lucky enough that the sky cleared just before our arrival and we could experience the waterfall playing with the sun and an accompanying rainbow. And yes, Seljalandsfoss is the waterfall you can walk behind, and yes it’s a beautiful experience to do it. During Covid times, there were some 5-8 people around the waterfall area at the time of our visit, so we had the waterfall almost entirely to ourselves. We are not sure whether it’s because this was our first Icelandic waterfall or because of the really beautiful weather, but we feel like Seljalandsfoss was our favourite waterfall in entire Iceland.

Tips about Seljalandsfoss

Oh, and an important note – take a raincoat! It’s a waterfall so expect a water splashing everywhere, especially if you are planning to walk behind it (which you should!).

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Day 12 – Best of South Westfjords in 1 day

Day 12 – Best of South Westfjords in 1 day


According to the weather forecast, the last full day of our journey was supposed to be without rain only before 3 pm. Thus, we adjusted our plans accordingly. We woke up at 6 am and tried to see everything important before the rain comes. And we made it.

Road 60 – Vestfjarðavegur – towards Dynjandi

7:30-8:00

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

road 60 between thingeyri and flokalundur

Road 60 (Vestfjarðavegur) between Þingeyri and Flókalundur

Road 60 is a beautiful fjord road. It firstly crosses the mountainous landscapes and then leads along the coastline. It’s a kind of semi-paved road with occasional potholes, so definitely not the best, but not an F-road as well. It’s doable by 2wd car, you’ll just have to drive carefully and more slowly than Google times suggest.

Dynjandi Vestfjarðavegur road 60

Road 60, or Vestfjarðavegur in Westfjords towards Dynjandi waterfall

Views along the road are amazing and unique, though. The road is definitely worth taking.

Dynjandi waterfall

8:00-8:30

Distance from car park: 10 minutes 
Time spent at: 30-45 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little to medium
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

dynjandi waterfall parking

See that car in the distance? That was our car and this was a parking place

Probably the most beautiful waterfall in Westfjords (and one of the best in Iceland as well) – that’s Dynjandi waterfall. The huge car park and the entire infrastructure around the waterfall suggest that Dynjandi is apparently a very touristy place during normal times. Not during Covid-19 times, though. When we reached the parking lot at 8 am, we were the only car parking there. Just us and the beautiful Dynjandi.

dynjandi parking in the fjord

OK for those of you who don’t have a zoom. Dynjandi parking

I had read before, that the hiking trail towards Dynjandi takes about 45 minutes to complete. That’s not true. It takes only some 10-15 minutes of light hiking to arrive at the base of the waterfall. Maybe there’s a trail continuing even further to the upper part of the waterfall (which takes 45 minutes to complete), I don’t remember any though.

dynjandi waterfall trail

Dynjandi waterfall trail

There are several smaller waterfalls below Dynjandi and you will meet them along your trail towards Dynjandi. The actual Dynjandi definitely belongs to the top Icelandic waterfalls we’ve seen. Its unique shape makes it more than just memorable.

Road 63 – Bíldudalsvegur, and road 62 – Barðastrandarvegur, towards Látrabjarg

8:30-9:30

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

crossroads bildudalsvegur vestfjardavegur

Crossroads of the roads 60 and 63 or Bíldudalsvegur and Vestfjarðavegur

Our biggest (and most distant) stop of the day was a visit of Látrabjarg cliffs. Although Google had suggested the southern road 60 to be the fastest, we chose the northern way – via 63 and 62. We didn’t want to go twice via the same roads (as would be the case with road 60) and we also wanted to take a look at Reykjafjarðarlaug hot pool.

road 63 bildudalsvegur

Road 63 Bíldudalsvegur

We didn’t take many pictures of these roads. As far as I remember, they were (similar to the road 60) combination of normal paved roads and semi-paved gravel roads with some potholes. And again – a combination of mountain roads and coastal fjord roads. That means – absolutely OK with any 4wd car and also fine with 2wd, you will just need to drive carefully and more slowly compared to Google Maps’ estimates.

Reykjafjarðarlaug Hot Pool

9:30

Reykjafjarðarlaug hot pool

Reykjafjarðarlaug hot pool

We wanted to reach Latrabjarg as soon as possible because the weather was still nice and we wanted to make it there while it still was. That’s why we made just a quick stop at Reykjafjardarlaug hot pot. There are actually 2 places for bathing in here.

First one is the man-made artificial pool with regulated water temperature. The second one is the actual source of the hot water itself – a wild hot spring with varying temperature (usually much hotter). This hot spring lies nearby.

Road 612 a.k.a. Örlygshafnarvegur to Látrabjarg

10:30-11:30

Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

We had already realized that the more difficult the name of the road in Iceland is to pronounce, the shittier the actual road will be. Orlygshafnarvegur was in line with this newly found rule of ours. Road 612 starts neatly but gets rougher and rougher with each additional kilometre.

breidavik beach

Breiðavík beach

The last part of Örlygshafnarvegur is a rough, narrow gravel road with many potholes, leading across the mountainous area and sometimes even next to the coastal edge simultaneously. It’s definitely doable by any 4wd car (not sure how it looks in rough weather, though). We also met several 2wd cars, but they were struggling at least. Sure, in good weather you can make the last part even with 2wd, it will just take you much longer than in 4wd and you will be probably blocking many 4wds waiting behind you.

Nevertheless, the “rough part” of 612 is not very long, so if you are patient enough, feel free to take it even in 2wd. Views along the road are breath-taking. You will pass a shipwreck, a plane wreck, a car scrap yard, some small settlements and, most importantly, the picturesque Breiðavík beach. Is Orlygshafnarvegur dangerous? No, just don’t look down too much when driving near the edge of the mountain 🙂

Látrabjarg

11:30-12:30

Distance from car park: 2-15 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-60 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

puffins westfjords

First puffins spotted during our journey! At Latrabjarg

I had not studied about Latrabjarg much beforehand, just saw a beautiful picture of a cliff and decided to go there based on that one picture. Once we arrived there, we, however, realized why so many people take their time to reach the place.

latrabjarg cliffs

Látrabjarg cliffs

Not only is Latrabjarg the westernmost place in entire Europe, it is also the place with one of the most unique floras and faunas. Secondly, the actual Latrabjarg cliff is more than just magnificent. It’s huge and admirable. And as a bonus, guess who is here? Puffins! During our entire 12-day trip Latrabjarg was the first and the last place where we saw puffins. Later on, I read that Latrabjarg is a place where “it’s guaranteed to see puffins”. It seems to be so!

puffins at latrabjarg

Last puffins spotted during our journey. At Latrabjarg

We spent some time observing strange puffin flights and their landing, often, right next to us. Truly once in a lifetime experience. You may hike along the edge of the cliff as long as you want. We did so for some 15 minutes and then turned back. Although Latrabjarg was the place where we saw the biggest number of cars parked in Westfjords, it still didn’t seem to be crowded because of the size of the entire area.

To conclude – Latrabjarg is definitely worth making a detour.

Plane wreck, Hnjótur museum, boat wreck

13:00-14:00

Distance from car park: 0 minutes 
Time spent at: 30-90 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 3 – nice (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

hnjotur musem plane wreck

Plane wreck in front of the Hnjótur museum

Hnjótur museum

As I had already written, we had passed several interesting places along the Örlygshafnarvegur, which we had skipped before. On our return journey, we came back to them.

I’m not really into museums but my girlfriend is. So that she’s happy, we made at least one museum stop – for Hnjotur museum. It’s basically a museum displaying the historical life of people in this area. My girlfriend found it very interesting (I stayed chilling with coffee outside). After the visit, she told me stories about how Icelanders used to hunt puffin eggs by climbing down the cliffs or how they had rescued castaways from ship accidents many years ago. So, if you’re into this kind of stuff, feel free to go for it.

Plane wreck

hnjotur musem plane wreck 2

Plane wreck in front of the Hnjótur museum

In front of the museum, there’s a nice plane wreck. I guess not much different from the one near Reynisfjara beach (Sólheimasandurplane wreck). Just this one is less touristy.

Shipwreck Garðar BA 64

Garðar BA 64 shipwreck road 612 Orlygshafnarvegur

Garðar BA 64 shipwreck next to the road 612 Örlygshafnarvegur

A few minutes of the drive back via 612, there’s also a huge shipwreck. Second interesting boat wreck in Westfjords after the one in Djupavik. It’s a short stop along the road, so why not take it?

Rauðisandur beach

14:40-15:00

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-30 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 3 – nice (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

raudisandur beach

Rauðisandur beach

Just a 15-minute detour south from road 612 leads a hillside Rauðasandsvegur, or road 614, towards the biggest Icelandic beach – Rauðisandur beach. It’s a mountainous zig-zag drive on the pothole-full gravel road. It’s definitely a challenge in 2wd car, but without any problems in 4wd car (at least in good weather).

Saurbæjarkirkja

Saurbæjarkirkja next to Rauðisandur beach

We had heard a lot about Rauðisandur beach, with several people flagging it to be one of the most beautiful beaches they’ve ever seen. Well, if you haven’t seen many beaches in your life so far, then yes, Raudisandur beach is very nice. For us – beach lovers – we were not that overwhelmed. Yes, the beach is nice, yes, the beach is big, but other than that there’s nothing really special about Raudisandur beach. Personally, I liked the smaller Breidavik beach more. Maybe it’s nicer with sunny weather? We had a cloudy one.

Where to leave your car?

There’s a small car park in front of the picturesque Saurbæjarkirkja, or the little black church. Alternatively, you may continue further down the road in the direction of the church and leave your car there. The further you go, the less touristy it will probably be.

Road 62 – south – Barðastrandarvegur towards Flókalundur

15:50-16:30

Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

The southern part of Bardastrandarvegur, a.k.a. 62, is most of the time a good quality paved road. It firstly leads via hillside land towards the beach Barðastrandarsandur. Then it continues along the coast, making it a nice coastal drive in case of good weather. As far as I remember there are also some semi-paved passages but the road was generally OK and one of the better ones.

Hellulaug hot spring

16:30-17:15

Distance from car park: 2-3 minutes 
Time spent at: 15-45 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

How to get to Hellulaug and what to expect

Hellulaug is easily accessible by car from the main road 60. Just be sure to finally turn on Hellulaugavegur and end up here, because there’s one other (wrong) spot on Google maps. You will leave your car at a small, gravel parking lot. From there you have to descent about 1 minute to reach the pool itself.

Hellulaug is situated right in the heart of the fjord and it’s a man-made hotpot (water is being brought there by a pump). There’s no changing room, nor any shelter, but the hot spring is free of charge.

Hellulaug bathing experience

At the time of our visit, it had already started to rain. We changed our clothes inside our car and virtually ran in the rain towards the pool. There were two local girls (this time without cocaine) already bathing there (didn’t seem to leave any time soon). Well, if it rains, since there’s no shelter, some of your things will probably get wet, unless you cover them with something. We didn’t mind, though, because this was probably the last stop of our trip.

hellulaug hot spring

Hellulaug hot spring

The entire bathing experience was very nice. The water was pleasantly hot, but not too hot (some 34-36°C). It felt really comfortable to soak in the pool, while the rain poured down. Additionally, view from the hot spring is very nice, because of its location in the fjord. So you’re basically sitting in the hot spring looking at the fjord.

Two local girls left a pool after a while and a married local couple arrived to replace them. They taught us how to pronounce some Icelandic words and pointed out that we’ve seen probably much more of Iceland in 12 days than they’ve seen in their entire life.

Road 60 – south – Vestfjarðarvegur towards Kinnarstaðir

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

This part of Vestfjardarvegur is very versatile. Some parts are very well paved, some parts are semi-paved, some of them lead zig-zag through a mountainous area and some of them are a beautiful coastal drive. It rained persistently, while we drove on road 60, so we didn’t make any stops, nor photos. Nevertheless, we enjoyed (or at least I enjoyed :)) the drive anyway.

