I’ve been lucky enough to go on two amazing excursions with Reykjavík Excursions this month — one of which was a tour up to Landmannalaugar that AAH and I took in early July.
Some of you may recall a trip that EPI and I took to Landmannalaugar in September last year. That was my first trip to a place that is, without a doubt, one of the most amazingly beautiful in Iceland. I had, of course, heard about it for years, particularly about the colours, so I knew it was going to be spectacular — but not until I went there myself was I fully able to appreciate just what they had been saying.
In a word, the landscape is stunning.
Our trip last year was fairly impromptu and we arrived in Landmannalaugar quite late in the day, so we didn’t do any hiking around the area — just basically had a brief gander around, ate some sandwiches, and then got back in the car. [That said, we did stop frequently on the way there, so it wasn’t like we just saw the landscape in a blur or anything.]
This time, however, we got a chance to walk around a bit, and whoaboy, what an experience we missed out on the first time. In fact, I already want to go back and spend a couple of days, just to hike some of the trails and spend some time absorbing the strange yet exquisite beauty of the place.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The tour left Reykjavík bright and early at 8 am and we headed east in the direction of Selfoss. We had an excellent guide who fed us fascinating factoids about Iceland en route … seriously, I’m learning so much on these tours about my own country, which is a wonderful bonus.
Our first stop [apart from bathroom breaks] was at a waterfall that I never would have known about had it not been for the guide. It’s called Hjálparfoss and it’s surrounded by all kinds of amazing rock formations. Behold:
Basalt columns etc.:
It was still sunny at this time; however, the weather would soon change. We drove on, past Mt. Hekla, and into the interior. Stopped for a photo-op in the middle of a black desert, beneath some heavy clouds:
Did I mention that erosion is a serious problem in Iceland? That’s because our soil is mostly volcanic ash and it blows away very easily [factoid learned from our guide]. Grazing by livestock also plays a major part — all those cute sheep you see on the side of the road are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing as far as the landscape is concerned.
We drove on through the desert until gradually the mountain slopes started to show a bit of green. [That’s as in moss, not grass.] Just before driving into Landmannalaugar we stopped at an explosion crater that’s hugely impressive. It’s also very large, too large to fit into one picture [at least from where I was standing]:
You can see what I mean about the moss here. Incidentally, the red in the soil is iron:
Another few minutes of driving, and we were at our destination. The famed colours of Landmannalaugar came gradually into view.
As I mentioned earlier, our guide took us on a hike that lasted about two hours:
We first hiked through a lava field with all its spectacular formations, to the mountain known as Brennisteinsalda — literally “Sulphur Wave”. It’s amazingly colourful, and all around there is steam rising from the ground:
I could happily have stayed there for an hour or two, hiked up on the mountain and just hung out by the cloud of steam for a while. But alas, time was of the essence, and AAH and I wanted to try soaking in the natural outdoor pool from which Landmannalaugar derives its name.* To do this we had to make haste back to camp so we could have some time in the hot spring.
NB this is a photo I took last year. The reason being that by the time we got back to the main camping area it was pouring with rain. We were pretty wet by the time we got there [although we had on rain gear] so the thought of getting our kit off and then having to put on wet clothes again after our soak … well, it just wasn’t very appealing. Plus — again — time was short, and we would only have had about ten minutes in there, which hardly seemed worth the effort.
We vowed to return, and next time to spend some time in the pool. Incidentally, there are showers there so it’s possible to rinse off after your dip.
Just one more photo: a mini Blue Lagoon that you come to just before you get back to the camping area. Did I mention the colours in this place?
The full set of pictures from this excursions is here. Seriously, a visit to this area is an absolute must. It will change you. However, I should mention that it is only accessible for a few weeks each summer.
* Landmannalaugar literally means “Landmenn’s pools”. Landmenn were the people who lived in the area, and they set out their sheep to graze in the highlands during the summer. [Presumably it was them who ate all the grass, then.] During the autumn round-up the Landmenn set up camp in Landmannalaugar because of the natural pools — where they could take a bath, and also presumably just … chill. As it were.