Four tongues of the west side of Vatnajökull – the largest ice cap (3,100 km³) in Europe – end at the coast across Hotel Höfn, composing a beautiful panoramic view. A nice way to start the day.
We went to the local super market to get some supplies and contain our food expenses to reasonable levels. We spend a small fortune in snacks and stuff to make sandwiches, but we could not find any alcoholic beverages. The only liquor store in Höfn opens in the afternoon… We headed north and about 20km after Höfn, we stopped to enjoy the view of a beautiful small waterfall under the towering mountains. The east side of route 1 is beautiful, following the coast and the east fjords. After Berufjörður, where we stopped shortly to watch the rich bird life, the road tuns away from the coast.
The temperature fell gradually below freezing point, as we climbed the mountain and after one hour we reached Egilsstaðir, the largest city in east Iceland. The population is about 2200, but this is considered large here. We continued east, climbing further and then descending to Seyðisfjörður, a beautiful small town, known for its wooden houses. Once a week, there is ferry connection to Denmark and the Faeroe islands. We had curry soup and pizza for lunch in a small bistro by the port and then took the road back to Egilsstaðir and Mývatn.
The road passes through impressive lunar like landscapes of black lava fields.
Two hours later we arrived at Hverir, 10 min away from Mývatn. Here it does not look like the moon, it looks like you are on Mars! Hverir is a solfatare, one of the largest in Iceland, an opening in the earth’s crust trough which sulfurous vapors rise up. It smells and feels like hell: bubbling mud pots, boreholes spitting 200 degrees hot steam, yellow earth and a sickening sulfuric smell. What else to ask for?
After checking in Hotel Reynihlid, we headed to the local thermal baths for a night swim. We rented towels, showered, changed to our swim suites and took a leap of faith for was next. Twenty meters in 1°C to the thermal pool. Believe me, twenty meters can be a very long run when you are naked, it is freezing and the path is ultra slippery. But what an experience… The feeling is weird in the beginning. It smells like shit, literally and the bottom of the pool feels like it is covered with sludge. But it is warm and pleasant and after ten minutes you get used to the smell.
We stayed for an hour and when we left I was feeling like I was extremely relaxed and loose. A truly exhilarating feeling that followed me throughout the dinner in the cozy bistro next to the hotel. It made the hamburger taste twice as tasty. Next: The North (around Mývatn)