Prepare yourself for your trip around Iceland.
Before driving around Iceland one needs to prepare oneself for the trip and stock up on maps and books and brochures. So the first stop is the Information center in Reykjavík. I add photos of the most helpful and necessary books and brochures to get there.
If you intend on driving around Iceland then you must buy The Road atlas "Kortabók" in Icelandic. I use it all the time. It costs ca ISK 3.000. And that is the only thing you have to buy, everything else is for free at the Information center.
The ring road 1 around Iceland is 1.332 according to the Road Administration.
Another must is Around Iceland (my second photo). I have the Icelandic version "Á ferð um Ísland" and it can be found in at least 3 languages. And it is for free. This book is so helpful and we Icelanders use it as well. There you can find detailed information on what is of interest in each part of the country. Do take it along with you, I don't travel in Iceland without it.
Also take a copy of The Icelandic discount guide" - it gives discount to a lot of acitivites and museums in Iceland.
There are also small books on each part of Iceland with a lot of information (for free). They come in very handy.
And our newest addition is The Museum book or "Safnabókin" in Icelandic. It has got information on almost all the museums in Iceland with great photos. It is a must when travelling in Iceland.
Gunnarsstofnun - Skriðuklaustur in East-Iceland.
Skriðuklaustur (klaustur = monastery) was the last Catholic monastery in Iceland built in 1493-1552.
In 1939 Gunnar Gunnarsson, author (1889-1975) built this beautiful house at Skriðuklaustur, designed by a German architect, who was a friend of Gunnar. Gunnar had just returned back home from living in Denmark for 30 years and wanted to build a European manor in the Icelandic countryside. Gunnar was born here in Fljótsdalur in East-Iceland and built this 350 sq.m. manor here
The house reminds one of German houses and it is very lovely finding such a beautiful house here in East-Iceland. Gunnar donated Skriðuklaustur to the state 9 years later, under the condition that it should be used for experimentation in farming and a residence for artists and authors. It has been used as such and as a cultural center and at Klaustrið artists can apply for a stay there (see their website). Gunnarsstofnun is dedicated to the work of Gunnar Gunnarsson and there is a bust of him in front of Gunnarsstofnun.
At Skriðuklaustur there are exhibitions, concerts and talks amongst other events.
There is also a café at Skriðuklaustur called Klausturkaffi.
Skriðuklaustur is open from June-August from 10-18. 1st-14th of September from 12-17. Entrance fee is 500 ISK.
A little further up the road is The Information Center on Kárahnjúkar dam (see my 4th photo) which is the biggest dam in Iceland.
The 3rd week of May 2014 I went on a fantastic trip into a beautiful canyon in Iceland - Stakkholtsgjá canyon.
We were a group of people, who travelled together. We were headed for a day trip to Þórsmörk national park and stopped on our way there to hike into this beautiful canyon.
Stakkholtsgjá is one of the places in Iceland which are just out of this world. It is ca 2 km long and up to 100 m deep.
Our goal was to hike to the end of the canyon to see the waterfall there. But just the hike to the waterfall is so beautiful, that it would be worth doing this hike even if there were no waterfall at the end of the canyon. But the waterfall is the icing on the cake :)
We were lucky enough to get some sunshine during our hike, which made the surroundings even more mystical.
As we got closer to the waterfall the canyon got narrower and narrower, and more mystical. It was just out of this world for me being there as I love canyons and waterfalls.
Now as we got to the end of the canyon it started getting really narrow and slippery and I could hear the waterfall. I was so excited about seeing it that I was one of few people of the group who jumped on the rocks of the river again and climbed up on the big slippery rocks.
I started getting a glimpse of the waterfall, which cascades down the steep canyon. It was difficult to get one´s footing there - and take photos at the same time. Then my camera lens started getting wet from the drizzle of the waterfall. And I was getting drenched from the drizzle.
After I had crawled up on more slippery rocks I looked up - wow, it was like being in a fairytale world, like being inside a castle - this was ever so rewarding, what a view!
I asked one of my fellow travellers to take a photo of me by the waterfall. Only a very small part of the waterfall can be seen on the photo, as he didn´t turn the camera upside down, but as you can see on my photo, then I was drenched, in an adrenaline rush and very happy :)
This hike is highly recommended. It takes ca 1,5-2 hours to hike back and forth. I include a map of Stakkholtsgjá canyon and the surrounding areas if you fancy taking this hike.
