Höfn to Akureyri

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July 11th 2018
Published: July 14th 2018
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After a good night sleep at the Hotel Jokull we enjoyed a good selection for our free breakfast before hitting the road again towards Egilsstaðir. Our first stop was after just a few kilometres in the town of Höfn. While Chris and Adrienne picked up a few supplies in the Bonus grocery store, I walked by the shore for some photography.

Back on the road we continued to follow Hwy 1 along the tops of the cliffs by the ocean. We dropped down to the beach after a while and walked around on the volcanic black rocks, pebbles and sand. Nearest the parking lot, the stones were 2 to 4 inches across, smooth and flat with rounded edges; much like the ones used for hot stone massages. As we walked towards the water the stones became gradually smaller until it was all black sand at the water’s edge. It was a huge beach with crashing surf so we stayed a while and collected some of the larger massage stones to hopefully try out one day soon.

We continued down the road, stopping now and then at the numerous viewpoints. The terrain surrounding us varied from lava fields to high mountains, usually with unusual rock formations, on our left while the oceanside were mostly various shapes and sizes of black cliffs. Occasional wild flowers grew here and there in any little patch of dirt, even on the cliffside rocks and throughout the lava fields.

Our first planned stop was 118 km from Hofn, the Fossardalur Blue Waterfall. There is a rest stop on your left just a few yards before the correct road, F939, gravel, which cuts back then up a hill and then a sharp hairpin turn up to the right. The parking area is on the right side of this road immediately after the hairpin turn. We missed it initially and continue on this little gravel road for a few km’s up the mountain. We finally stopped, asked directions from a woman who did not speak English, then drove even further. We eventually parked as the road became very rough, and hiked a short distance before we were convinced that we had missed the falls. We backtracked until we found the parking area just a couple hundred yards off of the highway.

It’s a very short walk from here to the falls which are very pretty and definitely have hints of blue. We stopped for our lunch at the rest stop below which had a picnic table and a free bathroom; never pass up a free pee!

We continued on, stopping at some viewpoints along the way until we entered our first tunnel! It was dimly lit, speed limit of 50km, very narrow, two-way, and nearly 6 km long right through a mountain! There are several tunnels around the country and in the coming days we would experience a few more of them.

As soon as we exited the tunnel we saw two beautiful Iceland horses by the road on some fenced farm property so we pulled over to take a few photos. They were very friendly and in fact, it was nearly impossible to get a photo as they kept following us really close to get some pats.

We were driving oceanside again into a fjord and stopped in a small town soon after to fill up with diesel at our usual N1 gas station then continued on to Hengifoss waterfall which is the 3rd highest waterfall in Iceland at 128 meters. The parking lot is right by the junction of highways 931 and 933, on the north side of the Lagafljót River. There is a small falls near the bottom then the hike to Hengifoss is about 2.5 km mostly uphill, quite steep at times. About halfway up you come to Litlanesfoss waterfall surrounded by hexagonal columns, frequently formed when lava cools.

Near the top the path becomes less defined and rougher with a lot of rocks and boulders but eventually you reach the top. It took us about 45 minutes of steady climbing to reach Hengifoss but it was really quite spectacular, surrounded by horizontal and vertical colourful rock formations. The downhill hike was much faster and easier, taking only 30 minutes.

The drive from here took only a few minutes to reach our accomodation for the night at Skipalaeker Cottages on the north side of the river in Egilsstaðir . We had a nice A-frame cottage on the riverbank with an upstairs loft with 3 single beds and a bedroom with a double bed and single bunk on top. We had our very own bathroom and a kitchenette! We had a late dinner, a few drinks and a good night sleep.

