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Rauðfeldsgjá is a deep, high and narrow ravine in the cliffs south of the glacier Snæfellsjökull with a dramatic story and family tragedy attached to its name. The location is near the tiny hamlet of Arnarstapi. Seen from the road, it looks like a small crack in the berg that slid just a bit, enough for people to enter and observe. There is a parking lot by the road and a five to ten minutes walk to the entrance of the ravine.  Rauðfeldsgjá is part of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula road trip.

A narrow path for those who dare

Although entering the ravine Rauðfeldsgjá is a bit of a clamber it is worth it when you come into the main entrance. It is almost like a small and wonderful temple. For those who dare, a further clamber into the narrow crack following the water is possible. It will lead you to a rope where you can pull yourself up a small waterfall, and even go further into the ravine. A very narrow path with cliffs all around you and a view high up to the open air. Those who take this challenge will possibly sense the spirits of the brothers Rauðfeldur and Sölvi, who met their fate in this place about twelve hundred years ago as is documented in a true story the Icelandic Sagas.

A dramatic event that had tremendous consequences

Rauðfeldur and Sölvi came with their father Þorkell, the half brother of Bárður Snæfellsás who was half man half troll to Iceland as children and lived at Arnarstapi. They often played with Bárðurs many beautiful daughters.  One day they lured one of the girls Helga out to an iceberg in an innocent game and pushed her on the iceberg out to the open Ocean. Unfortunately, high winds blew the iceberg quickly from shore and out to the open sea, and she disappeared. The news of her fate and journey on the ice never reached her father as communication were different at that time.  In everyone's mind, she was lost and deceased. Apparently, as the story in the Saga Bárðar Saga Snæfellsás, she reached Greenland seven days later and lived a good live with the family of Erik the Red, father of Leif the Lucky, for many years.  In a poem, she wrote and had been preserved in the Sagas; one can sense that she missed her father, family, and country.  

A life changing event for Bárður Snæfellsás, the half troll half man

When Bárður Snæfellsás learned of the disappearance of his daughter he completely blew up in anger, to put it mildly.  He grabbed the two brothers, one at the age of eleven and the other twelve, and climbed to the cliff above the ravine.  In his uncontrollable anger, he threw Rauðfeldur into the ravine and to enhance the madness he threw the other brother Sölvi of the cliff. Needless to say, both boys lost their lives, but their names have lived as the ravine, and the cliff bears their names; Rauðfeldsgjá and Sölvahamar. After this incident, Bárður lost his mind and eventually walked up to the glacier where he built an ice cave where he has lived for many centuries and according to popular believe, still does to this very day.

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Below is the location of Rauðfeldsgjá on the map of Iceland

Although entering the ravine Rauðfeldsgjá is a bit of a clamber it is worth it when you come into the main entrance.
 
Bárðarlaug is a small lake near the road 574, the ring road that goes around the glacier Snæfellsjökull. When you take the turn to Hellnar, the lake is on your right and a parking spot ten minutes walk from the lake.  The part of the name "laug" in this context means bath.  So the name is really the bath of Bárður Snæfellsás, referring to the mystical person that has hovered over the area around Snæfellsjokull as well as the glacier for centuries. 

A bath for Bárður approximately eleven hundred years ago

Supposedly the lake was his bath when he was among mortals, the son of a human mother and a half-troll, and as everyone knows his spirit is still around as the protector of the glacier and the neighboring area. Many of the names of the nearby landscape have the name bath attached which indicates that when Iceland was settled the lake was warm and used for bathing by others, and not only by Bárður. 

A peaceful crater with a stunning view

In geological terms, the lake is an old spatter cone that has slept silently for ages, finding it more convenient to house water rather than erupting fire. It is renowned for the elliptical form. It is an amazingly peaceful place to visit when you walk the short slope down to the water. If Bárður and the glacier are in a good mood and the beautiful white glacier reveals itself with the blue sky behind, the moment becomes magical, and you might feel the extraordinary power from the Snæfellsjökull glacier. Bárðarlaug was a protected are by law in 1980 and is today an important part of the Snæfellsjökull National Park. 

