**Apologies for the photo-less post. The wi-fi is not enjoying image uploads at the moment. I will pretty it up asap.
Driving through Iceland, you are likely to experience three types of fog. The first is the mountain flattener. It obscures the tops of all the magnificent peaks you are driving past and cuts them off with a uniform white line of cloud about 40 metres above your head. The second type presses in much closer and while the driver focuses on the 30 metres of visibility in front of the car, the passenger is able to get brief glimpses of the spectacular scenery being missed. Oooh, it looks as though we are driving along a cliff top that would offer beautiful coastal views in other circumstances.
The final type of fog sees you creeping along in a large cotton ball wrapped directly around your car. Technically I think this was all very low cloud cover rather than official fog, but either way, it made for some less than optimal driving. I found the best coping technique as a passenger was to trust in Ryan, doze off and try to nap through until the hairiest parts had passed. Fortunately we only encountered the bonnet obscuring cover on a couple of brief occasions but we did miss out on what seemed to be some of northern Iceland’s most spectacular scenery and spent a lot of time gazing at the bitumen (or gravel) directly in front of us.
After leaving the Skaftafell area we headed further up the east coast by way of the lobster capital of Iceland – Höfn. This was one of the few occasions we forwent the pre-packed sandwich or plain spaghetti in favour of a grown-up meal at a restaurant. And it was well worth it. Most mains will cost you around $30 AUD and it can be hard to find too many cheaper options. Often there is little difference in price between good restaurants and eateries you would expect to be much cheaper. For example we paid just a couple of dollars more for gourmet pizza at a stylish craft beer bar in Reykjavik than for pizza at a roadhouse off the Ring Road one night when other options were in short supply. In Höfn, we lunched at the lovely Pakkhus and took the chance to sample some more Icelandic beers and for Ryan to try some Icelandic seafood. The menu included a vegetarian option simply titled ‘Vegetable’. Despite its unenthused and underwhelming title, it was an incredibly delicious chickpea and vegetable filo wrap and salad.
We spent the night in Djúpivogur. The tiny harbour side village has historical connections to German trading and an infamous history with African pirates. Its modern day claims to fame include a display of 34 large stone eggs along the wharf and the House of Bones Sticks and Stones that is a hoarder’s paradise, housing a collection of flotsam and jetsam that has washed ashore in the area.
From Djúpivogur we headed further north to visit a beautiful little town called Seyðisfjörður . The roadway into the town (mostly obscured by fog for us) and some of the town itself were featured in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The town is situated at the base of 17km long fjord and like many of Iceland’s fjord towns is nestled in a tranquil gap between the water and the steep mountains either side. After a stroll and some more local beer (including a very tasty porter called Black Death), we headed inland to spend the night at Egilstaðir.
The next morning we started driving at about 6.00 am to try and beat the crowds to Iceland’s most biggest waterfall by volume, Dettifoss. And beat the crowds we did. On the 170km we covered that morning we saw a total of one bicycle and zero cars. Although the weather was becoming steadily worse, Dettifoss was another amazing stop. The waterfall spills approximately 500 cubic metres of water per second and does not fail to impress.
By the time we arrived in the Lake Myvatn area, the weather had become very average. We stopped at the Viti Crater to view its blue lake and could barely see to the other side. The inclement conditions did encourage us to stop at the free information centre at the Krafla Power Plant, which we might not have done otherwise. It was one of those pleasant surprises you can encounter when your travel plans don’t work out as expected. The background on the process of harnessing geothermal energy was incredibly interesting. The history of the area also includes a nine year period when the geothermal outlets spilled lava over a 36km area causing the Krafla Fires.
Many people we had met had raved over the Myvatn area. If we hadn’t already witnessed the surreal displays of Iceland’s geothermal power on the Laugavegur trek we might have found the area just as mind blowing. As it was it was incredibly nice but not quite the life changing experience it had been hyped up to be. A big drawcard for the area is that it displays a range of Iceland’s unique features in quite a close area. Close to the Krafla area is Hverir. Hverir is a sulphur field of geothermal outlets of steam escapes and bubbling pools of mud. It is fascinating but to call it the real life Bog of Eternal Stench would not be unfair.
The Myvatn Nature Baths are a smaller, slightly cheaper, version of the Blue Lagoon with a less fancy lobby but beautiful views down the mountain to Lake Myvatn. By the time we had finished soaking and steaming the sun was making a concerted effort to appear. The next stop was a walk through the lava field of Dimmuborgir before braving an army of midges for a walk up the pseudo craters along the edge of the lake itself.
We backtracked a little way to spend the night at a beautiful but remote guesthouse at Grimstaðir. The Myvatn area where the demand for accommodation far exceeds the supply.
The next morning we thought we would try the early bird principle again to check out another famous Icelandic waterfall (this one is renowned for being incredibly beautiful. When we arrived at Godafoss we certainly had the place to ourselves. We also couldn’t see the far side of the waterfall for the thick cloud – it was cotton ball level coverage. I have always believed that a nap fixes most things and sure enough after a 40 minute kip in the car, the weather had cleared enough that we could at least see the entire waterfall.
After swinging through the capital of the north, Akureyri, we decided to push on and explore the first section of the Trollskagi or Troll Penninsula. The first stop was an imposing abandoned herring factory at Hjalteyri before heading up to Siglufjörður to learn all about the herring industry at the Herring Era Museum. Herring might sound ho hum but it was a very cool museum spread over three buildings that were once part of one of Iceland’s more prolific herring factories. The museum won an award for best museum n Europe in 2004.
The final stop for the day was a cheeky 60 km drive for a swim at the Hofsós swimming pool. The little town has been put on the map for its pool which has been built high on a cliff overlooking the ocean giving it an infinity pool feeling. The weather was still pretty cold and wet so it was lovely to get into the water and swim some laps in the relative warmth of the pool. Better still was getting into the toasty outdoor hotpot for another soak. If you haven’t spotted it yet, local beer and testing out the local swimming holes became a bit of a recurring theme on our roadtrip.
We returned to Akureyri for the night. The main street offers a good variety of restaurants, souvenir shops and a cinema. While it is certainly bigger than most of the other towns in the north there is not a lot to see in the town itself. It would be a good place to base yourself if you were looking at taking organised day trips around the area. It was nice for a night and gave us the chance to unwind at the movies before heading off to explore the rest of the Troll Peninsula the next day.