#6 Into the North of Iceland

We headed into the highlands of Northern Iceland. 

No surprise, we stopped at another significant waterfall that extended from a mountain top dropping over several ledges as it found its way down to the churning stream below. Set against a picturesque, rocky and grassy green backdrop it would be the last vast green landscape we would see for the next several hours as we began the ascent into the Highlands. There, visible to see, were cinder cones, the vestiges of long silent volcanos and a landscape carpeted with smaller lava stones through which a few hardy plants managed to push upward into the sunlight. 

Now high up in the highlands, we exited the paved highway onto an unpaved road on our way to the only farm and highest inhabited place in Iceland. It was remote. There we found a working farm settlement, Mödrudalur, that also hosts guests and provided us with a more unusual lunch. 

At most other restaurants along the way, fish was a staple on the menus, lamb being another common choice. Here at this farm lamb was a choice, but I went rogue and tried their Moss Soup. Yep, a soup made with moss. It was a sweeter soup with a creamy milk base, not at all unpleasant- but different. With a side of homemade bread, it hit the spot. "When in Iceland, eat like Icelanders".

As I had just placed my order they lost power, (hardly a surprise considering it remoteness) which prevented me from paying for the meal at that moment. I should mention that everywhere in Iceland instant pay with a credit card is standard. Just swipe the card over the scanner and payment is completed. As you can then imagine, with no power, I was not able to complete the transaction. Meanwhile, behind me others were waiting to place orders and they too were put on hold. Luckily the power outage was short and the operation was soon up and running again.

After lunch we were free to wander. Around the farm were several Turf Houses which were used for guest lodging as well as a small chapel with cemetery and barns and farm equipment.

We were delighted to find two young Arctic Foxes that live under a boardwalk who came out of hiding when the cook arrived with scraps to feed them. Watching their antics drew a crowd as they seemed to show off to the audience. In adulthood, we learned these Arctic Foxes do live in the wild and are not fed.

Leaving the farm, driving over the moonlike terrain we proceeded to view two adjacent waterfalls, Dettifoss and Selfoss. 

Walking a brief distance, one can hear Dettifoss long before reaching it. It is Europe’s most powerful waterfall its rising mist created a rainbow hovering over the the chasm below the falls. In 2012 a part of the science-fiction movie “Prometheus” was filmed here depicting a convincing alien landscape.


A short walk onward was Selfoss, which I found to be more spectacular. It is up the river from Dettifoss, wider and more panoramic.

Two more stops awaited us on our way, the first being Hljódaklettar, a small valley with unusual basalt rock columns creating jumbled formations that are said to create eerie echoes and reverberations.

As I peered up onto the multi-faceted shaped rocks, contours upon them appeared as contorted faces keeping watch over those who passed beneath. All of these unusual rock structures are the remnants of volcanic activity of long ago. One’s imagination could go wild there, seeing freakish images and hearing bizarre sounds.

Time to escape before other unusual and mysterious places take over my mind. 

The second and last stop this day brought us to a lush secluded canyon wherein we walked to a peaceful pond nestled beneath tall canyon walls. This canyon, Ásbyrgi, is in the shape of a giant horseshoe and here one would need to stretch his imagination. (To begin with, visualize the shape of a horse’s hoof.) According to ancient Norse legend, this canyon was created when, one fine day, the Norse god Odin went joy-riding on his 8-legged horse Sleipnir. The horse accidentally stepped down and one of its giant hooves stomped out this distinctly shaped canyon. 

Like I said, it would require a bit of a stretch of the imagination if one were to believe in myths and legends. Time to give my imagination a rest.

The Foss Hotel in the town on Húsavik would be our accommodations for the next 2 nights.

HÚSAVIK, Whales, Craters, Lake Myvartn Natural Baths

One of the first things to notice about the fishing town of Húsavik is its harbor and the many boats moored there, the still waters reflecting the boats’ images and across the bay, the snow covered mountains. Another prominent feature is the church which is said to be the most beautiful wooden church in Iceland.                                                          

Here we were offered a chance to go whale watching. However, it was quite chilly and the thought of boarding a boat to “possibly” see whales was not enough to convince me to go out only to be further chilled upon the cold arctic sea. As it turned out, some in our group went to inquire about this activity and were truthfully answered that whale sightings had not been good and advised against going out on what could be a fruitless endeavor.

But, whale watching was still possible, in a different format. On the waterfront the very informative and extensive displays in the whale museum were well worth the time spent.

Learning about the many different whale species, their sizes and habitat and the days of whaling, nearly decimating the animals, was informative. Of note were the skeletal remains of various species, which truly demonstrated the sizes of whales.

The following day we set out exploring lava fields and the natural stone labyrinth of Dimmuborgir replete with tales of trolls and the Yule Lads so popular to Icelanders. 


Craters, pseudo-craters, a lava lake, cinder cones and geothermal activity all around were presented to us, including the popular Myvartn Natural Baths, where we immersed ourselves in the very warm, yet relaxing blue waters. But, as soothing and wonderful as it was to soak in the warm waters while the surrounding air was chilly, more discoveries awaited us. 

Crossing over the North Atlantic Rift again, here in Northern Iceland, we soon arrived at yet another great waterfall, Godafoss (“Waterfall of the Gods”). According to sagas, a prominent Viking of the time, threw all his pagan god statues into Godafoss upon deciding that Iceland would officially convert to Christianity in the year 1000. 

This day, being quite chilly and then rain upon that, our visit ended quickly. It was good to be out of the rain as we welcomed being back inside the nice, warm van as we made our way back to Húsavik for the night.

Next morning it was on to Akureyri, the largest town outside of Reykjavik. A bustling city situated in the innermost part of a fjord. A prominent feature is the large Akureuyrarkirkja, a church, perched high on a hill overlooking the city and fjord. 

Tom and I enjoyed lunch here and saw a 1956 Buick pass by as we ate. We also spied a car show poster that apparently denotes that there are a number of American Classic Cars in the area. 

With time to spare we shopped, picking up some books on trolls and the Yule Lads, and then topped off our visit with an ice cream cone, mine being a licorice caramel flavor. 

Another unusual  feature in Akureyri are unconventional traffic lights, with the red lights being heart shaped. It apparently relays the message that they respect safety for their citizens.

Traveling further in the northern section of Iceland, we next visited the Herring Era Museum in Siglufjördur taking us back to a time when a booming fishing industry thrived in North Iceland. Video footage of the past showed how herring was caught, delivered and processed. 

We had a very well versed guide who further explained how the former industry was once a very productive enterprise. His own relatives once worked there processing the herring. 

An indoor display was set up like the docks of years gone by complete with fishing boats and equipment used in fishing. Its realism was remarkable although it was indoors. Our guide provided us with some herring snacks and shots of the original Icelandic Spirit, Brennivin, an effectively potent liquor (of which I had a few shots). 

Our day ended at the Hotel Laugarbakki. Set in a wide open country setting with rolling, grassy hills, a small church in the near distance, horses grazing in the pastures, this hotel was once a school that has been repurposed as a very nice hotel. As with many of the other hotels set in the countryside, this was a restful, quiet retreat. 

That day and evening I began feeling a head cold coming on, but kept the room cool and slept very well. I was not alone, as about this time John was also feeling like a cold was taking hold. He and Kathy then started sitting in the back of the van also to help avert anyone else catching some germs. Most everyone, I believe, were wearing masks.  

u   kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012