Viking Journey - 9 day self drive tour
SELF07 - Overnight stay in mountain huts or tents
Indulge in Iceland’s rich natural treasures, including national parks, beautiful waterfalls, striking glaciers, magnificent volcanoes and hot springs.
This tour takes you to the south of Iceland and has a duration of 9 days and 8 nights. You'll experience all of the well-known attractions in south and west Iceland. This includes Reykjavik city, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir and some other hot springs, the National Park at Thingvellir, Landmannalaugar the pearl of the highlands, the gorgeous preservation area of Skaftafell, the glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon and many more. Everything already organized for your convenience.
July, August, September
9 days / 8 nights
Quality rental vehicle
Accommodation in mountain huts or camping
A detailed itinerary
The schedule of this day depends on the time of your arrival in Iceland. Collect the car at the Int'l airport in Keflavik and go to the Blue Lagoon (if your flight schedule allows for time), where you can enjoy a unique nature and relax. The Blue Lagoon is a natural pool of sea water in the middle of a lava field filled with moss. If you opt for car collection at the airport (for a small extra fee), you'll need to book that. Check the thermal swimming pools in Iceland's pristine capital, or go to the mall for some shopping, or some sightseeing around in the city. You'll also have some buffer time to get yourselves settled for the big trip beginning tomorrow.
Optional: Dining out in Reykjavik - Restaurants
You get your rental car and then you drive from Reykjavik over the Hellisheidi mountain pass, through the town Selfoss and further east where you turn to road 30 and drive towards Fludir. Then you take the road 32 to Thjorsardalur valley. Thjorsardalur boasts of a beautiful nature, take stops at the wooded area at Skridufell and the Viking farm house at Stong where early settlers of Iceland chose the fertile valley of Thjorsardalur as the site for their farmsteads, unaware of the fact that the tranquil-looking, snow-capped mountain towering on the south was an active volcano. In 1104, there was a massive eruption in Mount Hekla, and the settlement in Thjorsardalur was buried under tons of volcanic debris and ash. In last century the available data of the remains of the farm were pieced together and a replica of the farm was constructed.
Make stop at the second highest waterfall in Iceland, Haifoss, but take careful steps at the edge of the canyon. See even the waterfall Hjalparfoss (meaning the Helping Falls), a pretty unique double waterfall that joins at its base. The name came about because people who travelled from the desolate Sprengisandur route through the Interior looked at this relatively lush area as being a great help for their horses to graze and recover.
You drive north the mountain road F26 to Hrauneyjar, over sands and barren desert, with a view to manmade lagoons near hydro power plants, volcano Hekla and more mountains and glaciers. If you watch carefully you can at some places mark light sand layers made by Hekla's eruption in the year 1104 which wasted pasture land in big part of the country.
After short drive from Hrauneyjar highland center you turn to road F208, Fjallabaksleid nyrdri (the Northern Route behind the Mountains) that takes you to Landmannalaugar, situated in a colourful and beautiful area of rhyolite mountains. Have stops at Lake Frostastadavatn and Ljotipollur or Ugly pool, but in spite of its name this crater is uniquely impressive and the surroundings stand no comparison to other such natural phenomena in the country.
You get to Landmannalaugar, an oasis in the highland, with a natural hot pool nearby. You accommodate there in a hut or a tent.
You drive the mountain road F208, Fjallabaksleid, through a beautiful area with mountains, lakes, bogs and moors and there are a few rivers to cross. You get to the road F235 and there you drive along the banks of the river Nordariofaera all the way to the Lake Langisjor. You will notice a high mountain near the lake, it's 1090 meters high, named Sveinstindur. Among many it's considered that hiking up there gives you the most fabulous mountain view in Iceland - having opportunity to see over a great area with volcano Hekla, Lakagigar craters, Skaftareldahraun lava field and Oraefajokull glacier. And last but not least - the magnificent lake Langisjor, situated between mountains and glaciers, 20 km long and its water level is 670 meters over sea level. The water is crystal clear and the environment is extremely beautiful.
You drive back the road south and turn to left near Sveinstindur mountain to get to your accommodation place at the hut Sveinstindur.