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Below is the location of Bárðarlaug on the map of Iceland

Bárðarlaug is renowned for ist elliptical form. It is an amazingly peaceful place to visit when you walk the short slope down to the water.

Bjarnarfoss waterfall is an impressive waterfall right by road 54 on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  The location is where the main road splits to Fróðaárheiði leading to Ólafsvík in the northern part and to Búðir and Arnarstapi on the south shore of the peninsula. Although the waterfall can be seen from the main road, the most enjoyable and interesting part of the waterfall is quite high in the cliffs and takes an effort to walk up the steep slope by the stream coming from the waterfall. 

A fairy woman bathing in the middle of the waterfall

Up here watching the waterfall flushing in front of the magnificent columnar basalt that stretches out on both sides is really what makes this waterfall stand out. It is beautiful from the road but stunning when you stand right in front of it. Here you can also see and almost shake hands with the fairy woman that stands on top of the columnar basalt and seems to be bathing in the middle of the waterfall.

A waterfall on Snæfellsnes Peninsula that is easy to find

The waterfall is quite easy to find, and a parking space has just recently been built and a convenient walking path leading up halfway to the waterfall.  But to go all the way up to the main waterfall you need to climb the relatively steep hill. One of the upsides of this effort is the exceptional variety of vegetation along the way on bothe sides.  It is more like a matter of taste whether you want to go up the right side or the left side, depending on how you want to photograph the waterfall when you approach the waterfall. Remember the slope is steep and you need to take caution.  This path to the waterfall is only accessible during summertime and should not be taken during late fall and winter.

Sometimes the waterfall is blown away in the wind

At times, the water source for the waterfall is limited and from a distance, it is reduced into a small stripe falling from the cliff. When this occurs, and simultaneously, strong winds blow with their immense force on the cliff, the waterfall is sometimes blown into the thin air.

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Below is the location of Bjarnarfoss waterfall on the map of Iceland

Bjarnarfoss at Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The 'Northern Lights', or Aurora Borealis appear on regular bases in Iceland.  Although this magnificent phenomenon in the sky can bee seen in Reykjavík, it is always better to go outside the city.  To a dark place where city lights don’t disturb the experience.

The Northern Lights above Esja

 

The Geysir hot spring is part of the geothermal field in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland, quite close to the entrance to the Kjalvegur road leading to the Highland. It has been active for 10.000 years, although the earliest accounts of hot springs in Haukadalur only date back to 1294.  Geysir is a capricious hot spring, sometimes active, sometimes not.  Its earliest mention was due to significant changes in the area's landscape following a mighty earthquake. Ever since seismic activities have been carefully documented, and the geothermal field in Haukadalur closely monitored.

Connections between earthquakes and hot spring eruptions

Earthquakes tend to strengthen Geysir. It has had quite a few peeks during the nineteen century, as well as bursts of activities. If we go a bit further back, it had been more or less asleep for ages until the 1896 earthquake. Then it started erupting several times a day again, causing eruptions of up to 60 meters high and lasting for up to an hour. In 1910, Geysir was active every 30 minutes. The spells of activity rarely last more than a few months, and after the action in 1910, it looked as if the mighty Geysir was dead.

Geysir has a history of shutting off and turning on at its own convenience

In 1935 a channel was cut through the silica rim around its vent. The ditch resulted in lowering of the water level and restored Geysir's activity. The channel soon became clogged with silica and eruptions all but ceased. In 1981, the ditch was cleared again. By then, those who had authority over the hot spring realized it could be stimulated – on special occasions – by adding soap to it. Due to environmental concerns, the method was soon abandoned.The last time Geysir displayed its grandeur was following the Icelandic National Day earthquakes in 2000. It spewed its boiling water 122 m high and thus became the highest known geyser in history.