The next morning was clear and sunny, a nice change from the cloudy, drizzly weather of the past few days. After breakfast we packed up, checked out and headed across the bridge into the main city then onto Hwy 93 up the mountains above the snow level with a short stop near the top at Gufufoss falls. Its a beautiful waterfall with good parking right beside the road. I got a few waterfall photos then some sheep photos and then back in the car for a very steep descent down to the town of Seyðisfjörður , at the inner most point of the fjord of the same name. Its a cute, artsy little town and is also where you catch the ferry to Denmark. We walked around the town and explored a few arts and handicraft shops before heading back up the mountain and down into Egilsstaðir again then inland NW on HWY 1.

Our drive took us through Vatnajökull National Park and a wide variety of unusually shaped mountains, rock formations and huge lava fields. We stopped at one particularly busy rest stop in the middle of a lava field where everybody was taking turns having their photos taken sitting in a chair on a small hillside in the middle of the lava field.

Out in the middle of nowhere, we came to our turnoff for Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls. There is a huge parking lot and well marked, and easy trails to each waterfall. They were both spectacular in their own way and well worth the stop. Detifoss is said to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe spilling over 500 cubic metres of water per second. Its water comes from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier and the water is greyish from sediment. Selfoss waterfall is only 1 1/2 km walk away and is on the same river Jökulsá á Fjöllum.

We drove on from here to the volcanic mud pots and steam vents at Námaskarð , or Hverarondor Hverir. It’s located just off of Hwy 1 just as you go by Lake Myvatn. As we approached the area we could see steam rising from dozens of locations across the alien, colourful landscape and a horribly strong sulfurous odour. There are carefully marked walking areas that keep you at supposedly safe distances although you are surrounded by 200c boiling water, bubbling mud, deep craters and huge steam vents. It feels as though one wrong step would lead to certain death or at least the loss of a foot! It took me a while to get used to the smell enough to be able to take some photos but it was well worth it as it was the most alien place I have ever seen.

From here we drove to the Myvatn Nature Baths , just 105 km south of the Arctic Circle. Our entry cost us 4,700 isk although the prices vary throughout the year so check the website for current prices. The baths are behind a large building housing a restaurant, change rooms and showers. We had been warned about shower police who watch everyone shower to make sure that they shower naked, and thoroughly with soap. However, although there were many sternly worded signs that it was actually illegal to not do this, there were no shower guards on duty.

The pool lagoon is naturally heated thermodynamically and is quite large with a slighly smaller pool at a lower temperature. There is also an even smaller pool at a hotter temperature that was packed all the time as it was a very cool day. They also advertise a steam bath which we never did find. This was a great way to relax our muscles and warm up near the end of our long day.

We left the baths feeling refreshed and ready to do a bit more exploring before the end of our day. We gradually drove out of the lava fields and into greener landscapes then suddenly had to come to a very abrupt stop along with a few other cars as dozens of horses were stampeding towards us down the highway! The horses looked terrified but the occasional rider was riding alongside, mixed in with the herd so perhaps they thought it was somewhat controlled or maybe it was before the horses galloped by weaving between cars and running by on both sides of us. They were soon past so we all continued on our way to Godafoss.

Godafoss waterfall is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, in the NW region not far from Akureyri on the river Skjálfandafljót. There are two parking areas, each about a 10 minute walk from the falls, one on each side of the river and we chose the second one over the river. One of the main viewing platforms and all the area around it was closed for renovations but we were able to walk around it and get quite good viewing areas close to the falls. It was getting dark with heavy cloud cover but with my tripod I was still able to get some good shots.

Our last drive of the day after viewing Godafoss was to the city of Akureyri . Although it is only a small city with about 17,000 residents, it is the second largest city in Iceland, located at the head of Eyjafjörður fjord Just below the Arctic Circle. it took us a little while to locate the Akureyri Apartments where we were staying due to one way streets and other streets that don’t go right through. We finally parked and walked. We had a 3-storey walkup with a basic, older 1-bedroom apartment with a pull-out couch, kitchen and bathroom. Although it had everything we needed, it had more of an older, worn out feel to it than anywhere else we stayed.

We had a quick supper and into bed as it was late and we were all very tired.

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