A day at the highlands
Hi all! Here is a small story of a fantastic super jeep tour to highlands I took with Thor in August 2018.
I booked this tour as the last one for my 7-day trip considering it as a treat more than a must. Turned out this is one of the best tours during my stay.
Jeep appeared on time at my hotel - a monster car! It has a claxon of a baby seal as I discovered later, what a mismatch. Driver aka guide got off to welcome me with a firm handshake and introduced himself as Thor (short for Þorkell). I sat in front (solo traveler priority!) which gave me great views, less shake on bumpy roads, and more heat. A Chinese family of three was my company for the tour sitting behind.
After a short stop for coffee, we went to Hekla - impressive volcano, that I passed several times on other tours and couldn't wait to see it closer. According to many guides, it can erupt any moment (usually it erupts approximately every 10 years) and is compared to pregnant lady ready to give birth now - it's been 18 years since the last eruption. What I I didn't expect is how close we went. F-road turned to moon landscape of complete blackness, and we were going more and more uphill. Finally, we stopped as close as possible - Hekla has several craters and made everything around look incredibly unreal.
I started to walk towards it, completely hypnotized and unable to turn my back on it. Almost forgot other people waiting for me when I saw Thor is telling something to the rest of the group. So I ran back - didn't want to miss the lecture! He was explaining our path drawing a map (kinda haha) on the black sand. Thought it would be nice to take a photo of that piece of art, but wind destroyed it in seconds.
Just when I thought it can't be more black around and said: "Are we entering hell now?" Thor answered that's exactly how this place was known for centuries: The Gateway to Hell. No wonder I felt so astonished there.
Another fabulous place is the mountains we were going through later on. While driving on the South Coast, you see those mountains and think it would be nice to see what's behind them. As stupid as it sounds - even more mountains! And they are even more beautiful :-) We stopped near Mógilshöfði, green mountain with small spots of snow on it. I thought it was painted. I still hesitate it's real.
On the way to Landmannalaugar the number of monster cars (and monster buses) increased. We parked near camp which was a bit scary to look at - it was windy, rainy and cold. I found a crowd of campers in WC, drying their clothes. No wonder that idea to hike now didn't feel so appealing, but Thor convinced us we would get warm as soon as we start hiking, and he was right. A piece of advice: start the track from the left side, where it goes between mountains and therefore has less wind. Also, that path has a bit more challenging track so it's easier to go there at the start when you're not tired yet.
Another reason to start there is greenstone mountains suddenly appearing in front of you. I was walking there with open mouth, never seen anything like that. I suppose without rain they won't be that green. After the hike, I went to Thor with a childish comment "oh my god, they are green!". Being a great guide, he explained me the geology behind it, but all I could say afterward is "yeah-yeah, but man, they are GREEN, wow" :-)
Going forward the diversity of colors increased. The deep grey stones and mountains looking like piles of thin ash were jumping out at each turn.
Crossing the lava field was the most challenging part of the track but if you follow the signs everything is going to be okay. At some point I saw a troll on the mountain - you can spot it on the photo.
Finally, the huge amount of steam appeared in front blocking the path. Just keep going towards it and you'll find a direction sign. It was hard to turn back to Landmannalaugar, I must say, as I wanted to explore what's there at Hrafntinnusker. Next time for sure!
And guess what - even at this hight sheep walk around!
I safely returned back to the camp, happy and not even cold. We drove forward to the next stop - Stútur crater. It was very windy out there but an incredible view.
We also stopped at Hnausapollur - crater so big it couldn't fit into one shot, so I took a photo of its edge instead.
Another stop is Frostastaðavatn lake, fantastically flat water of amazing color.
Thor also brought us to Sigöldugljúfur, with an endless amount of waterfalls.
Always keeping our safety first, the guides go to the edge of the cliffs sometimes for a nice shot :-)
Downwards it started raining even harder and I felt I'm getting cold wearing denim pants, they got wet during the hike - an amateur mistake, better to waterproof all your clothes. Thor kept quiet to give us some rest, and thanks to him, I could even sleep for a while. Woke up only when we were passing Selfoss. I bragged that I recognize (and can even pronounce!) the place. "Yep, now pronounce the name of the next city", Thor answered teasing me. It truly felt like being on a trip with a good friend.
Back at the hotel, I checked the photos thinking this is the best shots I took during my stay in Iceland. Highly recommended!