#iceland

Many places in the Icelandic Highland are rarely visited due to their isolation and difficulties to visit in a vehicle.  It that sense they are challenging and mostly visited by hikers. This, on the other hand, does not apply to Álftavatn lake, or Swan Lake, located by the popular hiking track Laugavegur and also one of the most exciting 4X4 Highland roads Syrðri Fjallabak. By the lake, there is a popular mountain cabin and a camping site.  Many hikers on the Laugavegur track choose to stay there overnight.  The lake is placed in a beautiful peaceful landscape, surrounded by mountains that are characteristic for the southern part of the Highland. During the summer months, the place is quite busy.

The southern part of the Icelandic highland

Like many places in Iceland, lakes, caves, stacks by the shore, hills, cliffs and other places in the landscape, Álftavatn lake has a folklore story. Early in the eighteenth century, a farmer traveled with his thirteen-year-old daughter to Álftavatn lake to hunt Swans. As he took his horse from the shore into the lake he fell off the horse and drowned.  The daughter traveled back home, a day's journey, and gathered some men and help. Despite a thorough search, the farmer was not found. The next night her mother had a dream where her husband asked the search team to come back a fetch his body under a certain cliff by the lake. The next day the search team went back and found the body of the farmer under the cliff. Although a folklore, it is a true story. A lot of people in Iceland believe that a message from the deceased can be sent through dreams. Well here is your prove, by Álftavatn lake in the Icelandic Highland.

Access is not simple

Driving to Álftavatn is quite challenging and requires a good modified 4X4 vehicle. The Highland track Syðri Fjallabak is the most difficult highland road open to travelers in Iceland.  And it is only open from the beginning of July until late September. But at the same time the most fascinating with such variety of places that we label it as one of our most favorite roads.   

 

Álftavatn lake

Around the country in many of the recommended pitstops the facilities are always getting better. Whether it is a walking path to experience safely a family of geysers, a support rail to step in to the slippery hot spring or a sightseeing platform like this one. As we have mentioned before there are many ways of viewing Ófærufoss, and this particular platform lets one see the waterfall as a whole from above. It is great when these interventions are subtle and don’t disturb the surrounding view.

As if the waterfall wasn’t enough, the mountains around it with its layers of rocks and moss make this a perfect pitstop.

In many places deep in the Highland in Iceland, you can find unusual and almost strange sights. Sometimes dark sites, boiling sites, vast view, strange lava formation and much more.  One such place is near Lakagígar where we have vast carpets of lava, a lot of ash, dust, and black sands.  This is also at an altitude where vegetation has difficulties to grow and sustain.  Sometimes while traveling in the Highland you can experience the dark sand continuing all around you form kilometers after kilometers into the horizon.

A strict line was drawn between the black sand and the vegetation

Hrafntinnusker is a mountain in the Icelandic Highland a few hours hike from Landmannalaugar.  It is a volcano that most geologists assume is not going to erupt anytime soon, though.  The mountain takes its name from the black glass rocks, obsidian, formed when a rhyolite flowing magma cools extremely fast in an eruption. The Obsidian is a fascinating geological phenomenon. Such rocks are scattered around the whole are at Hrafntinnusker. Although a mountain, the second half of its name is Skerry, but not a mountain, and this is believed to be in accordance with naming traditions in the eastern parts of the lowland around Syðri Fjallabak, in Skaftafell.

An exotic place with many unusual ingredients

Hrafntinnusker is a unique place, even in the diverse landscape flora in Iceland.  It is a mountain with a small glacier on top. A relatively large active geothermal area with much of the activity under the ice. The ground is constantly delivering smoke while you visit the place. It is located in a very remote part of Iceland. It has ice caves because of the heat under the glacier and it offers a grand view because of the height of the mountain. As fascinating as the ice caves are they are also very dangerous as no one really knows how and when parts fall from the ceiling or inside the caves.  It is recommended that people do to enter the caves as vast and lethal parts can fall from the walls and ceiling of the caves.