You drive the road back and turn east on road F208 over hills and rivers all the way to road F223 and head into Eldgja volcanic canyon. Eldgja and the nearby Laki craters are part of the same volcanic system as the renowned volcano Katla. Eldgja means "fire canyon" in Icelandic, it is at its greatest 270 meters deep and 600 meters wide. The first documented eruption in 934 was the largest flood basalt in historic time flooding from a 70 km long crater row. An estimated 18 km³ of lava poured out of the earth. The cloud of aerosols from the eruption traversed northern Europe on the prevailing westerly winds, and dimmed and reddened the sun. This continued for months. The eruptions were followed by a very cold winter, poor harvests the next summer, severe famine, and a widespread disease epidemic. The Eldgja eruption injected great amount of aerosols into the middle stratosphere, as it persisted for a long time.
A nice waterfall, Ofaerufoss is in a walking distance in the canyon. Take a hike, either inside the canyon or follow the edge and imagine how the earth opened up and sent flowing lava up into the air from this extremely long row of craters.
You drive on the road F208 south over green heaths to your accommodation near Kirkjubaejarklaustur village.
You drive west from Kirkjubaejarklaustur and turn to road F206 to Lakagigar craters. This unique crater row was formed in one of the world's largest mixed eruptions in recorded history. Now referred to as the Fires of the River Skafta, this continuous series of eruptions emitted a vast quantity of lava and substantial amounts of volcanic ash from a fissure stretching 25 km across the area west of the ice cap.
The first eruption began on 8 June 1783 at the south-west end of the fissure. Lava flowed across the flat land destroying a large number of farms, stopping just outside the small town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur on 20 July. The north-east part of the fissure then erupted. From 29 July until well into October, lava flowed along the course of the River Hverfisfljot and across the countryside on both banks. Although volcanic activity then began to subside, the eruption was not finally over until February 1784.
The largest crater in the row is a small tuff mountain called Laki, which stands in the middle of the fissure. The total area of the resulting lava field is 565 km² and the estimated volume of volcanic material is over 12 km³.
Ash from the eruption reached all the way to Europe and beyond. Its poisonous nature caused famine across Iceland. Up to 53% of cattle, 82% of sheep and 77% of horses were killed due to poisoning or lack of pasture. The population of Iceland fell by 20% (10,000) as a result of the famine between the years 1783 and 1786. Crop failure, disease and disasters in Europe following the eruption have been traced to the airborne haze, for the most part tiny droplets of acid and ash dust, which led to a drop in overall temperatures. It may well be argued that the eruption in Iceland was one of the causes of the French Revolution in 1789.
After the Lakagigar eruption, the Danish colonial authorities considered transporting the remaining 40,000 Icelanders to the Jutland heaths in Denmark. Thankfully, their plans were never followed through.
The majority of the craters are now covered in racomitrium moss, and the area has some of the most stunningly attractive landscapes in Iceland. After a hike in Lakagigar you drive east the path south of the mountain Blaengur towards Laufbalavatn Lake, where it's possible to visit caves if you are equipped for a caving tour.
You drive south the path along the river Odulbruara to the Ring Road. You have accommodation near Kirkjubaejarklaustur.
At the outskirts of the village you can walk to Kirkjugolf, a rock formation that looks like a church's floor but is a natural formation. You drive east from village Kirkjubaejarklaustur, have a stop at the nice waterfall Foss a sidu and Dverghamrar, a peculiar and beautiful formations of columnar basalt. On top of the columns there is cube-jointed basalt. The landscape is thought to have been molded at the end of the Ice Age. The sea level was higher at that time and it is believed that the waves caused the peculiar look of the rocks. Dverghamrar are a protected natural monument. Columnar basalt is formed when lava flow gets cooled and contraction forces build up. Cracks then form horizontally and the extensive fracture network that develops results in the six sided formation of the columns. Little further to east you get to the old farm houses at Nupsstadur that are typical for farms in Iceland in past centuries. The most noteworthy of these is the chapel, one of few remaining turf churches in the country. It is believed that the chapel is mostly from a church that was built around 1650.
