So we drove to Seydisfjördur all the way from Hali. The weather conditions varied very much from blowing snow to an almost clear road. We left at about ten in the morning and our total driving time, including three stops on the way, was five minutes to eight hours! The last stretch from Egilsstadir to the port town of Seydisfjördur was a little road with loads of snow on it and it was also continuously snowing more from the sky. This road had also been marked in red (which is impassable, practically closed) just a day before. But today it was drivable, even though of the harsh wind, snow and darkness. So we were lucky again. Our place was a little cabin constructed of logs at the other side of the fjord. We settled around with our stuff, grabbed couple of beers and took a bath in the lovely hot tub located at the back yard of the cabin. We had a tight schedule on this trip, as I have told you, so we had many one night stops and the following morning we continued the journey again. This time to Myvatn. But luckily this was going to be quite a short drive compared to the last days’ drive. We were the only guests in the cabin village in Seydisfjördur, which wasn’t actually a surprise. Since we arrived in many of our hotels when it was already dark, we didn’t actually see the surroundings properly until the next morning. And this next morning wasn’t an exception. When the morning rose it revealed a lovely scene to the fjord around us with the surrounding mountains.
During breakfasts we were always checking how’s the road conditions ahead of us from http://www.vegagerdin.is. This site is worth more than gold there, especially in the wintertime.
We then drove the relatively short way to Myvatn, which is one of the most scenic parts of Northern Iceland and we had planned visiting all the interesting sites on the way when passing them by.
The first of them was Krafla, a volcanic crater located at the end of a side road of the Highway 1. We located the road, turned on it, drove about 5 km until the cleared length of the road just stopped dead. Ahead of us there were just loads of snow and it could be seen that no one had driven the road since the snow had fallen. We had a 4RW car but even though it wasn’t a superjeep or anything so we chose not to take the risk to get stuck somewhere up there. After all, we were just half way of the road and no one knew how the road would be further away. So we turned back to the main road and continued towards one of our highlights in this region; Myvatn Nature Baths! When you’re driving in Iceland at wintertime you have to accept that every place may not be accessible in those conditions and then you just have to skip it and continue. But luckily there are so many great places that if you miss something out, you’ll have something in replace for sure! So don’t worry.
Our cabin in Seydisfjördur.
We were more than excited when we had the chance to swim in the hot and very mineralistic nature pool of Myvatn. We also were blessed to be one of the few people around there at that time. Always a joy when you don’t have to share your experience with hundreds of other people at the same time. The nature baths reminded me of the onsens of Beppu, Japan. The same smell of sulphur in the air, the same color of the water. The same happened to my silver ring which I forgot to remove from my finger, again – it turned all dark from the power of the waters’ minerals.
Myvatn Nature baths. (This snapshot is by our friend (Thank you!). Check her profile in Twitter: @Mirkku_ Because we were bathing at the time.)
We spent good two hours over there after which we continued towards our accommodation and to looking for a dinner. For the dinner we found a very nice looking place called the Vogafjos, a guesthouse, restaurant and a working farm near Dimmuborgir over there in Myvatn (http://www.vogafjos.net). They serve many organic products and of course products of their own farm. You can even watch the cows in the cowshed from behind a glass in the restaurant. Even while you eat, if choose a right table. Maybe a bit bizarre but also a refreshingly different solution for the restaurant. The dinner was ok. It may have been better if it weren’t a Christmas and New Years’ holiday season when many places at the region are actually not open at all. After dinner we drove to our hotel which we had booked in advance, Dimmuborgir Guesthouse – which turned out to be a disaster. We were told that they wouldn’t serve breakfast, although we had booked the rooms with one. We got 3 different room keys from the reception because one’s door may not be properly closed and the room could be freezing(!). We were not shown the way to the rooms, instead were given a map to them. And when we got to the rooms we noticed that at the front of the doors of two of them were one metre high piles of snow. So if we’d have wanted to see the rooms we would have had to dig our way into them! Which we couldn’t do because the lack of any shovels. At that point we chose to call back to the Vogafjos Guesthouse and ask if they’d have two rooms for us available and leave from the disaster of Dimmuborgir Guesthouse. Luckily they had available rooms for us – even for a cheaper price than the Dimmuborgir guesthouse would have cost – including breakfast! A good thing that we haven’t paid anything in advance, so we could just drive back to the reception and tell them that we weren’t staying. The only good thing at Dimmuborgir guesthouse was the two overwhelmingly friendly sheep dogs that greeted us when coming in! So we drove back to Vogafjos and had a very lovely, cozy, warm and new cottages to sleep in, accompanied by a professional and friendly customer service! In the morning, after a good nights’ sleep, we enjoyed the best breakfast of our whole Icelandic road trip! So I can warmly recommend to stay over there if you ever find yourself at the Myvatn Region!