Access only available for hikers and well equipped 4X4 vehicles

There are basically two ways to visit Hrafntinnusker.  One is the hiking trail from Landmannalaugar on the east side of the mountain, and the other is the 4X4 trail from the west side. Although a fascinating place not many visitors get an opportunity to come here.  Most of the people hiking the Landmannalaugar hiking trail only see the east side, and might stay overnight in the hut located there, but miss the west side.  The west side is very interesting and requires a well equipped 4X4 vehicle as the road is quite difficult with many rivers to cross.

Hrafntinnusker is a unique place, even in the diverse landscape flora in Iceland

We have often discussed the highland of Iceland.  It is by any measure a very exciting and fascinating place.

The Highland in Iceland is soon covered with snow

Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon is a kind of hidden gem in the Icelandic landscape. It is one of our most impressive and stunning canyons but not visited by many.  One reason is the fact that it is placed in the Icelandic Highland and not simple to visit. Although not among the largest canyons in Iceland, it is quite deep, about 200 meters where it is deepest, and the main and most interesting and most accessible part spans about 4 kilometers. The canyon is very impressive and is part of the Highland road Syðri Fjallabak when entered by Emstrur continuing from Fljótshlíð in southern Iceland. It is also part of the popular hiking track Laugavegur from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk.

Formed in a single disaster flood

The canyon is believed to be created in a single disaster flood bursting from the famous volcano Katla in Mýrdalsjökull glacier in an eruption under the glacier.  If that is correct you will be amazed when looking at the canyon of the enormous power a single flood from an eruption under glacier can create and the devastation it can leave behind. This supposedly occurred about two thousand years ago, so other geological factors have contributed to the canyon since then. Through the canyon floods the river Markarfljót which has also given it a name.  A river with a significant place in Icelandic history and geological history.

Access is not simple

Access to Markarfljótsgljúfur is either by a hiking trail from Þórsmörk or on the mountain road Emstruleið F261. This is a challenging and rough mountain road with difficult rivers to cross, so it requires a well-equipped 4WD vehicle.  Another way is to find a good tour operator. To access the mountain road you take a left turn when coming from Reykjavík on the Ring Road by the village Hvolsvöllur to the Road Nr. 261.  From Hvolsvöllur village the drive is about 50 kilometers.

Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon is a kind of hidden gem in the Icelandic landscape.

This amazing rock formation is said to have formed during Ice Age, when sea level was higher and its waves formed the facade of the rocks. These columnar basalt forms are called Dverghamrar or The Dwarf Cliffs. It is a perfect pitstop when travelling in the southern region of Iceland, situated only 10 km east of the Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. This might be one of the most grand homes of dwarfs and elves in Iceland so naturally the cliffs are treated respectfully, since no one wants to risk disturbing these mystical creatures with a history of cruel revenges.

These columnar basalt forms are called Dverghamrar or The Dwarf Cliffs

Much of the photos from Iceland are naturally stunning pictures of natural wonders during the blooming summer months. Waterfalls surrounded by colorful vegetation, gray and green moss over fields of lava, rhyolite mountains with stunning colors and stunning overview of beautiful fjords and the list can go on. In winter most of the landscape is either covered with snow or quite monotonous and colorless.

Goðafoss during winter

Understandably most of our visitors in Iceland come here to see the natural wonders, waterfalls, hot springs, glacier lagoons, and other fascinating attractions. This requires a lot of traveling around the country, either in your own vehicle, a rent a car, with a tour operator or on a bus. One of the interesting things many visitors forget when organizing a trip to Iceland is to take the time to visit some of the highly attractive towns and villages around the coastline.

There are villages with a fascinating history like Fáskrúðsfjörður and Bíldudalur

Barnafoss or Children’s Fall is an unusual waterfall, in the river Hvítá in Borgarfjörður, western Iceland. As you can see on the photo it is a beautiful spot to visit in the autumn, when the orange turned moss contrasts with the clear blue of the water. Like with many places in Iceland, a folklore is placed by this waterfall. In this case, as the name might hint at, it’s a sad story, involving death of two children.

Barnafoss or Children’s Fall is an unusual waterfall, in the river Hvítá in Borgarfjörður

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