I joined the most wonderful tour called Kjölur Coast to Coast Highland Route operated by Saga Travel. This tour takes you from Reykjavík, the capital city in the south, through the middle of Iceland and way up to Akureyri, the capital of the north - with a myriad of interesting and beautiful sights on the way.
Unfortunately, this tour has been cancelled now.
I was picked up at 6:30 am as we had a long day ahead of us. Saga Travel is a Slow Travel Tour Operator - giving you the feeling that you are being driven around by a friend of yours. And that is exactly the feeling I got. There are highlights on this tour, but then you can ask the driver-guide to stop at places on the way which are interesting to you. This is what I love about slow travel tours, as so often on guided tours with a tight schedule you will pass places by, at which you would really like to stop.
The group was small, only 4 passengers, and we were told by our congenial driver-guide, Símon, that we could stop anywhere we wanted to take a photo or stretch our legs.
We started the tour by stopping at a bakery in Reykjavík, where we could pick out whatever we wanted to take on the tour with us for lunch - this was included in the price of the tour.
The Vikings established a parliament in the year 930 at Þingvellir and Þingvellir has been recognized by UNESCO as a cultural site connected to the Viking culture.
Þingvellir National Park is situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the North-American and Eurasian continents, making it a very special place to visit - as at Þingvellir the tectonic plates are visible above ground.
We Icelanders hold Þingvellir in great respect and love this place, so it was very special to me that there was actually nobody around when we arrived there at 8 am!
We stopped at Hakið from where there is a beautiful view, and walked through Almannagjá gorge - and as you can see on the photo above we were there totally alone! I haven't been alone at Þingvellir since I used to roam around alone here during the bright summer nights as a teenager, but back then we owned a summer cottage at Þingvellir.
It took my breath away being here alone with the group - listening to the migrating birds singing loudly - it was just heavenly and I felt like I was at one with nature!
Símon, our guide, showed us some Game of Thrones locations at Þingvellir. We walked up to the beautiful waterfall, Öxarárfoss, which is located further up in Almannagjá gorge.
Our next stop was at Geysir geothermal area, where Strokkur erupts at some 7 minute's interval on the average. This is a beautiful area with mud pots and hot pools, but as the American ladies in the group had already been on a Golden Circle tour we decided on skipping both Geysir and Gullfoss to have more time in the highlands and up north. This area is one of the highlights on this tour, but there is always leeway when the group is so small and everyone is in agreement.
Three of us had not brought swimsuits with us, so we bought black T-shirts at the Geysir store so we would be able to dip into the hot pool at Hveravellir. I bought a T-shirt with "Lost in Iceland" written on it ;) I add a photo of Strokkur, which I took on an earlier tour, so you will see what this area looks like.
Above is a photo of the majestic Gullfoss, the best-known waterfall in Iceland - it is 33 metres high with two beautiful cascades. Gullfoss waterfall runs in the glacial river Hvítá which originates at the second-largest glacier in Iceland, Langjökull glacier.
We skipped visiting Gullfoss this time around, although it is one of the highlights of this tour, as the ladies had already visited it. We instead headed straight into Kjölur highland - as the Kjölur road is located right above Gullfoss.
There was an old route through this area, which is referred to in the Viking Sagas with the first references being from around year 900. We drove through the rugged landscape of the interior of Iceland on a gravel road with glaciers on both sides.
The Kjölur road will take you for 168 km from the south across the interior of Iceland to Blöndudalur valley in North-Iceland.
Driving in such areas gives me a great feeling of freedom and I can truly feel the love for my country. I felt the same feeling back in 2014 when I was being driven by Saga Travel through the highlands to visit Askja volcano.
As we had driven for a while through the Kjölur area it was time to have lunch. We left road 35 and turned onto the mountain road F-347, which leads to the colourful rhyolite mountains called Kerlingarfjöll mountains or Woman's Mountains. The name "kerling" refers to a troll woman, who lived in these mountains.
