AirBnb, Akureyri, Arctic Circle, Bjarnarflag, black castles, Bonus, cathedral, Christianity, cows, Cowshed, crater, craters, Dimmuborgir, disaster, Egilsstaðir, Eiðar, Eldhraun, Europe, food, geothermal, geothermal fields, Godafoss, Grjotagja, Hofdi, Hverfell, Hverir, Iceland, Kirkjan, Krafla, lake, Lake Myvatn, lakes, lava, lava bubble, lava flow, mountains, Myvatn, Neslandatangi Peninsula, pseudocraters, restaurant, Reykjahlid, Ring Road, Skutustadagigar, snow, snowing, snowy, Strikid, travel, Vindbelgjarfjall, Vogafjos, volcano, wanderlust, winter
On this day, we traveled from Eiðar to Akureyri via Lake Mývatn on the Ring Road.
1. Eiðar with Gimmi’s AirBnb
We stayed in Eiðar at an AirBnb about 13km north of Egilsstaðir (which is on the Ring Road). It kept snowing all night but our place was cozy. Gimmi came out to greet us and clarify where our guesthouse was. He showed us the Lock Box, everything we needed to know inside, and then let us have the freedom of checking out as we needed by simply leaving the key in the Lock Box. It was very convenient. If you’re traveling through the Egilsstaðir area, I would recommend looking at the places Gimmi has. Ours was complete with two beds with new comforters, a kitchen with everything we needed in it already, and a bathroom with a new shower.
2. Lake Mývatn
From Gimmi’s AirBnb, we headed back south into town and filled up our tank before heading to Lake Mývatn. (I would definitely suggest filling up – our vehicle took about half a tank to get to the next major petrol station which is at the Lake. I think there were some smaller stops along the way but they may not always be open, or some might be off a road that could be treacherous if not closed in the winter.) Speaking of closed, the road to Dettifoss has been unserviced for many days now and we opted not to turn up it. Although, as we approached it, a car in front of us did turned that way and a van was coming from it, I had read it was closed and snow-covered. The waterfall is pretty dangerous and so it’s even closed when the thawing snow brings up the water levels in otherwise beautiful weather.
*Something to Note* about the person who did turn up to Dettifoss: I was going about 120km/h when he slammed on his brakes and decided to turn. He had so much ice and snow on the back of his vehicle that I could not see any of the lights. So…be sure to check your lights every chance you stop if you’re driving in the winter and make sure they’re clear. Also kick the ice out of your wheel well to keep everything in balance.
We used the Insight Guides Iceland book to plan out our trip at Lake Mývatn. First, we ate lunch at the Cowshed Restaurant (Vogafjós). If you think it smells a little like a cow barn, it’s because it is. On the north side you can see the cows being tended in the barn through windows in the gift shop. This is what made me raise my eyebrow when my mom ordered a burger with a glass of milk, as if taunting the cattle! From the café, where I had a shot of Brennivín (a specialty liquor flavored with caraway) with my coffee, we let to head north back to the Ring Road and stuck with the order of sites according to the map in our books.
First, we passed the town of Reykjahlið. You can see the church where the last lava flow supposedly stopped at the doors, avoiding its destruction. (It has since been renovated, though, and is no longer the original one.) Next we passed an area labeled as Eldhraun. This confuses me slightly because I wrote of an Eldhraun before – a much larger expanse in South Iceland. I’m not sure if there is more than one or if one of my posts is inaccurate, but the point is there are more lava things here. In particular, my mom was looking for the “lava bubble” the book describes as looking like a cracked egg. We appear to have found that just to the south of the Ring Road not too many kilometers out of town. There was even space to pull over near it and we crossed the road for pictures.
The next stop is along the Neslandatangi Peninsula where a bird museum is. By the time we had gone down this peninsula (we missed it the first time and went down it on the way out instead) the museum wasn’t even open, so we merely drove to the private road at the end, turned around, and returned on our way. It’s hard to see much lake (or nature) life at this time of the year anyway, although the landscape is still beautiful.
The third point is to observe the surrounding mountains, namely Vindbelgjarfjall. For point four, we continued to the south end of the island and stopped to see the Skútustaðagigar pseudocraters. Continuing the way around the lake, we passed Höfði, now covered with snow and frozen over unlike its conditions in the busy summer. We turned off the road to the right after a bit to see the Dimmuborgir – supposed “black castles” that make up a 2,000-year-old field of volcanic pillars in many strange shapes and sizes. We merely looked from the viewing point and the trailhead, reading a sign about the Yule Lads supposedly living here. The wind was whipping cold, otherwise we considered getting lost in the snowy stacks to find the Kirkjan (“Church”) rock formation.
The seventh point was Hverfell, the enormous 3,280ft-wide crater formed over 2,5000 years ago. We took photos from the stop along the side of the road (where some trucks were making repairs and blocking the formal parking spaces). We passed the path leading to Grjótagjá, an underground hot spring that is a hike of 0.5 miles from the main road. We decided to keep driving instead, returning back to some sites we had passed on the way in. This means we next passed Bjarnarflag where various colors line the landscape (now under snow) and the Mývatn Nature Baths which we again didn’t feel like seeing. This led us to the eleventh point: Hverir, a famous geothermal field where many of the activities we see now were formed in the 1720s. We walked through areas carefully marked (so as not to trip into boiling mud holes) and even walked through sulfur plumes rising out of hot stacks of what appeared to be simply mud and rocks. Even the hillside was steaming along its back. My mom kept saying, “It’s incredible – and incredibly scary – to think about what we’re standing over right now.”
We then attempted to head up north from that approximate area to Krafla, a man-made disaster that supposedly contains viewpoints for looking out over craters and whatnot. I almost got stuck in a drift of snow trying to pass the geothermal power plant on the way to the trails and, when I made it to the hillside and we saw the trails were actually covered in even deeper snows there, we opted it wasn’t worth it in this weather. Many cars were passing us on the way out, however, so hopefully they all made it okay or turned around alright like we did. Now we were off towards Akureyri.
In the year 999-1000, an Icelandic lawspeaker known as Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði decided Christianity would be the country’s official language. He spent supposedly 24 hours under his cloak before deciding to throw out the Pagan religion – and he literally tossed his Pagan idols into Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) in the process of deciding this. Apparently this story is displayed in the Akureyrarkirkja, the Cathedral of Akureyri, in a window. However, it should be noted this story as told by the version Íslendingabók makes no mention of the tossing of Pagan idols into this power falls.
At first, when we left the falls and after a bit of driving, I became very frustrated because I thought we missed our turn. The maps were a little confusing, but looking over it now I think we did take the Ring Road as we were supposed to. The problem is we were led up a narrow, snow-covered, icy, steep mountainside that was being aggressively hammered with more snow. Plow trucks were trying to keep it clear, but too much was accumulating. There were moments when I felt my car pull towards the edge of a cliff while passing a vehicle inches to my left – all I could do was press in the clutch and ease my foot off the gas until they passed. Thank God for 4WD and spiked tyres.
Before long we made our way into the city and checked into our hostel (which I’ll write about tomorrow). We grabbed dinner at Restaurant Strikið where they had plenty of seafood options, including salmon ceviche and langoustine (a small European lobster) sushi. All I could wonder is, Where does Iceland get its limes from? And I still don’t have an answer! Maybe I can scour Bónus packages for the answer…Anyway, I spent the night in a café finishing up some homework and research in preparation for our trip to the Arctic Circle the next day!