The day started with a chance encounter by the side of the road – beautiful, majestic, incredibly smelly Icelandic horses! Jules and I took our selfies and patted their little frozen heads. Their breath was warm and huffy and frost hung from their manes and noses.
Then, it was onwards. The first stop was Kerið, the volcanic crater. It was frozen solid and some brave (idiotic) tourists were walking on it and stomping. You can walk all the way around the top of the crater which provided us with some lovely photos of the sunrise.
Haukadalur contains amazing geothermal features, the most famous of which is probably Strokkur, a fountain geyser that erupts extremely frequently. The walk up to Strokkur is peppered with miniature hot springs and fumaroles. It’s incredibly weird to see the steam issuing from the earth and from the surface of the water. The streams are incredibly tempting, especially in the cold weather. All you want to do is put your hand in to see if it is as warm as it looks. Don’t. The water is generally between 80 and 100 degrees Celsius and will burn you.
Just a hop, skip and a jump down the road is Gulfoss, an absolutely mind-blowing waterfall in a canyon of the Hvítá river. There is plenty of viewing platforms and opportunities for photos, but they don’t do the size of it justice.
We went in search of lunch afterwards and stumbled across Efstidalur, a lovely hotel on a dairy farm that served excellent, fresh lunches made with entirely local produce (either their farm or a neighbour’s farm). You could eat and watch the cows, or the snowstorm outside. Afterwards we bought enormous ice creams and said hello to the farm dog, who wasn’t supposed to be inside and knew it. It’s been a good day for animal encounters!
Our last major stop for the day was Þingvellir, the national park. The national parliament of Iceland was established there in the year 930 and the split between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates can be seen clearly in several places. This is another one of those parts of Iceland that simply does not look real. I can’t believe a place like this exists on the same Earth that I live on.
We’re staying in Borgarnes and are off on a Northern Lights hunt tonight. Wish us luck!