the ring road in east iceland: breiðdalur

Saturday, August 20:  This morning, after another wonderful breakfast at Hotel Aldan, we leave the pretty town of Seyðisfjörður to make our way south on the eastern part of the Ring Road.  Our destination for tonight is Höfn, a fishing town in the southeastern part of the country.  We cross over the pass to Egilsstaðir, where we fill up with gas and buy orange juice, coffee, and snacks.  Mike picks up some earplugs so he can sleep despite my snoring. We then head south on Route 1 through Breiðdalur, the longest and widest of the valleys in Eastern Iceland.

As we head south, we go through another pass, and we see majestic views to the south and west.  We pull into a gravel pullover to get out and explore.  The wind here is fierce and icy.  I walk around trying to get decent photos, but the light isn’t good and it seems an exercise in futility.

Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur

We do find some cairns left by some hardy souls.

Cairn in Breiðdalur
Cairn in Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur

We jump back in the car to escape the wind and cold and continue on our way.  I ask Mike to pull over for a couple more photos, but he stays warm and cozy inside the car.  He’s already sick, and, though I don’t know it this morning, I’ll be sick by the end of the day.  😦

Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
taking a roadside stroll
taking a roadside stroll

The low-lying fog makes for spectacular views, but sadly these views don’t come across with the camera.

Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
fog-covered mountains in Breiðdalur
fog-covered mountains in Breiðdalur

Much of our drive through this valley is on a gravel road, and it’s a long drive!  The Ring Road is definitely not paved all the way around, and this is the longest stretch we’ve encountered. I don’t know how long this unpaved portion of the road is, but it takes us well over an hour, with a few stops, to get back to a paved surface.

Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur

We stop at a bridge over the impressive Breiðdalsá river, famous for salmon-fishing, which winds its way across the valley basin to the sea.

Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
a river runs through Breiðdalur
a river runs through Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur

We see little civilization in this broad valley, but every once in a while, we find a farmstead and some sheep scattered here and there.

Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
Breiðdalur
sheep in Breiðdalur
sheep in Breiðdalur

After leaving the valley, Route 1 takes us to the coast at Breiðdalsvík, a town of only 139 people.  From this point we will drive along the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean until we reach the little town of Djúpivogur.

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east iceland: a hike in the vestdalur valley

Friday, August 19:  Following our hike along the river Fjarðará, we take a drive on a gravel road on the north side of Seyðisfjörður.  We have been told by Tourist Information that if we drive all the way to the end of the dirt road, we can park the car and walk about an hour to a lighthouse at the end of the fjord.  We drive and drive, making a couple of stops along the way for pictures of the fjord.

Driving along the road north of Seyðisfjörður
Driving along the road north of Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður

The drive is pastoral and lovely, with red-roofed farms set in a landscape dotted with plastic-wrapped bales of hay.

a farm along the fjord
a farm along the fjord
bales of hay wrapped in plastic along Seyðisfjörður
bales of hay wrapped in plastic along Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður opening to the North Atlantic Ocean
Seyðisfjörður opening to the North Atlantic Ocean
a farm along the fjord
a farm along the fjord

Toward the end of the road, it appears we are crossing a gate into someone’s private farm but the road still continues on.  Since we haven’t reached the end, where we were told to go, we drive on, finding sheep and horses grazing among farm equipment and a junkyard of sorts.

a sheep at the junkyard
a sheep at the junkyard
a sheep grazing amongst the farm equipment and junk
a sheep grazing amongst the farm equipment and junk
a junkyard in a pastoral landscape
a junkyard in a pastoral landscape

This vehicle graveyard is a little eerie and, though we don’t see a soul around, we’re worried someone will pop out of nowhere and yell at us for being on their property.

the prettiest junkyard ever
the prettiest junkyard ever
a rusty abandoned bus
a rusty abandoned bus

We drive on only a little further before the road dips steeply down toward the coast and we decide we really don’t feel comfortable driving further.  Nor do we feel comfortable leaving our car out here in the middle of nowhere. We don’t see any other cars left behind by other hikers either.  We decide to turn around and go back to where we passed a series of waterfalls and try to follow the well-marked trail along that river.

