Tour to Iceland July 3rd – July 22nd 2004.

A 3 week tour into the highlands of Iceland, visiting volcanic and jökull areas (Ice and Fire), natural hot springs and the fantastic nature of Iceland. Using a 4WD car, a lot of walking tours and mainly spending the nights in tents.

In total 3500 km of driving, of which 1000 km on mountain roads.

Participants: Mats Ljungberg, Camilla Wikström, Anna and Olof Ljungberg (Anna made a 6 day horse tour on the Kjölur route at the end of the tour)

The tour was a result of impressions from a similar 3 week tour, using 4WD buses, 29 years ago. Thorsmörk, Fjallabak sydri, Laugafell, Laki and Kjölur were new areas this time, leaving out Askja and Vestmannaeyjar. Askja, including the Gaesavatnaleid, and Kverkfjöll and more time in the Skaftafell area are wishes for a possible next trip.

Comparing the two trips, with almost 30 year between them:

Still the same, fantastic, nature and places not being spoilt with commercial activities. Roads, especially main roads, had been heavily improved. The highland was still charming, with even popular tourist areas like Landmannalaugar not being spoilt. At Mývatn, and some other popular places, ropes prevented you from free walking, and some wooden paths/bridges had been made, in order to save the nature but no commercial stuff. You could feel very relaxed in the simple camp sites in the highlands. Very few tourists in beginning of July, and we were lucky with an early summer concerning the conditions of the mountain roads.

 1 – Arrival

Nice view over Vatnajökull and Mýrdalsjökull from the sky. Pick up 4WD Nissan Terrano at airport. Stay at Snorris guest house. Buy food for the coming days. Simple dinner in the centre of the town.

2 – Crossing rivers to Thorsmörk

Road 1 to Seljalandfoss, nice waterfall. Going into Thorsmörk (F249), crossing a number of rivers. Lots of jeeps leaving Thorsmörk, on Sunday afternoon after the weekend. Stay at Basar camp site, very few people there (but there had been problems Saturday night). Evening walk to Tungnakvíslarjökull in fantastic landscape.

3 – Walking in Thorsmörk “Lord of the Rings” area, Godaland

Walking towards Fimmvörduháls, with very nice view towards Mýrdalsjökull and Eyafjellajökull. Some steep parts and also a strange plateau Morinsheidi. Landscape from “Lord of the Rings”, breathtaking. Bad weather and hails at 1000 m make us turn back, without having seen the view towards the Atlantic.

4 – Fjallabak sydri nice, lonely, route to Landmannalaugar

Crossing the rivers back. Filling petrol and buying food at Hvolsvöllur. Via Fjallabak sydri route (F261, F210) with nice canyon, entering Maelifellssandur and view towards Mýrdalsjökull and flooded sandur at some places. Some hard rivers at Holmsá and Álftavatn (route F233), the last one made you feel worried. No cars at all in the afternoon, would not like to be sitting in the middle of the river. Via F208 mountain road with nice colours, following the winding river, to Landmannalaugar camp site. A wonderful bath in the natural hot pool in the late, very cold evening. A fantastic route, proposed by Oli at Highlanders.

5 – Walking around Landmannalaugar strangely coloured mountains

Walking in the area. Climbing Bláhnúkur mountain, but stopped before the top due to the hard wind. Nice view over the strangely coloured mountains. Via the Graenagil gorge and lava fields, around Laugahraun back to a nice bath in the natural pool.

6 – Via Sprengisandur stone desert to oasis at Laugafell

Via route F208, and the reservoirs to Sigalda for petrol filling. Hardly any food to buy. Via the endless, but impressing, stone desert Sprengisandur to Nýidalur oasis for lunch and via route F752, and river crossing, to the Laugafell oasis. No tents but ours, but the huts were full with a Danish Highlander group and a French group. Lots of flowers, e.g. roseroot, around the natural hot spring, giving nice surroundings when taking a bath.

7 – Stone desert, and jökull view, via waterfalls to Mývatn

Passing the last part of Sprengisandur in dust and 28 degrees, in total around 250 km Sprengisandur. Nice view towards Vatnajökull and Trölladyngja. Visiting Aldeyarfoss nice waterfall, with basalt columns, and Godafoss waterfall on the way to Mývatn camp site at Reykjahlíd (very few tents there). An evening walk around the crater rim of Hverfjall.

8 – Tours around Mývatn area

Visiting Krafla geothermic area and the new lava field. Walk around Námaskard/Námafjall, and the bubbling holes. Taking a bath in the new natural pool (copy of Blue Lagoon). Also visiting the underground hot spring Grjótagjá, but too hot nowadays (was nice 40 degrees 30 years ago).

9 – Mývatn area and whale spotting in Húsavík

A walk around the lava formations at Dimmuborgir, and the lava pillars (klasar) at Höfdi, where there is also a small forest with birches. View of the pseudocraters in the lake. Lunch at Laxá river, looking at harlequin ducks in the wild stream. Through the sand fields, where lupins had been planted for preventing erosion (but giving other problems), to Húsavík. Three hours whale safari, seeing dolphins, minky whale and some humpbacked whales but we missed the blue whale. Stay at Húsavík camp site.

