After the volcano, we headed toward Keflavik via the Reykjanesfólkvangur nature reserve.
Though honestly, I am not sure exactly what nature they are trying to preserve. Moss, I guess. And occasionally a piece of grass or a flower.
It was astonishingly quiet. No car noise, but also no birds or bugs or anything. Just quiet.
And not really great GPS. Or at least my phone wasn't able to keep up with us. So we got a bit lost and eventually realized the sun was on the wrong side of the car and in fact we were headed the wrong way.
In the middle of nowhere, with 1/8 tank of gas and barely-functional cellphone maps. So that was exciting.
Luckily, there are very few roads so we basically figured out which one would take us east and went that way, determined to make it to Grindavik (and the nearest petrol station). Keep in mind we were trying to get to Keflavik from Thrinkugiguir Volcano, so the map below shows just how far out of the way we ended up.
On the road to Grindavik we had the happy (and slightly smelly) mistake to stumble across the springs at Krýsuvík - Seltún.
These are sulfurous hot springs where you can see the water boiling right out of the earth
Apparently several years ago they had tried to build a geothermal facility here, and it exploded. So yeah, it's a pretty active set of springs. Did I mention the water was actually boiling? And we saw more warning signs here than anywhere else in Iceland (though as you can see in the picture above, not so many guardrails).
In some places the water was thick and green (like below) and boiling in sort of this thick green soupy way
And in some the surrounding earth had dried up and cracked leaving this martian-like landscape
There was a boardwalk where you could go between the springs all the way to the countryside below
So that was neat, though incredibly smelly. After that, we did make it to Grindavik, and had an amazing salt cod dinner. At about 9pm. And then went outside to take the picture below at 9:30pm.
That last night we actually stayed up until sunset, at 12:52. We thought we might as well get the most out of our last night in Iceland, and took a lovely hike through the lavender flowers up over the cliffs near Keflavik to watch the sky turn colors. At 1am.
The craters in the previous post were all right by the Thrihnukagigur Volcano.
After checking out the craters, we met up with our group for the inside the volcano tour. We set out across the lava fields toward the "Three Peaks Crater" (Thrihnukagigur). The moss-covered lava fields were pretty impressive. They had put down a gravel path for us to walk to keep the tourists from destroying the moss. It was a beautiful day and you could see the clouds and steam rising from the moss.
Along the walk, we saw a bunch of small caves, where the lava solidified around some bubble
Once we got to the top, we waited our turn in the small base camp, then suited up for our decent
bring on the volcano!
(By "decent," I mean riding the lift down into the volcano)
Once the lift reached the bottom, they just let you walk around the chamber and climb around the rocks. It was spectacular. When this volcano erupted, the magma chamber emptied very quickly, allowing the chamber to be retained without collapsing and causing the rock surfaces to be glazed in spectacular colors.
Yeah, seriously. Can you believe this place is real?
It was actually very difficult to take pictures inside the volcano because it was so dark (I have lots and lots of out-of-focus or blurry images of the cave and the rocks). I would recommend checking out the website if you want to see some much better images.
I am not sure I have mentioned our spectacular rental car for this trip. Rented from a company called Sad cars, it was a little sad, quite dented, the check engine light was on the entire time, and we loved it.
Oh, look, there's Solheimajokull.
There were actually several farms like this, cradled into the shadow of the mountains at the edge of the plains. If I understand correctly the mountain provides a bit of a shadow from the weather and also the floods. Of course, when the volcano erupts they have a series of other problems. The volcano that erupted in 2010 and caused all of the air traffic problems in Europe is called Katla, and is located under the glacier above the farm in the picture above. On the plane on the way home I watched a documentary called Ash that followed this farm and a few others in the aftermath.
Can you imagine living at the foot of an active volcano? That happens to be located under a glacier?
We continued down the road until the landscape became more lava-like.
And then there was a small parking area with a sign that denoted the giant crater.
Oh, looking to the left, there it is.
We walked up to the top of the walls and yup, it's a crater.
With more really cool lava rocks
It looks more like some kind of ice cream sundae than hard rock, huh.
Solheimajokull, to be precise. It is a little outshoot on the southern side of the Myrdalsjokull icecap
Just to be clear, while I am trying to correctly spell the names of all these places for the blog, I absolutely cannot pronounce them. It is awesome to hear an Icelander or even our Polish glacier guide use the names in passing "back a few years ago when the volcano erupted under Eyjafjallajökull..." and it sound like a reasonable word that I might possibly say someday. And then I would try myself and it is a disaster.
At any rate, Solheimajokull. We met our guide, strapped on some crampons, and hiked on up.
We saw a lot of these black ice cones. Apparently the debris from the volcano serves to insulate the ice, so the ice under the dirt melts last (resulting in the cones). Our guide also told us that the early settlers to Iceland were afraid to come up onto the glaciers, because they were convinced these were trolls. I believe it.
We checked out a cave,
Took a drink from a glacial stream
And tried to soak in the view and landscape as much as possible. We saw several waterfalls created by the melting ice (melting both because of the warming climate and because we were there at the height of summer). In some areas, the ice had split into deep crevasses and you could see layers from different years. In the picture below there is some newer white ice on top of darker older ice (it's ice + ash, not rock on the bottom half). You can also see a waterfall coming out from the break
The shapes of the melting ice were surreally beautiful
Our hike was three hours total, about two going up (since we kept going off-track to explore interesting features in the ice) and one going back. At the top of the hike we could see all the way to Myrdalsjokull.
And then we headed back down to the valley.
Definitely one the coolest things we've ever done so far.