Days 5 - 6 Dettifoss, Námaskarð Pass and Whale watching


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July 16th 2012
Published: November 11th 2012
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After our night in the Hi Hostel in Hofn we were back on the road again and set off again for a full-days drive to the North. Weather wise this was the worst day of the trip so I was glad that it wasn’t wasted as would be in the car most of the day. It rained all day and our route through the mountains was enveloped in mist. We were driving from South East Iceland up the East coast to our destination at roughly the northernmost point just 60km from the Arctic circle in Husavik. This part of Iceland is sparsely inhabited and we only passed a few cars outside the main towns.

It took over 6 hours to get to our first destination which was Dettifoss which as its ends in Foss means it must be a waterfall, but this wasn’t just any waterfall. “Dettifoss flows from the Vatnajökull glacier and collects water from a large area in Northeast Iceland. The falls are 100 metres (330 ft) wide and have a drop of 45 metres (150 ft) down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. It is the largest waterfall in Europe in terms of volume discharge, having an average water flow of 193 m3/s” (from wiki).

Prior to leaving for Iceland we had watched Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and the opening scene is from Dettifoss and here we were now standing on the exact same site as the Alien – but I didn’t fall in like he did:-). The water falling over the falls is from Glacier melt and as a result it is grey in colour as are the surrounding rocks, there is very little greenery so it was an ideal choice for an alien planet.

After the detour to check out the falls we continued on to our guest house in fab Husavik. Husavik is an old whaling town but nowadays is the best place to go whale watching in Iceland. It has an impressive 98% success rate in seeing whales on the trips leaving there.

The next day we saw some of the highlights of northern Iceland which were easily reachable from Husavik before our whale watching tour in the afternoon. The first on our list was canyon Ásbyrgi which was a natural canyon with walls a 100 metres high, you can walk through some woods to end up at the end of the canyon where you can find a small pool.

After that pleasant diversion it was on to Námaskarð Pass, which is known as Valhalla's gateway and is full of Geothermal activity. This area was one of the highlights for me and there was so much to see here, first of all was an outlet from a geothermal power station which belched superheated steam into a beautiful blue mineral-rich lagoon. There was hot spots everywhere but the most spectacular could be found on the side of a mountain which was littered with boiling mud pools and steam vents. The mud pots are formed by sulphuric acid melting the rock which is then superheated and bubbled up to the surface. The pervasive smell of sulphur was all around us yet again.

Just round the corner from here we had a walk round Leirhnjukur, which is an old lava field and made for a pleasant walk but we had to keep an eye on the time to ensure we got back to Husavik for our whale watching tour.

It was a bit of a rush but we made it to catch the boat and donned our survival suits to set off for the whale watching tour. We missed a trick as we noticed that all the watchers with the huge cameras and lenses gravitated towards the bow of the boat to get the best view whilst we were left with the middle of the boat so we stationed ourselves on each side to ensure that we didn’t miss any sightings.

We were told by the guide to shout the time according to the clock face where we saw a whale, so the bow of the boat would be 12. Husavik is at the end of a huge bay that has attracted whales for aeons and soon after setting off we saw a telltale plume of spray and set off to investigate, our first sighting was a pair of 2 blue whales – this was amazing seeing a pair of them was rare according to the guide and she was nearly as excited as I was. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to see one of these magnificent beasts in the wild and there were two in front of me. After a while we lost them and then soon after I was the first to spot a pilot whale but I was so excited I couldn't think of what time it was to be found at and shouted out the wrong time and then I quickly had to correct myself!! We saw a couple more pilot whales and an as yet unidentified whale so any suggestions welcome. On our way back we had another delight as we came across a humpback whale playing the water, it was rolling round, flapping its fins in the water - by far this was the best day we had in Iceland and one that we will both never forget. Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE

Boring bits

Accommodation - Húsavík Guesthouse, Laugarbrekka 16, Húsavík, 640

Whale watching – North Sailing, Husavik

Top Tip - bring your SatNav it works here and recognises all the strange names:-)


Additional photos below
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Unknown whaleUnknown whale
Unknown whale

If there are any whales watchers out there who know what species this is, I'd be intrigued to know.


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