Crossing the rivers in Stakkholtsgjá canyon.
There are some small rivers to be crossed in Stakkholtsgjá canyon and many of us got wet feet and some people fell in and got drenched, but it was so worth it.
Only 2 people had to be left behind, one of them was my mother, as she did not want to jump over rivers on slippery rock only to end up falling in.
I was so energetic and happy after seeing the waterfall in Stakkholtsgjá that I jumped over the rivers on the way back and didn´t care if I got wet feet.
But if you are going on this hike take into account that the rocks are slippery and you will most likely get wet feet or fall in. And there are many smaller rivers/creeks as you go further into the canyon.
The historical Keldur -the oldest house in Iceland
This turf-house is in South-Iceland so I first added my tip on my South-Iceland travel-page. But seeing it is about the oldest house in Iceland then I have to add it to my main Iceland page as well.
Turf-houses are Iceland´s contribution to the world´s architecture and nowhere else in the world can these houses be found.
The oldest turf-house in Iceland is he historical farm of Keldur in South-Iceland. It is the only preserved big turf-house in the south. The ruins of 16-18 farmsteads have been found at Keldur.
Keldur farm is a historical place and here lived one of the characters in the Saga Njálusaga, Ingjaldur Höskuldsson, who lived at Keldur from 974 until around year 1000.
In the 12th and 13th century Keldur was one of the manors of one of the most powerful clans in Iceland, the Oddi clan, and Jón Loftsson (1124-1197), who was their chieftain, lived at Keldur until his death in 1197. He was the most powerful chieftain of the old Viking religion, Ásatrú religion, in the 12th century. He also lived at the manor Oddi, which is nearby.
The turf-houses at Keldur have been rebuilt many times. The present turf-houses were rebuilt after big earthquakes shook the houses in 1896 and 1912. The hall of the turf-houses is the oldest turf-house hall in Iceland.
Lava rocks from Hekla´s eruptions were used for building the farmstead at Keldur. And driftwood was also used as a building material.
The other buildings apart from the farm are f.ex. a smithy, a cattle-shed, a stable, store-houses, a stockyard and a smithy.
The oldest remaining structure in Iceland is to be found at Keldur. An underpass was found by accident, as it were, when the residents were digging for a septic tank. It is believed to be from the 11th-13th century, at the time of the Viking Sturlungaöld age. The underpass leads from the farm to the creek and is believed to have been a way out during the Sturlungaöld age war.
My mother´s cousin and her husband are the farmers of Keldur now, and his ancestors lived at Keldur. His grandfather was the last person to live in the old turf-farm, or until 1946.
They allowed us to have a look into the old turf-farm at Keldur and the church.
Since people are no longer living in the turf-houses they get cold and damp. So a drying system is needed to keep them dry.
The National Museum of Iceland bought the old turf-farm in 1942 and the farmhouse is part of the National Museum Historic Buildings Collection.
Hraunfossar "Lava falls" in Borgarfjördur.
Hraunfossar "Lava falls" in Borgarfjörður are amongst the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. They are 1 km wide and consist of countless springs of clear water which well up from underneath the edge of the lava field Hallmundarhraun and run in falls and rapids into the glacial river Hvítá.
Nowhere else in the world, as far as I know, exist waterfalls of this kind.
The waterfalls are very accessible from the road and next to them are Barnafossar "Children's waterfall" (see my next tip). There is a pedestrian bridge across the river making it easy to get a wonderful view of both of the waterfalls. I absolutely adore these waterfalls and they bring back sweet childhood memories.
Hallmundarhraun, from where the waterfall emerges, consists of pillow lava and is believed to have been formed in 800 AD, shortly before the first Vikings settled here. It is named after Hallmundur which according to Grettis saga lived in this area.
This area is a national monument and declared as protected.
If you drive a bit further there is Húsafell a very popular campsite amongst Icelanders.
The Westman islands - Vestmannaeyjar.
The Vestmannaeyjar islands (Westman islands) are a volcanic archipelago of ca 15 islands south of the mainland of Iceland.
The only inhabited island is the biggest island called Heimaey island. It is 13.4 km2 and ca 4.200 people are living there.
The main industry in the Vestmannaeyjar islands is the fishing industry and tourism.
In 1973 a volcanic eruption started on Heimaey island. The volcanic eruption lasted from the 23rd of January until the 3rd of July. It is the first volcanic eruption to start in a village in Iceland. The inhabitants had to be evacuated immediately and their houses got buried under the lava and cinders. 11 streets in town got totally or partly buried under the lava. The rest of the town was buried under thick ash and pumice.
