Iceland in Words – Day 6
Whenever you go on vacation the hotel showers are never like those you are used to at home. Being in a different continent, this was even more apparent to me. Not only were they nothing like the ones back home, but they were rarely similar from night to night. Every morning it was an experience learning how to a) get the water to run and b) make it warm enough for my liking.
With this out of the way I began my day as I had most others, with a long and steep climb up a slope. In this case it was to see Mount Hverflall, perhaps the largest tephra crater in Europe. The snowfall the previous evening had hidden the crater from view, however with clear skies in the morning Hverfjall could be seen from miles away. The view over Mývatn from the top of the crater was quite extraordinary.
I did not expect to make another big climb so soon after Hverflall, however due to the snow and ice from the day before my little Ford Fiesta refused to make it up a hill on the way to the Krafla volcano. Not to be denied, I parked my car at the bottom and climbed the slope that my car could not. A kilometre and a half later I arrived at Víti, a crater located beneath Krafla’s peak. Due to the snow and overcast sky, it left a little to be desired when compared to pictures I’d seen but it was still a sight to behold. However so, I could not compel myself to make the hour hour long hike up Krafla as well.
A day in Iceland wouldn’t be complete without seeing at least one waterfall, and so I found myself at Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Of all the hikes I went on during my time in Iceland, the one to Dettifoss was probably the most treacherous. The hike leading towards the waterfall was covered in ice and snow, including a lot of foot-sized holes where fresh snow had been stepped on, frozen, and then covered again by snow. At any given time I could expect such a hole to gobble up my foot and I just had to hoped it wouldn’t get stuck there. Not only this, but the spray from Dettifoss mainly falls on the west side of the canyon, which is where the majority of the viewing is located/accessible. As a result, the walkways and viewing platforms are almost entirely coated in ice. Never letting go of the ice encased rope railings I climbed/slid down to the lowest platform in order to take in Dettifoss in all its power. There was another small group of guys there who seemed to be walking off the beaten path in order to get different pictures, so when an employee started yelling from the top of the platforms I’m not sure who or why she was doing so. When she did so, I immediately began my ascent back up the steps and was never talked to. She did however pull one of the other guys aside, so its possible I had been fine all along.
With Dettifoss behind me, I had visited two smaller attractions on my way back to Mývatn. First was Hverarönd, a geothermic field covered in boiling mud pots and fumaroles spouting hydrogen sulphide in to the air. It was quite amazing to see such a different landscape, and with the sun shining behind the plumes of sulphur it was an incredible sight.
For a couple hundred years, the Grjótagjá was a popular bathing location in the Mývatn area. However, eruptions in the 1970’s and 1980’s caused the water’s temperature to increase beyond what we humans can take. It has since been cooling off again and returning to its normal state though I’m not sure of its current popularity as a bathing venue.
As you know by now, I’d become a bit sceptical when my guidebook praised this or that town. But with an afternoon free I decided to see the town of Húsavík a bit northeast of Mývatn. Known as the “whale watching capital of Europe”, I thought it might live up to the hype. I opted to go to their whale museum over going on any tours. It was pretty cool and full of information and whale skeletons. It was also a tad depressing with all we’re doing to disrupt the whales’ ecosystem.
With no more sights to see I made my way to Jarðböðin, the Mývatn Nature Baths. Located on the side of a hill overlooking Mývatn, this may be the most relaxing experience I’ve ever had in my life. The warm, steaming pools eased away months of stress and a week’s worth of soreness from traipsing around Iceland. Watching the sun set over Mývatn was just icing on the cake. Like many of the other attractions I’d been to in recent days, the nature baths were fairly empty. The overall atmosphere was so comfortable and welcoming that I found myself making friends from all over the place … Colorado, England, and even a couple pretty close to home. Talking to them about their previous travels was very informative and inspiring, and may very well have decided my next trip.
Highlight of the Day: If you just read that last paragraph, you had to know that my choice would be Jarðböðin. It was so relaxing and amazing, at times I could see myself choosing it over a swim up bar at some tropical resort. If you’re anywhere near the Mývatn area, this is a place you have to get to.
Dinner: With so much running around, and then a long soak in the Nature Baths, I ended up settling for a hearty bowl of goulash at Jarðböðin, before washing it down with a beer with my new friends.