general travel trip reports

Into Askja

Askja is a stratovolcano in the Icelandic highlands. We headed straight there along the F910 in the morning, and managed to cross both of the fords on the road (although there was a lot of eye closing, and we wouldn’t have wanted to stop in one of them). Wending our way through endless circles, we drove on through the Ódáðahraun (Evil Deeds Lava). Driving through old lava flows is not a straight road kind of process.

through lava fields

The clouds were lurking low, and we couldn’t see the Queen of Mountains, nor Askja itself.


Driving on up past the huts, we entered the cloud. Sitting in the parking lot, it started raining. Miserable and cold outside, we decided to hang out and eat lunch before walking in to the crater lakes.

lava field in cloud

Öskjuvatn was the larger lake, from a huge 1875 eruption. Viti, the smaller, was filled with semi-warm water. Not quite hot spring temperature, it hovered around an indoor swimming pool kind of temperature


Warm enough that it seemed a good idea to clamber down the muddy sides of the crater and go for a swim. Shortly beforehand it had been snowing – the swim was brief.


And then it was back again, out along the path (we made the Moosling crawl the whole way).


And back out to the Ring Road – but first, the lava, and the rivers to ford.

leaving again

glacier melt river

Glacial melt rivers like this made me very appreciative of bridges

general travel trip reports

Lava, geothermal areas and an arctic fox

Pottering around in the north of the country…


Horses! The Icelandic horses were everyhere, often running along in the distinctive fifth gait

not whale watching

Around the corner from Husavik, where we decided not to go whale watching because it was expensive and they weren’t even using the best boats at the moment – and it was mainly about the sailing, not the whales

Geothermally active areas around Krafla. Don’t believe the Lonely Planet when it says the Stora-Viti crater “reveals a stunning secret when you reach its rim”. There’s just a bit of water in there, and it’s not even a very exciting colour if it’s overcast.

lava attack

Playing on solidified lava around Krafla. Some of it was still steaming and sulfurous, the earth’s crust is thin here, and Krafla is still active.


More of the Krafla area


Driving around Lake Myvatn. There were a lot of ‘tourist attractions’ here, and we weren’t fussed by most of them. The Hverfell crater (a classic tephra ring) is lurking darkly by the lake, and does look quite cool. The lake itself is home to Marimo Balls – balls of algae that only grow in one other place in the world, Lake Akan in Japan, where we’ve also been (entirely coincidental, we’re not algae ball fiends). The solidified lava you can see flowing down to the lake came from an eruption of Krafla in 1729 – it very impressively only just spared the wooden church in town, which is still standing.

more geothermal

Hverir, another geothermal area near Lake Myvatn

arctic fox

Tame arctic fox at Möðrudalur.

tame arctic fox

Arctic fox and dog, firm friends (bringing back memories of my own pet fox… the dogs treat them as cheeky puppies, which no doubt they are)

general travel trip reports

F26 – the Sprengisandur Route

The main road around Iceland is the Ring Road, making a big, convenient circuit of the country. The F26 is an unsealed 4WD only road that cuts straight up the middle, through desolate lava desert that reputedly used to house ghosts and outlaws. These days it’s still a little on the desolate side, with weather that can change rapidly for the worse.

We managed to get fantastic weather for our drive through though, and the landscape, although desolate, seemed beautiful. Really, it was just like where I grew up, just with less grass and trees, and more lakes and glaciers. What’s not to like?

There were a few rivers to be forded, although nothing was flowing too high when we were there. This was the first, and smallest, of the rivers we crossed. I gradually got over my eyes-closed white-knuckled gripping of the car when we had to ford a river… to the point where I’d have one eye open while I hung onto the door of the car and peered out the window.

We passed through Nýidalur, where a couple of huts and a campground sit in a little oasis, and drove on to Laugafell to spend the night. There were a cluster of huts, a campground and a hot spring, all with just the hut warden, a German couple and us to use them. The huts we stayed at (or camped by), were all run by the Icelandic Touring Association, Ferðafélag Íslands, and they were just about the only place we saw the Icelandic flag flying.

