Iceland Part 3: Of Mist and Steam

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This is the 3rd part of my Iceland trip summary. If you've missed the first part or second part of our Iceland trip you might want to read those first. It's taking me so much longer than I thought to write these up that we're already booking our 2017 adventures! 

By the sixth day in Iceland, we really hit our stride. It took us less than half an hour to pack up in the morning from our campsite. The cold in the morning may have spurred us on just a bit. That night, an Icelander was in the site next to us in a small backpacking tent. I couldn't have done that. It was consistently in the 30s during the night and mornings were brisk, to say the least. Icelandic camping was not like Michigan camp days with campfires and lazy brunches. 

We drove north that morning as the sun rose through the mist. I remember really, really wanting hot coffee, but now thinking back I don't think I got any.

Instead as we made our way toward the sites we had planned, we spotted a whole herd of caribou. At first we thought they were merely another herd of horses, then I thought they were goats, but Dave realized they were caribou. We pulled off the road at a little access drive and grabbed our cameras. They actually let us get fairly close and after snapping a couple pictures we took some time to just watch them.

We loved driving through the landscape as we made our way to Selfoss and Dettifoss. The moss was every bit as colorful as the fall foliage in Michigan, only way tinier.

Selfoss and Dettifoss are and easy walk apart. We took a look at Selfoss first and enjoyed how close we were able to get to it. 

Dettifoss is impressive in it's volume, but its appeal was mostly in its power. Also, there were lots of people around, so we had a hard time enjoying it.

After the waterfalls, instead of heading back to the ring road we took a back road further north to the northern coast. We loved this part of the day. It was so peaceful to see mountains, coastline, and farms nestled in between. 

We followed the coast west and back down until we hit Húsavík, a small fishing town. The charm in this place was almost too much. The harbor had a background of snowy mountains and the sail boats were taken care of so well that their wood and paint gleamed. The water was so calm, the whole time we were there it felt like we had discovered a place that had been asleep for a couple decades. 

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We found some fish and chips and sat, eating, and soaking up the scene. There wasn't much else to do. We wandered around and explored, but decided against the whale watching tours.

Dave touched the water. We chased a jelly fish. And we wished we could have stayed longer.

It was late afternoon when we headed back south toward Myvatn. As we approached the light started to glow. One of the best parts of this region was their trees. Iceland doesn't have many trees (though they are planting more every year) and the yellows and oranges of the trees around Myvatn were a special treat.

Our first stop was Hverfjall, where we had our biggest accident of the trip. The driveway into the parking lot for the crater was narrow and full of potholes. A car coming out wouldn't share the road and forced our right tire off the road where it hit a sharp lava rock. When we parked and got out I heard the telltale hiss of a punctured tire. Luckily the van had a spare tire on the roof rack and we had that tire changed in a jiffy. I think it was done within 10 minutes. I love that Dave understands and knows his way around cars so well.

We headed up the incline of the crater at sunset and hit the top during twilight. It was a huge round black sand dune with a hole in the center. It was such a other worldly natural formation. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that or probably ever will.

By then we figured we might as well go to as many other sites that we could in the area while we still had light. The Hverarönd/Hverir geothermal area was close enough that we zipped up the road and experienced the multi-colored sulfurous mud springs, steam vents, and fumaroles in the rosy post-sunset glow. It was pretty stinky, but we stayed for quite a while because the bubbling mud and hissing steam vents were so fascinating. I imagine this is what prehistoric earth looked like.

On our way to the campground for the night, we made the impromptu decision to check out Myvatn Nature Baths. We had originally decided against it to save some money, but we were sore and tired from such a long day and a soak in hot water was just what we needed. The last bit of light faded in the west while we enjoyed moving from the hot pool to the hotter pool and back. We even glimpsed a flicker of the northern lights while lounging in the hot pool. The perfect end to a wonderful day.

The sun rose stunningly over the little town of Reykjahlíð. We drove around waking up and soaking up the beauty of the morning golden hour. 

We finally felt up for a hike and drove up to the volcanic area above the Krafla power station. There we hiked into the heart of the area where nine volcanic eruptions happened between 1975 and 1984. If ever I felt like we were on another planet, this was it.

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Everywhere we turned cooled lava stretched around us and steam seeped out of the ground. I'd never realized how colorful and beautiful lava is. It was stunning and scary and insanely cool.

One side effect of all the geothermal activity in Iceland is that they produce much of their electricity from it. I love that the country puts such an emphasis on clean energy and preserving the beauty and integrity of the island. Something to aspire to! 

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We left the Mytvatn region behind as we drove west to Goðafoss. After seeing waterfalls left and right for days, we figured this one would be like the rest. But it really gave us pause and we took our time enjoying it. It's not the tallest or biggest, but the horseshoe shape and mist made it one of the most beautiful we saw.

Akureyri was our next stop. It's the closest thing to a big city that northern Iceland has. The population is oncly 18,00-ish, but after days of tiny villages, it felt huge to us. 

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It was rainy and kinda gross, so we grabbed some delicious fish soup for lunch and did some souvenir shopping, before grabbing some staples at the grocery store and heading back into the countryside. Akureyri left me with a really cozy and cute impression. And what I wouldn't give for another bowl of that soup!