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.
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. Selfoss is 10 meters high. 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.
There is a 3rd waterfall here, Hafragilsfoss which is 27 meters high and one can walk down to it from Dettifoss on a marked path. I did not have time to do that. Next time for sure.
"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.
Birdlife in Ásbyrgi.
There is varied birdlife in Àsbyrgi, especially by the pond. I have seen a lot of ptarmigans by the campsite, they are just walking there and you can get very close to them.
In 1970 a new bird settled in Àsbyrgi, the fulmar, which we call fýll in Icelandic. We have another similar word, fíll, which means an elephant, and there is no difference in pronounciation, so the conversations about the fulmar can be quite amuzing - meaning either that I saw a fulmar in Àsbyrgi or an elephant :D I love the presence of the fulmar here, but not everybody shares my opinion and they want to shoot it down and drive it away. In 2010, when I visited Àsbyrgi, there were no fulmars there, due to lack of a certain type of small fish they eat in the ocean. It felt so empty not hearing the echoing of the fulmar in the cliffs, this sound is what makes Àsbyrgi so special to me. When I visited again in 2012 the fulmar had returned, making the cliffs by the pond come alive again.
On the pond there are several types of ducks, most of them vigeon ducks. People feed them, but they should refrain from doing this, seeing that this is a national park and the animals here should not be fed.
Ásbyrgi in N-Iceland - Sleipnir's foot-print.
Ásbyrgi "The shelter of the gods" is one of the most magical places in Iceland, and definitely one of my most favourite places here in Iceland. It is like out of this world and one cannot but say "wow" when it opens up as you see it from the road. It belongs to Jökulsárgljúfur National Park and is 3.5 km in length and 1.1 km across with the walls being up to 100 meters high! According to Norse mythology Óðinn was once riding his 8-legged horse, Sleipnir, and it put one of it's hoofs down and created Ásbyrgi, which is in the shape of a very big horse-shoe. The geological explanation varies to a great extent from what the Vikings believed, but I will stick to this explanation :D
By the way, Ásbyrgi is the capital city of the Hidden people "Huldufólk" of Iceland and psychic people have seen many homes, public buildings and concert halls belonging to Huldufólk "The hidden people" in the cliffs. There are many stories in our folklore about human encounters with the Hidden people, so you never know what might happen when you visit 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. This hike is easy and all in all 5 km. There are other hiking trails in Ásbyrgi, see my tips.
There is an excellent visitors' center at Ásbyrgi, Gljúfrastofa, where you can get detailed information from the park ranger on Ásbyrgi and the National park, the wildlife, vegetation and landscape, including maps on hiking trails and camping in Ásbyrgi. It is only open during the summer time from June-September. There is also a shop and fast-food restaurant by the road, and they have got a suprisingly varied selection of food.
See my tip on the campground at Ásbyrgi here Ásbyrgi campground. This is my favourite camping place in Iceland.
There are scheduled bus trips to Ásbyrgi www.sba.is during the summer time.
I have added more pictures of Ásbyrgi in a travelogue.
The view-platform before you reach the canyon.
If one is driving east on road 85, there is a view platform on the hill, just before you drive down to the planes where the glacial canyon and Àsbyrgi is located.
It is better to reach the view platform driving east, as it is almost immediately as you drive up on the mountain, so I am sure that a lot of people coming from Àsbyrgi, and being in Iceland for the first time, miss this view platform.
The view from here is amazing, especially on sunny days. Do bring binoculars, as one can see so many birds from here, and the view of the northernmost spit of Iceland.
Drift wood beaches.
By road 85, just as you get down from the view platform on the hill, you will see a beach filled with drift wood. From here it is only a short drive to Àsbyrgi, if one is driving east.
It is fun parking there and just walking down to the beach. I love drift wood beaches and drift wood here in Iceland has been a valuable asset for us here, seeing that we dont have many forests here.
It was especially valuable for remote areas in Iceland, getting this present from the ocean, one can only imagine. It was used instead of coal and of course for making furniture and construction. The salt in the ocean makes the wood very hard and good for that kind of stuff. It is now mainly used for making fences in Iceland.
The driftwood belongs to the farmers who own the land.
The driftwood in the north of Iceland comes from Siberia and driftwood is much more common here in the north than in other areas of Iceland. It takes the driftwood ca 4-5 years to reach Iceland and on the way here it has been around the North Pole.
It is quite interesting walking on the beach being surrounded by driftwood, thinking about where it has come from and where it has been.
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 Geman 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 ;)
The centre is open from 1.5-30.9.
Opening hours of the Vistor Centre at Gljúfrastofa are:
1.5 – 31.5: 10–16
1.6 – 21.6: 9–19
22.6 – 12.8: 9–21
13.8 – 31.8: 9–19
1.9 – 30.9: 10–16
Hiking from the campsite to Botnstjörn pond.
There are several good hiking trails here. One of them is Skogarstigur, which is 3,6 km, and takes you to Botnstjörn pond by the southern end of Àsbyrgi. I love making this walk.
It starts opposite the road from the campsite and takes you by the cliffs on the eastern side of Àsbyrgi. One can also go up the cliffs and walk on the edge of the cliffs. There is a path up the cliffs with chains to make it easier to get up.
But I prefer walking inside Àsbyrgi. It is such an easy hike and takes you through a forest, which was kind of scary, as most of the trees seemed petrified and it was cold in there. But that is just a very small part of the hike, seeing that we have no big forests here in Iceland. The path is marked with numbers so that you can see how far you have come.
By the end of the path the beautifully serene Botnstjörn pond opens up. By far one of my favourite spots in Iceland.
A highly recommended easy hike.