You drive east the Ring Road to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, one of Iceland's best known and most popular natural wonders. A magnificent view welcomes you as you arrive there and it's almost like stepping into a fairy tale landscape. On a big glacial lagoon that Vatnajökull touches, enormous icebergs float around, but the landscape is otherwise dominated by black sands and rocks. The lagoon is effected by flood and ebb, making the lagoon a mix of sea and freshwater lake. This leads to feed being carried into the lagoon, that seals and common eider both eat, and this adds colour to the area.
The lagoon started to form in 1934-1935. The river Jokulsa ran straight down from underneath Vatnajokull, about 1½ km to the ocean. Since 1950 the glacier has pulled back steadily and a growing lagoon has formed. In 1975 it was 7.9 km² but has grown to be 18 km² today because of the heavy melting of the glacier. The medium flow rate of the river is 250-300 m³/sec. where big and small icebergs regularly break from the edge of the glacier. Icebergs of all shapes and sizes float on the lagoon, which is very deep, or around 190 m. Frozen water is a little bit heavier than water in liquid form, which means that only 1/10 of the icebergs is above water. What is above water is often so big that it's difficult to imagine what lies beneath.
The Jokulsa River that runs from the glacier and to the sea keeps getting shorter because of marine erosion, and in 1998 it was not much longer than 500 meters. The lagoon's surface has steadily lowered, which means it is now effected by flood and ebb. This simply means that warmer water flows into it during flood and the ice melts a lot faster than it did before. Both capelin and herring swim into the lagoon, and seals follow its feed there. Common eider also eats the fish and can be seen swimming in between the icebergs. It is an unforgettable experience to sail on the lagoon on boats and observe the colour changes in the ice, the amazing sculptures of nature and the animal life that thrives there.
You can take a boat tour on the lagoon and a hike down to the shore where icebergs float out to the sea. You drive back west and it's worth it to drive to Fjallsarlon glacier lake and enjoy the beauty there. From there you drive to Skaftafell for accommodation. If you are in the mood for hiking don't miss seeing Svartifoss waterfall.
Optional in Feb-Oct: Blue Ice Experience, guided glacier hiking
Optional in Apr-Oct: Sailing Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon
From Skaftafell you drive west the Ring Road and turn to road 208. Near the farm Grof you turn to road 210 which takes you to the mountain road F210, Fjallabaksleid sydri (the Southern Route behind the Mountains). If you have the luck of a clear day it offers you a wonderful view to the glacier Myrdalsjokull and the outlet glaciers, Kotlujokull (a name gift from the volcano Katla), Sandfellsjokull and Oldufellsjokull. Myrdalsjokull glacier is the fourth biggest glacier in Iceland, covering 590 km², hiding Katla under the ice shield, one of the most active volcanoes in the country. Last eruption was in 1918, in average it has erupted with 40-80 years of intervals - so an eruption is imminent. The Katla caldera is oval in shape about 30 km in diameter and covers an area of 110 km² . Within the caldera the ice is hundreds of meters thick.
Katla erupted very powerfully in 1918 but there is evidence of smaller eruptions after that. Icelandic volcanologists are expecting another eruption in next few years so the Myrdalsjokull glacier and the Katla caldera are monitored quite closely. Because the volcano is sub glacial it has a reputation of being one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Iceland. Its peak reaches 1493 m in height and the extension of the glacier Myrdalsjokull reaches 595 km². Since 930, 16 eruptions have been documented. The Laki craters and the Eldgja canyon are part of the same volcanic system, so it can be regarded as one of the most powerful in the world. Before the Ring Road had been constructed, people feared traversing the plains in front of the volcano because of the often occurring glacier runs and the deep rivers to cross. Especially fatal was the glacier run after the eruption of 1918. Through the ages many farms have been swept away by Katla eruptions with that of 1311 being recorded as particularly damaging. A farmer is said to have survived with his young son by clinging to an iceberg which later drifted back to shore. An eighteenth century eruption killed several people while others were stranded for days on mountains that turned to islands as floods engulfed the plains. In Katla´s last eruption in 1918 icebergs at the size of houses were seen floating out to sea. More recently in 1955 and 1979 there have been floods though no eruption could be seen. In year 2011 there was a big flood from the glacier that swept away the bridge over the river Mulakvisl on the Ring Road east of village Vik. People had to traverse the river with a ferry for 10 days while a temporary bridge was constructed.