It should be doable also by 2wd car in the summer, just for some rougher parts (or in case of rougher weather) it’s an advantage to have a 4wd.

SjávarSmiðan

19:15

The closest campsites in the southeast part of Westfjords were two camping spots in Reykhólar. One of them had really bad reviews on Google maps so we opted for the second one called Sjavarsmidan. This campsite was supposed to be nice and have seaweed hot springs included in the entrance.

We arrived there after 7 pm and were the only guests of the campsite. There was literally no one, not even a camp manager. Seaweed baths were closed. There was a phone number on a door sticker. I called and the manager of the campsite replied that the campsite is opened, and if we want to camp we can and he would come to collect an entrance fee.

Well, it seemed a bit strange to be alone in the entire campsite. Moreover, the rain kept pouring and there was no kitchen area, so we didn’t have a place to prepare our dinner. Because of the above-mentioned reasons, we decided to continue to the next campsite with some good reviews in the direction of Reykjavik.

Búðardalur camping Dalakot

20:30-

We arrived at the campsite Budardalur at half-past 8 and the campsite was already almost full. The weather forecast for the night looked ugly with some heavy rain and strong wind. Hence, we didn’t want to park our car at the open camping space and found a spot in the leeward. That meant, that we were surrounded by a kitchen area, trees and another campervan. With the experience of already getting our tent wet once, we were much more careful this time.

Day 13

We slept hard during our last night and luckily the wind and rain were bearable. What followed was the most unpleasant part of our journey. We had to pack everything up, drive 3 hours towards Keflavik, return the car and flight back in the Covid times being very unpleasant ones for flying.

Nevertheless, the entire trip was more than just worth every while of planning and every euro spent.

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Day 11 – Best of North Westfjords in 1 day

Day 11 – Best of North Westfjords in 1 day


Exactly according to the forecast, we woke up to nicer weather this time. It changed a bit later on during the day, but the morning seemed to be really nice.

As compensation for not bathing in Drangsnes pools, I decided to go for Krossneslaug hot spring. It was supposed to be a long detour, but I liked the idea of a remote coastal road leading to the pool at the end of the world (or at least the end of Iceland). I calculated that we should have enough time to make it, so we headed out!

643 – Strandavegur – towards Krossneslaug

8:00-10:00

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, hopefully
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

road 643 near Arneshreppur

Overview of Strandavegur, a.k.a. road 643

Road 643 heading towards Krossneslaug could easily be classified as an Icelandic F-road. It doesn’t contain any river crossings but it contains almost everything else an F-road may contain. Potholes, gravel, narrow passages, steep parts, driving on the edge of the cliffs, … When I had googled about the road, one review stated that it’s the most dangerous road the guy had ever driven. Well, I don’t agree with that, it’s not necessarily dangerous, but it may be a bit scary at some parts.

road 643 Strandavegur

Landscapes along Strandavegur (643)

Road 643 is definitely doable by any SUV and definitely was by our Dacia Duster. Officially you’re allowed to drive the road even with a normal 2wd car. However, Strandavegur is the only “normal” road in Iceland, where I don’t recommend using a 2wd car. There are just too many potholes for it. Yes, you can do it also with 2wd, but take a lot of additional time. We’ve done it in about 2 hours (one way) and I would say with 2wd it’s additional 1-2 hours.

iceland 643 Strandavegur

Beautiful views along Strandavegur, road 643

643, on the other hand, belongs to one of the most breath-taking coastal roads I’ve ever driven. So, it’s definitely worth taking. There are numerous spots where you just have an urge to stop, soak up the atmosphere and take photos to remember it. It’s also almost deserted, we met a single-digit number of cars during our drive.

iceland 643 Arneshreppur

Road 643 a.k.a. Strandavegur near Árneshreppur

One of the highlights of the road was a moment when my girlfriend spotted a seal sunbathing on the rock in the sea. We stopped the soonest we could, got out of the car and observed a seal family enjoying their day under sunbeams. It was a once in a lifetime experience to spot wild seals out of the blue.

seals on 643

Surprise! Our first seals spotted on 643

Krossneslaug

10:00-11:00

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 30-60 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

krossneslaug

Krossneslaug

Krossneslaug is the hot spring at the end of the world. Or at least at the end of Icelandic roads.

How to get to Krossneslaug and what to expect

Google Maps mark Krossneslaug quite precisely. They just don’t show that the “car park” (or better said the place next to the road where you may leave your car) is tens of meters above the pool. That means, you have to leave your car up, next to the road and you have to walk down the path to Krossneslaug itself. Only the owner of the pool has an access to reach the pool by car.

krossneslaug entrance

You can descent to Krossneslaug via this road or via stairs on the other side. Leave your car at the top

Krossneslaug is a paid (6-7Eur/person), man-made, hot water pool, utilising nearby hot spring water. It has a long history (1954) and 2 pools available for bathing. The bigger, rectangular pool with a water temperature of around 34°C and a smaller, more modern hot tub with a temperature of around 38°C. It is well maintained by the owner of the place, who also resides there usually from June until August each year. The entrance fee includes a changing room, toilets and showers, of course.

Krossneslaug bathing experience

Bathing in Krossneslaug is again a once in a lifetime experience. It definitely belongs to Top 3 of our Icelandic hot springs. When we arrived, there was no one else in the pool, only the owner performing maintenance of the place.

krossneslaug hot spring

Views from Krossneslaug

Once in the pool, you will again feel like being in some kind of fairy tale. Just you, hot pool and view of the endless sea. The smaller, hotter bathtub even has a windshield (I guess for cases of severe weather?).

Before our departure, I asked the owner whether it does make economical sense to maintain such a pool at the end of the world. He just smiled and replied that from June till 1st half of August usually hundreds of people come per day. Even during Covid times, just their structure changed to more locals. OK, that surprised me, I guess it makes sense then.

Djupavik

12:00

Distance from car park: 2-3 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-30 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 3 – nice (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

djupavik westfjords

Djupavik

We made a short stop in Djupavik on our way back. It’s a little, once used to be thriving, village. There’s an old can factory (they even hold guided tours in there, we didn’t go, though) and there’s a boat wreck nearby. We walked for a while around the area, ate something from our food stock and continued in the direction of Drangsnes.

djupavik shipwreck

Boat wreck in Djupavik

The long road from Djupavik towards Gjörvidalslaug

12:30-14:45

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Interesting index: 3 – nice (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Our next target was a long drive towards Isafjordur, where we wanted to have dinner, and then camp at Thingeyri campsite, i.e. on a halfway towards the southeast end of Westfjords.

road 643 westfjords

Semi-paved road 643 with many potholes

Thus, we had to go back via road 643, making a few additional stops, like the one for seeing a shipwreck. Next, the road 61 follows, which firstly crosses the inland and then starts copying a fjord. This is where the road begins to be interesting.

Gjörvidalslaug (really hidden?) hot spring

14:45

We wanted to make our first stop at another hot spring. This time it was supposed to be Gjorvidalslaug “hidden hot spring”. Nevertheless, even after 15 minutes of driving and walking around the spot marked by Google Maps, we were not able to find any hot spring.

Well, at least the hot spring remained true to its name “hidden”. Never mind, we’ve already been to a few amazing ones.

Hörgshliðarlaug

15:30-16:00

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-30 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Horgshlidarlaug hot spring

Hörgshliðarlaug hot spring in the heart of fjord

How to get to Horgshlidarlaug and what to expect

Not only tough to pronounce, but also tough to find, that’s Horgshlidarlaug. At the time of our visit, the road 633 was closed, so we had to use northern part of the road 61 and make a detour south (left) right before crossing the Mjóifjörður fjord.

Once we arrived at the point indicated on Google Maps, there were just a few rural settlements with old houses next to them and we didn’t see any hot pot. At one of the settlements, we spotted an old bath-tub, with the big sign “PRIVATE PROPERTY”. Hmm, maybe this is Hörgshliðarlaug? I stepped out of the car and headed towards the bath-tub. On a halfway there a local guy stopped me with a huge smile on his face. I asked whether this is Horgshlidarlaug and he just casually replied that this is his house and the hot spring is another 2 kilometres down the road. I guess we were not the first, nor the last tourists sneaking around his courtyard.

horghslidarlaug map

The actual hot spring Hörgshliðarlaug is 2 kilometres south from the spot indicated by Google Maps

Nevertheless, the guy was right (of course). So, in case it will not be corrected yet on Google Maps (and you couldn’t see any hot spring), just continue 2 kilometres south down the road. You will definitely see it on your right (when coming from the north) or on the left (when coming from the south). There’s no real car park, you have to stop next to the road (but there’s a wider part of the road near hot spring).

Hörgshliðarlaug bathing experience

Horgshlidarlaug is a dirty, old, full of seaweed hot spring with some Icelandic atmosphere. It lies right in the heart of the fjord, so you will be able to watch the fjord while soaking in the hot pot. If you are lucky enough, there may even be seals around (we haven’t seen any though).

Horgshlidarlaug westfjords

Horgshlidarlaug hotpot and a changing room

There’s an old shelter next to the hot spring, which serves as a changing room. If you are into “sauna style” bathing, you may even alternate between bathing in the hot spring and bathing in the ice-cold sea. Water in the hot spring is very pleasant though, having some 36°C (according to my professional, read as „guessed“, assessment).

At the time of our visit, there were 2 groups of tourists already bathing in the hot spring. Hence, we waited 10 minutes, and afterwards, the hot spring became empty. Hörgshliðarlaug is definitely an original and picturesque place, nevertheless, we liked Hrunalaug, Krossneslaug or Gudrunarlaug more.

Road 61 – Djúpvegur – towards Ísafjörður

16:20-17:00

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Djúpvegur is a well-paved road. The entire drive is coastal and copies the shape of fjords several times. It’s definitely safe to drive in summer and you’ll get some very nice views as a bonus. We drove it in rain without any problems. A nice road for a beautiful road trip. As far as I remember no gravel (or only short) or any mountainous passages.

Seal lookout

17:00-17:30

Distance from car park: 10-15 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-15 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced 
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

seal lookout westfjords

Seal lookout next to the road 61

About 1 hour of driving away from Hörgshliðarlaug towards Ísafjörður via Djúpvegur we noticed an unusually large number of cars (read: more than 2) parking at one place next to the road. I slowed down and my girlfriend spotted a sign reading “seal viewpoint”. Well, how can they be so sure there will be seals? Oh yes, they know why they are sure. Because seals are here probably the majority of the time 🙂

Once we got out of the car and examined the place, we saw several people walking towards the bulk of huge stones located right next to the sea. Thus, we followed their steps, jumped across the safety fence and walked towards stones in the sea. Soon we realized, gazing in the distance, there’s actually a horde of seals chilling on the stones. We wanted to come closer to take a look at them (but not too close to scary them).

seal lookout at road 61

If you want to approach the seals, you have to jump through these very slippery blocks

Here came the difficult part. The only way to reach the seals was to get across the chain of slippery boulders covered with seaweed. That didn’t discourage us of course. Hence, for the next 10 minutes, we were jumping from boulder to boulder each one more and more slippery than the previous one, almost falling every other jump. Definitely do take care at the seal lookout – you can easily break any part of your body by slipping on the slimy boulders.

When we reached roughly a 15-20-meter distance from the seals we stopped to not bother them. Next, we just quietly enjoyed watching the group of wild seals in their natural habitat. Very cute experience. Please, just don’t get too close and don’t disturb the seals.