We stopped by the beautiful waterfall, Gýgjarfoss, to take photos and then drove straight up to Kerlingarfjöll highland resort.
We had our lunch, which we had chosen in the bakery in Reykjavík, outside by a river in the highland resort surrounded by beautiful colours and dark tuff stone rocks.
This area is simply amazing, so rugged and yet so colourful and varied.
After lunch, we drove further up the steep gravel road and stopped by the most beautiful gorge. A 4x4 is needed on this road, and as I didn't own a 4x4 back then, I was very grateful for getting the chance to join the Kjölur Coast to Coast Highland Route tour.
We drove further up the mountain road until we reached the third largest geothermal area in the interior of Iceland, Hveradalur in Mt. Kerlingarfjöll. When you see this area I am sure you will have a "wow" moment - and no matter how many time I visit this area I say: "WOW"!
We stood on top and watched the tiny looking travellers down below walking on what looked like the sands of Sahara. Geothermal areas in Iceland are very colourful and it feels like you are entering another world, especially in Kerlingarfjöll as this area is so vast. I am totally mesmerised by this fantastic spot in the highlands of Iceland.
We didn't go down to this geothermal area though and only watched it from above, as we were headed for the geothermal area Hveravellir to have a soak in the hot pool there.
Hveravellir, meaning Hot Spring Plains, is one of the pearls of Iceland, a nature reserve some 650 meters above sea-level. It is located some 90 km away from Gullfoss waterfall. I have written another travel-blog on a hike I later did in the geothermal area of Hveradalir:
After driving through the vast interior it is ever so lovely to encounter such an oasis with a hot pool in which one can soak. Hveravellir was the highlight of the tour for me, I love going there. It has been called one of the most beautiful geothermal areas in Iceland.
As you can see from the photo above 3 of us had not brought our swimsuit, so we bought some T-shirts on the way as we did not want to miss soaking in this pool. We soaked here for almost an hour - one has really got to love the concept of "slow travel" :)
Close to the hot pool, you will find a beautiful geothermal area with multi-coloured mud pools, steaming fumaroles and a breathtakingly beautiful azure hot spring.
It is for sure one of the most beautiful geothermal areas in Iceland.
Such pretty geyserite has accumulated around some of the hot springs. The azure hot spring in the photo below is called Fagrihver or Lovely hot spring :)
It is such a delight to explore this beautiful geothermal area, looking at the various hot springs. The hot spring in the video above and the photo below is called Öskurhóll or Roaring mound, as it is whistling and roaring.
Öskurhóll hot spring stopped whistling some time ago, now it just roars loudly!
There are just endless photo opportunities in this colourful geothermal area! The beauty is often in the details of geothermal areas and I love taking photos of smaller parts of the hot springs.
The water in the hot springs is very hot, 70-100 degrees C, so be careful here and hold on to your children.
One of the hot springs is called Eyvindarhver or the Hot Spring of Eyvindur - named after one of the best-known outlaws in Iceland, Fjalla-Eyvindur (Eyvindur of the Mountains), who lived at Hveravellir for a period of time with his wife Halla. Eyvindarhver spring continuously boils and spouts water.
Fjalla-Eyvindur stacked rubble around this hot spring and thus used the heat from it to cook their food on top of the hot spring.
Fjalla-Eyvindur (1714-1783) was an outlaw for 20 years and sought shelter in the wilderness of Iceland with Halla. I have visited some of his hiding places in Iceland, f.ex. the one at Herðubreiðarlindir oasis in the highlands of Iceland, which I coincidentally also visited with Saga Travel.
We visited Eyvindarkofi, the ruins of the Hut of Eyvindur and Halla. Here they made a shelter for themselves in a lava rift, adding turf and moss for insulation.
Here in a rift in the lava Eyvindur and Halla made a shelter, adding rocks to the rift and turf or moss for insulation. Here they were hidden away from their enemies - who would have thought that this was the dwelling place of outlaws?