Our room at Vogafjos Guesthouse.
On this day we had planned to go and see the best part of this region – the Dimmuborgir: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimmuborgir This large place has unusually shaped lava fields and volcanic rock formations. ..And the legend says that when Lucifer was cast out from Heaven, he landed here and therefore created these “Catacombs of Hell”. So what an awesome place!
During our breakfast we chatted with the staff of Vogafjos about the place and they told us that there’d be so much snow now that the only possible way to explore it further would be with snowshoes. They would’ve even helped us to rent snowshoes, if we had wanted to. But we decided not to rent them. And just go to see the place as much that it’d be possible. But very well…eventually that wasn’t exactly what happened. Here’s what really happened. We drove the couple of kilometers to Dimmuborgir, got our gear together and started to explore the place. We got to the point of which the staff had said would be the farthest point you could reach without the snowshoes. And we continued our way! We thought to just “explore a bit further” since there weren’t actually so much of snow that you wouldn’t be able to walk forward. And we went further and further, fascinated by the peacefulness and beauty of the place. Until we noticed that we had already come half way of the longest hiking route of the whole place! So instead of turning back at that point, we decided to walk the whole way – of course! Sure, there were points in where there was so much untouched snow that it reached to your groins. And walking was a bit difficult. And points were the route marker poles were almost invisible, buried under the snow. But with careful eyes, they could still be seen. And without much surprise, we were the only people there. Of course we had good gear, and we also had more than one GPS system with us, so there weren’t any real danger for getting lost. Of course, under the snow there could have been anything but we followed the route markers and trusted into them. It took us about more than 3 hours to complete the route and it sure was worth every step!
In Dimmuborgir there were interesting formations of volcanic rocks.
If we’d have told the locals what we did, they would have said that we were just plain crazy to do that. Maybe we Finns just are a bit crazy but it sure was fun and above all, it was an adventure!! And we always crave for adventures!
We saw the “Church”, a cave of a very unusual shape. I guess we also saw “the Gate of Hell”, even though we didn’t actually recognized it at the spot. We got loads of awesome photographs. And we got to experience something very unique in our own pace and in peace. And we also got to climb to some places where it wouldn’t normally be allowed to climb. So we got everything you could hope for of that place. And I’m sure that the place wouldn’t be the same if experienced at summer with loads of other tourists walking the paths beside you. So there’s always these kind of advantages when traveling in the odd periods of the year and definitely in the off-season. You can do many unusual things but make sure that you can fully trust in your gear, in your skills (without overestimating them!) and into your friends. And if it’s winter you have to have warm and good gear! Because in winter conditions it’s gonna be twice as hard.
So like I told you, we had warm clothes, GPS equipment(s), lots of time in daylight hours and above all, we had good shoes! And if we would have wanted to make the hike a bit more easier for ourselves, we could have rented the snowshoes. But because we didn’t, we got the weeks’ load of exercise at the same time.
The “Church” from the inside (though this picture doesn’t make justice to it).
We did the longest tour..the only one marked with red here. That was the only hiking tour. The other ones were of “for walking with family” -types.
After reaching back to our car we drove ourselves to Akureyri, the biggest town in the North Iceland where we spent the New Year’s Eve and had the second of our two nights’ rest at an apartment which we had rented from Saeluhus Akureyri (http://http://www.saeluhus.is/en). About that I will tell you more in the last part of this On the Road series from Iceland. And if you’ve liked this, please follow me in Twitter: @bizarreglobehop …Thank you!
The Gate to Dimmuborgir (a.k.a The Dark Castle).
PS. Sorry for the “gloomy” light in these last pictures but the daylight was already fading then.