Ísafjörður, Tjöruhúsið

18:30-19:30

We finally reached Isafjordur at half-past 6. I planned to feast on the most delicious dinner of our trip here. In a restaurant with probably best reviews out of all Icelandic ones. Its name is Tjöruhúsið and it’s famous thanks to its fresh fish buffet.

Although I had read that it’s better to do a reservation beforehand, I didn’t do so. I thought that it can’t be full during Covid-19 times, right? Hell, I was wrong. It was full. So we had to turn back and “feasted” on the fast-food again. So, yes, if you want to go there definitely make a reservation. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to even try.

Bolafjall

20:00

As the last stop for the day I had planned to drive to the viewpoint on top of the Bolafjall mountain. Bolafjall should have been the northernmost point of our Icelandic journey. It was also supposed to have magnificent views over the nearby fjords and gigantic cliffs at its sides.

Weather was rainy and foggy at the time we were leaving Isafjordur. There’s, however, a big tunnel in between Isafjordur and Bolungarvik (the village closest to Bolafjall), so I hoped for a weather change after crossing the tunnel. Well, we crossed the tunnel and weather remained to be the same shitty, foggy one. Maybe on the mountain itself, it will be better? I still hoped.

This is how Bolafjall approximately looked like at the time of our visit in August.

Well, no. We drove to the summit of Bolafjall, but the mountain was entirely covered with fog and we couldn’t see a thing. Not to mention, the final road towards the top of the Bolafjall was really steep and full of sharp twists. My girlfriend was scared to death because of the combination of mist, steepness and turns, so I drove really slowly. Useless 50 minutes detour. Well, not everything has to go smoothly right?

Þingeyri camping

21:10-

Road 60 towards Thingeyri leads across the mountainous area, but is well paved and should be accessible most of the time. We reached the Þingeyri campsite quite late, after 9 pm. The campground lies right next to the picturesque fjord (and the local swimming pool from the other side). Reception is to be found at the swimming pool entrance.

thingeyri sunset

Picturesque sunset at Thingeyri campsite

Þingeyri had one of the most beautiful campsites we’ve been to. Especially the dining area was really modern and nice, although a bit small. Thanks to arriving late, we were lucky enough to spot the sunset. And not just an ordinary one. Sunset at Þingeyri campsite was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. Look at it yourself – the picture was taken with a cell phone without any filters. Truly breath-taking, fairy-tale-like place.

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Posted by epiciceland in Our Journey, 3 comments
Day 10 – South Snaefellsnes to Westfjords

Day 10 – South Snaefellsnes to Westfjords


On day 10 of our journey, we had planned to make a few stops around Snaefellsness peninsula and then head towards Westfjords from the northern part, starting in Drangsnes.

utnesvegur in snaefellsnes

The westermost road on Snaefellsnes peninsula – Útnesvegur in Snæfellsjökull national park

We adjusted our plans according to the weather. The next day was supposed to be without rain in the northern part of Westfjords and the day after that was again supposed to be clear in the southern part of Westfjords.

Saxhóll crater

8:30-8:50

Distance from car park: 0 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 3 – nice (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

saxholl crater

Saxhóll crater in the distance

Our first stop was Saxhóll crater, mostly because we had it right on our way towards the south part of Snæfellsnes. It’s a nice little crater, which you may ascent to the top thanks to the artificially built staircase. Compared to other sites in Iceland it’s not that interesting, but it’s still a nice and easy place to see.

saxholl crater staircase

Saxhóll crater – staircase

Londrangar cliffs

9:10-9:30

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 5-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

londrangar cliffs

This is how Londrangar cliffs are supposed to look like on a beautiful day. Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/EarthPorn/comments/afac1w/londrangar_sn%C3%A6fellsnes_peninsula_iceland/

At one of the southernmost points of Snafellsness lie Londrangar cliffs. There’s a car park pretty near the actual viewpoint for the cliffs. So, it’s a quick stop which you should take when driving around the area.

Weather on day 10 of our journey was very unstable, with some parts of Snæfellsnes being cloudy, some clear and some really foggy. Londrangar cliffs belonged to the last category, that’s why we even didn’t take any pictures. We were able to observe only their silhouette, but I admit, they seemed to be really picturesque when the weather is nice.

Stóri Kambur horse riding

10:00-11:00

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 1 to 1,5 hour 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: little to medium 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Icelandic horses – what is this all about?

Icelandic horses are smaller compared to “regular horses”, so it’s a bit easier to ride them. Icelandic horses, or in other words, Icelandic ponies are quite different from all other horse species around the world. More specifically, it is a unique breed of horse, exclusive solely to Iceland.

icelandic ponies landmannalaugar

Icelandic ponies in Landmannalaugar

There’s even a law which states that it’s not allowed to breed any other type of horses in here. And once the Icelandic horse leaves the island, he’s even not allowed to come back. So – it’s some kind of a secluded, exclusive VIP horse club, here in Iceland.

What horse-riding tour we chose and why?

The only “paid tour” we opted for in Iceland was a horse-riding tour. Why? Well, my girlfriend is really into horse-riding and she longed for trying it also here in Iceland.

I tried to combine our horse-riding tour with seeing some nice landscapes as well. That’s why I chose the Stóri Kambur horse-riding tour. They offered a tour which leads along the Snæfellsnes beach, which sounded really nice. And, for a reasonable price of 50eur/person for the 1-hour lasting tour.

stori kambur horse riding

Stóri Kambur horse riding on the Snaefellsnes beach

I booked the tour just the day before, in the afternoon, by phone, found on their website. However, that was during Covid-19 times. Maybe during normal times, you would need to book more in advance.

Our horse-riding experience

We can now assess our horse-riding experience from the point of view of a non-rider (me) and a slightly experienced rider (my girlfriend). The entire tour was really chill, and the better-suited name for it would be “horse-walking”. There were just 2 of us (me and my girlfriend) and two German students rode with us as guides employed by Stóri Kambur.

For me as a non-rider, this walking pace was just right, I definitely didn’t feel like going faster. For my girlfriend, it was probably too slow, but she was fine with that. Bear in mind, that if you go as one group, you can’t go at a different pace, otherwise, the horses could get confused. So then, it’s better to go either in separated groups (if you want to go at a different pace) or get used to the same pace for the entire group.

horse riding snaefellsnes beach

Horse riding on a Snaefellsnes beach

The scenery around and the atmosphere was stunning, however. The guides rode our horses via lake (yes, the horses were walking through lake) and finally we reached the beach right next to the sea waves. We rode on the beach for a while, made some pictures and then turned back. We were the only living creatures in that area. Very nice experience. Although we got wet (from the lake), cold (from the wind), dirty (from the mud) and stinky (from the horses), it was definitely worth it.

Lýsuhólslaug hot spring

12:00-13:15

Distance from car park: 0 minutes 
Time spent at: 0,5 to 2 hours 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

lysuholslaug hot spring

Lýsuhólslaug hot spring

After finishing our horse-riding tour, we felt really cold. If only there was some hot spring nearby. Oh wait, you are in Iceland, let’s Google the nearest hot spring! And yes, luckily, the nearest hot spring was supposed to be a 15-minute drive by car away.

How to get to Lysuholslaug and what to expect

Don’t get fooled by Google that you have to walk to this hot spring. You don’t have to. There’s a road leading right next to the hot spring area. It’s just not marked on the Google Maps (see below).

Lysuholslaug hot spring map

Lýsuhólslaug hot spring as indicated on Google Maps. The road to it does exist, though.

This hot spring is the man-made one, man-maintained and paid (6-7Eur/person). This time we didn’t mind paying a few Euros for it and even sharing it with other visitors, because we really felt like going for the hot spring. It goes without saying that you may use entire infrastructure around, i.e. changing rooms, toilets and showers.

Lýsuhólslaug bathing experience

There are 2 small hot tubes and 1 bigger pool. All of them are the so-called “sea-weed baths”. That means, they look to be dirty, because of the sea-weeds everywhere. The ground and walls of the pool are also slippery, because of sea-weeds.

The big pool has the water of temperature around 32°C (according to my professional assessment, i.e. read “just guessing”). Water in the small hot tubes is much hotter, around 36-38°C in the first of them and around 39-41°C in the hottest one. It’s definitely not recommended to stay in the hottest one for too long.

road 55 heydalsvegur

Road 55 – Heydalsvegur

Bathing in Lysuholslaug is definitely a very pleasant activity when the weather sucks. We really enjoyed it, despite the place not being anywhere near as picturesque as Hrunalaug or some other “wilder” hot springs. So, it depends on your preference, weather (and who knows what else), whether it’s worth making a detour for you. For us it definitely was.

Other than us, there was just one other couple using the pools at the time of our visit. We guess the main reason was, once again, Covid pandemic, rather than the place being unpopular.

Guðrúnarlaug hot spring

16:00-16:40

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 30-60 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

gudrunarlaug hotpot neighborhood

The neighbourhood of the Guðrúnarlaug hot spring

As we had planned, next we headed towards Westfjords. On a halfway there, we made a detour to another cool hot spring – Gudrunarlaug.

How to get to Gudrunarlaug and what to expect

Guðrúnarlaug is definitely a bit more touristy compared to, for example, Lýsuhólslaug. The reason for that is its proximity to ring road and to Westfjords, i.e., it’s quite easily accessible. The same is true when it comes to access to the actual hot tube – it’s a 2-minute walk from the car park, which sits right next to it. Google Maps are also quite precise about the location of Gudrunarlaug, so feel free to orientate according to them.

Guðrúnarlaug is located next to the small rural campsite (we didn’t see anyone camping at the time of our visit, during Covid-19 times) and something which looked like a school. There’s an authentic wooden shelter (similar to the one next to Hrunalaug) serving as a changing room, right next to the pool. Hot spring is free to use, I don’t remember a donation box next to it, but there may have been one.

Guðrúnarlaug bathing experience

When we arrived at the parking lot, we saw just one couple bathing in the hot spring. We were already spoiled by travelling during Covid pandemic, in the sense that we had been alone at every other place we had visited. So, we decided to wait a bit once the couple finishes its bathing, which took about 5 minutes.

gudrunarlaug hot spring shelter

Shelter for changing clothes and Gudrunarlaug hot spring

Yep, once again, we were alone in Icelandic hot spring, in August at 4 pm. The rain had already been pouring when we got out of our car. We really enjoyed Gudrunarlaug bathing, even despite (or thanks to?) rain getting heavier. The place with its surroundings is pretty cool and the water is pleasantly hot (some 36-38°C). Definitely worth visiting. It was one of the best hot springs we’ve bathed in.

Drangsnes (closed) hot springs

18:15

Next, we aimed for Drangsnes. I had already realized a few days ago, thanks to a comment on Google maps, that they had closed Drangsnes hot tubes starting 1st of August. I.e. 10 days before our planned visit. Due to Covid. That was a pity because we were looking forward to trying them. Nevertheless, we already had 2 hot spring stops on that day, so we didn’t regret much not having the third one.

We made a short stop in front of the pools, just to confirm that they are closed. Next, we headed towards Drangsnes campsite, because I had planned a road trip to Krossneslaug for the following day.

Drangsnes camping

18:30-

Drangsnes campsite was the closest camping to Krossneslaug hot spring pool. It sits virtually on the edge of the fjord. Everything around is really picturesque. It takes a 3-minute walk from the campsite to reach the actual fjord and you have a view over fjord directly from the camping area. This was one of the most beautiful campsites we’ve camped in during our journey. Mostly, due to its short distance to the fjord.

drangsnes campsite

Drangsnes campsite next to the beautiful fjord

The camping facilities were OK as well, with 2 kitchen areas and showers. Weather in here seemed to be milder than anywhere else because the fjord seemed to soften the wind and rain.

