• Closing the circle: a road trip through northern Iceland

A few months ago I wrote a first post about my visit to Iceland, and promised to tell you more about it in a second article.

If you had a look at the places shown in that first article, I’m sure you’d agree with me those places alone would suffice to make anyone want to go to Iceland.

The second part of this 10-day tour took us through northern Iceland, still following Road 1 (the “Ring Road”) back to our starting point in Reykjavik. This meant straying from the coast, at least partially, to see a few more of Iceland’s highlights.

Fjord landscape in northern Iceland

Iceland is deceptively small, and, unless you go for a two-week trip or longer, you’ll probably spend a long time in the car just to see the highlights. The fact that you’ll want to stop every 10 kilometers or so to capture some stunning landscape doesn’t help either.

(All photos are © Fernando Cortés-Cabanillas. Please contact me if you’d like to use them).

A solitary stretch of road in Iceland

Seen from a distance, Detifoss waterfall seems impressive, but maybe not spectacular. You can hear the rumble from several hundred meters away, though, and that is an instant clue as to the sheer power of this waterfall.

Detifoss waterfalls from a distance

With 44 meters of height, and an unbelievable peak flow of almost 500 cubic meters per second in the summer, Detifoss is best experienced up close.

Detifoss waterfalls, east side

A slippery path on the east side will take you to the very edge of the waterfall, where the roar of the sediment-laden water stream has an almost hypnotic nature to it.

Detifoss waterfalls and rainbow

In Iceland you’re never too far from lava (solidified or not), sulphuric gases, steam or pools of boiling mud or water. The volcanic Krafla and the adjoining geothermal Hverir areas have it all: craters, lava fields, volcanic lakes, boiling mudpools, fumaroles… If there ever was a natural theme-park for geology buffs, this has to be it; although the same can be said of the whole of Iceland itself.

Undulating hills in the Kafla area, Iceland

Walking around this area, I often felt on a different planet, surrounded by barren, petrified lava expanses, steam and pungent sulphuric gases and yellow-ochre hills. Only the view of other visitors in the distance brought me back to Earth.

Lava fields in Kafla

Lava field landscape, Kafla

Hill covered in sulphuric sediment, Hverir area

Boiling mudpool, Hverir

The gentle landscapes around Myvatn were also one of the highlights of the trip. The green, undulating hills and pseudo craters surrounding the lake looked like straight out of a children’s tale in the warm light of sunset. Another thing I liked is that we encountered very few tourists, as in most parts of Iceland. I don’t know if this has changed much over the years, but I’d be surprised if it ever turns into a mass tourism destination, since it remains a rather expensive one.

Dark pseudo crater

Pseudo craters in Lake Myvatn, Iceland

Godafoss was probably the least impressive of all the waterfalls I saw in Iceland. That’s not to say it lacks some beauty, but I felt it paled in comparison to the others.

Godafoss waterfall

Thinking back on this trip (it was a few years ago), I still wonder why we didn’t go whale-watching in Husavik, a well-known spot for this activity. I can only put it down to our lack of time, since we had pre-booked our accommodation for the whole trip and had to reach our next stop every night. Or maybe it was due to my skepticism, based on two prior whale-watching trips that were a total failure.

Husavik church with mountain backdrop

Another area we would have loved to have the time to explore was the northwest, with its beautiful fjords. That meant straying from Road 1, though, and we were already on a very tight schedule to reach Reykjavik.

Sunny fjord landscape, northern Iceland

Undulating dirt road in cloudy landscape

In the capital, we just had a half day before our flight, sadly. It was enough for us to enjoy the architecture (like the impressive Hallgrímskirkja church below), as well as this city’s rather unique vibe. Definitely one to revisit.

Hallgrímskirkja church, Reykjavik, Iceland

Window detail, Reykjavik

Why I think you should go to Iceland

Taking this together with my previous post about Iceland, it seems mindboggling to me that you can see such diverse and imposing landscapes without straying too much from one single road. Even more astonishing is to know that in our 10-day trip we barely scratched the surface of what Iceland has to offer.

It’s not just that visiting in a different season (maybe late autumn or early spring) would provide a whole new different perspective on these same landscapes. It’s also that, for those who have the luxury of visiting for longer than we did, or visiting Iceland several times, there is a seemingly endless supply of stunning spots waiting to be enjoyed and photographed. Just grab a book at a store, or run a Google search for more photographs, and you will see what I mean.

This is why I would love to go back to Iceland some day; and this is why I definitely recommend you put Iceland at the very top of your list if you haven’t been there yet.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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