#iceland

 

It is a bit surprising in a country that has a lot to offer regarding natural wonders and attractions to witness how tourists and visitors find and define new places. Places that quite unexpectedly become popular or even develop into landmarks.  Places that Icelanders almost never visited before tourism started to explode some years ago and never thought of as exciting.  The most extreme example is the Navy DC plane that crashed on Mýrdalssandur in November 1973.  Even today it would be hard to find an Icelander visiting this crash site or even admitting to ever coming near this crashed plane. Among Icelanders, the crash site is usually ranked as one of the ridiculous tourist attraction in Iceland.

Other attractions that Icelanders just didn't discover but are quite interesting

Then there are a few places that visitors found and started to photograph and visit that are highly interesting, but Icelanders didn't really get or understand.  One spot is the shoreline by the Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon where small and sometimes large icebergs accumulate as they float from the lagoon.  The Icebergs are occasionally transparent and sometimes filled with black stripes from eruptions that occurred centuries ago. As they float on the shore only to melt down as the hit the ocean, they often give the pebble beach a magnificent look.  Sometimes the shore develops into a magnificent site with icebergs ready for a perfect selfie or a photo from the trip.  As the icebergs melt, they often seem like giant diamonds. After this shoreline by Jökulsárlón became popular one thing was missing, a name.  At some point, visitors and tourists started to call this beach the Diamond beach on their social media websites. Contrary to the plane on Mýrdalssandur, many Icelanders enjoy visiting the Diamond beach only to regret that they didn't discover it before the tourists.   

Diamond beach is easy to find and easy to visit

If you are on the Ring Road Nr. 1 and driving the southeast region by Jökulsárlón Iceberg lagoon, you only cross the road by the bridge and walk to the beach.  You need to be careful when passing and you can also park on the south side of the road. The Diamond beach is actually a magical place in the sense that you can forget time as you wander among the many small icebergs by the shore and speculate about their forms.  The Diamond beach is also irresistibly photogenetic.

Nearby places

Jökulsárlón - Fjallsárlón - Svínafellsjökull - Skaftafell - Lómagnúpur

Diamond beach in Iceland

 

If you are traveling the Ring Road in Iceland, you are probably interested in all the natural wonders and attractions worth seeing.  Since there are many waterfalls in Iceland along the way near the Ring Road, some get more attention than others.  Stjórnarfoss waterfall is one of the hidden and seldom visited although a beautiful place and sight not far from the main road.  The waterfall is quite beautiful, and consists of two approximately 15 meter fall on an upper and lower tier. The higher one lives in the shade of the lower one as it is only visible from quite a distance. The lower one is quite spectacular as it spreads out on the lower tier.  The fall is part of the river Stjórn that originates in the mountain Geirlandshraun near the road to Lakagígar craters and Laki mountain. It is one of the rivers you cross when driving to Laki.

A perfect place for picnic and camping

If you enjoy the sounds of nature like the sound of a stream or a sound of water falling down a slope, you should consider visiting Stjórnarfoss.  The area around the waterfall is quite scenic, pleasant and perfect for a picnic.  If you have your own food and snacks on your Ring Road tour, this is a nice stop.  It is also a good place to camp and usually less crowded than many other camping sites along the southern part of the Ring Road. If you have a tent it is a great place to overnight if you want the sound of the stream and waterfall to put you to sleep.

Easily accessible and near the Ring Road

When you are on the Ring Road by the small village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, you take a turn north on the roundabout.  This turn takes you to Road Nr. 203, Geirland road.  You only need to drive about two kilometers to the camping site Kleifar. Here you have a good parking space, and it is only a short walk to the waterfall.  But once you arrive at the lower tier you can not see the upper one.

Nearby places

Fjaðrárgljúfur, Lakagígar craters, Foss á Síðu, Dverghamrar, Kirkjubæjarklaustur
 

Stjórnarfoss waterfall

What are the best months or the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

The Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis appear, on a regular basis, in Iceland from the middle of September through to the end of March.

Sigöldugljúfur canyon is a fascinating small canyon deep in the Icelandic highlands. It is quite exceptional with its many small waterfalls, blue river, and colorful vegetation.  A beautiful canyon that is almost magical and could easily be a scene in an adventure story or a Sci-Fi movie. It has all the ingredients to become a popular destination as it looks like something in a fairytale. For years it has been a hidden gem as access has been a bit tricky.  Stopping by Sigöldugljúfur is a very good idea for photographers and most visitors planning to take the Sigalda track to Landmannalaugar. The canyon is quite photogenic a requires a bit of a time if you seek to find a new and surprising motive.  

Although fascinating there is a drawback

One of the reasons the canyon has not been popular among visitors in addition to hard access is the fact that the canyon is surrounded by significant changes in the landscape. Changes made by the power plant project and reservoir for the Sigalda power plant. It is a gem kept within power plant project and man-made interference in nature. But apart from all that it is a fascinating place and a beautiful canyon.