10 – Tjörnes peninsula, with puffins, and Ásbyrgi canyon

Visiting the fine whale museum at Húsavík. Follow the coastline of Tjörnes, with nice sea views and green valleys. Puffins at the eastern part. Stay at Ásbyrgi camp site, with very strange canyon formations that no one can fully explain. An evening tour on top of Eyjan.

11 – Jökulsárgljúfur national park with impressive waterfalls and canyons

Via route F862 on the western side of Jökulsá á Fjöllum. Walking around Hljódaklettar (echoing rocks), with basalt columns, and Raudhólar (the red hills), strange landscape. Also a walk to Holmarfossar and its greenery, looking out over the canyon. Visiting the dark, mighty Dettifoss (Europe´s largest concerning water flow) and Selfoss. Surrounded by stone desert. Bad route to the main route. Stay at Akureyri youth hostel.

12 – Akureyri and travelling to south east coast

Anna takes the bus to Reykjavík for her horse tour on Kjölur route. Going east in the rain on the mainly good road 1, then continuing on the road from Egilsstadir to Reydarfjördur. Following the coast line. Stay at Café Marghareta in Breiddalsvík, some luxury due to bad weather.

13 – South-east coast, Skálafjellsjökull and Jökulsárlón

Following the mighty coast line. Black reef at Hvalnes, with small, rounded stones, and isolated flower plants. Take mountain route F985 to Jöklasel, steep and curvy. A short walk in the rain on Skálafjellsjökull. Many pyramidal saxifrage on one spot along the road. A boat trip on Jökulsárlón, very nice with icebergs and Breidamerkarjökull in the background. Stay at Skaftafell camp site.

14  - Ingólshöfdi, with birds, and Skaftafell/Morsárdalur

Tractor with haywagon to Ingolshöfdi on flooded land. Walk on the cliffs, lots of puffins and also the angry great skua. In the afternoon, and evening, a 15 km long walk on Skaftafellsheidi, passing Svartifoss. Lookout towards Morsardálur and Morsárjökull (which we passed 30 years ago). Walk in the fog to Skaftafjellsjökull, that suddenly appears below us for a short while. Rain and cold, but a nice shower at the camp site before midnight helps.

15 – Skeidarársandur and Laki volcanic area

Studying the exhibition at Skaftafell, and the main road exhibition describing the flood in 1996, sweeping away bridges. Rainy when pasing Skeidarársandur. Visiting the old houses and church at Núpsstadur. Route F206 to Laki volcanic area, one of the world’s biggest eruptions in 1783. Green and a great number of small crater cones.  Passing black lava fields on the way back. Route F208 to camp site at Holaskjol, with a nice evening dinner outside the tent.

16 – Via Landmannalaugar, Hekla, Geysir, Gullfoss and Kjölur route to Hveravellir oasis

Via the nice way, with many colours, to Landmannalaugar, with coffee and bath in the hot spring. Also a short visit to Eldgjá. Lunch at the base of Hekla. Visiting Geysir (Strokkur) and Gullfoss, the only real commercial places we saw, and a lot of people. Via the long, Kjölur mountain route (F35) to Hveravellir oasis and camp site. Nice view towards Langjökull and Hrútfjellsjökull. A bath in the hot pool,  below a small waterfall on colourful ground, together with the horse people of Anna´s group.

17 – Hveravellir and Kerlingarfjöll volcanic area

Watching the horse people when collecting horses and going away. Bath in the pool, and visiting the volcanic grounds. Go back to Kerlingarfjöll and a 2 hour walk in the fantastic volcanic area with colourful mountains and jökull. Via Hveravellir to Blönduós camp site at the coast. A tour along the coast in the evening, where many young terns passed the road on the way to the water.

18 – Vatnsnes peninsula, Hraunfossar nice falls via Kaldidalur to Reykjavík

Visiting Borgarvirki basalt column fortress and the Vatnsnes peninsula, gravel road. Seals at the western part. Bad shortcut road to the nice falls of Barnafoss and Hraunfossar, where springs well up from the lava and run in falls into the Hvitá river. Via Kaldidalur mountain route (F35), in rain and clouds, and Thingvellir to Reykjavík. Stay at Snorris.

19 – Shopping and Blue Lagoon

Pick up Anna. Shopping in the outlets at the eastern part of Reykjavík (fleece jackets from North 66). Then spending 3 hours at the Blue Lagoon. More commercial, and less relaxing, than the Landmannalaugar, Laugafell and Hveravellir pools, but still an experience, including the silica mud. A drink, sun and 17 degrees made you feel you were in southern Europe or Asia. Dinner in the old town of Reykjavík, costing a fortune (25000 IKR for 4 persons).

20 – Departure

Leaving early in the morning, one hour queuing at the airport. Unfortunately the clouds hide the view of Iceland.