We arrived this morning in Akureyri, which is the largest city in the north of Iceland. It seemed to be a busy port, but we didn’t stay in the city at all. The itinerary for our excursion today was super – a raging waterfall, pseudo-craters, a lava labyrinth, and a geothermal hotspot. These are the natural wonders which Iceland is famous for. Basically, we toured in the region around Lake Myvatn. As we had been warned, flies did accompany us at every stop, but they weren’t terrible, like the ones we had encountered in the Outback of Australia.
We drove about 45 minutes to our first stop, which was Godafoss, the waterfall of the heathen gods. As we approached in the coach, we could see the mist rising before the waterfall came into view. The wide view of the area was of green hills, mountains in the distance, and low clouds clinging to the mountains. To get closer to the waterfall, we walked along well-managed pathways which allowed for different views of the falls and the river downstream. Being glacial melt, the water was cloudy/milky and seemed pretty deep where we were. The course of the river was through lava fields, so the sharp lava rocks were everywhere, and as usual, they were home to many different kinds of small plants. The tourist facilities at this stop were what we have come to expect: souvenir shopping, snacks, a café, and local handicrafts. Back on the bus, we drove to the Lake Myvatn area and spent the rest of our tour near there.
Our next stop was at the Skutustadir Craters, which are “pseudo-craters” formed because of some geological phenomenon which I cannot explain. We left the bus and spent 20-30 minutes walking among these craters, trying to understand how nature works. From the top of the crater space, we had a wide view of the surrounding highlands and of Lake Myvatn itself, which seems to be a favorite habitat of both ducks and swans, and probably lots of other types of birds as well. Grass and small plants covered most surfaces, but black soil (volcanic ash?) seemed to underlie the whole area.
After another short drive, we came upon the Dimmubogir lava labyrinth, a collection of lava formations and natural arches which we explored via pathways at their base. Locals view this phenomenon as the home of some of their mythical characters and come here with their children in the winter to reinforce their traditional ways of marking the Christmas season. This was my favorite stop of the day, and I would have loved to spend more time just wandering among the formations and enjoying their rugged beauty.
Our final stop was a geothermal hotspot with steam vents, boiling mudpots, and lots of sulfur smell. The mountainside behind the vents was completely bare of plants, as was the flat area surrounding the vents. The combination of the moisture in the air, the recent rain, and the dirt surfaces of the paths produced a prodigious amount of mud for the bottom of everyone’s shoes. When we all returned to the bus, we made a mess of its floor. This geothermal area, as well as everything else we visited today, was overrun with visitors, I suppose because it was Sunday. Maybe also because the weather wasn’t terrible.
After completing our drive around Lake Myvatn, we returned to Akureyri through more spectacular scenery. The predominant images here are green fields, some in cultivation and many not, distant mountains, some with patches of snow in the higher elevations, and lava fields which are more or less covered with vegetation. This is a starkly beautiful country.
Since Isafjordur is a small town, we decided to skip an excursion today and to see the sights on our own. We were not disappointed. Early in the afternoon, we left the ship and started walking towards the town. We walked along Mjosund, turned right onto Adalstraeti, and followed it to Solgata, where we turned around and started our return to the ship. Outward bound, we stopped at a bookstore, a gift shop, a knitting/fabric store, and a hardware store. On the way back, we found a grocery store (for chocolate, water, Icelandic yogurt) and a clothing store. Isafjordur seemed to have all of the services that one would require (a central plaza, banks, ATM, tourist information, gas station, fish processing plant, fishing boats, etc.). The sidewalks were all made of paving stones, rather than concrete, I assume because of the winter weather. This is a cute town, and the people were friendly enough, but we’re happy not to be living here, despite the incredible scenery which we can see in every direction: huge mountains with both green plants and snow-covered patches and calm water in the fjord. Being in such a remote location is almost surreal, especially when you think about where it is on a map of the world.