Skipped places

  • Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge

We decided to skip Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge in Snaefellsness, although we had it on our list of places to see. Weather was very foggy and unstable at the time of us going nearby and we didn’t find the place so attractive to devote it a longer time slot (which it required because it’s a longer hike). On top of that, in our home country, we’ve already explored many gorges, so we don’t get so excited about them unless they are special somehow.

Posted by epiciceland in Our Journey, 0 comments
Day 9 – towards Snaefellsnes and hot springs

Day 9 – towards Snaefellsnes and hot springs

We decided to finally get some longer sleep after 8 intense days in Iceland, so we woke up a bit late on day number 9. We’d also seen the weather forecast for the day beforehand and it was not very favourable. The rain was supposed to be our company in all of its forms throughout the day – light, normal and heavy. And the weather forecast was right. Weather-wise, this was the worst day of our trip.

We’ve still managed to see some cool places though. You may visit many nice places, even if it rains (check our “weather index”!), and yes, even outside, i.e. not only museums.

Hrunalaug hot spring

9:15-10:15

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 20-60 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, definitely
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
hrunalaug hot spring

Amazing scenery around Hrunalaug hot spring

Without any overwhelming expectations, we headed out for our first stop for the day – “Hruni” or Hrunalaug hot spring. Weather was rainy as promised by forecast, which is an ideal time to soak up in a hot pot, right? This even lowered our expectations about the place, because we had thought that probably more people think like us and the little pool may get crowded. Usually, that’s right, but not during Covid times, we realized.

I could confidently nominate Hruni hot spring for winning the award of most authentic Icelandic hot spring. It is, without doubt, the best hot spring we’ve ever been to. Thanks to many aspects. Firstly, it’s a place secluded from anything else with no buildings or roads around it. Secondly, the landscape surrounding it is truly peaceful and picturesque. Thirdly, the hot pot itself looks like to be from some kind of fairy-tale. And, importantly, the water (in the main one) is pleasantly hot with some 38°C according to my professional (read amateur) assessment.

How to get to Hrunalaug and how it works

Well, use Google maps. They were quite precise about the location. There’s actually a car park (see attached picture) near the hot spring. From the “car park”, it’s about 3 minutes of walk. You shouldn’t get lost, as far as I can remember there’s even a sign pointing towards hot spring. Once you arrive at the hot pot itself, you will realize there’s also a covered shelter for changing clothes! A very authentic one 🙂 The entire place is maintained by locals and works on a basis of free donation. There’s a donation box next to the hot spring.

hrunalaug car park

Hrunalaug “car park”

There are actually several pools, some of them smaller, some of them bigger. All pools do contain heated water, but each one has a different temperature. The hottest one is also the smallest and is the one right next to the shelter. It’s ideal for 2 people, and if you are OK with some squeezing even for 4.

Once we got in, we really got carried away by the surrounding atmosphere. Just a slowly pouring rain, few sheep, endless grass and besides that just silence. Everything was tranquil, only until the new guest arrived at the hot spring.

Meeting a naked Icelandic teenager possibly under drugs

If you are not into stories, skip this paragraph. For us, it’s the one definitely worth sharing. We were bathing alone in the small hot spring when we saw somebody coming. Another visitor, nothing special right? The guy whose age was quite hard to guess entered a shelter for changing clothes. T-shirt with a big skull and some chains around his waist, not looking very friendly at the first glance. He immediately approached us and asked: “do you have cocaine?”. Well, this question didn’t help us much to cope with the image of the guy. “No”, I naturally replied. Another question followed: “do you want cocaine?”. Same reply from my side.

At that moment, I started to be really careful about our clothes in the shelter and the guy’s movements. “Do you mind if I bath with you naked?” Even by asking this question, he didn’t make us very comfortable. “I mean with my penis out, is that OK for you?”, he added. Not any better. After quickly considering any risks associated with my negative answer I replied: “we prefer not, we can go away if you want to bath here naked”. Now I was curious about his reaction. “And if I bath naked in the hot spring next to you?” That seemed reasonable, why not. “Yes, you can bath anywhere else” I replied. And, so he did – got naked and jumped to the hot spring next to us.

I started to think, that maybe it would be a good idea to use a golden rule, which works anywhere around the world with anyone, – no matter what do you think about the person, try to be a friend with him. So, while (let’s call him HR) HR had been undressing, we exchanged a few basic questions about our names, where are we from and our age. We realized he was actually only 17 (looked much older) and he was a local. Once we told him we are 30, he followed by “oh I just fucked a 30 years old woman a few hours ago”. HR definitely had his unique style of getting people around him uncomfortable and he seemed to enjoy it.

hrunalaug bathing

The main and the hottest hot spring in Hrunalaug

Then he started talking about how he hates Iceland because of huge taxes and the country being totally boring. So, to be on the same level as him we complained about our country being boring too, that’s why we decided to travel. He continued by telling us that the only thing you can do in Iceland is taking cocaine and that he had a lot of cocaine a few hours ago and again asked whether we are sure we don’t want any. We assured him again with the negative answer. The golden rule seemed to pay off because he soon called us “very nice people”. Then he told us that Icelanders love to drive completely drunk or under drugs and that he drove here under drugs too. I don’t know whether this is only slightly true or not, but since that moment I definitely started to be more careful while driving.

What do you do for a living?”, he asked as next. My girlfriend replied she’s a lawyer – “oh I need a lawyer! I have like 13 cases going against me”. Oh really? We wouldn’t tell, we thought for ourselves. “Did you know that it’s illegal in Iceland to beat a police officer? Complete non-sense!”. We gave him a strange look at this one. “No, I’m kidding, I know I shouldn’t do it. But still, it sucks”. Then he actually gave us some recommendations about the nice places to see, mostly in Westfjords, which seemed to be his favourite part of Iceland. “There’s this beautiful house in Selárdalur” he told us. “It’s usually locked, but if you have a screwdriver you can get in. Just go inside, take a look and don’t steal anything. It’s OK.

After a while, a woman with a child approached the hot spring, so we said hello to them. They entered a shelter and started to change their clothes. We decided to leave at that moment. We’d already been there for almost an hour. We told HR about our departure, “wait, before you go, what about having a threesome?” We gave him a strange look again, “no, I was just kidding. But anyway, if you would like to, tell me.” We thanked him for his proposal and left the hot spring.

The woman with the child, apparently already having heard part of our conversation, better opted for a hot spring located few metres away. They seemed to be quite scared of HR. Just before we left, HR asked us “do you think they are afraid of me?”, we smiled and replied: “yes I think they are afraid”. “Oh great!”, he replied and jumped to their hot spring immediately (naked of course).

We don’t have any idea what followed, because we left the place, but HR didn’t seem to be dangerous, so we felt fine about leaving. He just definitely had some dry sense of humour. And the entire experience was, without doubt, the most memorable experience we’ve ever had with an Icelander.

Long drive towards Snaefellsness peninsula

10:15-14:45

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, totally safe
Interesting index: 3 – nice (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Meanwhile, the rain got stronger. One of the best ways to spend your Icelandic time when it rains heavily is transfers. You may still drive, even when the weather sucks and by doing that you may save time for seeing other distant places during better weather. I had already planned to make a 1-day trip around Snæfellsnes, so we headed that way. And it was a long drive, especially in the rain.

We took a southern route via roads 30, ring road 1 and road 54. Length and duration of this southern route should be about the same as the northern route of roads 359, 35, 37, 365 and 36. We chose the southern one, because of the better infrastructure (we wanted to have a hot lunch and do some shopping along the way). All of the roads we drove on were high-quality paved roads, so nothing to point out about them.

Landbrotalaug hot springs

14:45-15:10

Distance from car park: 5-10 minutes 
Time spent at: 5 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, definitely
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
landbrotalaug hot spring

Closed Landbrotalaug hot spring, resembling a mud hole

The rain was not getting any better, so we decided to make our first non-shopping and non-eating stop as far as at the border of Snaefellsnes peninsula. When it rains, it’s very enjoyable to jump into hot spring, so why not go for another one? The closest (and accessible by car) one on our list of the coolest hot pots was Landbrotalaug hot spring. We arrived at the place marked on Google maps only to realize that the hot spring is closed (now Google correctly marks it as closed).

I later read that they closed it because of over-tourism and gradual devastation of the place. At the time of our visit, we didn’t know why it was closed though. Because of closure, we just examined the place and took some pictures. Well, the place looks a bit like a mud hole, so definitely not such beautiful scenery as with hot springs in Landmannalaugar or Hrunalaug.

Nevertheless, if it wasn’t forbidden I would take a bath anyway. On top of that, there was no place to leave your clothes and it rained quite heavily. I didn’t want to have everything wet while being at the hot spring, so I decided to turn back, get into the car and leave. Never mind, maybe next time. Some other tourists coming after us didn’t seem to care much about the “it’s forbidden to enter” sign and they took a bath anyway. I don’t regret not taking it though.

Road 54 – north or south?

15:15-18:00

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, safe
Interesting index: 3 – nice (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

For our next stop, we were planning to see Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss. As I already mentioned, this was our worst day of the trip when it came to weather. The rain was still intense, even in the afternoon, around entire Snaefellsnes and the forecast for later hours looked pretty much the same. We also knew we needed at least 2 entire days for our planned Westfjords trip. Thus, we decided to do at least a road trip around Snaefellsnes and see it mostly from inside our car.

Google Maps advised that the quickest way from Landbrotalaug to Kirkjufell is road 54 in the south. We, however, decided to take road 54 in the north. The reason was, that we had enough time and the road seemed to be more interesting in terms of surrounding landscapes. Well, we didn’t see much of it, because of the cloudy and foggy weather. The little pieces we saw, however, seemed to be really picturesque, so we are planning to come back one day during better weather.

Kirkjufellsfoss, Kirkjufell

18:00-18:10

Distance from car park: 10/0 minutes
Time spent at: 10-20 minutes each
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
kirkjufell in rain

Kirkjufell on a rainy, foggy summer day

Legendary Kirkjufell is a really picturesque mountain. We saw only its silhouette, though, thanks to rain and fog. Kirkjufellsfoss is situated a few minutes of walking from Kirkjufell. We decided to skip seeing it, because of already having seen many beautiful waterfalls and because of unpleasant weather.

Hellissandur camping

19:45-

For the next day, we were planning horse riding on the beach and a long drive towards Drangsnes in Westfjords. On the other hand, we haven’t seen much of the Snaefellsness yet, because of the rain and fog. Hence, I decided to adjust our plans, so that we can see at least some of the Snaefellsness peninsula the next day in better weather. That’s why we decided to camp in Hellissandur.

hellissandur campsite

Hellissandur campsite on a foggy, rainy evening

Hellissandur camping is the westernmost campsite in Snaefellsness peninsula, slightly more to the north. That means we were still able to drive a big part of Snaefellssness the next day, via Útnesvegur in Snæfellsjökull National Park and southern part of the road 54.

hellissandur road Útnesvegur

Útnesvegur road near Hellissandur

Apart from having a convenient location, Hellissandur campsite is a nice little campsite located literally in the middle of the lava field. So, it’s a pretty cool place to stay at. Facilities in the camping are simple with a small kitchen and, luckily, also showers. Nevertheless, during Covid-19 times this was just enough for us. Its proximity to the sea is a nice bonus as well.

Skipped places

  • Grundarfoss

We decided to skip Grundarfoss for the same reason as Kirkjufellsfoss – the bad weather and already having seen several magnificent waterfalls.

There are also some beautiful Virtual Reality tours of Snaefellsnes to help you find more beautiful places and to have an idea of how Snaefellsnes looks like from a bird’s eye view!

Posted by epiciceland in Our Journey, 0 comments
Guide to Kerlingarfjöll and Hveravellir

Guide to Kerlingarfjöll and Hveravellir

Kerlingarfjoll – from the south or the north?