A glacier run (literal translation of Icelandic "jökulhlaup") is due to the eruption of a volcano under a glacier. The ice over the volcano melts because of the heat, causing water to form a lake under the remaining ice-cap. Then the ice-cap collapses, or the water breaks through the barrier in front of it, and there follows a more or less disastrous flooding of the land below the mountain.
Follow the road and head north of Myrdalsjokull where you will get a view of Mount Maelifell (Measure-hill) which reaches 800 meters over sea level, a picturesque seen in the black desert. You drive west over the Maelifellssandur plains - that should be easily passable but beware of the rivers that can change their channels leaving the sand wet. Follow the road and turn to F233 to Alftavatn Lake where you spend the night in the hut.
You follow the road from Alftavatn Lake up to the mountains Kaldaklofsfjoll. The path is steep and requires to be driven with caution, but offers an amazing view all the way up to Hrafntinnusker, this 1128 m high mountain that could have the name The Obsidian Skerry in English. The hiking route between Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork, the so-called "Laugavegur", crosses it and some hikers decide to spend a night in the Tourist Association's hut, which houses 20 people. It was built in 1977. The surroundings of the mountain are a very colourful rhyolite area with many hot springs, steam vents and boiling mud pits, which are worth hiking to.
Hrafntinnuhraun (The Obsidian Lava Field) is situated to the north of the Obsidian Skerry. It is actually an area with differently old lavas, the youngest of which has a round crater in the middle, where the viscous lava stacked up and created a mound. During the first half of the 20th century obsidian was sometimes quarried there for the decoration of houses in the capital, such as the National Theatre.
From Hrafntinnusker you drive the mountain road F210 which takes you to Keldur, a farm and a church site. The present church was built in 1875. Where the old farm still stands in the shelter of the edge of the lava field, big cold springs, called Keldur, feed a stream.
The areas north of Keldur are almost totally barren, sanded lava areas, where there were fertile areas and prosperous farms in the past. The Keldur property is about 20 km long and 8 km wide and consists of the former properties of four farms and several outlying farms. This area consisted of large, well vegetated patches of land until 1880 and up to this date the ruins of 18 farmsteads have been discovered within the area.
According to the Njal's Saga, the farmer Ingjaldur Holskuldsson occupied Keldur around the year 1000. Later the most powerful dynasty of the country, the so-called Oddaverjar, had one of their manors there. The father of this dynasty, Jon Loftsson, spent the last years of his life there, and founded a monastery, which did not last very long. The hall of the old farm is very ancient, the oldest hall of the country. The old farm is open for visitors.
A few years before the turn of the last century the houses of the old farm were repaired and renovated and archaeologist carried out excavations discovered new facts about a sub terrain walk from the farm down to the stream.
In the early 19th century, written sources mention two burial grounds about 2½ km east of Keldur. Since then they have been researched and studied by scientists. They are on both sides of the present Middle Route road. One of the spots contained the earthly remains of many men and among the artifacts found with them were three spears, a horseshoe, a hoof nail, a snaffle-bit and a bronze decoration. The other grave spot revealed much less, only a carved piece of bone depicting two animals of the dear family nibbling on the leaves of a tree. Those graves might support the authenticity of the so-called Njal's Saga. Gunnar of Hlidarendi and his brother Kolskeggur were attacked on the river and killed many of the attackers at the cost of Kolskeggur's life. If you are interested in getting more information about Njal's saga you should visit the Njala Museum at the village Hvolsvollur nearby.
You drive to Reykjavik where you will spend the night.
After breakfast you head for the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in the Reykjanes peninsula (if you didn't do that in day 1) and relax there for some time before you drive to Keflavik International Airport in time for your flight out after good days in Iceland. Car drop off at the airport.
Optional: Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.
---Meet on location - Activities around Iceland
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