11 Days Alone in Iceland - Part 5
Follow us this time to – of course – more waterfalls, the “Capital of the North”, the birthplace of the Icelandic nation and a mountain road definitely worth noticing!
Everyone who has spent a night beside a waterfall or big river might know that it usually affects the bladder, which results in frequent walks to the toilette. That’s what I was afraid of. Fortunately, our camper-van from CampEasy had good enough sound isolation, and we had another very relaxed night, with a view right on the river some 5 meters away. After a good breakfast, we continued through Iceland’s only toll-tunnel to Akureyri, the “Capital of the North”. Remember to pay the tunnel toll online in advance if you have a rental car! Otherwise, the company will charge you extra for the additional work – you can buy it here.
Akureyri is a charming, small city with about 19.000 inhabitants, the 2nd biggest in Iceland. Cute, isn’t it? Just like its heart-shaped traffic lights. Public transport (aka city busses) are completely free of charge! People are super friendly – like most places – and very helpful. We got some great tips for places to visit and stocked up on camera gear in the local camera store Pedromyndir. If you need some tips, parts, someone who really knows cameras and drones, or just a nice, framed photo as a souvenir – definitely consider stopping over here! Of course, I spent way too much time and money here (but so worth it!) before continuing to the local botanic garden, right outside the city center. The focus here is to showcase the diverse flora of Iceland. It’s easy to get lost along the narrow pathways and overhanging trees. Very quiet and peaceful. In the middle is a charming wooden house with a cozy cafè – perfect.
After exploring the botanical garden and warming up with some coffee and pastry, we had to get going. 3 days left of our trip, time passed so incredibly fast! We still had time enough for yet a famous detour to a basalt rock formation called Hvitserkur. The name means “white shirt” and originates in the white color on top, caused by guano. Several species of birds inhabit this picturesque formation. Further on around the archipelago lies the Seal Beach, which sadly was closed by our arrival. Since it started to get dark already, we decided to look out for the next camping ground. We found one in a super small fishing village called Borðeyri (I’m glad I only have to write this). There was absolutely nobody else. A wooden wall protected the place from the north’s icy wind, and one little hut provided a sink, toilette, and shower. The temperature went down to +5 degrees Celsius, it started to get really chilly. Luckily our van had a heater that ran all night. Come next morning, an elderly lady knocked on the door, presented herself (Sigrid), and greeted us welcome. We might have invited her in, as she had many fascinating stories to tell, but we had to move on. And it was still frigid and windy! Following Sigrid’s advice, we went to a cascade of small waterfalls called Hraunfossar, right next to Barnafoss. A beautiful blue river, running through a narrow creek, flanked by a trail and beautiful views over the surrounding landscape. And – another cafè with delicious pastry! Yes, I need coffee to survive and am a sweet tooth. So no matter how much I love nature, I never leave an opportunity to refill.
Since we still had several sights to visit, we decided to take a shortcut back to the south. The road leading to Barnafoss continues as the road 550, a gravel road straight over the highlands. It leads to the “Golden Circle,” the most popular sightseeing roundtrip in the west. The 550 is definitely one of the better-maintained gravel roads and doesn’t require 4×4. But be sure to always get updated information on road.is since conditions can change quickly due to the harsh conditions. That said – it was yet another surprise, and we had to stop several times along the way. Passing by under Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier, with beautiful patterns of glacial streams, carving through the moon-like landscape – it definitely was an experience in itself, rather than a plain shortcut.
After this amazing 40km shortcut, we left the Highlands again. The difference in temperature was interesting – starting with +5 °C in the morning in northern Iceland, we arrived in the southwest at +25 °C. Our first sight was Þingvellir (Thingvellir), the birthplace of the nation of Iceland. From 930 AD until 1798 AD, the annual parliament of Iceland held it’s meetings here. It’s as well one of the more significant places to see the Eurasian and North-American plate boundaries, which are drifting apart at Þingvellir. There are possibilities to take a bath in the river, and there are as well two open diving spots in the rift, even though you need to hold a dry suit certificate for that. The rift dives are famous for the exceptional clear groundwater.
Even though I had planned this as the final part of our Iceland series, there’s still so much I didn’t tell you about, so many amazing places I really want to show you. I’m sorry we didn’t get to the hidden hot spring quite yet, but I promise we’ll get there next Saturday, when we finally release the final (final final) part of our Iceland blog!
Follow us next Saturday in our very last part of this Iceland blog along the Golden Circle to the popular Geysir, Gullfoss, and other amazing sights – and find out what is worth it and what might be not. We’ll visit a lava tube and hang out in what must be the most idyllic, hidden hot spring in Iceland!