If there is one thing travelling through Iceland teaches you, it is to go with the flow and be prepared for change. After spending months drafting the perfect itinerary of excursions and adventures around the south coast of Iceland, our plans were nearly dashed by the sudden dispersal of a hurricane that had only just wreaked havoc off the coast of the USA. Now it had come wreak havoc on our itinerary.
With the choice of either sandblasting the paint off our rental campervan or making a detour north, we did a quick rejiggle of our itinerary based on the advice of a rep from Kuku Campers, and headed towards the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
What we forgot when planning our itinerary however, is that with a place as stunning as Iceland, there’s never a wrong direction to go.
Heading north, we skirted along the coast for miles and miles, stopping several times to look at the Icelandic horses. As the mountains climbed we headed inward, following the river as it wound its way through hills and past picturesque cottages and even a brewery along the way (sadly it happened to be shut on the day we passed through!).
Eventually the road led us to Reykholt, a quiet village which is also home to one of Iceland’s biggest cultural attractions. The area was once home to Snorri Sturluson, a medieval author. Today the geothermal pool in the village is named after him, and there’s a cultural centre to explore. We also took the chance to visit one of the many iconic quaint Icelandic churches, and they didn’t disappoint.
Just beyond Reykholt however, lies an even more eye-catching natural phenomenon -the lava waterfalls. Known as Hruanfossar, these aren’t dangerously active volcanoes spewing magma, but subterranean spring water that leaks out of tiny holes in the lava, creating powerful waterfalls all down the gorge.
A short walk upriver brings you to Barnafoss, a small yet powerful waterfall that has an old Icelandic saga behind it. Surrounding the area for miles are lava fields, making the entire site feel other-worldly.
Heading back on the road past Reykholt, we earlier noted steam rising from the horizon and the smell of sulfur (we were soon to learn this was typical in Iceland). Following the smell of rotting eggs, we came across Deildartunguhver, another thermal spring. Unlike Iceland’s other thermal springs where you can have a dip, Deildatunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hot spring and one of its hottest – it spews out water at 100°C!
Deildartunguhver’s natural power has been harnessed to provide central heating to homes and provide hot water to neighborhoods within 65 km. Looking at it in person however, with its bunting and grass-topped roof and chimneys, the entire spring looks pleasant, inviting even.
As the sun began to fall we headed southeast, enthused by the finding of a shortcut that would take us to Thingvellir National Park while avoiding the storm. Here’s another fact about Iceland we learned the hard way: if it appears to be a shortcut, it likely isn’t. But that’s a story for another day.