Landmannalaugar is a totally remote area in the southern highlands, far from any human habitation. As far as I know it is accessible only via two roads [unless you hike there, of course]. One goes past the power plants just north of the area and is accessible by regular vehicle [although the road is unpaved and a bit rough]. The other route – the one we took – is accessible only by 4WD vehicles, mostly because you have to cross a handful of rivers.
As I mentioned in the last post, I had never been to Landmannalaugar, even though it is one of Iceland’s most popular highland destinations. I had seen loads of pictures, of course, and talked to people who had gone there, and everyone always gushed about THE COLOURS. Looking at the pictures I thought, sure, the colours are OK … but, you know, not THAT spectacular.
I would soon change my mind.
We headed out on Thursday morning and drove up past Hekla – Iceland’s most active [and famous] volcano. The further we got from the verdant southern lowlands, the more sandy and positively desert-like the area became. For a long stretch all you had was black sand with the occasional tuft of straws, interspersed with some lava.
Oh, and the occasional crater.
Once we had turned onto the road leading inland to Landmannalaugar, the scenery gradually changed and became progressively more … otherworldly. Whereas the previous stretch had been mostly black and gray, suddenly the mountains were covered in this incredible shade of green. Not grass – moss.
If you look closely at the above pic, you’ll see a gaping wound on the hillside – tire tracks, from where some jerk decided to go offroad and tear up the landscape. It will take that moss a couple hundred years to grow back. This is why offroad driving in Iceland IS TOTALLY FORBIDDEN.
BTW, did I mention the otherworldly aspect?
After driving for almost an hour through endless variations of the above, we came to a beautiful placid lake, where the landscape once again began to change.
Now the green moss mountains started to give way to rhyolite and sulphur moutains, which is what Landmannalaugar is renowned for.
If you look closely in the above pic, you can see the service centre where there is a mountain hut for lodging, showers and the like [click here to enlarge].
There is also a natural geothermal pool that people like to soak in. We didn’t join them – simply because we only stopped a short while. However, if we ever spend a night there or do some serious hiking, you can definitely count me in.
Seriously, I did not think I would be as impressed with the area as I was – and I now TOTALLY understand what people mean when they talk about THE COLOURS. They were absolutely spectacular in an understated sort of way – not just the multi-coloured mountains, but also the black sands and the delicious green of those mossy mountains.
I’ll have to tell you about our waterfall adventures in a separate post. In the meantime, the full set of pictures is here. Remember you can choose the slideshow option.
MILD BUT DRIZZLY
It has actually been a very nice day. Calm and mild with the occasional light shower. Temps around the 12°C mark [54F]. The sun came up at 6.26 and set at 8.23 pm.
[This post is filed under the MY ICELAND category.]