60% of the houses in Heimaey got damaged by the volcanic eruption. 400 houses got buried under the lava, but in some areas some houses got buried under 3-10 meters of cinders and pumice.
The islanders, 5.273 people, had to flee up to the mainland of Iceland. Most of them returned after the volcanic eruption had stopped. I was 7 years old back when the volcanic eruption started, so I remember this well. The nation was in shock and everything was done to rescue these poor people. I especially remember that they drove with the pumice on the roof of their cars so that they would recognize each other in Reykjavík.
There is so much to see and do in this historical island that I have added a special page on the Westman islands with plenty of tips.
A highly recommended visit.
Steðji - strange rock formation in Hvalfjörður.
There is a very strange rock formation in Hvalfjörður called Staupasteinn or Steðji. I have never heard it referred to by any other name than Staupasteinn by Icelanders. It looks like a goblet on a thin leg - the Icelandic word for goblet is "staup" thus the name "-steinn" means stone. The upper part of Staupasteinn is columnar basalt and I think it looks beautiful and makes for a good photo opportunity.
The hill is called Skeiðhóll. One of our best known mediums, Erla Stefánsdóttir, has seen a recluse, who lives in this rock - hidden to the eyes of most people. She says he is kind, funny and good to children. He apparently loves playing ball with children who stop here for a picnic with their parents.
This area has been preserved since 1974. When the USA army was protecting us then they wanted to take this strangely looking rock down out of fear that it would fall down on the road. The nation protested heavily ;)
The view from this area over Hvalfjörður is amazing.
Staupasteinn is now hidden from the road, so one has to turn by a sign which says Steðji. The short trail up there is steep and a gravel road, but once up there, there is a small parking lot and a table with chairs so people can make a picknick there. When I was younger there was another road further up, and then Staupasteinn was right by the road. It is now hidden from sight.
Kerið - the waterfilled crater.
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake in Grímsnes in S-Iceland and you can walk right down to it. It is a caldera, which is the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. Kerið is 270 m long, 170 m wide and 55 m deep and has the most striking red colour. The lake is 7-10 meters and can take on the striking colour of aquamarine due to minerals in the soil.
Take care walking there as there is always danger of slipping there, which I have done more than once. You can walk around the crater, that makes for a lovely walk.
It is a popular picnic area amongst Icelanders and has got some trout in it.
Until July 2008 it was on the Golden Circle tour but now the land-owner has forbidden tourist-buses to stop there so it is only accessible by private cars. Now (2013) that has changed and the buses are allowed to stop here again. But the land-owners are charging 2 euros or 3 USD admittance fee. Children 12 years and younger don´t have to pay that fee. The land-owners stopped charging this fee in 2014.
I am so against having to pay for visiting my own country, but it has to be done. This land is privately owned and is getting down-trodden by too many visitors. The admittance fee will be used for maintenance of this area.
Geysir - Strokkur.
This natural phenomenon is only to be seen in Iceland, nowhere else in Europe, so it is well worth a visit. Geysir is claimed to be the biggest in the world, and has given its name to all other hot-springs which are called geysers. Although this geothermal area is named after Geysir then the "geysir" which erupts most frequently (like every 7 minutes), is called Strokkur. Geysir itself stopped erupting in 1915, but it must have been a sight to see as it went about 60 metres into the air, but Strokkur is much smaller. Icelanders tried reviving it by throwing soap into Geysir and forced an eruption and from time to time it erupted. Then on 17th of June 2000 (our National day) we had a big earthquake and Geysir started erupting again, but much less frequently than Strokkur.
Take care that this is a high temperature geothermal area and stay within the boundaries and don't touch the water as it is HOT. And never go within the boundaries of Geysir itself as it used to erupt about 3-5 times per day about 10 metres in the air. Before it erupted thuds could be heard. I have seen people walking straight up to Geysir and looking into it!! This is extremely dangerous and in December 2008 a British couple was in grave danger and had to run away from Geysir as it was erupting. The original Geysir has now stopped erupting again.
And refrain from throwing money or junk into Strokkur or the hot-springs, which is happening more and more frequently. And if you don't want to be drenched stay up-wind. I myself have arrived there at the very moment of the eruption and as it can get really windy then I got Strokkur in my face.
Just note that the roads to Gullfoss and Geysir are not cleared of snow on Tuesdays and Saturdays during winter time.
