Road Trip Day 4 – Hvalnes Lighthouse, Hengifoss and Egilsstaðir
We awoke in Höfn to darkness, a howling wind and freezing rain. It was the first real bad weather we had experienced so far and hoped it wasn’t gong to hang around for long. After the standard cheese and salami breakfast at Old Airline Guesthouse, we set off toward our first destination of the day, Hvalnes Lighthouse. A winding scenic road eventually led us to the lighthouse, a tall yellow structure next to a radio tower. The wind was tremendously fierce, we had trouble walking, but we weren’t going to let some bad weather ruin our lighthouse visit. We pushed on and walked closer to the ocean, standing amongst some rocks we gazed out at the ocean. Massive waves smashed against rocks as the ocean churned with such power.
Our hands and legs began to freeze so we pushed on. Heading north towards Hengifoss, another enormous waterfall that was near the town of Egilsstaðir, where we intended to spend the night. We soon arrived at a fork in the road, left would lead us inland along a dirt road with a warning sign saying proceed at own risk, as the road isn’t ploughed in winter. To the right the bitumen road seemed to continue along the coast. We decided to go left and take the dirt road, expecting more stunning scenery. We soon spotted a small waterfall and decided to have a look. It was still raining but the wind had died down.
We drove along a winding road through mountainous terrain, ice frequently covered the entire road surface and we drove with caution. It seemed that all of a sudden the green landscape had turned to white. Then green again as we descended from the mountain range. The dark clouds faded away and there was blue sky on the horizon. Perfect timing as we were approaching our destination. As we arrived at Hengifoss, we noticed only 1 other car in the car park. We didn’t have to worry about crowds anymore now that we were far from Reykjavik and the usual tourist route. However we were on the wrong side of midday and were running out of daylight.
A breathtaking hour long hike took us up and down mountains, muddy tracks and along a riverbed. Then we finally arrived at the partially frozen waterfall known as Hengifoss. It was quite a sight to behold. We spent a few moments catching our breath as we sat in the rocky canyon watching on and reflecting on the hike. Later that night in Egilsstaðir we were fortunate enough to see the northern lights. Like a green flame burning in the sky we watched on filled with amazement at their beauty. Regrettably I had not done my homework on the correct settings to use on my camera while trying to photograph them, and therefore didn’t capture any post-worthy photos to share.
Road Trip Day 5 – Horse riding in Egilsstaðir, Hverir hot springs and Lake Mývatn geothermal baths
Our next destination was Lake Mývatn. It wasn’t going to be such a long drive so we jumped online in search of something to do along the way. We found some stables that could take us horse riding, a German lady who had moved to Iceland told us it was going to be cold but agreed to take us on a 2 hour ride. We put on every layer of clothing we had and saddled up our horses. It was good to try out the Icelandic horse and we rode along a ridge line which gave us great views of the surrounding area. Our horses carefully navigated frozen streams and we nervously held tightly on the reigns as they occasionally slipped and skidded on the ice.
We then drove northwest, heading inland toward Lake Mývatn. We were nearing the arctic circle, and soon the landscape turned from green to white and a howling wind began. A light snow started to fall as we drove through an icy, deserted wasteland with the occasional mountain in the distance. We spotted a herd of reindeer in the distance, slowly making their way through a barren and lifeless valley. This was the terrain that came to mind when we imagined Iceland in winter. This is what we had been waiting for.
Our journey through vast frozen wastelands continued, soon we noticed something on the horizon, massive plumes of steam coming from vents piled with rocks. We pulled over to investigate and came upon an unexpected sight. Boiling mud and geothermal vents spewing out plumes of steam, also emanating a strong odour. We were approaching Lake Mývatn, an area known for geothermal and volcanic activity. The German lady running the stables who took us horse riding had told us about another thermal bath similar to The Blue Lagoon. After checking in at Vogafjos Guesthouse, we spent the evening in the baths, drinking lagers as the temperature plummeted to -6 degrees Celsius.
Road Trip Day 6 – Dettifoss, Goðafoss and Akureyri
We awoke later the next day, all in agreeance that we had consumed too many lagers the night before. Never the less, we had to push on. Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe was first on the list. We backtracked slightly and turned into the eastern route which would lead us there. This side of the river enabled a better angle to view the spectacular falls. Unfortunately due to heavy snow the previous days, we were to come to a halt. A sign had been placed in the middle of the road advising that if we were to proceed any rescue would come at a considerable expense. We didn’t want to waste the small amount of daylight we had and proceed only have to turn around if the road was impassable.
We decided to turn around and see the waterfall from the other side of the river instead. After a 30 minute walk we stood at a viewing platform and stared down into a massive gushing torrent. The sun was low on the horizon and created a beautiful orange glow on the surrounding landscape. We drove west to Akureyri, stopping off at Goðafoss, another massive waterfall and a worthy sight to behold. Akureyri is Iceland’s second largest city and lies at the end of a long inlet. We spent some time admiring the many ships moored along the docks and walking to a church atop a hill looking over the city.
Road Trip Day 6 – Blönduós and Búðardalur
After waking up in Akureyri, we ventured southwest. We had no particular sights to see, this was a good thing. As sometimes it is important just to soak in the surroundings, and stop when we wanted to explore down a curious path or interesting looking stream. We planned to stop in the small town of Blönduós for lunch, where we would sit by the shore and gaze out to the Arctic Ocean. Another small town, Búðardalur would be our destination for the night. We stayed at a small guesthouse where we met a woman who told us, that due to the weather, she wasn’t able to make it home to the far northwest peninsula where she lived.
Road Trip Day 8 – Arnarstapi, seal beach and return to Reykjavik
Our last day of the road trip turned out to be rather eventful. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were heading to the far western tip of Iceland and to a small town called Arnarstapi. We planned to see some peculiar rock formations and stop at a beach popular with seals. We stumbled upon a waterfall by chance and drove through some stunning volcanic landscapes. We arrived at seal beach to find a lone seal perched atop a rock while enjoying the morning. We also stopped to keep some horses company for a while, they were glad to see us as they stood peacefully amongst breathtaking scenery.
Chaos on our return to Reykjavik
A chaotic series of events unfolded as we returned to Reykjavik. We had planned to go diving and snorkelling at Silfra the following day. The day after that we were due to fly to East Iceland and board a large ship which would take us to the Faroe Islands. While enjoying a hot dog at a petrol station on the way back, I managed to obtain Wifi on my phone. I received an email from Smyril Line, the shipping company, advising us that due to approaching bad weather our ship was leaving tomorrow instead, 24 hours earlier than our scheduled time. Our accommodation, dive, and flights had already been booked to coincide with the original ships’s departure. This was a massive problem.
We realised we had to cancel the dive and try and get to Seyðisfjörður as soon as possible. Seyðisfjörður was a small town in East Iceland where the ship, MS Norröna, would leave from once a week. We had no idea what to do, we had imagined the airport full of people trying to get earlier flights, and wondered if we should keep the car and try and drive there. After arriving back in Reykjavik, we drove straight to the airport and luckily got a seat on a flight the next morning. The airline were very kind and transferred out tickets free of charge. The next morning we jumped aboard a small plane and made it safely to Seyðisfjörður. This little town turned out to be one of the most picturesque places we had been to in Iceland. It was simply stunning.
We boarded the ship just in time for departure, and learnt that we were 3 of only 24 passengers on board. As the ship pulled out of the fjord, we reflected on the amazing time we’d had in this beautiful country. The vastness and natural beauty of Iceland is simply overwhelming.