north iceland: dettifoss & selfoss to seyðisfjörður

Thursday, August 18:  We get back on the Ring Road after leaving Leirhnjúkur and then take one more detour, on Rt. 862, north for 24km on a sealed road. The landscape is as barren and desolate as any we’ve seen so far in Iceland. We’re heading toward the south end of Vatnajökull National Park.  There we’ll see the powerful Dettifoss, a waterfall known as having the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe.

As we’re driving up this sealed road to the north, we can’t imagine where on earth a waterfall will emerge. It’s as flat as can be as far as the eye can see.

the long barren walk to Dettifoss
the long barren walk to Dettifoss

We finally arrive at a parking lot and see the footpath toward Dettifoss.  It’s a 2.5km loop walk to the canyon-edge view of Dettifoss and the smaller cataract, Selfoss.  We wonder if we have the energy to do this entire walk, as we’ve already walked our fool legs off today!  We decide we’ll just walk to Dettifoss and then see if we feel like following the loop to Selfoss.

The walk is as barren as the rest of the surrounding landscape.

the walk to Dettifoss
the walk to Dettifoss

After quite a walk, we finally reach the west edge of Dettifoss.  The roar of the 193 cubic meters of muddy water per second tumbling over the 44m high and 100m wide cliff is enough to take our breath away.  We can feel the immense power of this waterfall.

Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss

We’re lucky it’s a sunny day, because we can see rainbows over the canyon downstream from the waterfall, as well as directly over the waterfall.

rainbow at Dettifoss
rainbow at Dettifoss
rainbow at Dettifoss
rainbow at Dettifoss

The pathways down to the edge of the waterfall meander through a carpet of green, the only green to be seen for miles in any direction.

Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
the great and powerful Dettifoss
the great and powerful Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
rainbow downstream from Dettifoss
rainbow downstream from Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss
Dettifoss

What a spectacular waterfall Dettifoss is!  We walk around on all the paths and see the waterfall from every angle.

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I love the blue skies dotted with gray-bellied clouds and the rainbows that shimmer in the mist and sunlight.

Dettifoss & rainbow
Dettifoss & rainbow

We’re so impressed by Dettifoss that we don’t want to leave the area.  We decide to continue on the loop to the smaller waterfall Selfoss.  We return to the trail through the rocky landscape.

the walk to Selfoss
the walk to Selfoss
the barren walk to Selfoss
the barren walk to Selfoss

We get our first glimpse of Selfoss.  Poor neglected Selfoss, which in any other place would be considered a major waterfall, is as pretty as any waterfall can be.

first glimpse of Selfoss
first glimpse of Selfoss

I suppose next to Dettifoss it isn’t much, but it’s quite beautiful in its own right.

Selfoss
Selfoss
Selfoss
Selfoss
me at Selfoss
me at Selfoss
Mike at Selfoss
Mike at Selfoss

I love the character and beauty of Selfoss more than the powerful, almost bullying, Dettifoss.

the fabulous Selfoss
the fabulous Selfoss

By this time, it’s nearly 5:00 and we still have to walk back to the parking lot, drive back to the Ring Road, and continue our drive to Seyðisfjörður where we’ve booked our hotel for the night.  We still have a long drive ahead. Once we return to the Ring Road, we hardly make any more stops, as it’s impossible to do so.  We go through nearly 100km of absolutely nothing, very little vegetation, no houses, no civilization of any kind.  The road is raised and there are few pullouts, so we can’t even stop to take pictures, which I’m sure is a relief to Mike who is awfully tired of me asking him to pull off at every opportunity.

I have some of my most stellar and lucid moments on this drive; I like to think it’s because I’m exhausted.  I don’t know if my mind stops working because I’m tired, distracted, or just getting old. :-)  At one point, I see a waterfall and I blurt out, “There’s a watermelon!”  Later, some other tourists are taking pictures out of their car and Mike says, “It’s too dark to take a picture!”  At the same time, I say, “It’s too dark to take a people!”  We have a lot of laughs over my ridiculous blurts.

As we get closer to the Eastfjords, we come to a long area of unpaved gravel road, maybe 20km altogether.  As we get closer to the east, we start to see more green farmland, hills dotted with rotund sheep, and trees with silver-backed leaves that glimmer in the sunlight.

We finally reach civilization at Egilsstaðir, a town on the banks of the Lagarfljót river.  From here, we still have to drive east on Route 93 for about 17 miles, but it’s a slow drive over a mountain and down into the town that sits prettily on the fjord of the same name.  We check into our hotel, the Hotel Snæfell, at its sister hotel, Hotel Aldan, where we’ll also have breakfast in the morning.  By this time, it’s 8:30 pm and we’re starved, especially after the almost 10 miles of walking we did today, plus over 200 miles of driving. We head straight for the Skaftfell Exhibition Gallery & Bistro for dinner.  At the bistro, the late artist Dieter Roth’s book works are on display along with other interesting art books and book art.

Mike enjoys a Baldi lager while I stick with an Einstök Icelandic Pale Ale.

Mike at Skaftell Exhibition Gallery & Bistro
Mike at Skaftfell Exhibition Gallery & Bistro

Our dinner here is delicious; I have cod with risotto and arugula and Mike orders a Skaftfell pizza with minced beef, bacon and onions.

Cod with risotto & arugula
Cod with risotto & arugula
Skaftell Pizza - minced beef, bacon and onions
Skaftfell Pizza – minced beef, bacon and onions

We head back to the Hotel Snæfell, where we’ll be staying for the next two nights, and are disappointed to find our room is impossibly tiny.  It does have its own bathroom however, which several of our hotels don’t have.  However, for $166/night, I think it’s over the top!

the smallest room imaginable at Hotel Snæfell
the smallest room imaginable at Hotel Snæfell

We’re pretty exhausted after our long day today, so we don’t have much trouble falling asleep.  Tomorrow, we look forward to exploring the area around Seyðisfjörður.

Total steps today: 22,463, or 9.52 miles.  Yikes!  It’s no wonder that Mike is starting to come down with a cough and a cold.

10 thoughts on “north iceland: dettifoss & selfoss to seyðisfjörður

    1. I was sick with walking pneumonia for three weeks after we returned home from Iceland! It was miserable. So I did, in a sense, take a vacation from our vacation. I was totally wiped out and didn’t do anything!

      1. No, Mike got sick in Seyðisfjörður and I got sick on the road trip from Seyðisfjörður to Hofn. It was the wind and cold!! It took me three weeks to recover, but I’m fine now.🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Elaine. It was really amazing and set in such a desolate place. The volume of it was overwhelming. We saw so many waterfalls in Iceland, and each one had its own distinct personality.🙂

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