Iceland – The Land of Ice and Fire… Part 3

So onwards we continue, moving upwards now towards the North. Our next night will be spent in Myvatn, but first I must see the Puffins!!! And what better place to do so than Borgarfjörður Eystri! This is how our 8th day in Iceland started – driving approximately 70km northeast, off Route 1 to get to this remote fjord which is home to around 100 or so human inhabitants, and thousands and thousands of PUFFINS!!! The drive was a scenic one, making use of gravel roads we went off the ring road and drove up a huge mountain, and then back down, finally arriving at our destination in round about an hour.

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I was unsure of this detour, not knowing what to expect on our arrival, but boy was I glad we did it. The sheer number of seabirds, especially Puffins, in this area was spectacular. Never have I seen such a dense population of birds in one place in my life. These are just the most adorable birds on the entire planet I’m sure. They look so cute with their oversized bills and short, stumpy legs. Their complete and utter lack of grace just adds to their appeal and it was just so much fun to watch these little critters fly about, crash-land onto the ground and sea, and flop around in the water <3!!! No wonder they’re affectionately called “Clowns of the Sea”!!! Puffins are very social creatures, so they love hanging out in large groups – they gather in this area mostly during breeding season, which is basically spring time, so we were there at the opportune time to see large flocks come together to party hard and make sweet puffin love to produce cute puffin babies aka PUFFLINGS (yes that is what a baby puffin is called!!!) ❤ ❤ <3. My heart was literally going to explode, this literally was THE highlight of the trip :D. I took hundred of photos of these beauties, but will only post a few several shots – so as not to give you a puffin overdose.

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After prying myself away from Puffinland, we finally got back on the road again, this time moving back towards Route 1, aka the ring road, and getting back on our track towards Myvatn! Once again, scenic vistas kept us company along the way. We were extremely lucky weather-wise so far! All sunny, clear, blue skies! The wind had an icy bite to it, with temperatures ranging from 8 to 10 degrees, but it was a very pleasant climate to be in as long as you dressed well and had the appropriate amount of layers on, and a good warm hat and gloves of course! A smell of sulphur greets you when you’re nearly at Myvatn. This means you’re close to the Námaskarð mud fields – also known as “eldhús djöfulsins” in Icelandic, or “Hell’s (Devil’s) kitchen” because of the sulphur smell and the boiling mud pots all around you. The sulphur fumes can be overwhelming at times, the smell gets really strong if you are standing up wind to the fumes. I would suggest bringing a scarf with you to the area, so as to cover your mouth and nose, hopefully lessening the smell and reducing chances of getting sulphur poisoning (yes it exists so beware!)!! The mud pots make for such a weird and otherworldly environment! It was definitely an interesting experience, that’s for sure! The colours in the fields, unlike the smell, were absolutely amazing, with bright hues of orange, blue and yellow dominating the scene!

The smelly yet of so colourful mudfields near Myvatn

We continued with out drive towards our next destination, passing the Krafla Geothermal power station on the way – if you want to drive up to the Krafla caldera (a currently inactive volcano), you have to pass the Krafla power plant and drive up a steep hill and as you get to the top of the hill, the Leirhnjúkur area is on the left hand side (another sulphur mud field), a view-point on the right hand side and just a little further is Krafla. Krafla is a caldera of about 10 km diameter with a 90 km long fissure zone. Krafla erupted 9 times between the years of 1975-1984. The last eruption lasted for 2 weeks with a lava flow of 24 sq.km.  Lava fountains up to 70 meters high lit up the sky the first days of the eruption. The Krafla is somewhat dormant now, although this does not mean it might not erupt again soon! This was our final stop before arriving at our end destination – Myvatn.

Myvatn is a shallow lake in the north of Iceland, situated in an area of high volcanic activity, not far from Krafla. The lake itself was created by a large basaltic lava eruption over 2000 years ago, and the entire surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms such as lava pillars. The name of the lake itself – Myvatn (Icelandic  (“midge”) and vatn (“lake”); the lake of midges), gives a basic idea of what to expect in the area…. Lots and lots of midges. So be warned, these pesky little insects are irritating to say the least. They are very similar to small mosquitos, but they don’t bite, they just hover around your head, especially your face as they’re attracted to carbon dioxide. Keep your mouth and nose covered if you’re surrounded by the midges, or you’re likely to inhale a bunch of them by mistake!!! They are mostly around in summer, and if you are trekking the area during this season, you will find netted hats available – to keep the midges away from your face. All midges considered, Myvatn is a lovely area. It’s been largely filmed and popularised by the fantastic series Game of Thrones (yes I am a die-hard fan even though it keeps breaking my heart over and over and over again!! 😥 ). Most of the “North of the Wall” scenes have been filmed here. Within this area you can also find the cave where Jon Snow and Ygritte had their first ‘heqqqhmmmmm romantic’ encounter! I didn’t get to visit this cave as I only found out about it after I left the area 😦 We stayed in a nice little hotel – Hotel Reynihilid – http://www.myvatnhotel.is/en/  It was clean, fairly well furnished, and had a really good buffet breakfast, which was included in the price for the night. After checking into our hotel we went to visit Europe’s most powerful waterfall – the Dettifoss!