The best access is when you come down the Sigalda small hill

Located at Sigalda by the mountain road F208 a few minutes after you turn from the F26 highland road that leads to Sprengisandur mountain road. The mountain road, or dirt road, F208 is part of Nyrðri Fjallabaksleið track and is one of two entrances that will lead you to Landmannalaugar from the west side. Sigöldugljúfur is easily accessible when you drive down the slope at the small hill Sigalda and turn left immediately when you come down the slope.  It is a good idea to park the car near the interception and walk the short distance to the canyon.

 

Sigöldugljúfur canyon

Rauðfoss waterfall, or Red waterfall, is a unique waterfall located a short hike from the mountain road Nyrðri Fjallabak, the Dómadalur track.  Like Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords, it has a form of a veil, falling in a beautiful stream and stretching out on both sides as the fall reaches the ground.  Rauðfoss waterfall got its name from the berg behind the waterfall that is red or orange.  The waterfall is part of the river Rauðufossakvísl that originates in Rauðufossafjöll Mountains.  This is also what makes Rauðfoss unique and different.  The waterfall is about 60 meters high and surely is an impressive sight. 

A refreshing and relatively easy hike

When driving Dómadalsleið or Nyrðri Fjallabak mountain road coming from the west by Búrfell mountain you will notice a sign Rauðufossafjöll.  The turn will lead you to a parking lot only minutes away from the road F225.  From the parking lot, there is an old dirt road that is forbidden and illegal to drive.  Today it serves as a walking path to the waterfall Rauðfoss.  The walk takes about 30 minutes, and although the waterfall is visible from the main road, you will only start to see it on the walking path as you get up the first hill. 

Finding your way to Rauðfoss

When you drive from Reykjavík, you find your way to Dómadalsleið on Nyrðri Fjallabak mountain road.  We recommended that you rent a good 4X4 vehicle if you intend to drive a Mountain Road in Iceland.  On the southern part of the Ring Road, you look out for the road Landvegur Nr. 26 after you pass the bridge on the mighty river Þjórsá.  You need to drive approximately 50 kilometers north on Road Nr. 26, and by the mountain Búrfell, you take a right turn on Dómadalsleið mountain road Nr. F225.  About 25 kilometers drive will get you to the sign Rauðufossafjöll on the south side, the right side coming from Búrfell.  Enjoy and take care as the vegetation in the Icelandic Highland is very sensitive. 

Nearby places

Valagjá - Rauðufossafjöll - Landmannalaugar - Ljótipollur - Hnausapollur

Rauðfoss waterfall

It is a serious business to drive in the highland in Iceland.  Most of the roads in the Highland are challenging dirt roads that are harsh and demanding to drive, both for the driver and the car.  Often you need to cross over rivers and creeks that can easily be too deep and complicated for a small car to cross.  If it starts to rain the volume increases in a short period and a small stream can turn into a river.  Many dirt roads are bumpy and require a slow speed, especially if your vehicle is small and low.  A drive in the Highland needs a good 4X4 car that can take you safely to your des

A wrong rent a car in the Highland often costs a huge amount of money if it breaks down, even though you might want to try to fix the damages on the spot.

The mountain Sveinstindur is positioned near the shout shore of the highland lake Langisjór, practically in the middle of Iceland.  The height of the mountain is 1093 meters, and it is higher than most of the surrounding mountains.  The elevation is about 350 meters as Langisjór lake is placed at an altitude of 670 meters.  Sveinstindur mountain is one of the best places in Iceland to get a good view of the Highland and probably one of the best viewing places in Iceland.  Here you have a view to six glaciers, many great volcanos,  hundreds of mountains, long and winding rivers, and the horizon for hundreds of kilometers in any direction.  You just have to be there to understand the magnitude of the view. 

The path to the top is not difficult

Although the walking path starting near the service center by Langisjór is not difficult or long, it is a bit steep and possibly a bit frightening for people who fear height, at least near the top. The view is also great if you choose to walk the first 150 meters.  The walk takes about an hour and a half upwards almost the whole time.  It is an elevation of about 350 meters and a bit more than a kilometer walk.  But with each step, you get a fantastic view.  On the walk up it is mostly a view to the west, south, and north, but when you reach the top, you get an additional view to the east where you will see the highest mountain in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur and also Lakagígar and Laki, the source of the huge eruption in 1783.  Now keep in mind that there is a great difference to walk on top of Sveinstindur in a calm wind and a wind above 4 to 5 meters.  It is not particularly enjoyable to walk to the upper part on a gloomy and cloudy day.  A reminder that anything you do in Iceland is weather and season related.  And just a reminder, this part of Iceland, the Highland, is only open from the middle of July until the middle of September.

