This is the twelfth story in our series on the Magic of Iceland.
FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE vehicle? Check.
Full tank of gas? Check.
In the mood for adventure? Check.
Nora and I were fully equipped and on our way to Landmannalaugar to hike on the region’s multicolored, lava-rock laden volcanic mountains. The trip included driving on the rugged F roads that crisscross Iceland’s interior. The part of Iceland mostly uninhabitable for everyday life.
We were ready to rumble!
At the same time, reality was starting to sink in. Seeing signs for Reykjavik after driving more than 1,000 miles around the island served to confirm our stay in Iceland was coming to an end. Only two full days of exploring remained before our scheduled Thursday morning departure for New York from Keflavik International Airport.
We weren’t ready to leave!
Driving west on the scenic Ring Road continued to remind us how much more there was to see. We stopped dead in our tracks outside the small village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur (population: 150) by the vision of a farmhouse with two amazing waterfalls in its backyard. It was hard to believe but there it was! A nearby sign indicated the falls’ name was Foss a Sidu.
A few minutes later in Kirkjubaejarklaustur, a wrong turn at a roundabout led us down a dead end road where we discovered the mostly hidden but historic waterfall Systrafoss. It was accompanied by the cozy looking Klausterhof Guesthouse. What a pleasant surprise! A constant feature of our journey had been its unpredictability and there didn’t appear to be a let up.
Our major dilemma as we left Kirkjubaejarklaustur was what to do about F208, the rugged track that had an intersection on the Ring Road in the south. It was another big, fork-in-the-road decision. F208 ran north-south in the interior and was the road we needed to take to get to Landmannalaugar. The only question was whether we would get there from the north approach or from the south?
Driving from the south was risky, with the potential for numerous river and stream crossings. The water levels of those crossings were impossible to predict. But the route was much shorter and the landscape was reputed to be among the most scenic in Iceland. Did we want to take that chance? Would it be worth it?
The longer, safer drive was taking the Ring Road past the town of Hella to the turn off for Route 26, which would take us all the way into the interior and eventually to F208’s north spur. This route did not involve any river crossings. Just as significant, it would allow us to enjoy the scenic Ring Road for a few more hours with the possibility of stopping at some of the numerous landmarks along the southwest coast.
Making the decision to drive past F208 in the south and take the long route to Landmannalaugar wasn’t difficult. The southwest coast was still unexplored territory for us. The river crossings on F208 presented an unnecessary risk. We had allotted a full day to get to the Hrauneyjar Guesthouse, our overnight accommodation in the interior near Landmannalaugar, and we had the entire afternoon and evening to play with.
As expected, we made numerous stops along the Ring Road. In the town of Vik, we paid a visit to the museum that catalogued the devastating eruption of the Katla volcano in 1918, and the catastrophic flooding it produced. Going to the black sand beach at Reynisfjara was highlighted by amazing lava rock formations and a curved beach that reminded me of Waikiki, minus the weather and tourist hotels.
At the Myrdalsjokull glacier lagoon, we walked past a sign that warned of a calving glacier and up to the base of it, which was partially blackened by the basaltic lava rock sand.
Our drive into the interior was marked by signs warning visitors of steps to take should there be volcanic activity on Mount Hekla.
We arrived at Hrauneyjar ready to call it a day. Landmannalaugar was approximately 45 minutes away on the slow and rocky highland roads, including F208. Other nearby landmarks, including Stong and Haifoss, were not easily accessible at the late evening hour.
The following day was going to be our last full day in Iceland, and we wanted to be ready to go out with a bang.
Check out the entire Magic of Iceland series right here (Click on each link):
Part 1-Overview, Part 2-The Golden Circle, Part 3-Latrabjarg, Part 4-Midnight Sun Drive, Part 5-Westfjords and Isafjordur, Part 6-Fire and the Mountains, Part 7-Date Night at Hverfell, Part 8-Surreal Saturday, Part 9-Beyond Fire and Ice, Part 10–Taking the 939, Part 11-Lost in Skaftafell, Part 12-F208 Dilemma, Part 13-Volcanic Highlands, Part 14-Homestretch to Remember