Exploring the magnificent north’s Diamond Circle to see a width breadth of nature’s masterpieces, during our 10-day Iceland Journey.
North Iceland is a wonderland of volcanic activity, snow-capped peaks, quaint harbors, beautiful fjords, bays populated by whales and puffins — and yes, even more epic waterfalls to amaze!
When I left you in Glaciers and Icebergs, we had headed deep into Iceland’s Wilderness on an off-road adventure. The next morning we drove north to rejoin the main Ring Road.
Our intention was to refuel, grab breakfast to go, and provisions for a picnic lunch. But, between the rain and distraction, we totally missed Eglilsstardir, the only town our way to Dettitoss Waterfall. We should have turned back once we realized our mistake. It was a long day on empty stomachs, but plenty of delicious meals were to come.
A geologist’s dream Iceland Journey lay ahead, with one amazing sight and experience after another!
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Iceland Journey: Day 5
Dettifoss is Iceland’s most powerful waterfall. With the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe it is a sight to behold. Talk about a force of nature!
The waterfall can be seen from either side of the canyon. It requires what is suppose to be a 30 minute detour off the Ring Road — each way. We unknowingly took the first turnoff leading to a narrow, bumpy off-road experience through rain. Worse still, was the camper in front which refused to pull aside and let others pass. That caused a long backup of vehicles crawling along behind. My poor youngest son was at the wheel at the time. It was long, tedious drive.
Once at the parking lot, it was tricky and slippery climbing over and around the rocks, as there is no path. Our reward, however, was a getting right to the edge of the waterfall. One of my sons must have taken this picture, because there was no way I ventured that close!
Although we had to drive back the way we came, the return took less than half the time. By then our stomachs were all grumbling, as there were no food concessions or vending machines. Fortunately, we were able to find gas.
The next stop on our Iceland journey was the volcanic mountain and caldera Krafla, with easily accessible steaming vents and a turquoise crater.
There’s also a geothermal power station visitors center, and an overlook of all the volcanic activity in the surrounding area.
Ochre-Toned Lunar Landscape
On the opposite side of the Ring Road, is Hverir with its mud cauldrons, steaming vents, mineral deposits and piping fumaroles.
Hverir is one of Iceland’s most accessible and impressive geothermal areas. Lots of bubbling and boiling!
At this point, our stomachs were churning more than the mud cauldron! Fortunately, our overdue meal was just around the other side of the mountain.
Natural Steam Baths
Myvatn Nature Baths is Northern Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. It’s smaller, less crowded and not as expensive. Most important (at that moment anyhow), it has a lovely full-service cafeteria! The cafe and bathrooms are open to the public, even if you don’t intend to bathe.
I wanted to return later that evening for a relaxing soak in the powder blue, mineral-rich waters (it’s open until 10 PM). But, the guys weren’t enticed.
After a hearty meal with bowls of soup and Icelandic chocolate for dessert, we all felt recharged and ready for more exploration. It helped knowing the driving for the day was behind us.
On Location: Game of Thrones
A few minutes later we were at our next location, Grjotagja, a hidden cave filled with natural thermal waters. For Game of Throne fans like my sons, this was where a rather infamous love scene was filmed.
The dark and my limited photography skills mean I lack share-worthy pictures.
The rift is similar to where we went snorkeling in glacier waters on our first day (Incredible Iceland Trip Ten Day Adventure).
Getting to the cave requires navigating a crevasse with uneven, rocking footing leading down to the steaming pool. To be honest, the hard part was squeezing in and out through the many other visitors. You just had to wait your turn.
I was skeptical about visiting Grjotagia, but I have to say, it was an easy detour and pretty neat to see.
Climbing the Crater
Nearby, the vast volcanic Hverfjall Crater loomed above. A 1.5 mile rutted gravel road leads to a parking lot. That’s where the hike begins to the rim.
I attempted to sit out the 20-minute climb to the top. But, dear hubby insisted he’d be willing to go at my much slower pace. After numerous pauses to catch my breath, we met up with our sons on the rim.
I’m glad my husband encouraged me, because the crater and surrounding Myvatn area views were awesome.
The parking lot, in the lower left of the photo, provides some perspective on the crater rim’s height.
Dark Castles Of Lava
It was getting late when we stopped at Dimmuborgir, or Dark Castle lava formations. My photos fail to do it justice.
Stalagmite-like columns were formed when magma leaked up from the lake bed. The jagged lava field has a series of color-coded, easy walking trails. Wildflowers, birch and spruce trees cover the bluffs.
Lots to See in Myvatn
We were all pretty beat at this point of our Iceland journey and ready to call it a day. But, the sun had come out, making for a nice drive around Myvatn’s vast lake.
There are so many attractions in the area ringing the lake. It probably warrants a two-night stay in Myvatn on an Iceland journey.
We decided to make one last stop at the Skutustadir Pseudocraters, giant bubbles of lava that popped after rising to the surface. Although worth a stop to enjoy the view, I don’t recommend taking one of the walking trails. The infamous Myvatn midges flying round your face are too annoying and distracting.
Finally, we checked into the swanky new Fosshotel Myvatn, and had a delicious meal to finish the busy day.
Iceland Journey: Day 6
A good night’s sleep, and we were up for the 45 minute drive north to Husavik.
