About fifteen miles
beyond Myvatn the Ring Road drops down into Bádardalur.
Though not amongst Iceland's biggest or more impressive waterfalls
Godafoss is significant and, being easily accessible from the
road, gets a lot of visitors. There is a park by the service
station on the east side from where a path runs along the side
of the little gorge to the falls themselves. We thought this
was the best view and well worth the short walk on an easy path.
However most people use the main car park on the west side of
the river which is very close to the main fall. There is a path
along the west side back to a footbridge to the service station.
Laufás and Grenjadarstadur
The Ring Road continues
toward Eyjafjördur and just after it descends to the shore
Highway 83 turns north to Laufás. Laufás is pleasantly
set on the shore with nice views down the fjord. For us the attraction
there was the museum set in the old church farm which is an example
of a traditional, large farm (a sort of upmarket Sel) which survived
because it was a church farm. There is also a nice craft shop
From Laufás we headed
back past Godafoss to turn north to Grenjadarstadur which is
between Highways 845 and 87. This is another museum very similar
to Laufás but with an interpretation centre. We enjoyed
and spent a lot of time in both of them, but the degree of similarity
means that people short of time could choose whichever is closest
to their route.
Husavík and Tjörnes
Going north on Highways
87 and 85 brings you to Husavík, one of Iceland's larger
towns and the only really nucleated settlement we saw. The harbour
is the jumping off point for whale-watching trips. We didn't
like Husavík which seemed busy and a bit scruffy, perhaps
because it had been a long day and we were getting tired - but
it did have an excellent supermarket. Highway 85 continues round
the headland of Tjörnes (locals say you can see whales from
up there most nights) then drops down to Öxarfjördur
where it crosses behind some beaches covered with driftwood from
Siberia. We wished we had spent more time along this stretch
before reaching our destination of the old school at Skúlagardur
- home for the next four nights.
National Park and Ásbyrgi
This was our main
draw to this part of the country. The park has two large gorges
and Europe's greatest waterfall. There is a range of walking,
some quite easy, some very hard. Skaftafell had been quite busy,
a week further into the season Jökulsárgljúfur
was almost deserted; being well off the sight tickers' route
round the Ring Road probably keeps it fairly quiet. Despite,
or perhaps because of, its ruggedness we found this an incredibly
There is a service station with small,
but comprehensive, shop on Highway 85 at Ásbyrgi where
you turn off to the National Park Centre. Here you can get a
good map with paths. From the Centre you can drive or walk into
the large horseshoe shaped canyon of Ásbyrgi. From the
park at the far end there are short trails through the woods
to the foot of the cliffs. Also from the centre there is a walk
to the top of the gently sloping hill of Eyjan (= island, several
places have this name) which gives excellent views.
From the service station we took a day
walk along the west side of the Jökulsá gorge where
the views are impressive. We went up to the viewpoint on Áshöfdi
(but couldn't see through the trees) and as far as Kvíar,
at which point it started to snow and sleet just as we were furthest
from the car and were turning into the weather. The next stretch
across Klappir is a rather boring, sometimes wet, trudge until
you come to the view into the Ásbyrgi canyon. This is
classic, except on this day it wasn't because of the weather.
The path had been good and easy but here there was one bit we
did not like at all. This involved lowering yourself down a sheer
face of rock with a lot of fresh air beneath you on one side.
There was no alternative. Beyond there the path is easy back
to the service station. There is a short cut onto this route
from the Centre which was shown as 'rope assisted' on our map.
The park ranger had told us there was now a staircase, but closer
inspection showed this to be a series of ladders with an awful
lot of scrambling with a rope.
Highway 862 runs
up the west side of the park. It's a fairly narrow road which
we took to the carpark at Vestrurdalur (it was still closed beyond
here to Dettifoss and the very rough F862 continuation to the
Ring Road was apparently closed all summer). We had an excellent
day's walking here in superb weather. First we headed south through
Vesturdalur to the remains of the old farm at Svinadalur through
a mixture of cliffs, lava, woodland and moorland. The return
north along the rim of the Jökulsá gorge is exhilarating.
A good path all the way.
In the afternoon we continued
north through the incredible lava formations of Hljódaklettar
(some easy, safe scrambling) to go up to the viewpoint of Raudholár
high above the gorge (steep and a bit loose but optional). Return
was via the parallel route a short distance away. An incredible
day. Both sections are probably best done in the direction described
so you have the sun behind you for views into the gorge.
Highway 864 (which
was closed until just before we used it) runs up the east side
of the park and through to the Ring Road. Unsealed it gets fairly
heavy use. There is a spur to a park for Hafragilsfoss (worth
a trip) but the main draw is the car park for Dettifoss. From
the park you can get quite good views down the gorge but you
have to go down the rocky, stepped path to see the fall itself
which is in a deep part of the gorge. This fall is huge and scary
as it thunders over a fairly narrow ledge.
From Dettifoss there is a
path on south (mainly easy, some climbing over rocks, places
wet) to Selfoss where the falls run diagonally across the gorge.
Many people go on to Selfoss. It's a worthwhile walk with good
views into the gorge.
However a better walk is
to go north from the Dettifoss park along the rim of the canyon
to look down onto Hafragilsfoss then climb to the viewpoint of
Sjónipa. This is all good and gives excellent views of
Dettifoss returning to the car. Few people do it which is surprising
because it is a good, easy walk.
Beyond Dettifoss Highway
864 runs on across the level interior plateau. It gives a good
experience of this sort of landscape and offers a convenient
short cut to the Ring Road.
Our last night was
at the Hótel Svartiskógur part way down the valley
of the Jökulsá á Brú. The turn off
the Ring Road onto Highway 917 is just before the bridge over
the river. (Just over the bridge is a small picnic area with
nice views into the narrow cleft the river runs through.) The
hotel is off the main road and in the evening we took the opportunity
for a number of gentle walks in the woods and across the road
towards the river.
The next morning saw us hot footing it to the bakery at Fellabær
before joining the suddenly very busy road to the ferry at Seydisfördur.
A number of worthwhile
web sites are shown on the external links page for Iceland.