Strokkur has taken over the responsibility of splashing boiling water from the hot spring

Today the other impressive geyser Strokkur has taken the role and responsibility of erupting every ten to fifteen minutes every day and every night of the year. It is one of the most remarkable creature of mother nature in Iceland, almost like it wast designed for tourism. Barely fails or disappoints its hundred of thousands of visitors every year. 

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Below is the location of Geysir on the map of Iceland

Strokkur hot spring in Haukadalur

Lystigarðurinn (The Botanical Gardens) is Akureyri's pride and joy. It was a public park, opened in 1912, and a botanical garden opened in 1957. It has approximately 6600 alien taxa growing in beds and nursery, as well as, 430 species of the native taxa. Located a mere 50 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, developing and maintaining the beautiful Gardens has been no mean feat. It all started in 1910 when a number of women in Akureyri founded the Park Association to beautify their town.  A year earlier the town council had given them a hectare of land to play with, never realizing the ladies meant business. For the next forty-three years, the Gardens were run by the Park Society and increased to 3.6 hectares.

Apart from being tranquil and beautiful Gardens, the Botanical Gardens gradually became a place for scientific research. Many of the plants placed there were believed not to be able to survive on the Arctic edge. But, survive they did, and what's more: They prospered.

Within the Gardens, you'll also find fountains and tiny lakes where children like to play. At the southeast corner, you will find a few wooden buildings. One of them is a café/bistro with a large patio. It is the most delightful place to sit down and relax on a sunny day.
 

Lystigarðurinn (The Botanical Gardens) is Akureyri's pride and joy

 

If you are keen on caves, Iceland is the place for you. Hallmundarhraun in Borgarjörður is indeed the best area for exploring caves. Half an hours drive from Surtshellir is the majestic Víðgelmir. Víðgelmir is one of the most intriguing caves in Iceland. It is 1585 kilometer long. The highest point inside the cave is 15.8 meter, and its width is 16.5 meters.  Víðgelmir formed in the same eruption as Surtshellir, but it differs from other caves in various aspects. It has stunning ice formations that are constantly changing. Sometimes, the ice even closes the cave.

Deep inside the cave you will find areas with stunningly well-preserved lava stalactites and stalagmites. And, like most large caves in Iceland it used to be inhabited by outlaws. Human and animal bones, as well as jewelry from approximately the year 1000, were discovered inside the cave – but have, of course, been removed for further research.

The cave's pitfall doubles as an entrance. It is 75 meters long, 15 meters long and quite deep. Once down there, the cave starts with a narrow tunnel that leads into the main chamber. From there the cave is quite accessible all the way to the bottom.
 

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Below is the location of Víðgelmir on the map of Iceland

Víðgelmir is one of the most intriguing caves in Iceland.

 

Before the Eyjafjallajökull (glacier/volcano) eruption in 2010 Snæfellsjökull glacier was probably the best-known glacier in Iceland for decades. Located in the westernmost part of the Peninsula Snæfellsjökull is around 1450 meters and towers over other mountains on the peninsula. One of the reasons for its fame came about when the glacier found its way into world literature in Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1864. In the novel a German professor, Otto Lidenbrock travels through the volcanic tubes towards the center of the Earth. It is quite an adventure where he encounters prehistoric animals and natural hazards, before surfacing again in Italy. Ever since, Snæfellsjökull has inspired countless authors, poets, and artists. There is something otherworldly about this beautiful and accessible glacier. So, it may come as no big surprise that Snæfellsjökull is considered to be one of the World's seven largest spiritual centers.  It is also the home of Bárður Snæfellsás who made the glacier his home around 1100 years ago.

