Day 6 Iceland Itinerary
Wakie Wakie…Egilsstadir, Iceland
It had been light since 2 a.m. but thanks to the heavy shades at our guesthouse in Egilsstadir we were able to sleep in virtual darkness. In July the sun sets in Iceland around 11:30 p.m. and rises 3 hours later. It kept the look of dusk throughout that time…never really getting to the dark, dark skies of night. It was not a good time to see the Aurora, but it was a good time to explore due to the long bright days.
It was the start of the 6th day of our Iceland road-trip and there was a lot on the agenda for the day. My cousin Lesa and I had breakfast at the guesthouse and hit the road.
Iceland-Waterfalls, Waterfalls Everywhere…
When we 1st arrived in Iceland, we had stopped enthusiastically at every waterfall we saw.
“Oh yes! Look!! It’s a waterfall!” I screamed, as we leaped out of the car, cameras in hand.
Back on the road, three minutes later…
“Holy moly!” Lesa shrieked. “Pull over! A waterfall on the left!”
And so the pattern continued every few minutes. After 5 days and about a hundred waterfalls later, the experience had transformed.
I indicated with a lame point of the finger.
“Hey…waterfall…”I said. “Do you want a picture?”
“Nah…don’t stop…”Lesa leaned in and peered out my window. “Just move your head, I’ll do a quick one as we go by.”
Rjukandi Iceland is Worth a Stop
Rjukandi waterfall however, caught my attention and I jerked to a stop…reversed…and eased into a small parking area and hopped out. It was a short hike up the path to the falls and you could feel the mist of cool water from a distance. There were several tiers of water streaming down in white ribbons over the black rocks. I breathed in the cool mist, gazing at the low clouds and the scope of the falls and began to feel very small and very thankful for being alive to experience that moment in time. I breathed in the moment and decided we needed to move on.
To the Sænautasel Turf House!
Our next stop was Sænautasel peat farm house. Even the public restrooms had a turf roof. We crossed over the bridge and a friendly dog greeted us. Lesa searched her purse for a stray dog treat but came up empty and apologized to our new waggy, black and white furry friend. We marveled at the long turf house. It looked as if someone planted a house seed and this is what grew.
The buildings and the longhouse were covered in lush green grass and appeared as if they themselves were hills in the field. Turf houses served to insulate native Icelanders back in the day during the frigid winters. We explored the area and were able to peek inside a few of the dark earthen rooms.
Road to Dettifoss
Next we headed towards Dettifoss waterfall…which I kept calling dental floss waterfall. The road that led to it was most likely meant for 4 wheel drive vehicles, which ours was not.
“You would think they would do something about this road.” Lesa announced in an annoyed tone as we bounced over the ruts and pits of the gravel.
“Are you sure this is right?” She continued. “We’ve been driving this way for a really long time and it doesn’t look like there’s anything out there.”
“I’m pretty sure,” I hesitated…looking down at my paper map with my thumb affixed to the spot where we were. “According to the map it is.” I answered. “But…that’s if this IS in fact…the road I think it is…I’m not 100%, but there’s a good chance.”
We had opted against the additional fee for GPS or Wi-Fi in the car, figuring our phones would do the job. They did not. The only places we had a signal were at the guesthouses and hostels where we spent the night…and sometimes not even then. I had been paper mapping the trip from day one and had been surprisingly successful seeing most of what I had planned to see along the way.
Iceland’s Purple Lupine Fields
We were driving about 12 miles an hour up 864…for about an hour when flashes of color caught my eye. I jerked to the type of screeching stop that a 12 mile an hour vehicle can do…and sat in the middle of the road. We had only passed about 2 cars during that hour so I felt pretty comfortable parking right there.
There was a stunning and unexpected purple field of lupine as far as the eye could see. Grey mountains peeked over the horizon. It was another slow, bumping, gravel pinging on the undercarriage kind of ride in the rented car, until we arrived at the parking area to the falls.
Rock Hopping to Dettifoss
There was a small plume of smoke or mist in the distance and we picked our way down uneven rock steps and gravel towards it. There were a few people dotting the area on our un-railed descent.
Looking to the right, a deep canyon carved it’s way through the rust colored rock and meandered through the valley. There was a small viewing area where the steps and the path ended. At that point…it was all individual boulders and large rocks leading closer to the falls if you dared.