Well, it all depends on what your other plans are. Technically, from the south of F35, it’s a shorter route. But again, it doesn’t matter much which way you choose to start from – north or south. What matters more is, what you plan to do before and after your Kerlingarfjöll trip.

What we chose and why

For us, Kerlingarfjöll trip was day 8 of our Icelandic journey. We were doing the trip around entire Iceland with many detours. On day 7 we explored the area around Krafla and Hverir. That means, we already came from the north.

Our plan for the day was to drive the long F35 from north to south with several stops. The first highlight should have been Hveravellir hot spring area. The biggest highlight was, naturally, supposed to be Kerlingarfjöll. Finally, we wanted to finish our day on the south end of F35 in any campsite nearby. And if we had enough time, to see Gullfoss and Strokkur as well.

Just to add, the night before this trip we camped at Varmahlíð campsite. So, this was our starting point.

ring road varmahlid svinavatn

Ring road no. 1 between Varmahlíð and Svínavatn

F35 towards Hveravellir

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes (not pleasant but should be ok to drive)
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

f35 north end

North end of the F35 road, also called Kjalvegur

F35 is a long gravel road connecting north and south Iceland. Somewhere around the halfway through it lies the detour towards Hveravellir area and a bit further towards south lies a detour towards Kerlingarfjöll. There are better parts of F35 and there are worse parts of F35. Better parts mean you may drive quite fast (me around 100km/h). Worse parts mean a lot of potholes and turns, i.e. you have to drive slowly. Importantly, there are no river crossings on F35, only very small ponds doable even by 2wd car.

Having already seen roads like breath-taking F208 south of Landmannalaugar, out of this world F235 towards Langisjór or moon-like F905 and F910 near Askja, F35 was just an ordinary gravel road with nothing special to observe around. Bear in mind – it’s still Iceland folks – so surroundings will be nice anyway, just not that amazing compared to the best ones.

f35 kjalvegur

F35, aka Kjalvegur, near Hveravellir

We’ve also met probably the biggest number of cars on F35 (read as “tourists”). This may be a bit annoying because some of them are too slow, some of them are too fast and, you know, Icelandic F-roads are not ideal for overtaking cars.

Hveravellir

Distance from car park: 2 minutes (hot spring)
Time spent at: 1 hour 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

I guess my expectations for Hveravellir were too big. When planning our trip, I had read that there are “several hot springs in the Hveravellir area”. Moreover, seeing pictures like this had instantly made me a Hveravellir enthusiast. Well, the reality was a bit different.

hveravellir trail

Hveravellir hiking trail. Pretty dull landscapes compared to other ones in Iceland

Once you leave F35 towards Hveravellir, it’s just a short, easy drive and you will soon find a parking lot in front of a small restaurant. Almost next to the parking lot lies a nice, public, free hot spring.

Since it is so close to the car park, there’s a high chance someone will be inside most of the time. Nevertheless, the hot spring is big enough and water is pleasantly hot, with some 38°C (according to my professional assessment). On the other hand, air temperature felt really cold, something like 7-8°C even in the middle of august. So again – be prepared for that – you are in the middle of Iceland, in highlands.

Hveravellir hiking trails and hot springs

As there were already several people bathing in the hot spring even during Covid-19 times, we decided to be more adventurous. There were supposed to be “several hot springs” so let’s go find the other ones, we told ourselves. Hopefully with no people inside. We took one of the two hiking trails, which were fairly easy ones because they were just straight paths leading through grass fields. We were able to see quite far in the distance because there were no hills, but we were not able to observe any steam nor hot spring. Thus, we continued to walk for 5 minutes, for 10 minutes, for 20 minutes and… still nothing!

hveravellir trail sheep

Sheep around Hveravellir trail

We don’t have anything against walking, but the entire area was pretty uneventful, with nothing interesting to observe. We said hello to several sheep along the way, but even those didn’t know where the other hot springs were. Finally, we reached a small hill, where I was able to climb up and observe the surroundings. As far as my eye could see there was no hot spring.

So, we turned back and chose a slightly different way back on one of the crossroads along the trail. We arrived back via the 2nd hiking trail and still no hot spring anywhere. Well, the hot spring picture I had seen on the internet looked incredibly beautiful, so I still felt determined at least to find out where it is. Hence, I tried my last option – went into the restaurant and asked the personnel. The guy at the desk replied “You can bath only in this hot spring, next to the car park. There may be also some other hot springs further away, but you shouldn’t bath there.” Ok, my enthusiasm ended at this point and we bathed at least in this first and only one.

Again, don’t get me wrong, it’s Iceland, so everything is beautiful (Hveravellir as well). We just had different expectations and were not that impressed at the end of the day.

How to get to Kerlingarfjoll – F347

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes (not pleasant but should be ok to drive)
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

F347 between F35 and Kerlingarfjoll

The beginning of F347 between F35 and Kerlingarfjoll

Weather was so-so, cloudy with occasional little rain, and the visibility seemed to be so-so as well. We just hoped for good visibility in Kerlingarfjöll, please not like the one on Sveinstindur. F347 also doesn’t have any river crossings and is pretty similar to F35. The closer you approach Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort, the more the road starts getting more mountainous and more interesting.

Camping in Kerlingarfjoll

One little note. In the first version of our Icelandic itinerary, we had planned to camp here, in Kerlingarfjoll. You can definitely do that. Just bear in mind, that on the 8th August, 3 pm in the afternoon (i.e. probably one of the warmest times possible) the temperature climbed to tropical 5°C. And the strong wind didn’t help it at all, making everything feel even some 5°C colder. Now doing the math that nights are additional 5°C-7°C colder compared to daytime temperatures, you’re going to be freezing for sure.

f347 near kerlingarfjoll

F347 near Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort

Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort is one of the coldest places in Iceland available for camping, so be prepared for that mentally, physically and with all your equipment. Given that my girlfriend had already been freezing during the past (much warmer) nights I decided to change our plans and not to camp here (and I’m satisfied with this decision).

Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort

Once you reach the mountain resort, the entire scenery gets really picturesque. There’s a map of Kerlingarfjoll area next to the resort. Also, if you plan to sleep in one of the mountain huts or just in the only campsite in here, the mountain resort reception is the place to go and ask for details, like key codes of the huts.

kerlingarfjoll mountain resort

Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort campsite

Now coming back to the crux of the trip. As always, we wanted to see the best of Kerlingarfjöll and do it in a reasonable amount of time. I.e. we were not looking for a day-long hike, but rather for something like a few hours long trip. That’s why we decided to continue as close as possible to the epicentre of the area by car. That meant, to continue driving the steepest part of F347 to the end of the road, or, Hveradalir area.

F347 towards Kerlingarfjoll main area – Hveradalir

Worth visiting even with bad weather: no (the ascent may be really dangerous)
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

f347 near hveradalir

F347 road next to Hveradalir hot spring area in Kerlingarfjoll

This part of the road is the most challenging one and probably the steepest we drove on in Iceland. Again, there are no river crossings, just the road is really bumpy and towards the end quite steep. However, in good weather (read – no snow, no heavy rain) it’s definitely doable by any medium-sized SUV and better, like our Dacia Duster. If you feel unsafe, go slowly, turn 4×4 on or watch someone else go first in front of you.

Once you reach the end of the road, you will find yourself at the car park. This is the closest point to the central Hveradalir area reachable by car.

Kerlingarfjöll

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 1-3 hours (or more according to your hiking passion) 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir stairs

Clay staircase in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjöll

Kerlingarfjoll hiking options

Once in Kerlingarfjöll, you have numerous hiking options. You may for example hike the red loop trail (see the Kerlingarfjoll area map), getting to all of the biggest summits around the area, sleeping over at mountain huts. This is a very challenging hike, where you will be going to need very good gear (e.g. crampons) and be in a very good physical condition. And it will take you about 3 days. Nevertheless, the two most popular options to explore the area are the following.

The most popular hiking option

An option we chose – to arrive at Hveradalir geothermal area by car (steepest part of F347, past mountain resort) and to explore it from there. You may hike around the area as long as you want and as far as you want and turn back at any moment. I.e., you’re going to be returning the same way you came there. This is the most time-efficient option and allows you to see one of the most beautiful views of Kerlingarfjoll in quite a short amount of time.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir trail

One of the numerous trails in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjoll

Another popular option is to start at Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort and hike to Hveradalir yourself. It will take you around an hour to reach Hveradalir area and you may enjoy some additional nice views on top of that of Hveradalir. You have to come back the same way you arrived in here (unless you are doing a big 3-day loop with sleepovers). The big advantage of this trail is a hot spring somewhere around the first third of the trail, where you may bath. The disadvantage is the time aspect, as you will be spending additional 2 hours just getting to and from Hveradalir.

Hveradalir hike

Hveradalir area is one of the most beautiful and breath-taking places I’ve ever been to in my life – together with Askja, Landmannalaugar and the F-roads south of Landmannalaugar. You literally feel like you’re on a different planet. This time it’s not rainbow mountains, no black sand, no green moss. This time, it’s orange mountains mixed with wild sulphuric hot springs and snow. A lot of snow. And cold. And the wind. Welcome to Hveradalir.

The ground is covered with clay (or something like clay) and with every step of yours it sticks to your shoes like glue. That means either take some shoes you don’t like that much or be prepared for some thorough cleaning. Hikes in here are not dangerous. At least not under normal wind conditions. And if you don’t go as far as snow-covered trails are. Then, they may be dangerous.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir hike

One of the summits of the several smaller hills around the Hveradalir in Kerlingarfjöll

There are several smaller hills and there are also smaller wooden stairs-like steps almost on each of them to help you with the ascent. And I do understand why. If it weren’t for them, every 10th visitor would have slipped on the clay and injured or killed himself. The views and the atmosphere of the place is truly amazing. Hot springs with hot sulphuric steam are everywhere and they help create an occasional feeling of warmth. There are, however, no hot springs to bath in Hveradalir area. This is contrary to Google maps calling the location “hot springs” or “geothermal area”.

We hiked around the area for around 90 minutes and enjoyed every moment of it. Except for the cold windy weather. With regards to visibility, clouds of fog were being replaced by the somewhat clearer sky, and vice versa, every 5 minutes. So be patient, and you may get better scenery for pictures. Or be lucky and come when the weather is clear. We hiked about 4-5 smaller hills and turned back from each one either at the end of the trail or if the trail started to be covered by deep snow, or reached high enough to be completely covered by fog.

Hot springs

Well, if you put “Hveradalir” in the Google maps, the place with no road pops up, quite far from the car park. However, Hveradalir area starts right next to the parking lot so this data point is slightly mistaken. The second confusing thing is if you are looking for hot springs to bath in. You will not find them in Hveradalir. Although Google is saying Hveradalir is a hot spring area, yes, it is, but you can’t bath in any.

And it’s not easy to find where the hot spring available for bathing actually is. We’ve accomplished that by asking a receptionist at Kerlingarfjoll mountain resort. She told us that the only hot spring with the bathing option is roughly in the one-third of the trail from mountain resort towards Hveradalir. I.e. after some 20 minutes of walking. Well, we already had enough and the weather started to get foggy and rainy, so we decided to go on with our journey. But firstly, we had to clean our shoes for at least 15 minutes to get off the Kerlingarfjoll clay.

Where to head next?

During our journey, we still had some spare time on day 8 of our trip. Coming from the north and ending in the south, there a few logical options to opt for, once you leave F35. Of course, I mean famous and touristy waterfall Gullfoss and probably the most famous spot in entire Iceland – Strokkur geyser.

You may read about our visit to Gullfoss and Strokkur here.

