Day 5 on the road. . .
End Location: Seyðisfjörður
Distance: 181 miles
Accommodations: Seyðisfjörður Hostel
The Northeast was scattered with a slew of beautiful and natural places. The area around Lake Mývatn is a popular destination for Icelanders during the summer months when temps are cooler than those in the South. Only having a day to get from Akureyri to Seyðisfjörður really didn’t give us enough time to thoroughly explore this area. But we managed to make the most of it, stopping at 7 different scenic locations.
Goðafoss is only a short distance from Akureyri so it was no surprise that many tour buses were stopped at this location as well. The name means “waterfall of the gods”. In the year 900 or 1000, lawmaker Þorgeir returned from Parliament after making Christianity the official religion. To confirm his faith he threw the statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall and that is how it received its name. There are trails leading up to both the top and bottom of the falls and you can get very different perspectives from each location, so take the time to follow both to get the full experience.
Here we got off the Ring Road for a second to take a quick peek at the lake. Mývatn was formed by a volcano explosion 2300 years ago. The name means “lake of midges” due to the thousands of annoying midges that usually frequent the area. Fortunately we didn’t see any of these insects. This lake is one of the few places on earth that Marimo balls grow. Marimo balls are soft velvety moss balls that grow only in lakes. In recent years the Marimo balls in Lake Mývatn have been rapidly declining and conservation efforts are being taken. The lake is also a renowned birding hotspot. Thirteen species of ducks nest here. There is even a birding museum in the vicinity for the avid birder to check out. Unfortunately we had little time to spend here and a deeper exploration would of been nice but, we had a lot of ground to cover still that day.
We did make it to one stop at Lake Mývatn. It was hard to miss the crater for it was the most dominate landmark in the area. A quick drive through a lava field brings you to a dirt parking lot and a walking path that goes straight up it’s side. Hverfjall erupted about 2500BP and looks more like a foreign planet than a place in Iceland. The crater is a little over a half of mile in diameter. But don’t be fooled by this, hiking up is no easy feet. The loose gravel and steep incline makes the walking slow. Of course while we were there we saw a couple run up the crater, around the top, back down and kept going past the parking lot. I have no idea where they started but they were way more ambitious then we were.
I’m not really sure what this place was pictured below. But the water sure was pretty.
Hverir Mud Pots
After leaving Mývatn, the next stop on Route 1 is Hverir Mud Pots. Although not much to look at from the road, once you step out of your car you realize they are more animated then you would think with the earth hissing, and gurgling all around you. And then there is the smell. The sulfur produced from Hverir gives the air a rotten egg odor, but you soon get used to it. Fumaroles are places in the earth that emit steam and gases, often near volcanos. The Hverir fumarole field is one of the easiest to access in the area. There is a small fee to get in, but platforms make it easy to get up close to all the activity. The colors of the landscape are amazing even though the area is void of any plant life due to the toxicity of the sulphur.
An average of 96,500 gallons cascade over Dettifoss every second, which makes it Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It’s easy to feel small next to such an intimidating force. The name is roughly translated to “collapsing waterfall”. There are two access points to the falls but the eastern road is in better shape and includes a less obscured view.
Like the majority of the places we visited in Iceland, you are able to walk right up to the edge and feel the full force of the falls. Since visiting this country I have seen a number of articles proving tourists will always find a way to ruin it for those that come after them. Be smart, and careful when visiting places you are not familiar with, or soon your view will be obscured by a 12 ft enclosed chain link fence. As Iceland’s tourist industry continues to grow, I imagine a lot of the beauty will be spoiled by concrete viewing platforms, and safety barriers.
Just upstream from Dettifoss, is Selfoss. The same trail forks and takes you to both waterfalls. Although the water in the river doesn’t vary in volume, the width of Selfoss is substantially larger, making the impact less impressive. But don’t skip out on seeing it for those reasons. It is definitely worth the extra 45 minutes of your time.
When we arrived in Seyðisfjörður, it felt like we were the only people there. The quiet town only has a population of a little over 600 people. I have never felt it was a good idea to take a midnight walk in an unfamiliar town. But Iceland has a way of making you feel safe. In fact before I came I had read that mothers leave their babies in carriages outside of the cafes because the cafes are too noisy and they are not worried to leave the babies out on the sidewalk. With that in mind, the view of a waterfall out my window, was calling to me. So at about 12 o’clock at night, I took a walk…
I also didn’t see a single person on my walk, but the waterfall was beautiful. At night you can see the town’s name lit up on the hillside.