Eyvindarkofi is located next to the hot springs, which makes it an ideal spot for an outlaw in which to live - if there is such a spot in the harsh highlands of Iceland. But making a shelter so close to a geothermal area gave them much needed heat and hot water.
I have written another travel-blog on Hveravellir the beautiful Oasis in the Highlands of Iceland, with much more information and photos of this beautiful spot.
After visiting the oasis of Hveravellir we carried on with our journey north and even though the landscape looked like a desert in some places we saw so many sheep around - some of them were even on the road! At one point we saw a dead sheep by the road - it had sadly been hit by a car.
After driving for a while the landscape became greener and lusher. We now drove into Blöndudalur valley where we saw a myriad of Icelandic horses grazing with their foals.
Símon, our ever so gentle and sympathetic driver-guide, told us we could step out to check out the horses and take some photos, which we gladly did. As who doesn't love foals? :)
We drove through Vatnsskarð pass and entered the beautiful and historical Skagafjörður. Skagafjörður is rich in Viking history and here you can find both a turf church and a turf house. This area is one of the best agricultural areas in Iceland and well known for horse breed farming. I am sure you would want to make some stops in this area on your tour.
From Skagafjörður you will pass through Öxnadalsheiði heath and Öxnadalur valley. In Öxnadalur valley you will see my favourite mountain in all of Iceland, Mt Hraundrangi. By now we are getting close to Akureyri, the capital of North-Iceland, which I love to visit.
Here you can have dinner at one of the many restaurants in Akureyri and have a look around this beautiful town. After dinner, you can either choose to stay up north and visit all the wonderful sights in this part of Iceland or fly back to Reykjavík at 9:15 pm.
Now, seeing that we had skipped 2 of the highlights on this tour we made a detour and added Tröllaskagi to our tour. So the following description is of our added locations.
We stopped at the privately owned turf house at Hofsstaðir in Skagafjörður, where our guide knew the owner. I had wanted to talk to the owner of this turf house for the longest time as Hofsstaðir is the only turf house in Iceland which I hadn't visited. This turf house was erected in 1906 and refurbished in 1997-2001. The owners lived here until 1981 and after refurbishing it they moved in again - and what a beautiful home to live in! The owners run a restaurant and a guesthouse on the opposite side of the road.
It was a must for me to visit this turf house - seeing that I love turf houses and have written about all of the remaining turf houses in Iceland - I am so glad that I was able to do so on this tour.
We went on our way after having had a look inside the turf house and drove towards Siglufjörður town. To get there we had to drive through the one-lane tunnel Strákagöng or Boys' tunnel, the second oldest tunnel in Iceland.
Driving in these one-lane tunnels is not my thing, so I was glad to be driven around by an experienced driver-guide.
Siglufjörður town, often called the Herring town, is situated between steep mountains.
We got out of the car to have a look around. The weather was heavenly, warm and sunny and totally still. In my photo above you will see the beautiful new hotel reflecting in the sea. In Siglufjörður parts of the popular Icelandic TV-series - Ófærð or Trapped - were filmed.
Two new tunnels, Héðinsfjarðargöng, between Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður towns were opened up in 2010 - making travelling to these to towns much easier than before.
We had a plane to catch so we drove straight to Akureyri from Siglufjörður in one go after having a look around town. I had a friend from abroad staying with me so I had to return back to Reykjavík on the same night. I would have loved to stay in the beautiful capital of the north for the night though.
We left Akureyri at 9:15 pm by a plane from Air Iceland. The flight to Reykjavík domestic airport takes only 45 minutes, so I was back home in my city at 10 pm after a fantastic day. To be able to see so much of Iceland in one day is extraordinary and I highly recommend this tour. The other passengers on this tour were also very satisfied and gave both the driver-guide and the tour their highest score.
Unfortunately, his tour is no longer available on Guide to Iceland, but Saga Travel has got many wonderful tours to choose from, many of which I have joined:
Have a lovely time travelling in Iceland - safe travels :)