Day 5 - Climbing Iceland's Highest Mountain
Day 5 was a significant one in our trip to Iceland, for this was the day that we set out to climb Iceland's Highest Peak - Hvannadalshnjukur. It was a fairly ambitious outing - a hike of nearly 24 kilometres and an ascent of nearly 7,000 feet (2000+m), and it involved some lengthy crossing of glaciated terrain. We had prepared for this hike both physically and technically, so we were fairly confident in success.
The mountain is located along Iceland's south coast, in the Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park. We had a great weather forecast for the day, and we were up at 4 a.m. and at the trailhead, ready to start climbing, at 5:30 a.m.
By all accounts, our hike/climb went quite smoothly and fairly quickly - especially when you consider how often we stopped to take pictures (without all the picture stops, we probably would have been an hour or two faster!). Fantastic scenery, good conditions, and few glacier hazards - we had to make very few course corrections to get around open crevasses.
Approaching base of summit dome
Day 6 - Driving and Sightseeing in Eastern Iceland
Day 6 was primarily a driving day, with the intent of getting us from Iceland's south coastal area, all the way around to the north-east of the country. However, it was by no means just driving; along the way there was a lot of fantastic stuff to see, including several insteresting glacial lagoons complete with icebergs, fantastic coastal scenery with fjords, and desert-like conditions in the northeast of the country.
We spent the evening camping "at-large", enjoying the feeling of wilderness and of northern Iceland's "nearly" midnight sun (I say nearly because the sun does technically set, although the dead of night, from about 12 midnight to 3 a.m., consists of a bright twilight).
Hvannadalshnjúkur from the Hiace
Westward view to Öræfajökull
Jökulsarlón glacial lagoon
Bending around álftafjörður
Camping beneath Herðubreið
Day 7 - Sights of Northern Iceland
On day 7, we explored several of northern Iceland's interesting attractions. First up was the Dettifoss, Iceland's (and Europe's) largest waterfall - an impressive sight by any standards. Then, we explored another very interesting geothermal field at a place called Hverir.
Geothermal plant boreholes
After some further visits to nearby volcanically-active terrain, we headed further west through the Lake Myvatn area and past another beautiful waterfall - the goðafoss, before arriving at the very interesting and beautiful historic turf farm of Laufás.
After Laufás, we ended our day in the nearby city of Akureyri, home to Iceland's second-largest urban area.
Turf house and church, Laufás
Hanging dresses, Akureyri
Day 8 - North Coast, Viking Homestead
The second-last day of our trip was spent exploring two main points of interest: first up was a tour along the northern coastline of Iceland just north of Akureyri, along the Tröllaskagi peninsula. There was a lot of great scenery along this stretch, and one particularly attractive coastal town - Siglufjörður.
From Siglufjörður, we headed south and west to the viking homestead of Eirik the Red at Eiriksstaðir. Eirik was an important figure in old viking times in Iceland, and was the father of Leifur Eiriksson, first european discoverer of North America. There is a recreation of Eirik's longhouse at Eiriksstaðir, and we received a most excellent interpretive talk from the interpretive guide at the site.
From Eiriksstaðir, we completed our circuit of Iceland by heading down the ring road back to Reykjavik.
Brilliant Pinks of Sunset
Day 9 - Þingvellir national park
The last day of our trip was spent searching for exotic seabirds (which we didn't really find) and visiting the historically, culturally, and geologically-significant þingvellir national park, not far outside of Reykjavik. The park is home to the location where the alþing, the ancient Icelandic parliament, was located for almost a thousand years (the alþing still exists, but its location has been now transferred to the capital of Reykjavik). The park is also the location where the most extensive and visible effects of the spreading mid-atlantic ridge can be seen, with much evidence of tears and rifting of the earth's crust.
Öxarárfoss and Almannagjá
Þingvellir church, interior
After visiting þingvellir, a bit more touring and wandering brought us back to the airport, where we boarded our flight back home to Canada. A whirlwind trip, to be sure. Would have been nice to have a few more days to see the many things and places we skipped, but on the whole, still a very successful visit.
Southern Reykjanes Coastline
Now, if after reading this "short report" you'd like a lot more detail and a lot more pictures, feel free to start reading the full trip report here