On the way, we pass a rustic little barn.

a cute farm on the road north of Seyðisfjörður
a cute farm on the road north of Seyðisfjörður

We stop to enjoy the sheep and horses grazing in a field near the mountains.

livestock
livestock

We come to a set of ruins in the Vestdalur Valley.  These ruins are considered part of a heritage site, but we don’t see any descriptive signposts, so I don’t know the story behind them.  We wander around the ruins for a bit and then make our way across the road to the path to the left of the Vestdalá river.

scenes along the north road
scenes along the north road

Later, I read on Visit East Iceland: The Trail of the Mountain-Maid that this route once served as the principal communication link between Seyðisfjörður and other regions in East Iceland. Nineteenth and twentieth century relics of this transport route can still be detected through meticulous road constructions, stone walls and cairns.

ruins in the Vestdalur Valley
ruins in the Vestdalur Valley
looking toward Seyðisfjörður from the Vestdalur Valley
looking toward Seyðisfjörður from the Vestdalur Valley
view from the ruins to the waterfalls
view from the ruins to the waterfalls
view from the ruins to the fjord
view from the ruins to the fjord

We begin our hike on the left bank of the Vestdalá river.  We can see the fog-engulfed opening to the fjord where it empties into the North Atlantic Ocean.

the south end of the Vestdalá river
the south end of the Vestdalá river

The river flows down a series of plateaus and we enjoy finding all the different waterfalls along the way.  What an incredibly picturesque place.  It’s like paradise, and to think we have it all to ourselves.  I adore this place!

walking up the left side of the Vestdalá river
walking up the left side of the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
view down the Vestdalá river to the fjord
view down the Vestdalá river to the fjord
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
Looking down from the plateau to the fjord
Looking down from the plateau to the fjord
the Vestdalá river flows out to the fjord
the Vestdalá river flows out to the fjord
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river

We climb a steep incline and stand at the top of a narrow knob and see this waterfall to our left.  The wind is blowing fiercely up here, and I feel dizzy with the height.

waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river

Looking down we can see the fjord, the ruins and our speck of a car.

the fog moves in
the fog moves in
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river
waterfalls on the Vestdalá river

Mike wants to take a picture of me, but I have to say I’m a little nervous standing on this small ledge at this height with the wind almost knocking me off-balance.  You see me smiling here, but all I want to do is get down safely from this ledge!

me about to be blown away by the wind :-)
me about to be blown away by the wind 🙂

As we reach the top, the fog that we had seen hovering over the end of the fjord quickly moves in and engulfs us.  It’s a good thing we didn’t walk to the lighthouse after all.  We would have probably been enveloped in fog the whole time.

Apparently from this spot, we could keep on climbing up a total of four hours until we reach Vestdalsvatn, a small lake that remains frozen most of the year. We could also get a view of Mt Bjolfur.  But it’s getting late in the day and we’ve done a lot of walking, plus we’re all wrapped up in fog now.

foggy days
foggy days

We make our way back down to the bottom where we parked our car. In the fog, we drive back into town.

Vestdalá river
Vestdalá river

We return to our room before dinner as Mike is feeling sicker than he did this morning.  I’m tired too, and even though we have the smallest room imaginable, we rest for a bit.  Mike takes a nap while I finish the book I’ve been reading, Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith.  I really enjoyed this lyrical book about longing, love, and loss. My daughter Sarah had lent it to me, and I decided since she’d already read it, I’d just leave it behind in the common room at our hotel.

Finishing up Glaciers
Finishing up Glaciers

We have reservations for 7:00 at the Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant.  Mike orders hot water with lemon and honey for his sore throat.  I order a glass of wine and Arctic Char fillet served with broad bean puree, roasted beets and a bisque emulsion. (Arctic Char is a coldwater fish in the Salmon family native to alpine lakes and arctic and subarctic coastal waters).  My meal is artfully prepared and delicious.

Arctic Char fillet served with broad bean puree, roaste beets and a bisque emulsion.
Arctic Char fillet served with broad bean puree, roaste beets and a bisque emulsion.

Mike’s meal is just as artistic and is Eastfjord Cod: pan-seared cod served with sautéed zucchini, pont neuf potatoes, veggie chips and “beurre blanc” sauce.

