Another busy day… waterfalls, ice, volcanos, lava and hot springs

A few firsts today… using Yaktrax to walk on the ice, driving on ice, and visiting geothermal baths. Another exciting day in Iceland!

We awoke to snow again, with the roads fairly well covered, although the sun soon appeared. It’s been a gorgeous day despite the temperature being well below freezing. John was pleased to be able to use the four wheel drive again and we sped along bright and early on empty roads to visit Dettifoss waterfall about 45 minutes away. Dettifoss is said to have the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, with the water plunging over a 45m drop, 100m wide. It was certainly very impressive, but it was difficult to get a good photo showing the full drop. I think this one gives some idea of its size and power though.

The paths were covered in thick ice so we fitted our Yaktrax to our boots to stop us slipping. We’d bought them especially for this trip so I was pleased that we got to try them out, and felt very smug watching other tourists slipping and sliding.

There was another waterfall, Selfoss, further up the river so we walked up to have a look at that too. It was also very impressive. The bank was level with the top of it, which was great, although at some points we were a bit worried we might be standing on ice, which might break away, rather than solid rock! I loved the icicles on the far side.

We’d spent so long at the waterfalls that it was almost lunchtime. After filling up with petrol and stocking up on a groceries at the supermarket, we found a restaurant run from a farm, serving local produce. The meal was lovely… a beautiful mixed starter with Iceland specialities such as smoked lamb, cured Arctic char, mozzarella and Geysir bread. This was followed by some excellent beef burgers. Suitably replete, we resumed our trip around the local attractions.

The first stop was Grjótagjá, a small cave with a thermal spring inside, along a rift line. It was busy but we managed to climb inside. Stepping across the rocks to get a good spot for my tripod, I slipped and my foot and ankle disappeared into the water. It was lovely and warm but I banged my knee and hand and was a bit shaken up, and worried that my wet foot would be freezing when I went back outside! I also dropped my lens cap, which John kindly retrieved. The cave was very pretty, if rather cramped. I don’t know how I managed to get a photo with nobody on it!

After this, we found another cave a bit further along the rift line, which was empty! The rift line itself was fascinating.

After this we went to Hverfjall, a volcano covered in black ash. We climbed to the top… you can see the diagonal path towards the left of the photo below… but we decided we hadn’t got time to walk around the rim. The views from the top were amazing.

The road to Hverfjall turned from a road to a track and became very icy. There were warning signs advising people that the track can be impassable and potentially very expensive for cars that needed removing. John (of course!) decided to give it a go, following a small Ford Fiesta… if they could do it, we could too! The ice was extremely thick in places, and he chose his route carefully, avoiding the worst of the ruts in the ice, which were very deep at times. I of course found it scarier than he did! And of course, he made it there and back with no problems.

The next stop on our itinerary was Dimmuborgir, where there are dramatic volcanic caves and rock formations. The paths were very icy here so we used our Yaktrax again, which were particularly helpful when we left the main tourist trail and took the ‘challenging’ trail through the centre of the area, weaving up and down through the pillars of lava.

Our final stop was to be my highlight of the day and probably one of my highlights of the trip… the Mývatn Nature Baths. These are geothermally heated outdoor pools, smaller and less commercial than the Blue Lagoon. We showered and changed into bathing costumes before going outside and getting into the lovely warm, blue water. We’d ordered drinks, which the lifeguard brought over. It was amusing to see him dressed in sunglasses with padded overalls, hat and gloves to keep him warm… apparently it was minus 9 today so he needed them, but his clothes were such a contrast compared with the swimmers wearing so little!

The views from the pool were beautiful, and it was lovely sitting at the edge, sipping our drinks and people watching as the sun set. It started snowing, and the snowflakes were settling in our hair. So pretty! John had got his hair wet and, after a while, it was freezing in the cold air!

Finally, after sitting there for a couple hours, we decided we’d better get out and come back to the Airbnb for some tea. We’ve got a snowshoe trip to some lava caves tomorrow. The weather forecast is for snow and even colder temperatures so I hope it goes ahead.

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