Have a look at my Geysir travel-page for winter pictures of Geysir and a lot more tips and travelogues with more pictures here Geysir
From March 2014 there will be an entrance fee to this area ISK 600. On April 14th 2014 the Icelandic state put a junction on the landowner asking for a fee to visit the Geysir area.
Þvottahellir cave in Botnsdalur in Hvalfjörður bay
There is a natural gem on the hiking route towards Glymur waterfall, which is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. It is a peculiar cave, called Þvottahellir or Washing Cave.
To get to the waterfall one has to walk through the cave and down from it into the canyon, through which Botnsá river runs.
It is called Washing Cave as it was used to dry the washing on rainy days. There are two openings to the cave on one side making it very peculiar. And there are very good photo opportunities here :)
Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant
The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant is the second largest geothermal power plant in Iceland. The plant output is 120 MWe and 300 MWt/1800 litres per second. The largest geothermal power plant is Hellisheiðarvirkjun Geothermal Power Plant in the vicinity.
Both these Geothermal Power Plants provide electricity, geothermal water for heating, and cold water for drinking.
The power plant was taken into use in 1990 - back then I visited it and had a look around. We didn´t take any photos back then. But while Dee "Balhannah" came for a visit to Iceland in May 2013 we drove to Þingvellir National Park via Nesjavallavegur road no 435, which is a road less taken, to show her this geothermal area.
Alongside Nesjavallagur road there are big hot water pipes from Nesjavallavirkjun leading to Reykjavík. This area, called Hengilssvæðið area, is amongst the largest high temperature areas in Iceland.
We stopped at a view platform above Nesjavellir Power Plant where a lot of steam from the power plant rises like out of the earth. The view from here of Lake Þingvallavatn is amazing.
The drive to Nesjavellir is ca 30 minutes. It can also be reached by driving on road 1 towards Þingvellir and turning right on road 360 which leads to the Power Plant. We took that road back to Þingvellir.
The Hellisheiði Power Plant Visitor Centre is open every day from 09:00-18:00.
The steam coming from the power plant can be seen from the other side of Lake Þingvallavatn. On more than one occasion we have almost crashed a car with tourists, which had stopped in the middle of the road. People were either taking photos, or what I suspect, thinking they had taken the wrong turn and this might be the Geysir area.
Hellisheiðarvirkjun, the Hellisheiði Power Plant.
The Hellisheiði Power Plant is the largest geothermal power plant in Iceland and the largest geothermal power plant in the world. Production capacity of the Hellisheiði Power Plant is 303 MW electricity and 133 MW thermal energy.
The Power Plant provides geothermal water for heating and cold water for consumption, plus electricity to 67% of the Icelandic population. It is so close to Reykjavík that if the wind is blowing from the east then I can smell the sulphur coming through my window.
There is a lot of steam coming from the Power Station, which is visible from ring-road 1. It makes for beautiful photos, white steam rising from this vast lava field. If you want to visit the Hellisheiði Power Plant turn left from ring-road 1 onto road 378 before driving up on to Hellisheiði heath.
This area, Hengillinn, is a highly geothermal area covering 112 sq.km, which makes it one of the most powerful geothermal areas in the whole of Iceland.
Ca 11 km away from Hellisheiði Power Plant is another Power Plant, the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant.
Hengillinn is an active volcanic ridge right between the 2 tectonic plates, connected with 3 volcanic systems.
There is Geothermal Energy Exhibition at the Hellisheiði Power Plant´s Visitor Centre. It is very informative and it is advisable to get a guided tour from the staff at the Energy Exhibition. There one can learn all about the harnessing of geothermal energy at the Hellisheiði Power Plant. And get to know all about this highly geothermal area and experience earthquakes in earthquake simulators.
In 2011 waste water was pumped down into the earth at Hellisheiðarvirkjun Power Plant, creating earthquakes in the neighbouring area. The earthquakes could be felt in Hveragerði town, up to 3,5 per Richter. This is the area in Iceland, which gets most affected by the big earthquakes in Iceland, so people were not happy about these man-made earthquakes. Earthquakes can still be felt here in 2014.
The Geothermal Energy Exhibition is included in the popular Golden Circle tours by the bus-companies Iceland Excursions and Reykjavík Excursions.
On the ground floor is a lovely café, called Café Energy :)
Opening hours: 09:00-17:00.
Entrance fee: ISK 900.