Eastfjord Cod: pan-seared cod served with sauteed zucchini, pont neuf potatoes, veggie chips & beurre blanc
Eastfjord Cod: pan-seared cod served with sauteed zucchini, pont neuf potatoes, veggie chips & beurre blanc” sauce

After dinner, we take one last stroll around the little town and then we head back to our hotel.

evening view of the Blue Church
evening view of the Blue Church
twilight in Seyðisfjörður
twilight in Seyðisfjörður
Glowing mountains in Seyðisfjörður,
Glowing mountains in Seyðisfjörður

Though it’s early, Mike needs to rest and I am feeling a little run down myself.  Besides, I love to curl up and read after a long day of walking around.  Now that I finished Glaciers, I go back to reading 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris.  I had started this book at my sister’s house earlier this summer.

Seyðisfjörður,
our hotel at dusk in Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður at twilight from the picnic table at our hotel
Seyðisfjörður at twilight from the picnic table at our hotel

Tomorrow morning, we’ll get on the Ring Road again, and continue to the southeast of Iceland.  Destination: Hofn.

Total steps today: 14,727 or 6.24 miles. 🙂

east iceland: a hike along the river fjarðará

Friday, August 19:  Our afternoon hike just off the Route 93 pass from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður is wonderful in every way, from the crisp blue skies and the clouds draped artfully over the surrounding peaks to the series of surprising waterfalls we discover in the river Fjarðará.  We could have never known from the road that so many waterfalls flow along this river.  We had seen the largest waterfall from the road, but all the rest we discover by getting out of the car and walking on narrow trails through grass and heather, or walking on top of the squishy pink-purple flowers or rounded boulders.

view of Seyðisfjörður from the pass and the river
view of Seyðisfjörður from the pass and the river

The river Fjarðará carves its way in a serpentine fashion down the mountain pass into the pretty town of Seyðisfjörður and we enjoy walking beside it, climbing slightly toward the biggest waterfall, the one visible from the road.

early views
early views
along the river
along the river
the heathers
the heathers

We come across a cute threesome of Icelandic sheep, sunning on the rocks not too far from the waterfall.

Icelandic sheep
Icelandic sheep
Icelandic sheep at rest
Icelandic sheep at rest

As we approach, they make their way to another spot, obviously perturbed by our invasion of their space.

sheep on the hill
sheep on the hill
Mike on our hike
Mike on our hike
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
hiking through the heather
hiking through the heather
642
me on our hike
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará

Every time I see Iceland’s glacier-carved valleys covered in moss, I’m awestruck by their beauty.

hiking through the pass
hiking through the pass

The views down into the fjord and the town are fabulous.

view toward Seyðisfjörður
view toward Seyðisfjörður
view toward Seyðisfjörður
view toward Seyðisfjörður
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
river Fjarðará
river Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará

As we get close to the large waterfall, we enjoy clambering about on the rocks, especially Mike, who seems always intent on courting accidents.  Luckily he avoids any falls into the water this time, although I’ve known him to topple off of rocks in his cavalier past.

me on the river Fjarðará
me on the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
the river Fjarðará
Mike at the river Fjarðará
Mike at the river Fjarðará
waterfall in Fjarðará
waterfall in Fjarðará
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
Fjarðará waterfall
Mike at Fjarðará
Mike at Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
me at Fjarðará
me at Fjarðará
Mike at Fjarðará
Mike at Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará

As we walk down the trail from the big waterfall, we find the other waterfalls that we hadn’t known were there, hidden as they are by the undulating landscape.

Mike hiking through the heather
Mike hiking through the heather
along the river Fjarðará
along the river Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Fjarðará
Mike along the Fjarðará
Mike along the Fjarðará
another waterfall on the Fjarðará
another waterfall on the Fjarðará

As we continue our walk, we discover numerous places where the river cascades down rocky ledges.

waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará

On the other side of the river, we can see two other hikers, and though we’re envious that they’re on that far side, we realize we would have to walk all the way up from the town to get there.  There is simply no easy way to cross the river.

waterfall at Fjarðará
waterfall at Fjarðará

Though it would have been fun to walk up from the town, we have plans to explore another hike on the north side of the fjord.  We’ve been told we can drive as far as the road will take us, park the car, and then walk about an hour to the lighthouse at the end of the fjord.  Thus, we take off for that hike, another small adventure that turns out a little differently than we expect. 🙂

east iceland: a stroll through the marina and the town of seyðisfjörður

Friday, August 19:  After we finish our hike to the Tvisongur sound sculpture, we drive back into town in search of a hike that is supposedly on the north side of the fjord. Before proceeding very far, we have to stop and wander around the pretty marina; it’s especially picturesque now that the sun is finally coming out.

marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
Looking at the town from the marina
Looking at the town from the marina
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
colorful boats
colorful boats
a boat party
a boat party
couples therapy
couples therapy
boats in Seyðisfjörður
boats in Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
marina at Seyðisfjörður
waterfall from the marina at Seyðisfjörður
waterfall from the marina at Seyðisfjörður
buildings at the marina and a fog-covered mountain behind
buildings at the marina and a fog-covered mountain behind

We then take a little walk through the town, stopping and asking someone at Tourist Information about possible hikes.

Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður

Earlier this morning, the town was all fogged in, so we have to capture some pictures of it in the sunshine.

rainbow road and the Blue Church in Seyðisfjörður
rainbow road and the Blue Church in Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
bicycles for rent
bicycles for rent

We head to our hotel to grab some lunch at the picnic tables near the estuary.  Nearly every day in Iceland, as breakfast is usually provided in the hotel and we treat ourselves to a nice dinner, for lunch we have bread and cheese and fruit and some kind of snack (cookies or chips).

After our lunch, we’re off to hike along the waterfall-filled river Fjarðará, to the west of town on Route 93 toward Egilsstaðir.

east iceland: a stroll through seyðisfjörður & a climb up to the “sound sculpture”

Friday, August 19:  This morning, we have a fabulous breakfast at Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant.  Hotel Aldan and Hotel Snæfell are sister hotels.  The breakfast spread is the best we have in Iceland, although the Lamb Inn in Akureyri was a close second.

The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan
The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant
The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan
The breakfast spread at Hotel Aldan’s Nordic Restaurant

After breakfast, we return to our hotel to get ready to tackle the day.  We’re both pretty exhausted from our walking and driving yesterday, and Mike is complaining of a sore throat.  We may be pushing it too much, but we’re on holiday and we have places to go, things to see!

Our Hotel Snæfell is a three-story wooden house built in 1908 that sits on the mouth of the river Fjarðará.  The house was first used as the local post office until it was converted to a hotel in 1943.

sitting room at Hotel Snæfell
sitting room at Hotel Snæfell

Through the years Hotel Snæfell has been a shoemaker workshop, a taxi station and a large restaurant. The house also served as a home to several families before becoming a hotel. Among many of the people living there was Ingi T. Lárusson, one of Iceland´s foremost composers.

Hotel Snæfell
Hotel Snæfell
Hotel Snæfell
Hotel Snæfell

Hotel Snæfell has beautiful views over a small natural estuary in the town’s center which is home to birds, trout and the occasional Atlantic Grey Seal.

view of the town from the picnic table at Hotel Snæfell
view of the town from the picnic table at Hotel Snæfell

The Seyðisfjörður town settlement began in 1848 by Norwegian fishermen who built some of the existing wooden buildings in the town.  At that time, it was used as a trading center. Later, its herring industry created great wealth for its residents.  Seyðisfjörður was used as a base for British/American forces during World War II.

Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður

With the recent demise of the local fish-processing plant, the village has shifted its economy to tourism.  It remains a significant fishing port on the east coast of Iceland, with harbors, ship construction facilities and a slip, according to Wikipedia: Seyðisfjörður.

Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður

We walk by the enticing Old Apothecary Guest House, a historic house along the river.

We find this building that looks like a school; it reminds me a little of the school featured in the Danish TV series Rita.  The series follows the life of Rita, an outspoken and rebellious school teacher who is excellent in the classroom, but gets in her own way in her personal life.

School in Seyðisfjörður
School in Seyðisfjörður

Between our hotel and the little town is this monument to some famous character.

Monument in Seyðisfjörður
Monument in Seyðisfjörður

We cross a bridge over the pretty river Fjarðará.

The river
The river Fjarðará

We walk past the Nordic Restaurant on our way into town.  It’s crazy to us that the place has picnic tables as it’s pretty darn nippy, but later we find people  bundled up in parkas and drinking beers outside here.

