The refuge hut by Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river
There is a lonely hut by the glacial river, Jökulsá á Fjöllum. I am sure that this refuge hut is not known by many and one has to know where exactly to get off ring road 1 to drive down to the hut.
This glacial river was such a huge obstacle earlier on. Now it has been bridged (since 1948), but this is the river that creates Dettifoss, which is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. So public ferries were put up on 3 locations. On one of the ferry locations the refuge hut was built in 1883. The hut is made with stone from the vicinity bound together with lime.
The cellar of this hut was used as a stable. Stone houses were a novelty in house building in North-East Iceland.
The thing is that this hut seems to be haunted, so it cannot really be used. When we visited to our surprise a lonely jeep was park outside the hut. Nobody was around nor could we see anybody in the vicinity. It was quite eerie, being there alone in a haunted house next to the roaring glacial river.
The hut belonged to the Road Administration of Iceland, but has been on the list of Historic Buildings Collection of the National Museum of Iceland since 1988.
Cairns to show the way.
When you pass the bridge at Jökulsá á Fjöllum travelling west you will notice a lot of cairns.These cairns marked the way of the old thoroughfare through here. They were laid here by Jakob Hálfdanarson, who later became the Cooperative Society Manager of the Co-op Society of Þingeyingar.
The old road through here got covered with lava from the Mývatnseldar eruption in 1875. So what to do to find your way through this barren landscape? Yes, make cairns, which was the ancient method of marking the way in Iceland. You will find old cairns in many places in Iceland, especially on the heaths and in barren landscape. Some of these cairns are hundreds of years old and the oldest one is believed to be from 871!
The cairns in this location are amongst the oldest relics of official road construction in Iceland. These cairns also marked the post road.
I find these cairns amazing and often think about how old the cairns I encounter on my travels really are.
Ásbyrgi Information center - Gljúfrastofa.
There is a Visitor Centre in Ásbyrgi called Gljúfrastofa.
Here you can get information on the park, maps with hiking trails, pay for camping etc. I have found the people working here extremely knowledgeable on this territory. One of them was a German woman, who had been in Iceland for 2 years, and spoke almost perfect Icelandic.
There is an exhibition at the centre on wildlife and geology in Ásbyrgi. Here you can find the vomit of a falcon and the poo of a ptarmigan in glass exhibition ;) There is also a good exhibition on lava and the forces of nature in this area of Iceland.
The centre is open from 1.5-30.9.
Opening hours of the Visitor Centre at Gljúfrastofa are:
June 1-20th: 09:00-19:00
21st of June-10th of August: 09:00-21:00
9th of August-31st of August: 09:00-19:00
1st of September-30th September: 10:00-16:00
Sigríðarstaðaós mouth of a river.
Ca 100 meters away from Hvítserkur monolith you can reach the Sigurstaðaós mouth of the river where hundreds of seals can be seen "sunbathing" in a row.
Every single day (or so I am told) one can see seals in Sigurstaðaós. There is a path leading down to this place, a bit steep in places, but an easy hike. Once you reach the shore there is a short walk from where you can see the seals on the other side. It is best to bring binoculars and a good zoom lens. I only had my small camera with me so the seals are too far away in the photos.
If you try to walk to Hvítserkur monolith on the shore the dreaded arctic tern will attack (June and July) and it is especially fierce on this shore.
Dettifoss waterfall - the east side
It is possible to see Dettifoss, Europe´s most forceful waterfall from 2 sides, east and west. There is a paved road from the west side and a gravel road no 864 on the east side.
Even though the road is a bumpy gravel road some people prefer seeing the waterfall from the west side, as one can surely walk right down to it and get wonderful photos. Road 864 is closed from October until end of May.
It is a different experience visiting Dettifoss from the east side for sure. There are steps made of stone leading from the parking lot and one can literally stand on the edge next to the waterfall. It is very strange standing so close to a roaring waterfall, taking photos left and right. This is a dangerous place and just one slip and it is all over. Especially in the rain. But it is also awesome, to say the least.
Hafragilsfoss waterfall is just below Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, in the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which is the second longest river in Iceland.
This glacial river flows for 200 km from its sourch in Vatnajökull glacier (Dyngjujökull and Brúarjökull) and down to the ocean in Öxarfjörður fjord in the north.
Hafragilsfoss reminds me of Dettifoss - it is like a miniature version of Dettifoss. It has a drop of 27 metres and the average width is 91 metres. It throws up a lot of mist.
I have only visited it from the east side where one can enjoy it from above. I will visit it from the west side next summer, when I will spend a lot more time in Mývatn, than I have done before.