Posted by epiciceland in Guide, 0 comments
Day 8 – Across central Highlands: Hveravellir and Kerlingarfjöll

Day 8 – Across central Highlands: Hveravellir and Kerlingarfjöll


Our plan for this day was to drive the long F35 from north to south with several stops. The first highlight should have been Hveravellir hot spring area – only our 2nd hot spring bathing in 7 days. The biggest one was, naturally, supposed to be Kerlingarfjöll. Finally, we wanted to finish our day on the south end of F35 in any campsite nearby. And if we had enough time, to see Gullfoss and Strokkur as well. Weather was cloudy, but it didn’t rain, so – good Icelandic weather, I suppose.

ring road varmahlid svinavatn

Ring road no. 1 between Varmahlíð and Svínavatn

F35 towards Hveravellir

9:00-11:00

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes (not pleasant but should be ok to drive)
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

f35 north end

North end of the F35 road, also called Kjalvegur

F35 is a long gravel road connecting north and south Iceland. Somewhere around the halfway through it lies the detour towards Hveravellir area and a bit further towards south lies a detour towards Kerlingarfjöll. There are better parts of F35 and there are worse parts of F35. Better parts mean you may drive quite fast (me around 100km/h). Worse parts mean a lot of potholes and turns, i.e. you have to drive slowly. Importantly, there are no river crossings on F35, only very small ponds doable even by 2wd car.

Having already seen roads like breath-taking F208 south of Landmannalaugar, out of this world F235 towards Langisjór or moon-like F905 and F910 near Askja, F35 was just an ordinary gravel road with nothing special to observe around. Bear in mind – it’s still Iceland folks – so surroundings will be nice anyway, just not that amazing compared to the best ones.

f35 kjalvegur

F35, aka Kjalvegur, near Hveravellir

We’ve also met probably the biggest number of cars on this F-road (read as “tourists”). This may be a bit annoying because some of them are too slow, some of them are too fast and, you know, Icelandic F-roads are not ideal for overtaking cars.

Hveravellir

11:00-12:30

Distance from car park: 2 minutes (hot spring)
Time spent at: 1 hour 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

I guess my expectations for Hveravellir were too big. When planning our trip, I had read that there are “several hot springs in the Hveravellir area”. Moreover, seeing pictures like this had instantly made me a Hveravellir enthusiast. Well, the reality was a bit different.

hveravellir trail

Hveravellir hiking trail. Pretty dull landscapes compared to other ones in Iceland

Once you leave F35 towards Hveravellir, it’s just a short, easy drive and you will soon find a parking lot in front of a small restaurant. Almost next to the parking lot lies a nice, public, free hot spring.

Since it is so close to the car park, there’s a high chance someone will be inside most of the time. Nevertheless, the hot spring is big enough and water is pleasantly hot, with some 38°C (according to my professional assessment). On the other hand, air temperature felt really cold, something like 7-8°C even in the middle of august. So again – be prepared for that – you are in the middle of Iceland, in highlands.

As there were already several people bathing in the hot spring even during Covid-19 times, we decided to be more adventurous. There were supposed to be “several hot springs” so let’s go find the other ones, we told ourselves. Hopefully with no people inside. We took one of the two hiking trails, which were fairly easy ones because they were just straight paths leading through grass fields. We were able to see quite far in the distance because there were no hills, but we were not able to observe any steam or hot spring. Thus, we continued to walk for 5 minutes, for 10 minutes, for 20 minutes and… still nothing!

hveravellir trail sheep

Sheep around Hveravellir trail

We don’t have anything against walking, but the entire area was pretty uneventful, with nothing interesting to observe. We said hello to several sheep along the way, but even those didn’t know where the other hot springs were. Finally, we reached a small hill, where I was able to climb up and observe the surroundings. As far as my eye could see there was no hot spring.

So, we turned back and chose a slightly different way back on one of the crossroads along the trail. We arrived back via the 2nd hiking trail and still no hot spring anywhere. Well, the hot spring picture I had seen on the internet looked incredibly beautiful, so I still felt determined at least to find out where it is. Hence, I tried my last option – went into the restaurant and asked the personnel. The guy at the desk replied “You can bath only in this hot spring, next to the car park. There may be also some other hot springs further away, but you shouldn’t bath there.” Ok, my enthusiasm ended at this point and we bathed at least in this first and only one.

Again, don’t get me wrong, it’s Iceland, so everything is beautiful (Hveravellir as well). We just had different expectations and were not that impressed at the end of the day.

F347 towards Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort

12:30-14:00

Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes (not pleasant but should be ok to drive)
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

F347 between F35 and Kerlingarfjoll

The beginning of F347 between F35 and Kerlingarfjoll

Weather was so-so, cloudy with occasional little rain, and the visibility seemed to be so-so as well. We just hoped for good visibility in Kerlingarfjöll, please not like the one on Sveinstindur. F347 also doesn’t have any river crossings and is pretty similar to F35. The closer you approach Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort, the more the road starts getting more mountainous and more interesting.

f347 near kerlingarfjoll

F347 near Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort

Once you reach the mountain resort, the entire scenery gets really picturesque. There’s a map of the area next to the resort (this map). Also, if you plan to sleep in one of the mountain huts or just in the only campsite in here, mountain resort reception is the place to go and ask for details, like key codes of the huts.

f347 near kerlingarfjoll mountain resort

F347 near Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort

Oh, and one little note. In the first version of our Icelandic itinerary, we had planned to camp here, in Kerlingarfjoll. You can definitely do that. Just bear in mind, that on the 8th August, 3 pm in the afternoon (i.e. probably one of the warmest times possible) the temperature climbed to tropical 5°C. And the strong wind didn’t help it at all, making everything feel even some 5°C colder. Now doing the math that nights are additional 5°C-7°C colder compared to daytime temperatures, you’re going to be freezing for sure.

This is one of the coldest places in Iceland available for camping, so be prepared for that mentally, physically and with all your equipment. Given that my girlfriend had already been freezing during the past (much warmer) nights I decided to change our plans and not to camp here (and I’m satisfied with this decision).

kerlingarfjoll mountain resort

Kerlingarfjöll mountain resort campsite

Now coming back to the crux of the trip. As always, we wanted to see the best of Kerlingarfjöll and do it in a reasonable amount of time. I.e. we were not looking for a day-long hike, but rather for something like a few hours long trip. That’s why we decided to continue as close as possible to the epicentre of the area by car. That meant, to continue driving the steepest part of F347 to the end of the road, or, Hveradalir area.

F347 towards Kerlingarfjoll main area – Hveradalir

14:20-14:40

Worth visiting even with bad weather: no (the ascent may be really dangerous)
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

f347 near hveradalir

F347 road next to Hveradalir hot spring area in Kerlingarfjoll

This part of the road is the most challenging one and probably the steepest we drove on in Iceland. Again, there are no river crossings, just the road is really bumpy and towards the end quite steep. However, in good weather (read – no snow, no heavy rain) it’s definitely doable by any medium-sized SUV and better, like our Dacia Duster. If you feel unsafe, go slowly, turn 4×4 on or watch someone else go first in front of you.

Once you reach the end of the road, you will find yourself at the car park. This is the closest point to the central Hveradalir area reachable by car.

Kerlingarfjöll

14:40-16:20

Distance from car park: 2 minutes 
Time spent at: 1-3 hours (or more according to your hiking passion) 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir stairs

Clay staircase in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjöll

Kerlingarfjoll hiking options

Once in Kerlingarfjöll, you have numerous hiking options. You may for example hike the red loop trail, getting to all of the biggest summits around the area, sleeping over at mountain huts. This is a very challenging hike, where you will be going to need very good gear (e.g. crampons) and be in a very good physical condition. And it will take you about 3 days. Nevertheless, the two most popular options to explore the area are the following.

The most popular hiking option

An option we chose – to arrive at Hveradalir geothermal area by car (steepest part of F347, past mountain resort) and to explore it from there. You may hike around the area as long as you want and as far as you want and turn back at any moment. I.e., you’re going to be returning the same way you came there. This is the most time-efficient option and allows you to see one of the most beautiful views of Kerlingarfjoll in quite a short amount of time.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir trail

One of the numerous trails in Hveradalir area of Kerlingarfjoll

Another popular option is to start at Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort and hike to Hveradalir yourself. It will take you around an hour to reach Hveradalir area and you may enjoy some additional nice views on top of that of Hveradalir. You have to come back the same way you arrived in here (unless you are doing a big 3-day loop with sleepovers). The big advantage of this trail is a hot spring somewhere around the first third of the trail, where you may bath. The disadvantage is the time aspect, as you will be spending additional 2 hours just getting to and from Hveradalir.

Hveradalir hike

14:40-16:20

Hveradalir area is one of the most beautiful and breath-taking places I’ve ever been to in my life – together with Askja, Landmannalaugar and the F-roads south of Landmannalaugar. You literally feel like you’re on a different planet. This time it’s not rainbow mountains, no black sand, no green moss. This time, it’s orange mountains mixed with wild sulphuric hot springs and snow. A lot of snow. And cold. And the wind. Welcome to Hveradalir.

The ground is covered with clay (or something like clay) and with every step of yours it sticks to your shoes like glue. That means either take some shoes you don’t like that much or be prepared for some thorough cleaning. Hikes in here are not dangerous. At least not under normal wind conditions. And if you don’t go as far as snow-covered trails are. Then, they may be dangerous.

kerlingarfjoll hveradalir hike

One of the summits of the several smaller hills around the Hveradalir in Kerlingarfjöll

There are several smaller hills and there are also smaller wooden stairs-like steps almost on each of them to help you with the ascent. And I do understand why. If it weren’t for them, every 10th visitor would have slipped on the clay and injured or killed himself. The views and the atmosphere of the place is truly amazing. Hot springs with hot sulphuric steam are everywhere and they help create an occasional feeling of warmth. There are, however, no hot springs to bath in Hveradalir area. This is contrary to Google maps calling the location “hot springs” or “geothermal area”.

We hiked around the area for around 90 minutes and enjoyed every moment of it. Except for the cold windy weather. With regards to visibility, clouds of fog were being replaced by the somewhat clearer sky, and vice versa, every 5 minutes. So be patient, and you may get better scenery for pictures. Or be lucky and come when the weather is clear. We hiked about 4-5 smaller hills and turned back from each one either at the end of the trail or if the trail started to be covered by deep snow, or reached high enough to be completely covered by fog.

Hot springs

Well, if you put “Hveradalir” in the Google maps, the place with no road pops up, quite far from the car park. However, Hveradalir area starts right next to the parking lot so this data point is slightly mistaken. The second confusing thing is if you are looking for hot springs to bath in. You will not find them in Hveradalir. Although Google is saying this is a hot spring area, yes, it is, but you can’t bath in any.

And it’s not easy to find it where the hot spring available for bathing actually is. We’ve accomplished that by asking a receptionist at Kerlingarfjoll mountain resort. She told us that the only hot spring with the bathing option is roughly in the one-third of the trail from mountain resort towards Hveradalir. I.e. after some 20 minutes of walking. Well, we already had enough and the weather started to get foggy and rainy, so we decided to go on with our journey. But firstly, we had to clean our shoes for at least 15 minutes to get off the Kerlingarfjoll clay.

Gullfoss

18:55-19:15

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

gullfoss in the evening

Gullfoss at the time of our visit, i.e. 7 pm

The rest of the F35 towards the south, starting in Kerlingarfjoll is about the same as the northern part of F35. That means no river crossings, a lot of potholes and countless acres of deserted highlands. The logical option when arriving at the south end of F35 is the famous Gullfoss waterfall. And we followed this logical option.

Despite being tired already, we decided to go for 2 last sights. First of them was Gullfoss, or typically one of the most touristy places. You’re going to notice it once you arrive at the gigantic car park next to the restaurant and souvenir shop. However, we arrived in the evening during Covid-19 times. This meant an empty car park and a closed restaurant with a souvenir shop. And also – almost no tourists.

