Iceland. Literally the “land of Ice”, gives you among the best scenery you could see in the entire world. With a huge variety of landscape, and its special forecast, it guarantees you a memorable experience.
Down below you will read the full description of my trip to Iceland through 5 months living over. This article in particular covers all the “east” part that I’ve done. This is what you will find :
- Wale watching in Húsavík
- Hiking to Detifoss
- Mývatn and its Nature bath
- Egilsstaðir & Seydisfjordur
- South part starting with Höfn
- The stunning Jökulsárlón
- Vik and the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
If you’d like details about prerequisite, form, and hints to travel in Iceland, I invite you to to look forward the previous post that handle the whole subject: Prepare your trip in Iceland & Iceland Travel Tips.
Good reading !
On the way to Akureyri
Being back on the main road, the number 1 that goes around the country, we headed East after our journey through the west fjords. A heavy rain was pouring into us so we skipped a few spots along the way to go directly to Akureyri. However, some interesting point seems to be in between, as the Hvítserkur, a huge elephant looking rock on the bay of Húnafjörður located just half an hour away from the main road.
Along the way we crossed loads of different scenery. From black mountains to green valleys, our long day finished in the “Capital of North Iceland” : Akureyri. It is actually Iceland’s fourth-largest municipality, and has a real cultural scene, with also many bars and restaurants.
Whales watching in Húsavik
After a few days of rest, we headed in direction of Húsavík, a place that claims the title of the best whale watching town in all Europe. In the meantime, we enjoyed a break at the little town of Grenivík, that possess a wonderful landscape and a real quiet atmosphere.
Once in Húsavík, we directly went to book a tour for the next day. There are a couple of companies that offer you good deals to do whale watching, but after comparing all of them we chose Salka, which has for us the best value for money. In the early morning we boarded our fishing vessels in order to find spectacular marine animals.
During an hour to go away from the shore, we saw plenty of dolphins who were playing with us, following the boat. Yet we were pretty disappointed when, after almost 2 hours of research, we couldn’t see any of the whales we were looking for… But all of a sudden, a whale jumped out of the water, followed by many others ! Luckily and thanks to our captain, we were able to stay a while longer and enjoy the amazing scenery of whales dancing around our boat. :p
Walk to Detifoss & Selfoss
After being picked up by a very nice couple in the most luxurious truck ever, we landed at the Ásbyrgi Visitor Centre, start of a 32km hike to join the two beautiful waterfalls Detifoss and Selfoss.
An unexpected decor was waiting for us as we walked along the Ásbyrgi canyon, that made a quite spectacular view. The rocks lying down were all very singular, and made the experience even more interesting.
Selfoss (right) is much wider than it is tall, with its 11m high and its 100 meter width ! This waterfall is fed by the Jökulsá á Fjöllum, the second longest river in Iceland, which flows from the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull.
Slightly downstream, Detifoss (left) is the second most powerful waterfall in Europe, after the Rhine Falls in Switzerland. The thunderous fall has an average water flow of 193 metres cubed per second and is very impressive; you can definitely feel the devastating power of it while watching !
Few kilometers away from the falls, we put the tent beside the shallow lake of Mývatn. 2300 years ago, the lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption, and thus the landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms. The surrounding wetlands provide a habitat for a number of waterbirds, especially ducks that can be found in a huge number.
Consequently, there is a geothermal activity beneath Mývatn, which offers you the opportunity for bathing in naturally heated water. Not far from the lake, you can find the Mývatn Nature Baths, a beautiful establishment with serene water, incredible views, and a reasonable entry fee!
Compared to the Blue Lagoon, it is way cheaper, calmer and prettier ! If you have the opportunity don’t go at the touristic one and definitely choose the baths of Mývatn !
Around the lake you can find various walks, which offers you to discover many different volcanic locations. You can move by car, by bike or mountain bike that you can rent if you feel so. We personally didn’t do any of them, but you can look it up easily on the net. Here’s the official one : visitmývatn.is
The route to Seyðisfjörður
Refresh from the previous natural bath, we headed east to join Seyðisfjörður, city where we could enjoy a little break and also watch the world football cup (yes, it was the final at this moment, so we definitely had to choose a lively place!).
We didn’t expect to have the hardest time to hitch-hike of all our trip ! A couple of cars actually dropped us off at the intersection of Herðubreið, beginning of a walk to Askja volcano. We stayed there for around 3 hours (for the whole trip we didn’t wait more than 30 minutes each time), in the cold wind, with a swarm of flies…
Finally, someone picked us up and we landed at Egilsstaðir, where we could eat before resume our trip.
I really loved this city. It is colorful, lively and full of cultural events ! It is surounded by mountains which gives you the feeling to be at the end of the world. This is also the location where the ferry Norræna from Scandinavia is sailing if you wish to take it !
There is only one road connecting Seyðisfjörður from the rest of Iceland. First, you need to go through a mountain pass, then you can stop before going down to enjoy the pretty view ! For those who know the movie “The secret life of Walter Mitty“, this is also the cult scene when Walter (Ben Stiller), ride on a skate board just before an eruption.
If you want to know more about movies that have been filmed in Iceland, you can read this article : HERE
Along the coast to Höfn
At this point we had two options :
- Going through the mountains by the road n°95 (quick way)
- Keep going on the ring road along the coast (long way)
We obviously chose the longest and prettiest one, which was quite beautiful to the eye. After a stop for the night at the city of Djúpivogur, where actually there’s not much things to do, we kept going until we reach Höfn.
You can find very nice bakeries in this town, if you want to make a break ! There is also something that made me laugh : It exists a street where you can find abandoned shoes that you can switch with yours if you need to (they are all obviously a bit broken, but I actually found a pretty nice one that I exchange with mine !)
One of the most spectacular scenery in all Iceland ! Jökulsárlón (literally Glacial River Lagoon) is a lagoon formed naturally from melted glacial water and is perpetually growing with big blocks of ice crumbling from the shrinking glacier. This makes the place even more special, as they will look different each time you pay them a visit. The nearby black beach is called Diamond Beach, as the ice chunks lying on it look like diamonds glistening in the sun.
When we arrived, the place was completely crowded. The contrast between the wild & natural glacier, and the hundreds of tourists taking photos was huge for us. So we decided to set camp on the beach, further away, to come back later during the “night”.
For the anecdote, at this point we forgot our water bottle at the last camp, so we had to melt an ice chunk and boiled it to hydrate ourself !
Coming back to Jökulsárlón at night time was the best decision : we had the whole wonderful site for ourself, which was a unique experience !
Vík & Sólheimasandur plane wreck
Leaving Skaftafell, we passed by Vík, but it was raining a lot so we didn’t spend much time in the city. We planed to see the plane wreck, not far from there. Once arrived at the parking location, we walked an hour (not more, because it is what the sign says : 2,5 hours) and arrived at the really surprising place, with nothing around.
Why is there a plane wreck lost in the middle of nowhere ?
In 1973, a United States Navy plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach.
The story could end here, but the funny part is coming : at this time you had to give up on your empty fuel tank to keep going. It turns out the pilot had simply switched over the wrong fuel tank ! Fortunately, everyone on that plane survived !
This plane symbolizes the end of my adventure in Iceland : after 45 days hitch-hiking around the country, tons of encounters, hundreds of unforgettable people and landscapes, I went back to Reykjavík with my head full of amazing souvenirs !
Vatnajökull National Park is Europe’s second largest national park in terms of area, and its glacier, Vatnajökull, is Europe’s largest glacier outside the arctic !
Few people take an interest in Iceland, but in those few, the interest is passionate.