Here Jökulsárgljúfur canyon is at its deepest and here Randarhólar craters cut through the landscape. And down below one can see the beautiful Hafragil lowland (Hafragilsundirlendi) with its fresh water creeks running into the glacial river. When the fresh water meets the glacial river a beautiful blue colour is created (see my photo). Due to the lava craters the view-point from the west is covered with beautifully red lava. And in one spot the lava takes on the form of a dragon :)
Selfoss waterfall in North-Iceland
Selfoss is an 11 meters high waterfall in the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum. It is located right above Dettifoss waterfall, which is Europe´s most powerful waterfall.
It is only a couple of minutes hike up to Selfoss from the west side. You just make a right turn before you reach Dettifoss. The view of Selfoss from the west side is not that good, the best view is from the east side. But the path leading from Dettifoss on the east side to Selfoss is a rocky one and 2,8 km back and forth. The reason why it is difficult to see the whole waterfall from the west side is that it is horseshoe-shaped.
I know that some tourists are confused with the name of the town Selfoss in South-Iceland and want to see the waterfall there, but that is just the name of the town, there is no waterfall there. So if you want to see Selfoss, here it is - in North Iceland.
The route to Dettifoss and Selfoss.
When visiting Dettifoss from the west side from road 862, one drives 20 km on that very good paved road and there is a big paved parking lot there now.
There is a 15 minutes walk down to Dettifoss from the parking lot. It is a very easy walk and there are some lovely rock formations there. Dettifoss is then on your left hand side. And there is a view platform there with fantastic view of this magnificient waterfall. But one can also walk straight down to it and there are steps leading to it.
If you take a right turn on the route to Dettifoss, then you will reach Selfoss, which is a lovely waterfall, but much smaller than Dettifoss.
Dettifoss waterfall - Europe´s most powerful.
Dettifoss is Europes most powerful waterfall and has got the wow factor big time. It has a flow of 193 m3/s. It is 45 meters high and 100 meters wide.
Dettifoss is situated in Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which is a glacial river, and the second longest river in Iceland. The water in glacial rivers is milky white and greyish - and icecold, so lets be careful here. The river originates in Vatnajökull glacier, which is one of the biggest glaciers in Europe.
It is possible to walk right down to it and it is almost impossible to tear oneself away from it. If the sun is shining one can expect the most beautiful rainbows here. But one can also expect a lot of drizzle on the west side of the waterfall. My tip and photos are from the west side of Dettifoss.
You can reach Dettifoss from two sides, from road 864 to the east side, and road 862 to the west side. There is now a new (opened in 2011) paved road on 862, a fantastic road and a big paved parking lot. It used to be an F-road, meaning a mountain road. Road 862 is closed from January until April or later.
Road 864 is a gravel road, but some people prefer seeing the waterfall from the other side, as one can surely walk right down to it and get wonderful photos. Road 864 is closed from October until end of May.
The walk down to Dettifoss from the parking lot on the west side is ca 10 minutes.
There is only one toilet by the parking lot, and it is a latrine, so with all the visitors here... Something has to be done about this.
There are two other waterfalls here, Hafragilsfoss and Selfoss.
If one wants to drive further on to Hljóðaklettar, then one follows road 862. We did that in 2012. There is traffic on this road and one can expect to meet buses there, so use the shoulders in the road for meeting traffic. Two buses meeting here is a kind of a stretch, but can be done.
Ásbyrgi - Botnstjörn pond.
There are several hiking trails in Ásbyrgi, one leading to the breathtaking Botnstjörn pond. It is 3,6 km one way, but a very lovely easy walk by the cliff face, where you can see various formations, some of them looking like faces. The walk also takes you through a small forest. Indeed a very lovely walk.
I can tell you that in my eyes this pond and the surrounding cliffs are like out of this world and I could stay there for hours, which I have done many times. If you want to drive there then you drive to the inner parking lot and the easy walk to and from the pond is 0,8 km. This pond is what is left of a big waterfall which once fell from the cliffs and it is unbelievably peaceful there. It is very well marked and the first sign says: "Útsýnisstaður - Botnstjörn" útsýnisstaður is the Icelandic word for "view-spot". You walk down a few steps to get to the pond and then up to the view-spot which gives you an excellent view of the pond and Ásbyrgi. You can even go up more steps and to a higher point, but that is more risky - but the view from there is breathtaking.
Did I mention that Ásbyrgi is believed to be the capital city of the elves (álfar) ;) There are many stories about encounters with "The hidden people" in Ásbyrgi and by Botnstjörn pond, so you never know what might happen during your walks there. Just enjoy what ever might happen.
There are quite a few birds in Ásbyrgi and while at the pond you can hear and see the fulmar high up in the cliffs and flying over the pond. To my surprise I only saw 3-4 fulmars this year (2010), in 2008 there were myriads of fulmars there. That is caused by them lacking food in the ocean. The same is happening to the Arctic tern.