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Dettifoss is 45 m high and 100m wide and about 500 cubic metres of water per second plunges over the edge of this waterfall. It is impressive to see, although in my opinion it was not as beautiful as Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss (this is a personal opinion of course, others might disagree). We finally decided to head back to the hotel for the evening. Right next to the hotel was a homey little restaurant – Gamli Bistro – which served us a couple of very nice steaks with a home-made potato salad, just what we needed after the day’s travels! We turned in for the night, as we were going to have another full day of travelling ahead of us starting next morning!

Day number 9 and we had a bit of an early start! After getting a hearty breakfast and checking out from our hotel we decided to get some exercise and climb up Mt. Hverfjall! This is a beautiful, 2500 year old tephra crater which is about 1km in diameter, and 140 meters deep. It was quite a challenging walk up the crater as it was a steep climb, but it was doable. We did it in around 15 minutes, taking our time and enjoying the views on the way up. The path is wide enough to stop and let others continue if you’re tiring out, so you won’t really feel any pressure from other visitors walking up behind you, although there were only a couple of other people in the area. Once you reach the top of the rim you can actually walk all the way around it, and you get to see some incredible views of this crater!! Definitely worth the climb in my opinion!!

Climbing up Mt. Hverfjall and the view of the crater!

After that we were due a little bit of luxury, so off we headed towards the Myvatn Nature Baths! (http://www.myvatnnaturebaths.is) This lagoon is like a less commercial version of the famous Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, but in my opinion it is way better!!! There were less crowds, it was extremely relaxing and quiet and the experience had a much more authentic feel to it. IMG_4616We spent a couple of
hours just soaking in the warmth of the iridescent blue water before heading back out – moving further north this time towards Akureyri – Iceland’s second largest urban area, sometimes known as the capital of North Iceland. Passing by Godafoss is a must when driving through the north. This “waterfall of the gods” is another spectacular waterfall which is easily accessible from the ring road. It is only 12 meters high and around 30 meters wide and it is said that in the year 1000 after the Lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland, he threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall as a sign of his new faith. This makes Godafoss a famous symbolic site of Iceland’s conversion.

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Godafoss – as seen on our drive to Akureyri

Onwards we drove to our destination for the next two days, Akureyri. Here we stayed at a self catering establishment – the Saeluhus Apartments & Houses – http://www.saeluhus.is/en – a lovely complex of little apartments, all equipped with a private kitchenette and bathroom and some modern luxuries like a microwave and dishwasher, cable tv, free wi-fi etc. Our apartment had a nice little veranda with some outdoor seating, and gorgeous views of the valleys and lake. An extremely useful shared laundromat was also available – this was a godsend as we could get some of our clothes washed and dried during our two-day stay! We turned in for the night, having cooked a meal ourselves this evening and relaxed, enjoying the amazingly beautiful views and some tv.

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The view from our veranda in Akureyri! ❤

Day 10 and we decided to go do some whale watching again, and what better place to go see some whales than the Whale Capital of Iceland – Husavik!!! After a relaxed morning breakfast we headed out on a 1.5 hour drive to this little town, in hope of seeing some gentle giants once again. We chose North Sailing (http://www.northsailing.is/home/) as our operator, purely because of scheduling; all operators offer basically the same sort of tour. We went for the Husavik Original Whale Watching tour, which lasts approximately three hours and tours along all the Skjalfandi bay observing (hopefully) whales, dolphins and sea birds in their natural habitat. We had an hour or so to kill before the tour started, so we visited the Whale Museum, which I enjoyed greatly (as I love whales lol). It not only gave information about the different whales which visit Iceland’s waters, but also history related to whaling in Iceland, as well as lore and legends regarding sea monsters etc. It was not time to go see some whales, so we walked a few meters from the museum to the pier and boarded our vessel! The boat we were on was a lovely old schooner type, very authentic looking and fun.

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Husavik Harbour
Sights seen on the whale watching trip

The views of the mountains from the sea were breath-taking, and I finally got to see the largest animal every to live on our planet – a Blue Whale! It was an amazing experience, and one which I would return to over and over again if I could. Such a beautiful and gigantic creature, and so gentle you barely notice it skimming just beneath the surface of the waves! I was in awe! ❤ ❤ ❤ This made my trip! We also got to see a few dolphins, porpoises and lots of little sea birds, including the cute puffins. But the blue whale certainly stole the show. It stayed with us for at least half the trip, and seemed to want to play with a small pod of dolphins in the vicinity. Amazing. The afternoon after was then spent walking around Akureyri, doing some souvenir shopping and sight seeing, as well as stocking up on some essentials for the road ahead, as we were now heading towards the west of the island!

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The amazing BLUE WHALE!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

This is where I am going to stop for now – stay tuned to see Part 4 where I will describe our adventures towards the north-west of Iceland, including the famous Westfjords. Feel free to write comments below and like the article if you enjoyed it :), and remember, you can always follow the blog for frequent updates! 🙂

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