DAY SIX: Geothermal Mud pits, oh my!
You know when you’re on a big trip and you feel like you need to cram everything in? Day six was a hectic day with loads of wonderful pitstops along the way. We had a big list of places to visit, but unfortunately the weather was HORRIBLE on this day which ruined a few of our plans.
Despite the crappy weather, we jumped into the car and left the lovely campground in Egilsstaðir for the road once again. First up on our ‘must-visit’ list was Dettifoss waterfall, which is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
There are two ways to reach Dettifoss, and that is the paved road on the West Bank, or the gravel road on the East Bank. I’d read the experience and the views were worth the extra drive, so we chose to go via the East Bank.
Be warned; the road to Dettifoss is long and nearly all rough gravel. You’re allowed to go on with all cars (it’s not classified as an F road), but it’s a solid 30 minute drive on loose gravel and loads of pot holes. If you’re driving a super new car or something that isn’t covered for gravel insurance, then just be super careful or take the West Bank side.
When we arrived, the sound of the water gushing was deafening. It screamed for attention, and boy, did it get it. The walk to the falls is around 800m through slippery rocks, so just be careful when you walk and take it nice and slow. On the East Bank side, you can get as physically close to the edge as you’d like. There are no fences or safety ropes, so be wary of your surroundings and always have at least one foot on solid ground.
There is also another trail 1.4km further down to Selfoss, which is another waterfall. We would have liked to have visited this, but by the time we’d finished admiring Dettifoss it was pouring down and I had my camera gear with me – we couldn’t risk it.
After taking in the wonder of Dettifoss, we headed somewhere a whole lot smellier and quieter. The Hverir geothermal area in North Iceland is one of the wonders that makes Iceland so special. It’s a large geothermal field full of bubbling mud pools, bright red soil and hissing fumaroles.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live on Mars, then the Hverir geothermal area gives you a pretty realistic idea. The large volume of steam emitting from the bubbling pools lets you know that Iceland is well and truly alive, with copious amounts of boiling hot air being realised into the atmosphere.
The water is heated by volcanoes and geothermal springs, which means it contains a heck of a lot of sulphur. Sulphur smells exactly like rotten egg, which is why this is one of the smelliest places in Iceland. Believe me; it’s worth braving the smell and exploring this foreign land.
The next stop was Grjotagja cave, which was once a secret gem, but was made famous by a Game of Thrones scene. Remember when Jon Snow and Ygritte got all sexy in that cave by the water? BINGO! The cave is very small, and only a few people can go in at a time. The water is too hot to swim in, and it’s now actually illegal to swim in it.
It used to be allowed, but the site was almost in ruins after tourists flocked there, so now it’s just a stop on the way. The cave was beautiful, and the water was increibdly blue and clear. All I could imagine was Jon Snow there, so I was a happy camper!
After the cave, we headed to the famous Mytavan Nature Baths. Many say these are much better than the Blue Lagoon, but when we got there it was POURING. The weather was just shocking, and the price tag to enter the baths sat around 3800ISK. We uhmed and ahed for a while, but the baths already looked quite crowded and we were both exhausted by this stage.
Unfortunately, we didn’t go in them but if you’ve got the budget and it’s a beautiful day, definitely go for it. I’ve had friends visit and say they’re absolutely stunning. We went in and took a few photos, grabbed a coffee and then went back on the road.
That evening we drove to the second biggest city in Iceland, Akureyri. It had a surprisingly bustling night life, and we ate dinner at the Akureyri Backpackers. It was our first proper meal that we didn’t make ourselves, and OH BOY did it taste good. Our burgers were around 1800ISK each, and were actually pretty reasonable considering most edible things in Iceland make people weep.
We camped at the Havar Akureyri campsite, and it was perfect. It cost 1700ISK each, and that included hot showers, wifi (in common area), communal kitchen and toilets. Plus, there was a mini obstacle course and climbing wall for kids! Great for families, couples and solo travellers.
The next day consists of exploring Northern Iceland, a magical Christmas village and the most private, natural hot springs on Earth! Click HERE to read it.