Like many glaciers in Iceland Snæfellsjökull is also a volcano

Snæfellsjökull is an active volcano with a crater in the middle of the beautiful mountain under the ice cap.  It is a product of many eruptions, the last one occurring around 1800 years ago with lava flowing down the slopes, forming the peninsula's extraordinary landscape. The glacier on top has been gradually diminishing during the last decades and is only about 11 square kilometers today. But, its pristine beauty has by no means diminished. Neither has its inherent energy. It still conveys the combination of ice and fire at its most extreme.

Find your way to Snæfellsjökull

Snæfellsjökull is accessible during most seasons of the year, and a number of tour companies in Iceland will take you to the summit to experience the full energy – and breathtaking scenery.  During summer it is quite simple to drive up to the edge of the glacier from the main road Nr. 54 circling the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula by taking the turn north on the difficult dirt road Nr. 570 near Arnarstapi. 

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Below is the location of Snæfellsjökull on the map of Iceland

Snæfellsjökull is irrefutably the best know glacier in Iceland.

 

If there is one place horse-riders love in Iceland, it is Löngufjörur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  Contrary to other beaches in Iceland it is white – with a brownish hue and stretches for miles and miles. Some horse-riders say riding along Löngufjörur feels like riding through eternity. The sands are resistant, though soft on the hoof and seem to go on forever.

During your ride, you'll have the pristine Snæfellsjökull in front of you the whole time and the beautiful Ljósufjöll (Light Mountains) to your right. It is just you and your horse in harmony with Mother Nature. The only sound is the ocean waves gently washing ashore nearby.

Of course, if you are not a horse rider, you can always go for a walk on the beach. But beware. All is not what it seems, and this is a dangerous place. No one should venture onto the sands without guidance. When the tide comes in the currents are strong. They will wash over the sands in a matter of minutes obliterating all footprints and hoof-marks.  They are forceful enough to drown both horses and riders.

If you wish to experience this extraordinary place, be sure to seek advice from the local farmers, hire a local guide or join a organized tour with a horse-riding company.
 

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Below is the location of Löngufjörur on the map of Iceland

If there is one place horse-riders love in Iceland, it is Löngufjörur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

 

Icelanders have always had a dislike for the beautiful Hvalfjörður fjord. Until 1998, when traveling away from Reykjavík to enjoy the western or northern part of the country, they had to endure a 62 km detour around the fjord on Highway 1. It was an irritating detour. Few were inclined to admire the splendid nature surrounding them, while driving along a gravel road. There was simply too much dust. For those traveling to Reykjavík, the detour was wasted time. Then, in 1998 the tunnel Hvalfjarðargöng was opened to traffic. The dust in Hvafjörður settled, and this beautiful area rejoined nature. Nowadays, the Icelanders are learning to appreciate its wonders and its hiking trails are fast becoming quite popular.

At the innermost part of Hvalfjordur, you'll find two valleys, Brynjudalur valley and Botnsdalur valley. High above Botnsdalur valley rises the mountain Hvalfell (852 m above sea level) and behind it lies the mountain lake Hvalvatn that is the fourth deepest in Iceland.

Giant glacier tongues formed the two valleys. During ice age an eruption formed the mountain Hvalfell. It filled up the bottom of the valley and formed a natural barrier that impounded lake Hvalvatn. The outflow channel of the lake is named Botnsa River. From this river cascades down the highest waterfall in Iceland, known as Glymur, a 198 meters tall.

The fjord's name, Hvalfjörður means the Whale fjord. It is derived from a large number of whales that used to make the fjord their habitat. Iceland's largest whaling stations is still operating there.

During World War II, a naval base of the British and American navies could be found in this fjord. The Hvalur whaling company today uses a pier, built by the United States Navy.

The innermost part of the fjord shows an interesting mixture of volcanic mountains and green vegetation in the summertime. At Botnsá you will find Lupines, different sorts of wild flowers and moss, as well as small forests of Birchwood and Conifers.
 

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Below is the location of Hvalfjörður on the map of Iceland

The fjord's name, Hvalfjörður means the Whale fjord.

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