Sveinstindur and Langisjór are part of the Fjallabak Nyrðri drive

The drive to Sveinstindur is a highland road.  It is only for good 4X4 vehicles as it is a hard dirt road with many creeks and rivers to cross. Anyone who takes a small cart to the highland, even a small 4X4 vehicle is always taking a significant risk of damaging the car and adding a considerable cost to the tour.  When you are on the Nyrðri Fjallabak road, you take a turn on the F235 Langisjór mountain road and drive the road to the Service Center by Langisjór lake.

 

Although the walking path starting near the service center by Langisjór is not difficult or long, it is a bit steep

Laki is a rather small mountain similar to many other mountains in Iceland but unlike other mountains, as it has an extraordinary reputation.  Laki Mountain is approximately 820 meters high and stands 300 meters over its surrounding area deep in the highland of Iceland. Before June 8th, 1783 Laki was just an ordinary lonely and peaceful mountain. But all that changed when large fissures opened both to the west and east side of the mountain forcing an unprecedented amount of magma to the surface.  Although Laki was more or less unharmed, the eruption ripped the northeastern part of Laki apart leaving some interesting cracks in that part of the mountain.  Contrary to outspread writings and wrong information Laki had nothing to do with the Skaftáreldar eruption. Laki is not even a crater or a volcano. But when people came to the source of the catastrophic events when things cooled down in 1784 they named the craters on both sides after Laki, the Laki craters. 

A rewarding trip to go to Laki

The mountain Laki is deep in the Icelandic highland.  It is a place you could easily call a geological and geographic wonderland.  After the eruption, Laki became an excellent place to climb to view the magnitude and source of the Skaftáreldar eruption.  As time passed, more and more people became interested in this one of a kind place.  Today it is becoming one of the main attractions in the Icelandic highland and probably soon one of the main attractions in Iceland.  A path to walk up to the top is on the south side and another to go down on the west side of Laki.  It is a good trail that is quite easy to walk and very rewarding, as the view is stunning.  The cracks on the northeastern side are also quite impressive, especially when you think about how they were formed.

The trip and drive to Laki is a day tour

The drive to Laki is a rough, hard road with rivers to cross, and only fit for a real 4WD.  This part of Iceland is only accessible during summer from the end of June until the middle of September.  The drive also requires a lot of patience as your average speed the whole 40 kilometers is probably under 30 kilometers per. hour.  The same applies for the drive back. You start your drive by turning north on the Ring Road Nr. 1 on the south shore a short distance west of the small village of Kirkjubærjarklaustur. Here you turn to Holtsvegur Road Nr. 206. After driving just two kilometers past the farm Hunkubakkar, you turn north again to the Lakavegur Highland and Mountain Road Nr. F206.  Follow the road for 40 kilometers, and you will reach Laki.  You can even make more of the tour by visiting Fagrifoss Waterfall and Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon on your way back. 

The Laki trail is a good walk that is quite easy to walk and very rewarding, as the view is stunning.

One of the main reasons Icelanders started to travel into the highland, the backland or the interior of the island, was because of the annual gathering of sheep. For centuries sheep farmers in Iceland have sent their stock into the wilderness, the highland, to wander during summer, graze in the mountains and rest the farmland for harvesting late summer. Then in autumn, flocks of selected individuals from each area and farms travel to the Highland to find and gather the sheep.  Early on those trips to the Highland were a test of manhood and sought after by young men. The trips were often quite difficult as the weather in Iceland has always been quite unpredictable.  Also and up until the last century places to accommodate or finding shelter overnight were few and harsh.  Most of the places were caves or even holes in the ground.  But as things developed Icelanders started to build huts in the Highland for the people that stayed in the there for days gathering sheep and often walking distances to search for their sheep in the backland.

Hvanngil was originally a place for farmers gathering sheep

Hvanngil is a small valley in the highland and is a well-known place as it is part of the popular hiking trail Laugavegur.  It was originally one of the places where farmers built their hut to stay in the Highland when gathering sheep in autumn.  At that time the shed was built to accommodate a group of searchers upstairs and sheep downstairs. For those curious about such houses, the yellow hut is still in Hvanngil.  Later, around the seventies in the last century travel clubs started to build huts and houses only aimed at housing people traveling in the Highland for fun and enjoyment.  At Hvanngil one was built in the eighties and is one of the best huts in the Highland.  For those hiking Laugavegur Hvanngil is an attractive place to stay as well as those who want to take time to drive the difficult Highland road Syðri Fjallabak.  There are also exciting hiking trails around the hut. 

How to get to Hvanngil

Hvanngil is only accessible on a well-equipped 4X4 vehicle.  It is a place that is also only possible to visit from the middle of July until late September.  Even in September, you can expect snow.  So this is a place for serious hikers and travelers in Iceland that understand how to travel in the highland and know how to cross rivers.  It is part of the mountain road F210 which is one of the most challenging highland roads in Iceland. 

Hvanngil is a small valley in the highland and is a well-known place as it is part of the popular hiking trail Laugavegur.

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