Day 4: Diamonds (are a girl’s best friend) Circle

After being locked in a bathroom, and lost on a prison compound yesterday, I was hoping fate would give me a reprieve. I also decided there are just too many waterfalls in Iceland to see them all and I was getting weary from their frequency. Today’s Diamond Circle itinerary was everything I needed. Of course, it was; diamonds are a girl’s best friend (wink).

My day started in Akureryi, an hour west of the Diamond Circle, and Alan had thought the mountains of Eyafjördur looked really cool on Apple’s Find my Friend map. He asked me to take extra photos of the area. Fog was in the fjord adding to the dramatic landscape.

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Once ready to head off to the Diamond Circle, I realized the Godafoss would be my first stop. While I was becoming disenchanted from all the waterfalls, I quickly remembered why the falls was on my must-see list. It was not only a multifaceted fall, but also a part of Icelandic history. There are two major pieces of Icelandic history, the sagas, and the times Iceland has changed its official religion. Each was ripe with drama and Godafoss was part of Iceland’s transition to Christianity. Once Iceland’s Lawspeaker officially changed the country’s religion from Norse paganism to Christianity in 1000, he tossed the pagan statues into the waterfall and that is how it got its name, Godafoss.

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While Godafoss was beautiful, I was still eager for that change of scenery. The Diamond Circle I was approaching was the literal anti-waterfall itinerary. Hot springs, craters, lava and the Jon Snow cave from Game of Thrones. I was pumped!

The Diamond Circle is a circular route of amazing sights just off the main highway in northeast Iceland that travels slightly south to Lake Myvatn, and then up to the north coast to the village of Husavik, the whale capital of the country.

In true form, my Google maps stopped navigating just in time for me to miss the turn to stay on highway 1, and this time, I was thrilled for it! Highway 848 around the south side of Lake Myvatn was amazing. So many great stops along this mini-detour! First there was Skútustaðagígar.

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Then Höfð where lava pillars and trees can be seen in and along Lake Myvatn.

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Right up the way was Dimmuborgir, “the Gateway to Hell.” The unique lava formations here are unlike anything else in the world. The formations are the result of a lava reservoir that held back the lake water until it cooled and released the water whose flow ultimately shaped the gritty lava towers.

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P1190535As soon as I was about to hit the highway again, Hverfjall Crater appeared. I pulled off the highway to get closer and could see little moving dots allong the top of the crater rim. Those are people up on top of the crater. I want to do that!

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The time for a hike up the crater wasn’t in my itinerary, but I was feeling determined and excited. As long as no special equipment was necessary to make it to the top, I was going to do it. I drove around the crater and found a hiking path. Once out of the car, me and my resolve began the steep ascent up the volcano.

Victory!

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Feeling proud and hungry, I grabbed a sandwich and headed on. Next on the list, was the Jon Snow cave, officially known as Grjótagjá.

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If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll recall the cave Jon and Ygritte did the naughty in in the Kissed by Fire episode of season 3.  This is that cave! Turns out, not only was Jon breaking his Night’s Watch vows in that episode, he was breaking the Icelandic rules too. No swimming is permitted in the Grjótagjá pool due to the potentially dangerously high water temperatures the pool can reach after a volcanic event in the 1970’s. I’m sure HBO secured all proper permissions before filming and ensured the temperatures wouldn’t harm Kit Harrington’s flawless skin; but the no swimming rule has left the water a beautiful blue and clear enough to see to the bottom.

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If the cave wasn’t cool enough. Just above it is an enormous fissure!

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Back in the car and on the Ring Road, I came across Blue Lake, a geothermal energy area. Check out the minerals in that water!

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And a beautiful lookout over the Myvatn area, Namaskard.

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I drive up the hill and just over the hill is …bam! The Hverir boiling mud pits!

I had seen boiling water come out of the ground on my last Icelandic trip, but Hverir was on a whole different level! The ground was boiling, not just water, the mud was bubbling. There were also vibrant colors around the mud pits from the rising minerals. Along with the stunning scenery was a pungent smell of sulfur and numerous clouds of steam rising from the earth.

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The sun was starting its decent for the day and I had one last stop to go, the Dettifoss Waterfall. The grit and ruggedness of the Diamond Circle had made me excited to see the most powerful waterfall in the country and its upstream friend, Sellfoss.

Dettifoss is so large that one cannot get to both sides without driving an hour around it. I opted for the easily accessible western side of the falls. As I pulled into the parking lot, I notice most people returning from the falls have full rain gear on. I decide to grab my waterproof jacket and boy was I glad I did. I was soaked from the water splashing up from the falls. Totally worth it, as the setting sun caused a beautiful rainbow to appear over the canyon.

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I hike up to each and every view point of the fall, including to a less popular path to the top of the falls which had a great view of the power of Dettifoss, and a teaser view of Sellfoss.

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I make the half mile hike upstream to Sellfoss and my pants, thankfully, dried in the cool breeze. I was amazed at how easy it was to walk to the cliff edges and stand atop of the falls. I decided to play it safe.

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It was a mile-long hike back to the car and then a 45-min drive to Husavik. I said hi to some friends along the way, and then took in the gorgeous views of the snowcapped mountains across the bay.

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Husavik’s restaurants were busy for a Friday night, and my solo self decided to go in search of fish and chips. While walking the harbors for the take-out place, I stumbled into a cute harbor house restaurant, where I ordered the catch of the day, cod, and had my first taste of Icelandic Skyr. While Skyr is said to be more like yogurt, to me, it tasted like glacier whipped cream. A sweet ending to my amazing day.

 

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