We took full advantage of having the little pool to ourselves, splashing around in the warm water, before returning to our tent (keeping an eye out for the glacier lurking behind the huts, in case it was going to make a break for it and rampage towards us during the night).

general travel trip reports

Getting away from town

Our 4WD picked up (thankfully we were upgraded from the tiny toy Suzuki Jimny to the slightly less tiny Suzuki Grand Vitara) we set off into the great unknown. Not that unknown though, as initially we drove around the famed ‘Golden Triangle’, consisting of Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.

Conclusion: They’re not that golden, unless that’s as far from Reykjavik as you’re able to get.

Þingvellir is mainly of interest as a historical site, being the place where Iceland’s first parliament was founded back in 930, and continued for centuries. It’s also smack bang on the divide between the North American and Eurasian continental plates, so there are some cool holes in the ground, and bits of ground being unexpectedly higher than other bits beside it.

Geysir was the source of the English word geyser. It only geyses sporadically now though, and the regular erupter is Strokkur (which only did a few half-hearted flubs while we were there – apparently it reaches 30m, I don’t think any of the eruptions we saw topped 10m)

not geysir

Gullfoss is a waterfall (foss = falls). I’ll save the photo of that for a massive Foss post, as there were quite a lot of them by the end of the trip. But after driving around the three biggest tourist attractions in Iceland, we were happy to dive off onto a random 4WD track, and camp by the foot of a glacier.


There was just one other vehicle there, and they seemed happy to keep to themselves. After hiking up the mountain by our tent and taking some photos, we had some dinner and curled up in the warm to sleep.

glacier by campsite

The next morning we set off back into civilisation to find some groceries, and then it was to be northwards and into the highlands.


general hiking travel trip reports

Day Four of the Laugavegur hike (Botnar – Þórsmörk)

An early start today, as we had a bus to catch. Well, not that early. We left the hut by 8.45am at any rate.

It was raining as we left, and so to get to the Bridge of Peril we had to walk ourselves down muddy slopes using fixed ropes and chains (it’s actually wasn’t terribly perilous at all).

There was more canyon to see, and more up and down through green landscape. The rain cleared again, and we started getting warm as we hiked up little hills.

There’s something about hiking with a deadline that makes everything a little less enjoyable. Rather than just enjoying the scenery we were passing through, I wasted far too much time calculating when we might arrive in Þórsmörk (that’s Thorsmork for those of you that don’t do Icelandic letters).

Nearing Þórsmörk we stopped for lunch in a meadow, then crossed over the River of Doom – so high that a lot of people were stripping down to underwear to cross. We just made do with getting wet pants.

I had memories of reading of the verdant alpine oasis in Þórsmörk, with great forests. I’d forgotten that this was describing Iceland, where they don’t have trees. The trees were wee alpine birches, and the vegetation in general reminded me of coastal scrub in Australia. It was definitely a change from the Landmannalaugar end of the hike, but we both preferred the stark and colourful mountains of the start of the hike.

In the end we reached the bus stop at Langidalur hut an hour early, and had plenty of time to sit on the grass and watch the 4WDs fording the glacial rivers that were flowing across the huge plain in front of us. We were wishing we’d planned to hike the extension, continuing on to the south for a few days. And wondering what would happen if one of the volcanoes errupted. In each of the huts there’d been a map of the area, showing the areas which would flood in the case of an erruption (something to think about when you have volcanoes hiding under great glaciers), and what escape routes you should take.

Our trusty 4WD bus arrived on time though, and whisked us away from the volcanoes and glaciers. I lost count of the number of times we forded rivers on the way out, although the stairwell of the bus only filled up with water once. We were headed back to Reykjavik, and to pick up our rental 4WD.

Distance: 15km
Terrain: Overall 300m elevation loss, but lots of uphill nontheless