Hotel Aldan
Hotel Aldan

We love the rainbow walkway that leads to the town’s Bláakirkja, The Blue Church.

rainbow path to the Blue Church
rainbow path to the Blue Church

This boutique, Gullabúið, is painted similarly to a building we saw in Reykjavik on the main shopping street.  I can’t help but wonder if it was painted by the same artist.  The boutique carries souvenirs and crafts, home décor and furniture.

a boutique in Seyðisfjörður - Gullabúið
a boutique in Seyðisfjörður – Gullabúið

We find another sculpture in the churchyard.

sculpture at the Blue Church
sculpture at the Blue Church

The town’s pretty Blue Church is known for its summer concert series on Wednesday nights, featuring jazz, classical and folk music.  As we arrived here Thursday night, we miss the concert.

Bláakirkja, The Blue Church
Bláakirkja, The Blue Church

Below is one of the many camper vans we see throughout Iceland.  You can check out Rent.is to book one of these.

a camping vehicle commonly seen throughout Iceland
a camping vehicle commonly seen throughout Iceland

We take a walk around the town, checking out the colorful buildings, the bay, and the Hotel Aldan. Hotel Aldan housed the bank of Seyðisfjörður for almost a century.

I love the whimsical mural on this building.

whimsical building
whimsical building
risque ladies
risqué ladies

Because of its steep mountainsides, Seyðisfjörður has been prone to avalanches.  In 1885, an avalanche killed 24 people and pushed several houses into the fjord.  A more recent avalanche in 1996 flattened a local factory, but luckily no lives were lost. The avalanche monument in the town is made from the twisted girders of the factory, painted white and erected as they were found, according to Lonely Planet Iceland.

avalanche monument
avalanche monument
Hotel Aldan
Hotel Aldan

After walking around the town, we head up the south side of the fjord to hike up to a famous sound sculpture.  But first, we stop by a sculpture called “Hvernig gengur…?” or “How’s it going?” in English.  It was commissioned by Iceland Telecom to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the telegraph cable between Scotland and Iceland.  The laying of the submarine cable in 1906 marks the beginning of Iceland’s international telecommunications.  The artist was Guðjón Ketilsson.

Hvað er að frétta? (What's new?) phone booth
Hvað er að frétta? (What’s new?) phone booth
a double selfie in the phone booth
a double selfie in the phone booth

We begin our walk up to the Tvisongur (“the Duet”) sound sculpture by German artist Lukas Kühne.  We might be able to see the fjord if it weren’t so foggy.  We can see the fish meal plant as well as Gullberg Fisheries.

Fish processing plant
Fish processing plant

We can see glimpses of blue skies here and there, but as the hike is all uphill and our views are so obstructed by the fog, I’m a little grumpy about this hike!

Gullberg Fisheries and the mountains around Seyðisfjörður
Gullberg Fisheries and the mountains around Seyðisfjörður

Luckily we do get to see some wonderful waterfalls.

waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
waterfall along hike to hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture
hike to Tvisongur sound sculpture

The Tvisongur sound sculpture is built of concrete and consists of five interconnected domes of different sizes. The heights of the domes are between 2 and 4 meters and they cover an area of about 30 square meters. Each dome has its own resonance that corresponds to a tone in the Icelandic musical tradition of five-tone harmony, and works as a natural amplifier to that tone.

Tvisongur sound sculpture
Tvisongur sound sculpture
view around Tvisongur sound sculpture
view around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture
around Tvisongur sound sculpture

As we are the only ones up on this mountain, I sing “America the Beautiful” inside the sound sculpture, because it’s the only song to which I know the lyrics. 🙂

inside Tvisongur sound sculpture
inside Tvisongur sound sculpture

We make our way back down the mountain as the skies clear slightly.

hike back down to Seyðisfjörður
hike back down to Seyðisfjörður

We can see the quaint little town below us, engulfed in fog.

Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
hiking down from the sound sculpture
hiking down from the sound sculpture
Seyðisfjörður
Seyðisfjörður
hking down
hiking down
floating in the clouds
floating in the clouds
passing the waterfalls again
passing the waterfalls again

Finally, we return to town, where we stop at the pretty marina and take another stroll while the sun is shining. After that, we’ll head to the mountain pass on the west to walk around some beautiful waterfalls. 🙂

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.