Whale & Puffin Watching
The pretty harbor town is known for some of Iceland’s best whale-watching.
The drive up and down the peninsula is on a mostly paved detour off the Ring Road. Learning our lesson from the day before, we quickly found a quaint cafe for breakfast.
We had a little time before our high-speed Zodiac raft excursion, so we walked around and did a little window shopping. The lovely Icelandic sweaters were too heavy, scratchy and expensive for my taste.
For the whale-watching excursion, we suited up in heavy, one-piece jumpsuits with hoods. Riding the raft was like sitting astride of horse, with floor ‘stirrups’ for your feet.
My husband and I were in the front of the 24-passenger boat. It was quite an exhilarating thrill ride in itself. Like a roller coaster, riding the waves took you up and out of your seat as the raft flew across the bay.
Our first destination was one of the largest puffin rookeries in the world. Lundey Island is a large volcanic island where puffins nest. It’s hard to see them in this picture, but there were tens of thousands of puffins on the island, in the air, and surrounding waters.
We were all bundled up and busy hanging on, or just enjoying the moment to try to snap pictures of humpback whales. A truly breathtaking sight.
My son snapped a few pictures of the five or six different whales we saw repeatedly, over the course of several hours. I was sorry to see our excursion come to an end.
Back in Husavik, and overlooking the pier, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Gamli Baukur.
Afterwards, we headed south down the opposite side of the peninsula to briefly rejoin the Ring Road.
Waterfall of the Gods
Godafoss is a horseshoe-shaped waterfall, right along the Ring Road.
It’s considered one of the country’s most beautiful.
Like many of Iceland’s waterfalls, with a little daring, it’s also possible to get right to the thundering water.
But be careful — it’s slippery and the volcanic rock make the ground very uneven.
Heading Towards the Arctic Circle
Back in the car again, we detoured north for a very scenic drive to the Trollaskagi Peninsula. Well, scenic when the clouds didn’t bring visibility down to just several feet! Poor D was at the wheel again. There were no shoulders or turnoffs, so you just had to keep driving on. The route around the peninsula curves high above the sea and skirts deep glacial valleys.
Once out of the clouds, we stopped to use the drone, exploring waterfalls falling from high peaks. Finally, we headed into the charming harbor town of Siglufjorour.
The landmark Siglo Hotel sat right on the harbor, within easy walking distance of restaurants and shops.
Another action-packed day on our Iceland journey! Join me for the final leg of our 10-day trip, when we visit West Iceland, the Snafellsnes Peninsula and finally, Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon.
Have a great weekend!
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Take me home, gravel roads to a place I once belonged……John Denver sorta’……..
What an adventure. The photos are magical. I can see my forefathers fishing and the women catching Ptarmigans. It’s no wonder everybody believed in trolls and giants.
The sweater hanging ready for sale is beautiful. Guess as a child I never noticed the scratchy part. I only remember they were waterproof and very warm.
Thanks for my Viking tour this morning.
Hauling a camper should be outlawed on certain roads all over the world. Grrrrr…….
Hi Kem! That sweater depicting Icelandic horses was a real work of art. I was tempted, but it was way too big. Being warm was the important part I’m sure. Wearing a turtleneck underneath would probably take care of scratchy. Happily, it rarely gets cold enough to need an Icelandic sweater here in Pittsburgh!
Debbee, this is simply an outstanding recap! I saw another blogger who did some of your itinerary on a trip to Iceland earlier in the year, and her pictures were nowhere near as idyllic as your conditions were! Just fantastic shots you have here! That waterfall ! All I could think of was I bet how slippery those rocks out to it were (and on the edge, yikes!). The crater ! The geothermal area – they let people walk about all that??! The steam bath, crater climb, your description of the sweaters lol, and the whales. What a memorable and remarkable journey, truly. Thanks for sharing it all.
Have I convinced to pack your bags for Iceland? I’m so glad the photos are capturing some of the nature’s majesty. Most sites there are no park rangers or info booths like we are use to in the USA. But, almost everywhere you go there are other people around. That’s one of the reasons research and pre-planning an itinerary for an Iceland trip is so important. Sturdy footwear, i.e. hiking shoes or boots are also essential.
I’ve enjoyed your Iceland posts. It’s somewhere I probably won’t visit, so your travelog has been wonderful. A number of your photos look a little like a lunar landscape. Like you, I wouldn’t have gone to close to the slippery edge in some of those places, so thank goodness for sons with cameras. Thanks so much, Brenda
Brenda, it’s so nice to hear you enjoy the Iceland posts. Not sure how many of my followers the travel logs appeal to? Iceland is a remarkable place; lunar landscape, glaciers, waterfalls. Definitely the land of fire and ice.
I love your travel report and all the places you have been. I wanted to write about my trip to the US last May. Markus and I visited so many great places, met so many nice people and ate delicious (for us almost exotic) food in hidden gems of restaurants. But so far I haven’t managede to put the posts together :/
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel, especially lately. In fact, I just got back from Greece and can’t wait to share! But, composing travel posts are time-intensive. That’s why I still haven’t gone back and finished Spain. I’m always juggling posts on tablescapes, holiday decorating, DIY, parties, etc. It’s nice to know you’ve been traveling along with me.