On the pond there are some types of ducks, the most common being the vigeon. Let's not feed it as Ásbyrgi is a national park and the ducks need to be able to survive in nature by itself. I can understand people wanting to feed them though as then you can see them up close. While staying at the pond I have seen quite a few people feed the ducks as when group-leaders lead groups to the pond sometimes they have their lunch here while sitting on the benches.
I know people want to try out the echo here, but to me this is kind of a holy place and I prefer the sound of nature echoing in the cliffs - I get the same feeling as when inside a church, so man-made sounds bother me here.
"Karl og kerling" - Man & woman hike.
When arriving in Hljóðaklettar "The Echo rocks" there are two trails from the Hljóðaklettar car park. The trail leading to the right will take you right to "Karl og Kerling" in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.
"Karl og kona" means "Man and woman" and are two rock pillars, believed to be a pair of petrified trolls in the image of a man and a woman. The man is 60 meters tall but the woman is smaller and thinner :) Beside them is "Tröllahellir" - The cave of the trolls - which was their home before they got turned into stone. But as everybody knows ;) trolls get petrified when seeing the sunshine. The walk there is 40 minutes all in all from the car park.
The other trail to the left will lead you to Hljóðaklettar "The Echo rock" themselves as explained in the previous tip.
Hljóðaklettar "The Echo Rocks" in N-Iceland.
Hljóðaklettar "The Echo Rocks" are in N-Iceland just south of Ásbyrgi in the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. When coming down the road leading to Hljóðaklettar a whole walley of extraordinary rock formation opens up. These extraordinary rock formations, many of them standing in the middle of Jökulsá river (Jökulsá á Fjöllum) are the remains of volcanoes which have been eroded for centuries after centuries by the strong currents and floods of Jökulsá, which is the river coming from Dettifoss and Vatnajökull glacier, leaving only these extraordinary volcanic plugs behind.
There are some hikes in the walley, get a booklet from the ranger with a description of the hikes there. The trail starts at the car park at Hljóðaklettar, pass the car park at the camp site and drive a little further to the other car park. The information centers are open only during the summer months.
See my next tip on the trail leading to "Karl og kona" and "Tröllahellir" - Man and woman - and Troll-cave.
The other trail on the left takes you through the extraordinary rock and basalt column formations of Hljóðaklettar making you feel like you are in another world. The volcanic plugs take on the form of so many creatures and are so big that you feel like a small ant while walking there. There is one formation called "Tröllið" or The troll, another one "Kirkjan" or The church, and you can walk into a big cave in that formation. There is also "Kastalinn" or The castle and many more formation. This walk will leave no man unmoved. This area is both beautiful and rugged as you walk on the bank of the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum.
Hiking in Hljóðaklettar.
There are several good hikes here in Hljóðaklettar. One of them is hiking to Tröllið - The Troll.
This hike is an easy one and is only 1 km long and makes for a ca 40 minutes hike with stops from the parking lot. Walk to the right of The Troll and there are amazing rock formations and columnar basalt. There is a special type of columnar basalt called the beehive and it is amazing here.
A highly recommended walk if one has only got a limited time at Hljóðaklettar.
But it is also easy to get lost here. My friend got lost here when she came here for the first time. She was calling me frantically to come and get her. I climbed up on a rock and could see that she was at least walking in the right direction, so I guided her through the phone.
Hiking on Eyjan - the island in Ásbyrgi.
Ásbyrgi is divided in the middle by a big rock formation which is called The Island or "Eyjan" in Icelandic.
From the camping site there is a hiking trail onto The Island and all the way to the end where you can have a fantastic view of Ásbyrgi. Most of the pictures I add are taken from that view-spot.
The hike starts by the sign EYJAN. The first part of the hike you have to climb up to the Island, just a small climb. When you are on top the hike is easy, as you go gradually higher up and dont feel it. The hike is all in all 5 km back and forth. In some places one has to follow narrow trails, we call them kindastigar, or the sheeps trails.
This is such a lovely hike as the view from here is breathtaking, to say the least. Well, I am so much in love with Àsbyrgi, that I find everything beautiful here. To me a whole magical world opens up when I look down onto Àsbyrgi from the Island.
Ásbyrgi - the dance floor.
On the way back to the parking lot and closing the ring from the upper view platform by the pond, take a left turn and walk ca 50 m. This path takes you to a small man-made platform, which is called "Danspallurinn" or the Dance platform. It was made in 1950 and used for dancing by the youth during the Ásbyrgi festivals.
It is kind of hidden from view, but it is off the parking lot, on the west side of the parking lot.
It is not more than a molten floor, but there can be a lot of fun here during concerts.