Lesa waited at the viewing area and I hopped with my flip flop feet from rock to rock. In some areas the boulders were farther apart and I needed to navigate through the gravel in between them, the rocks about knee height. I balanced from rock to rock to get a closer view of these powerful falls. Excitement drew me closer to the force of the rushing water. There was a tremendous amount of water plummeting over the jagged rock.
It was tricky trying to balance my way back. After all that balancing, my legs protested about the steps back to the car.
The Heat of Hverir- Lake Myvatn Geothermal Area
We did the slow pitted road drive back to Ring Road and I used my finger to hold my spot on the map. I navigated west to Hverir, a geothermal area that was about an hour and a half away.
We could see the steam rising ahead of us when we approached. There was a short path leading to the sulfuric smoker, a short volcano looking cone that was spewing a near constant fog of thick grey and white smoke from it’s top. The sulfur smell was strong as we passed the smoker.
The path soon ended and we were able to walk across the cracked rust colored earth. Black mud-pots boiled and steamed in several areas. Fumaroles spouted off plumes of smoke. It felt like we were walking on another planet.
Some areas of the ground were layered in white ash, while others were bubbling black pits. A huge crack in the ground ran the length of the park. The cool air mixed with the hot steam vents swirling around us. Brown clay-like earth mounds surrounded the area and Ring Road looked like a black snake side-winding through the hills. A few people wandered the area.
Geothermal Blue in Iceland
A short way down the road we came across a neon blue lake. The stark contrast of the pink rimmed turquoise pool against the hills was stunning. It looked to be a geothermal power area and the colors were unearthly.
The Troll Cave of Grjótagjá
After walking the length of the warm geothermal field, we headed to Grjótagjá cave. Grjótagjá is an underground lava cave with a geothermal hot spring running through. It was featured in an episode of Game of Thrones.
In the early days of Iceland, bandits were known to hide out in the lava caves. Local people still harbored a fear of trolls at that time and avoided the lava caves. Soaking in the underground geothermal spring was accessible in the 70’s. After several nearby volcanic eruptions in the 80’s, the water has been too hot for humans.
After ducking under the rock hole entrance and down several steep stone steps, we could see through the clear, blue tinted water to the rocky bottom. The small cave was warm from the spring’s heat. There are walking paths to the nearby lava fields but we opted to drive instead.
Dimmuborgir Fields of Lava
Dimmuborgir lava fields were next on my agenda. There were many areas of Iceland that were covered in lava fields but the dramatic features of Dimmuborgir made it unique. It was formed by a partially collapsed lava tube which left behind tall pillars and lava caves.
There were a few paths to choose from that were ranked from a shorter easy hike to extremely challenging, longer steep hikes. We chose a shorter hike and stared in awe at the huge jagged columns of lava. There was a ‘hole in the rock’ area and as we were leaving a rainbow appeared shining over the towering black rock.
Hverabraud Volcano Bread
We then stopped at the cafe on the grounds that overlooked the lava fields for a tasty vegetarian dish and a short break. The cafe offered volcano bread or hverabraud, which we were happy to try. The dark rye bread is traditionally baked in pots that are buried in the geothermal areas to bake for up to 24 hours…just as they have for centuries.
The thick bread was incredibly dense and heavy like a soda bread. The taste was sweet. After our tummies were happy, we headed up the road to take a look at the Church of Reykjahlid, a tall church with a round base.
The Nighttime Soak at Myvatn
It was around 9 p.m. when checked into our guesthouse for the evening. We were tired but I knew the Myvatn Nature Baths were nearby and it was one of the hot spring soaks I was most excited about.
“What do you think about a hot spring soak before bed?” I asked Lesa who was sprawled out on the bed.
“I’m too tired,” she mumbled. “You just go.”
“I think you’ll really like this one, you should just come with.” I prodded.
Lesa peered at me through a half side-eye and informed me she was done for the day.
I hesitated but she insisted so I grabbed my swimmy suit and headed toward the spring.
Myvatn did not let me down. It was one of my favorite hot springs ever. I loved it so much that I soaked for hours that evening and dragged Lesa back in the morning for another round.
Read all about the Myvatn Nature Baths adventure next time…
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