The waterfall is very easily accessible, which probably explains why it’s usually so touristy. It’s also very picturesque. It wasn’t one of our favourites, though. We were already spoiled enough with all of the places we had seen already at that time. As someone on the Google maps had put it “3/5 Icelandic stars, that is 5/5 stars anywhere else”.

Strokkur

19:30-20:00

Distance from car park: 5 minutes 
Time spent at: 10-40 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Being encouraged by the low number of tourists at the time of our visit, we decided to continue to our last point of interest on that day. Again, a logical choice, just a few minutes of drive from Gullfoss – legendary Strokkur. This time, we aimed for the undeniable number one in the ranking of touristy places. We arrived at this parking place and there were only 2 other cars. Maybe we are wrong? Too far away from the actual geyser? No, we were right.

Yes, at the time of our visit there were 6 other people than us near Strokkur. Now comes a little trivia window again. There are two geysers at this place. The old one – “Geysir” and the new one – “Strokkur”. The trick is, Geysir only erupts very rarely (if ever), whereas Strokkur erupts every 2 to 10 minutes. So better don’t wait for the Geysir to erupt.

What’s there to add? Watch the eruptions as many times as you’d like to and you’re good to go.

Flúðir camping

21:30-

I was planning to bath in the Hruni hot spring, the next day in the morning so I picked a Flúðir campsite for us, right next to Hruni. Well, the campsite was very simple and belongs to the worse ones from all of those we’ve been to in Iceland. Nevertheless, at least it had showers. I don’t remember any kitchen area though. Luckily, this day we had our only restaurant dinner, so no need for the kitchen.

Skipped places

• Fosslaug hot spring
• Secret Lagoon Hot Spring

Although Fosslaug hot spring seemed like a very cool place to soak in, we decided to skip it. Fosslaug is located near Varmahlid and would be a detour on our way to Kerlingarfjoll. And Kerlingarfjoll was our priority for that day, so we decided to go for more hot springs in the following days.

The same holds for the Secret Lagoon Hot Spring, with little addition of being touristy as well. We definitely preferred an experience of wild hot springs, rather than organized and touristy ones.

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Day 7 – Amazing places in Northern Iceland

Day 7 – Amazing places in Northern Iceland


We woke up on a partially sunny, partially cloudy morning. Our plan for today was to walk in more touristy steps and see the famous Dettifoss with Selfoss and explore the areas around Hverir and Krafla. And, to camp as closest to F35 as possible. Why? Well, because the following day was supposed to be devoted to one of our highlights – Kerlingarfjöll.

Dettifoss and Selfoss

10:00-11:00

How to get there and from what side

You have two choices about how to get to these well-known waterfalls. From the west or from the east. There are endless debates all over the internet about which side is the best. I will make it easier for you. Eastern side is the best. No discussion. Easy.

tourists at Dettifoss

Observe tourists on our side (east) and the opposite side (west) of the Dettifoss

Ok, let’s be a bit more serious now. Yes, I think the eastern side is much better. Why?

  • The road leading there is more adventurous
  • View from the eastern side is much better
  • Most likely you won’t get wet (much) on this side
  • Car parks are smaller, but that should mean fewer tourists, right?

That’s why we went for the eastern side.

Dettifoss

10:05-10:20

Distance from car park: 5-10 minutes
Time spent at: 10-15 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little / medium 
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

dettifoss south trail

This is how trail from the car park towards Dettifoss looks like. Easy.

From our Möðrudalur campsite it was an easy ride – first on the Möðrudalsleið, then ring road number 1 and then road 864. Road 864 belongs to one of the better Icelandic gravel roads. I was able to drive the road quite fast. However, there are some passages which have a lot of bigger potholes. So, if you spot and avoid these, you will be fine and quick. For our Dacia Duster, this was a piece of cake. You’re going to leave your car (surprisingly) at a parking lot called Dettifoss parking (east).

dettifoss summer rainbow

A rainbow next to Dettifoss during our visit

It will take you some 5-10 minutes to walk from the car park on a stony but perfectly safe trail to reach the waterfall. Dettifoss is one of the most beautiful Icelandic waterfalls we’ve seen. Mostly, because its massive water volume is really impressive. It’s also said to be the most powerful Icelandic waterfall, and one of the most powerful ones in Europe as well. For those interested, there’s a nice website summarizing all waterfalls here. We were also lucky enough to catch Dettifoss with a rainbow over it.

Selfoss

10:35-10:45

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes
Time spent at: 10-15 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little / medium 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

selfoss east

The eastern viewpoint of the Selfoss waterfall

You have to reach Selfoss by walking, there’s no car park. Nevertheless, it’s a short walk of about 10-15 minutes from Dettifoss, again on either stony or normal path. After the waterfalls we’d already seen at that point, we were not that overwhelmed by Selfoss. It’s a nice series of many small waterfalls, so what’s more interesting about it is its width. Needless to say, it’s still a very beautiful place to see.

Dettifoss with Selfoss were also the only places during the Covid-19 times where we met Asian tourists. I just wonder how many tourists are here usually, when there’s no Covid? Probably a lot of.

Hverir, Námaskarð and Námafjall

12:15-13:00

A short glossary may be useful at this place:

  • Hverir = hot-mud spring area (! Not available for bathing !)
  • Námaskard = the entire area including Hverir, so these two are often used interchangeably (Namaskard hot springs or Hverir hot springs, just there are no hot springs to bath in)
  • Námafjall = the mountain in the Hverir area, next to hot springs
  • Hverfjall = another volcanic mountain, 12km to the southwest of Hverir area

A nice overview of the area can be found here.

Hverir

12:15-12:25

Distance from car park: 0 minutes
Time spent at: 15-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

hverir aka namaskard

Hverir, aka Námaskarð, in the front with Námafjall mountain in the background

As I already described, Hverir is a hot mud spring area and reminded me a lot of Seltún geothermal area near Reykjavik. Having already seen Seltún, we again were not that much impressed. The entire area was also very very windy on the day of our visit. Hence, it wasn’t very pleasant standing outside in the gravel area where dry clay was blowing into your eyes. Nonetheless, the area is nice and you probably won’t find anything similar anywhere else in the world, so it’s definitely worth visiting. It also suffers from being touristy, thanks to its easy and quick access from the ring road.

Námafjall

12:25-12:55

Distance from car park: 5 minutes to the start of the trail
Time spent at: 1,5 to 2 hours 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: no
Physical condition needed: medium
Interesting index: 3 – nice  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

namafjall trail

Námafjall clay trail

Námafjall is the mountain standing just above the area of Hverir and yes, as you probably guessed, you may hike it all the way to the top. There’s a loop trail starting near the car park and ending at the same place. It takes approximately 1,5-2 hours to complete, depending on your physical condition and weather conditions. There’s a nice view over the lake Mývatn and over the entire Hverir area from the top. But, again, compared to all the other places we’ve seen in Iceland it just felt like an average one.

namafjall view

View from the Namafjall mountain

The western part of the loop is a bit steep and you’re walking on a clay surface which doesn’t have a good grip at all. This, together with a strong wind at the time of our visit, was the reason my girlfriend decided to turn back and not finish the ascent to the top. I decided to reach the top myself, see the view and then turn back the same way in order to save some time compared to finishing the entire loop. This took me roughly 30 minutes. As I already described, the view from the top was nice, just for me not that breath-taking as the views in Landmannalaugar or the ones in Askja area. And naturally, the wind was quite obnoxious.

Krafla area, Leirhnjukur, Víti

14:40-16:10

A short glossary again:

  • Krafla = entire area with a power plant, lava fields (Leirhnjukur), and volcanic lake (Víti)
  • Leirhnjukur = huge lava fields
  • Víti = volcanic lake on the opposite side of the road to lava fields

Víti

14:40-14:55

Distance from car park: 0 minutes
Time spent at: 10-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

krafla viti lake

Víti lake in the Krafla area

Víti is a very nice volcanic lake. It’s very easily accessible by car (the parking lot is right next to it). For those who don’t visit Askja, this will be probably the most beautiful “Víti”, or volcanic lake, they will see in Iceland. So it’s definitely worth making a stop, despite being a more touristy place.

Leirhnjukur – Krafla lava fields

15:20-16:10

Distance from car park: 5-10 minutes
Time spent at: 0,5 to 2 hours 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little to medium (lot of walking)
Interesting index: 2 – great (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

krafla leirhnjukur

Leirhnjukur

Lava everywhere. That would be the short description of Leirhnjukur. This is the area most of the visitors are looking for when planning a visit to Krafla. The area with a few geothermal hot springs and a LOT of lava stands some 5-10 minutes of walk from the parking lot. Once being there, it’s up to you how and for how long you prefer to explore the entire area. There are several paths, with the longest loop having approximately 4 kilometres. That’s the loop we took.

krafla leirhnjukur trail

Krafla, start of the Leirhnjukur trail

It took us roughly 1 hour to finish the entire loop. Everything is well marked so it’s hard to get lost. The entire area (except a few hot springs where you cannot bath) is just a lot of lava in different forms. A hill of lava. A valley of lava. A field of lava. Reddish lava. Blackish lava. Lava. It’s definitely an interesting and surreal place to be at. I’m not a big fan of lava so I would give it just a “3 – nice”. On the other hand, my girlfriend really loved the place giving it “1 – amazing”. Hence, I decided to give it a composite “2 – great”.

krafla lava fields

Krafla lava fields

Hverfjall

17:10-17:50

Distance from car park: 0 minutes
Time spent at: 20-30 minutes round trip + 10-60 minutes at the top 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: medium 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

hverfjall northern trail

Northern (quicker) trail towards Hverfjall

Hverfjall is a very nice volcanic crater easily reached by car, near Reykjahlid. It can be a nice addition to your Krafla and Hverir area trip on a day with good weather. To get to the top and enjoy the most beautiful view of both Hverfjall and the surrounding area, you have to choose one of the two hiking trails. The northern one is the one which most of the visitors use because it’s supposed to be easier and shorter. We took that one as well (so cannot say how does the other one look). Here’s the map displaying both trails.

hverfjall summit

At the summit of Hverfjall

The hike is easy, safe and short on a mildly steep gravel trail. It took us some 10 minutes to reach the top, with the wind being still strong, as in Hverir. A view from the top is really picturesque. It’s not recommended to descent down to the crater, due to unstable ground and no real trail leading there. You may hike around the entire crater though. We, however, just hiked it to the top, enjoyed the views and headed back.

peak view from Hverfjall

View from the peak of Hverfjall

Goðafoss

18:55-19:20

Distance from car park: 10 minutes
Time spent at: 10-20 minutes 
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes
Physical condition needed: little 
Interesting index: 2 – great  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)

Godafoss before sunset

Godafoss before sunset

From Hverfjall we took a route 848 south heading towards Goðafoss. The route is nice and big part of it goes next to the lake Mývatn, where you may make several stops, according to your taste.

Godafoss is a waterfall on a bucket list of everyone driving the entire ring road. You’ll most likely find it in every Icelandic guide. That means we’re talking about a touristy place again. Reaching Godafoss is easy. You may leave your car at the Fossholl parking lot. From there you take a 10 minutes’ walk either from the south or from the north of the waterfall. We took the southern route and I can recommend it, views from there were very nice.

godafoss south trail

This is a preview of the northern trail (other side of the river) and southern trail (our side) towards Godafoss

We were lucky again to have beautiful sunny weather and arrived at the waterfall around the sunset time. Path to the Godafoss is paved and virtually everyone can make this little walk. Goðafoss is very nice and definitely worth visiting, though not our favourite Icelandic waterfall.

godafoss south viewpoint

The southern viewpoint of the Godafoss waterfall

From Reykjahlíð to Varmahlíð

19:20-21:10

We were planning to see Kerlingarfjoll on the next day because the weather was supposed to worsen considerably over the following days. So, our mission on this day was to get as close to road F35 as possible. That meant a long drive even after a long and tiring day ending with the visit of Gódafoss. And so, I drove.

