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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 5: Dettifoss Grand Tour - Jewels of the North

Because we wanted to see as much as possible in our limited time and we didn't have a car, we booked the "Dettifoss Grand Tour - Jewels of the North" with SBA-Nordurleid. It started at the bus station in Akureyri at 8:00 a.m. and the whole tour lasted over 10 hours. Some tour operators are covering the area, but this one seemed to be the cheapest. It positively didn't feel like mass tourism as there were only a few other people along for the ride. In the small bus, there is a young man from Australia, one from Sweden, a Japanese woman who we fetched from the airport, an American man who later on went down in Mývatn to go whale watching in Husavík and three Taiwanese women. The friendly Japanese woman named Keiko who came from Osaka and combined her Iceland holiday with Switzerland did the tour as a day tour from Reykjavík with an aeroplane to Akureyri and back to Reykjavík later that day.

We actually chose Akureyri as our base in the north. It's a traffic junction with buses continuing to Eastern Iceland, or through the Highland (which was our next destination) as well as to northern towns like Siglufjörður which offers Iceland's largest maritime museum, the Herring Era Museum and Husavík, Iceland's whale watching capital.

We started our day tour with a highlight, a stop at the huge Goðafoss Waterfall. We had some time to watch and take pictures before we continued to Lake Mývatn. We had a shortstop for the view, bathroom break and the supermarket in a little village of Reykjahlíð. Then, a longer stop to walk around at Dimmuborgir, where our bus driver who served as tour guide, took us for a walk through the lava formations and then to a restaurant where I got soup and delicious black lava bread.

From Reykjahlíð we continued to a real highlight, the bubbling mud pots of Hverir at the foot of the mountain Námafjall. There were walking paths, and we got enough time to wander around a bit in this extraordinary (and smelly due to sulphur) area.

Next stop, not far away, was the Krafla area with the spectacular Viti Crater.

After just a short stop at the Viti Crater, the next attraction was Europe's biggest waterfall, Dettifoss. From the car park, there was a brief walk through a moon-like landscape with an offshoot to the smaller Selfoss waterfall, which we, unfortunately, could only see from far away, because there wasn´t enough time. Still, the sight of the Dettifoss more than compensated for it. It's so much water and power cascading down the gorge and a real wonder of nature. Prepare to get a bit wet, if you should go there (and you should). 

We continued with the bus to Hljóðaklettar (Echo Cliffs) inside the Vatnajökull National Park. We walked there on a path leading to bizarre and impressive rock formations. It looked a bit like the set of a science fiction movie. The trail became more rocky and steep when we continued, and the Taiwanese women later had problems getting down the path again because of their slippery shoes. There are many hiking trails, and it was quite rewarding.

From Hljóðaklettar we went by bus to Ásbyrgi, which is a canyon with impressive cliffs. We walked through a forest to the Botnsjörn pond, where you can see wild ducks and a serene pond beyond the steep canyon. There are also a lot of hiking possibilities, and Ásbyrgi also offers a campsite in the area.

The final stop of the day tour was at a little fishing town of Húsavík where we made a short stop for some passengers to change buses to Mývatn, while we continued with the rest of the group back to Akureyri. As a conclusion, I would say, that the day tour was really packed with attractions and that you see really much in short time. It is good for people with limited time to see much. If you have more time or plan to visit Iceland, you could also spend at least a day with nearly every attraction. The few regular busses in the area are serviced by SBA-Nordurleid and straeto, route 56 and 79.

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