Where We Be
|Okay, nothing beats Iguazu, but Dettifoss definitely ranks as one of
the better waterfalls we've seen, especially with the rainbow thrown in
We think of this as our geothermal day because
there are so many cool (I mean hot) geothermal
sites sprinkled around northeast Iceland near
Lake Myvatn. It's like a mini Yellowstone here.
But before we get to all that, there's one other
thing the northeast is known for, and that's
Dettifoss Falls -- the largest waterfall in Iceland.
We lucked out with sunny views and a killer
rainbow to go along with the thundering falls.
The source of all that dark, silty water is none
other than Vatnajokull Glacier itself, which
takes up a huge chunk of the middle of Iceland.
After Dettifoss we drove towards Lake Myvatn
and took in several geothermal sites. The one
we liked most was called Namafjall (or Hverir).
Now this place really feels like Yellowstone,
with bubbling mud pots, steaming vents,
hissing fumaroles, spitting ponds, and super-
weird colors that don't look like they belong in
nature. Even the mountains above the site are
steaming, so you know this place is hot. All
around is the smell of rotten eggs from the
hydrogen sulfide fumes. But breathe deep and
take it all in, this is northeast Iceland!
|This is definitely not Dettifoss but rather a roadside waterfall
north of Egilsstadir. Still, it's a pretty sight in its own right.
|Shortly after the falls you reach the highlands and
discover a moonscape that stretches for some 80 miles
|Notice the huge table mountain in the distance with a pinnacle of snow on top. This is Herdubreid.
|Herdubreid was formed beneath the icesheet that once covered Iceland.
It's flat-topped because molten rock had to push up through a glacier.
|I include this picture so you can see what an unlikely, desolate place serves as home to
Iceland's biggest waterfall. Can you see that plume of mist in the distance? That's Dettifoss!
|Once you get closer it's all rainbows and green fields -- and of course the deep thunder of water
|You know you're having a good day when you see a double rainbow in Iceland
|The falls up close are seriously powerful
|The folks standing on the far edge give you a sense of just how big the falls are
|One last view of the rainbow as we head off
|But wait, there's more! You get a two-for-one deal at Dettifoss.
A short stroll takes you to a second smaller falls named Selfoss.
|You can really see how milky the water is here with glacial silt.
You can also see the basalt cliffs eroding into jumbled heaps.
|The rest of our day is dedicated to geothermal sites near Lake Myvatn. This is Viti Crater, formed during eruptions
of Krafla Volcano in the 1720s. Viti means "hell" but this hell has a turquoise lake inside and is quite beautiful.
|Peering down from an overlook near Viti Crater, you can see the entire Krafla Valley,
including the power plant that taps into all that superheated water deep below
|Back towards the entrance to the Krafla Valley is this lonesome shower that runs nonstop with hot water! Was it installed
as a joke? Or as an art installation? No one is sure, but hikers sometimes use it as a free alternative to a thermal bath.
|Speaking of thermal, our final stop of the day is just across the street at Namafjall
Geothermal Area (also called Hverir). Pretty much everything bubbles or spits here.
|It's free to visit Namafjall and right by the road so it couldn't be any easier
|The walking is easy too, so in half an hour you can take in all of the odd sights (and smells)
|If you've ever been to Yellowstone (or Rotorua in New Zealand),
this will feel familiar -- even while it feels utterly alien
|Even the mountains are steaming here. Frankly northeast Iceland feels like it might explode at any minute.
|These fumaroles hiss like teapots on a high boil
|To us this seems much more like hell than Viti Crater did. Even the colors are a bit creepy.
|Lake Myvatn spreads out below. It's home to Myvatn Nature Baths and even more geothermal sites (as well as
midges), but here we turn our attentions north for something completely different -- whale and puffin watching.
|Ring Road Day 4 -- In just a few days we've gone from glaciers to fjords and now to volcanoes.
The northeast is a mess of geothermal activity, not to mention the biggest waterfall in Iceland.