Firstly, a short drive on ring-road 1. What followed was a choice between a detour via road 84 or a paid tunnel (continuing on the ring road) towards Akureyri. Price for the tunnel is around 10Eur, which isn’t much. The thing is, you will save only 10 minutes when going through the tunnel and you will miss some nice coastal views of Akureyri fjord, experienced only when driving on the road 84. That’s why we chose a short detour to 84 and I recommend you do the same (unless you have any special passion for tunnels).

We just passed through Akureyri but it seemed to be a very nice town with a unique atmosphere, worth making a stop. Next time.

We continued on a ring road 1 towards Varmahlíð. The road will take you through a mountainous area. We had a chance to experience some genuine Icelandic weather changes at that time. During a 1,5 hour drive, we enjoyed roughly 20 switches of clear sky to heavy rain, then clear sky, then light rain and so on, and so on. And just to encourage you, on a half-way there, there’s a big drift-mark on the road and an old car lying flipped over, completely wrecked, next to the road. So, yes, drive carefully.

Varmahlíð campsite

21:10-

It was a late evening and we were really tired when we reached the Varmahlíð campsite. Additionally, the campsite decided to close its showers, due to Covid-19. The campsite also apparently didn’t have any kitchen area (or maybe it was just again closed). On top of that, the grass ground of the camp was soaking up with water completely, so with every step, you got quite wet (unless you wore gumboots). And the rain continued to pour and wind to blow. All of these probably contributed to us not liking the campsite much.

Skipped places

  • Hafragilsfoss
  • Hljóðaklettar national park
  • Jökulsárgljúfur / Vatnajökull National Park with Ásbyrgi canyon
  • Grjótagjá cave, Lava field Dimmuborgir
  • Mývatn baths
  • Húsavík
  • Aldeyjarfoss

Hafragilsfoss is accessible either by hike from Dettifoss or by drive from Dettifoss as well. We decided not to go for it because it was not supposed to be so beautiful as the other waterfalls on our list.

If you are really into hiking, you may also go for two national parks nearby – Hljóðaklettar national park and Jökulsárgljúfur / Vatnajökull National Park with Ásbyrgi canyon. Seeing their real photos, we didn’t find them to be the top Icelandic places to see in 12 days, so we skipped them due to the lack of time. The same we did with Grjótagjá cave and Lava field Dimmuborgir – we have many caves in our homeland and we’d already seen Leirhnjukur lava field.

With regards to Mývatn baths – we preferred a more natural and spontaneous experience of wild natural hot springs, in comparison to a rather touristy Mývatn. I don’t doubt the place is probably very nice though. We thought a while about going to Húsavík to see its famous whale watching tours. We finally decided not to, due to saving the time, money and not being much into organized tours. Covid-19 times even contributed to this preference of ourselves.

What we had originally planned to see was Aldeyjarfoss, because the waterfall made it to my bucket list of the most beautiful Icelandic waterfalls. I also wanted to drive at least a part of infamous F26. Mainly due to the lack of time and prioritization (Kerlingarfjoll the next day, because of good weather), we finally decided to skip the waterfall.

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How to visit Askja

How to visit Askja

Be prepared for your Askja venture responsibly. It’s neither an easy drive nor the short one. Bring enough food and water, tank enough fuel and plan your journey in advance. Study guidelines for driving F-roads and crossing rivers carefully.

How to get to Askja

There are actually several different roads leading to and from Askja. We drove 2 out of 3 main ones. The most treacherous one is supposed to be F88 from the north, which is said to have a quite deep river. We haven’t tried that one due to this very same reason so I cannot say whether it was really that big or not, but we did try the other ones. The easiest route according to guides was supposed to be the combination of F905 and F910 which we wanted to take on our way to Askja.

Don’t want to go on your own? Take an epic Askja tour!

modrudalsleid

Möðrudalsleið road, the first gravel road you’re gonna encounter when coming from Egilsstaðir direction

On our way back, my plan had two versions. First one, in case we didn’t have enough time, was coming back using the same roads and finding the first campsite nearby. However, my major version of the plan was seeing the Studlagil canyon on our way back, i.e. using the roads F910, F905, detour to the right without number called Austurleid (by the lake Thrihyrningsvatn), a short piece of F907 and then to the left via Jokuldalsvegur. I wasn’t able to find any info anywhere over the internet about this road that’s why I wrote a few lines about it here.

Modrudalsleid

Möðrudalsleið junction with F905

Junction on Möðrudalsleið road with F905 coming from Egilsstaðir towards Askja

Weather was unbelievably nice, the sun was shining, the sky was completely clear and there was not even the slightest blow of wind. If this is not the weather to go for Askja then it never is. We’d firstly driven a while on the ring road, then turned left shortly for the road without any number on Google maps with a fancy name Möðrudalsleið. I guess the more the name of the road resembles some killing machine the rougher the actual road is, but that’s just what we’d observed. Möðrudalsleið is a quite good gravel road (compared to many other F-roads) so I was able to drive really fast.

Before you go: study the F-roads and choose the high quality insurance!

F905

f905 to askja

F905 to Askja on an exceptionally beautiful sunny summer day

After driving some two-thirds of the road, we turned left to F905, where a real adventure began. By “a real adventure” I don’t mean anything dangerous (at least with our dream weather it definitely wasn’t), just endless out of this world landscapes as if you were on another planet. F905 and the ones following (together with reaching Landmannalaugar from the south) were the most beautiful roads we drove and are definitely highlights of our entire Icelandic trip.

Different types of surface alternate between each other, each one the more beautiful than the one before. Gravel, clay, rocks, sand, sulphur – anything you can imagine, all of this surrounded by unforgettable views of the volcanic hills around. I don’t remember any river on F905 (maybe only some small ponds, which shouldn’t cause you any trouble at all).

F910

f905 askja gate

Gated bridge at F905 road towards Askja. Just open the gate when crossing the bridge and close it afterwards.

After spending some time on F905, the road turns into F910, which is very similar in its character to F905, just, once again a bit different. There are a few parts of the road where you’re going to drive literally on huge volcanic rocks and you have to drive really carefully not to damage your car – this is where a good 4×4 with high ground clearance happens to be useful. The most important part of an Icelandic F-road which you should pay attention to (as I wrote here) is the regular rivers and their existence on your road.

There are two medium-sized rivers on F910. When we’d reached the first river, there was already a 4×4 car waiting in front of the river, I think Toyota Landcruiser. It seemed like a driver wanted to see someone else to cross first. I stepped out of the car and inspected the river. This one was not very wide and I was able to observe where the best part to cross it is, even by visual inspection. Depth of the river was fair, some 40-60cm at the deepest point so should you have an appropriate 4×4 car for medium-sized rivers and take precautionary steps not to sink your car.

F910 askja

F910 towards Askja

Since we’d already gained some experience with river crossings on our way to Landmannalaugar, we were more confident here in Askja. After my river inspection, the Toyota driver approached me and asked: “Is this your first time as well?” I just smiled and thought “man I know how you feel, we’ve been there some 2 days ago” and said that we have some experience already from Landmannalaugar. She asked us whether we may cross first so that she can see us, and so we did. I just adhered to all river crossing rules and the crossing went smoothly. After the ford, I waited to see whether Toyota was able to ford the river as well and yes, they were.

f910 austurleid askja

F910, or Austurleið, the continuation of road F905 towards Askja

The second river emerges very shortly thereafter. The depth looked to be about the same, i.e. 40-60cm at the deepest point. Just this time the river was considerably wider and the road on the other bank of the river was not in front of us but skewed to the left. So, we guessed, we had to steer to the left when crossing. The shallowest part seemed to be on the right side, so we forded there, realizing the river is a bit deeper than we’d thought, i.e. on the upper side of our estimated range (some 60cm the deepest point). Nevertheless, we were already in the river so we didn’t stop and our Duster was able to make it to the other bank without any trouble.

Dreki mountain huts

Next, we arrived at the junction of F88 and F910, where, by turning left, we continued via F910 and soon reached Dreki mountain huts – the only place where you may actually stay overnight in Askja area. There’s a free public toilet as well. Finally, we reached the Askja area – but where to go now?

The main area – Askja, Viti, Oskjuvatn

Distance from car park: 20-30 minutes one way (from Vikarborgir)
Time spent at: >1 hour
Worth visiting even with bad weather: yes, probably
Physical condition needed: medium to advanced (depends if you want to climb Viti)
Interesting index: 1 – amazing  (1-amazing, 2-great, 3-nice)
askja map

Useful map of Askja and Öskjuvatn area

A detailed map of the area to be found here.

A short glossary may be useful at this place. You may hike all of these and more:

  • Askja = name of the entire area.
  • Viti = volcanic crater you are probably aiming for as we were, with blue picturesque geothermal water.
  • Oskjuvatn = big lake just next to Viti, with no geothermal water (Google calls Oskjuvatn “Lake Askja”).

F894 – Öskjuvatnsvegur

vikraborgir parking askja

Vikraborgir car park, the closest point available on your route towards Askja/Víti crater

Once you arrive at Dreki huts, you may already leave your car here and go for 8km hike towards Viti and Öskjuvatn and you will definitely enjoy the beautiful mountain area even more. What we did, was to drive as close to the actual geothermal Víti lake as possible and spend most of our time there.

To do that, you have to take the F894 road, i.e. slight turn right coming from F910 direction, standing in Dreki huts spot. The road is really rough and rocky, with volcanic stones and rocks about everywhere. At the end of the road, you will reach the car park with another toilet booth, called the Vikraborgir car park. This is where you have to leave your car.

Askja

askja oskjuvatn viti

Amazingly beautiful Askja (the whole area), Víti (the crater lake) and Öskjuvatn (the bigger lake nearby) all in one picture

From the car park, it takes some 20-30 minutes of walking the well-marked path with yellow sticks to reach the place everybody admires in the pictures – i.e. Víti crater. The sun still shined, the sky was still clear and the wind was still mild – what a wonderful day! And Viti crater looked even better than in the photos! Fairy-tale-like blue water with moon-like surrounding landscapes. This was the highlight of our trip. From this spot you may either:

  1. Just admire the beauty of Viti crater and monumental Oskjuvatn lake next to it, or
  2. Hike around the area, or
  3. As we chose (or as my girlfriend persuaded me), hike down the Viti crater and swim in the green/blue geothermal water.
askja crater hiking trail

Hiking trail down to Askja crater (Víti)

This was one of the two moments during our journey when I was a bit scared (first one when hiking up the Blahnjukur peak in Landmannalugar, climbing the steep clay slippery path). Here again, the descent was steep and the ground was covered with slippery clay, which means you’re unable to control any fall of yours, in case it happens.

Nevertheless, it’s a short descent and not too dangerous, so in good weather you should be able to make it. Once down in the caldera, you may enjoy swimming in the water with a temperature around 25°C, which is definitely not a hot spring but it’s definitely warmer than air (at the time of our visit around 10-15°C). Once in a lifetime experience.

swimming in askja crater

Me swimming in 25°C sulphuric water of Víti crater in Askja

The way back is the same – i.e. 20-30minutes walk to the car park, taking F894 to Dreki huts, from there F910 and from there you may decide between 3 main options – F88 or F905 or detour to Stuðlagil Canyon, as we did.

oskjuvatn lake askja

Öskjuvatn lake in Askja area, next to famous Víti crater

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