Iceland – Lovely Planet for Travelers
Iceland is a Lovely planet in this world, there is many things to do in Iceland either you are planning in summer or winter tour, Iceland is a awesome travel land.
Most people get their first Relax of Iceland at Reykjavík, stylish bars, restaurants and shops and the awesome nightlife is every bit as wild as it’s cracked up to be: during the light summer nights, the city barely sleeps.
1. The Golden Circle
In this Route, you will able to plan 3 places to spend some happier moments,
Þingvellir national park: Honestly, it’s just a huge, awesome piece of land without anything mind blowing or spectacular in plain sight, but what’s really cool about it is the history and the geology.
Gullfoss waterfall: Iceland’s most famous waterfall, while you are out here you must go look at Gullfoss
Geysir : Geyser comes from! A geothermal area with different sizes of holes filled with bubbling mud and water and of course the famous Strokkur.
Also don’t forget to see the northern lights and blue lagoon,
2) Watch the stunning Northern Lights: Travelers often come to Iceland in the darkest winter time simply to try to watch the Northern Lights.
You will be able to see Northern Lights from September to April, the Northern Lights become more visible here. These dancing lights are one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.
3) Glacial Trek: During the winter months, the glaciers get a bit sturdier, and groups of tourists are led across them.
so go take advantage of the new exchange rate, and visit a much cheaper Iceland. The locals are friendly, the nature is Stunning, the exchange rate is the best in years, the midnight sun hasn’t arrived yet, and the weather isn’t too cold.
4) Reykjavík nightlife: alcohol is extremely expensive in downtown Reykjavík so go to the liqour store before hand and buy what you require a little cheaper or shop duty free. Second of all, nobody with any sense of self respect is seen down town before midnight. The party doesn’t really kick off until around 1.30 AM
5) Whale Watching: when: May to September
Several companies operate whale-watching tours at different locations in Iceland, Go with your camera and Enjoy 2-3 Hours.
6) The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland Country’s most beautiful geothermal spa, Milky blue water surrounded by black lava and modern architecture make it worth checking out. Enjoy the relaxing warm water.
Also don’t forget to Watching puffins at Vestmannaeyjar.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Luxury Travel
- Business Travel
Eiríksstaðir in Haukadalur - Saga age farm.
It is so lovely visiting Eiríksstaðir - It is pure Viking :) A replica of the old Saga age longhouse where Eiríkur Rauði "Eirik the Red" and his wife Þjóðhildur lived and their son Leifur heppni "Leif the Lucky" was born here. Eiríkur had been chased out of Norway for manslaughter and was later also chased out of Eiríksstaðir for killings and evildoings - it seems like he was somewhat a bit of a thug! He tried living in Öxney island but the same happened there. He then sailed to Greenland, where he stayed for 3 years, and gave it its name to get people to move there - "Greenland" - quite a contradiction. Twenty five ships left the icy Iceland for this lovely Greenland in year 985.
We Icelanders have always thought of this as a very dirty trick on Eirik the Red's behalf. Eirík's son, Leif the Lucky sailed to North-America and was the first European to land there - thus it is said that Leif the Lucky "discovered" America and not Columbus in 1492. He returned to Greenland and became a missionary there and his mother built the first church in Greenland.
The Saga age long-house was opened in year 2000 ca 100 m from the ruins of the old long-house. At the same time the replica of a Viking ship Íslendingur "The Icelander" (see my tip on the Viking ship under my Keflavík page) set off for America in the trails of Leif the Lucky a 1000 years earlier. The long-house is built with a remake of old Viking tools and is said to be the best built long-house in all of Europe :)
It is such a lovely long-house and inside there is a fire burning like in the Viking homes. And the staff is dressed in Viking costumes, a "knock off" ;) of the Viking fashion from the 10th century. Inside the longhouse you will be told Viking tales. When I arrived there was a group of tourists sitting inside by the fire listening to old tales so I could only listen from out in the corridor. But it was lovely and well worth it. And the replica of the long-house is so cute somehow :)
You can also walk up to the the ruins of the more than 1000 years' old lodge. The ruins are preserved. There is a statue of Leif the Lucky close to the ruins.
You buy the tickets at a ticket-office by the parking lot. There is also a souvenir shop there. By the parking lot there is information on Eiríksstaðir and a WC.
Opening hours: June 1st - September 1st from 09:00-18:00.
By the road you will see a sign saying that this is the birthplace of Leifur heppni "Leif the Lucky".
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