It’s unbelievable, how time flies.
It’s unbelievable, how my dream-come-true trip to Iceland took place more than one year ago. And it’s quite unbelievable, how many stories still remain untold from that trip.
Raufarhólshellir – A lava cave with all the colours of rainbow
Raufarhólshellir Lava Cave is one of the best known and longest cave systems in Iceland. While there is plenty of information available, you’d think the cave is simple to find.
This lava cave was included in my original travel itinerary, among those must-see places to visit in Iceland. Instead of going there alone with Daniel, we were able to fit a short cave adventure in the one-day schedule with our local guides, Anna and Gretar.
Lava cave adventure together with local Icelanders turned out to be a great option. Even if I had marked the cave on my map, the mouth of the cave was so hidden it was difficult to spot from the road. If we had gone there by ourselves, most likely we would have just driven past it, without even noticing the cave.
When the entrance looks like this from the inside, you can only imagine how difficult it would be to spot from the road.
This lava cave is definitely among the do-not-miss places in Iceland. When you descend into the cave, you’ll face an overwhelmingly beautiful view that will indeed leave you speechless. The astonishing stone walls are sparkling green, yellow, purple, blue and red – all the colours of a rainbow, if not even more. The ice and rock formations inside the lava cave are like from a fairytale.
Raufarhólshellir Lava Cave is estimated to be approximately 1,400 meters long. Yes, estimated. With a cave tunnel this long, you’ll get the best experience with a guide. But, you can also go there by yourself, if you prefer an independent, if a bit risky adventure. Just remember to be careful. Really careful. A flashlight and ice spikes wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.
Even if the ever so helpful Google Maps sometimes claims the cave to be closed, Raufarhólshellir Lava Cave is perfectly accessible all year round. To find it easily, you can insert these coordinates on your navigator: N.63º 56.407 / W. 021º 23.742.
Crater Lake Kerið describes Iceland perfectly
Kerið, more internationally Kerid, is a crater lake that was once believed having been born as a result of a massive volcanic eruption. After studying some more, the scientists now think Kerid is actually a collapsed cone volcano. Who knows, what the scientists think 100 years from today?
This describes Iceland perfectly. There are no such things as 100 % definitive answers. Sometimes the answers can’t be found at all, no matter how hard one tries.
Kerid crater is 55 meters deep, 270 meters long and 170 meters wide. Along the nature trail circling the crater lake you can, unfortunately, also see the sad side of Iceland.
You can see how this breathtakingly beautiful island is suffering from the fast-growing number of tourist flows.
While walking along the trail, you wouldn’t like to stop staring the turquoise-blue water, the rugged crater walls, the volcanos looming on the horizon and the massive green forest, which is a very rare sight in Iceland. But besides them, you should also watch your step.
I can never ever understand such tourists who respect the untouched and completely unique nature of this beautiful country so little, that they leave their ‘business’ along the trail. It makes me sad. Really, really sad.
Seltún Geothermal Area is so beautiful it stinks
It stinks like rotten eggs.
The whole Iceland is bubbling underground. Besides the oh so lovely hot springs, it causes the strong smell of sulphur that fills the air. For us, it smells like rotten eggs. While in other places the smell is very mild, in some places you can’t smell it at all.
Then there are places like Seltún. Places where you can’t escape it.
And yet, despite the smell, Seltún Geothermal Area is one of the places to visit in Iceland. 1,000 meters below the steaming mud pots, the temperature can be as high as 200 degrees. On the ground level, the temperature may vary between 80–100 degrees. So it’s better to stay on the wooden walkways that are circling the area in Seltún. These are not the mud pots you want to fall into.
In Seltún, it’s very easy to understand why Iceland is called as the land of fire. Why it’s also called as the land of ice, you’ll find out by reading on. While in Seltún, you’ll forget the surrounding smell very quickly when you get astonished by the thousands of colours of Earth around you.
By the secrets of lake Kleifarvatn
Kleifarvatn with its black sand beaches coloured by the volcanic ashes is the largest lake in Reykjanes area. The lake is almost 100 meters deep. Who knows what kinds of secrets lie below the surface?
Well, there are rumours about the secrets of lake Kleifarvatn. One of the most famous ones is the mysterious snake-like monster size of a whale. While sitting on the rocks by lake Kleifarvatn and enjoying the peaceful views, keep your eyes open for the Kleifarvatn monster that is said to be swimming in and around the lake without a destination. There is no way to escape, as there are no rivers.
Gljúfrabúi – The beauty behind the shadow of its neighbour
When you’re planning your first trip to the land of fire and ice, you’re most probably looking for must-see tips and places to visit in Iceland. Such places and attractions, like waterfalls, that Iceland has a lot. And I mean A LOT.
You’ll find at least the most famous waterfalls; Gullfoss, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. As always, even next to the most famous sights, there are hidden gems that are only waiting to be found.
That kind of gem is Gljúfrabúi, the secret neighbour of Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
When you visit Seljalandsfoss, keep walking along the trail past the world-famous waterfall. Soon you’ll come to Gljúfrabúi, a beautiful waterfall hiding behind the giant boulders. When you visit this waterfall, don’t forget to wear something waterproof. Because you won’t leave this place dry.
And that’s only one of the reasons why Gljúfrabúi waterfall is so exciting to visit.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – Go here if you can!
Our local guides gave us a tip worth its weight in gold. This word-monster, Fjaðrárgljúfur, is one of those places to visit in Iceland you wouldn’t know about unless someone specifically tells you about it. So now, I tell you. Go to this out-of-this-world canyon – if you only can.
We couldn’t. Two days in a row, we tried to get there, but due to the deceptive April weather, the access to the canyon was blocked by gates. Perhaps you’re luckier? Look at these photos of the canyon and you’ll know you at least need to try!
A quick stop at a glacier really makes you stop – and think
If you’ve ever been to a glacier of any kind, even the smallest one, you know how mindblowing the experience can be. A quick stop at Svínafellsjökull glacier really made me stop. And think.
Svínafellsjökull glacier is like an arm to Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland. This quick visit was one of the countless unplanned stops along the Icelandic Ring Road. We spotted the glacier from the car window and heard it calling to us. So we turned on the tiny road leading to Svínafellsjökull and checked how close to the glacier we could drive.
We could drive really close.
So close, that once we stepped out of the car, we were welcomed by a sign that was placed there for the memory of two German men. Two men, who never returned from their glacier adventure in August 2007. They didn’t return, and no one has heard of them or seen a sign of them since the day they disappeared.
It makes you stop. And it makes you think. Nature can be cruel, so you need to respect it. There’s no reason to fight because nature is much more powerful. That’s what the sad sign at Svínafellsjökull glacier is reminding of, and it makes you look at the beautiful glacier with new eyes. Respectful eyes.
Stop. Look. Respect. But never step a foot on a glacier without a professional guide.
Next to the sign, purple flowers were blooming as a contrast to the fateful glacier.
Is Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon worth a drive?
If I had to give one, and only one tip to Iceland, it would be this one: take your time. Don’t rush it. Reserve enough days for your trip. Don’t do what I did, do what I say. After learning from my own mistakes.
It’s quite common nowadays to travel to Iceland with a stopover tactic, just like I did in April 2016. The biggest mistake was to give Iceland only four days. It’s nowhere near enough for this fantastic island. Next time, I’ll give it three weeks. At minimum.
You don’t necessarily need three weeks for Iceland, but give it at least a week. Four days is enough to drive to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and back, and the question I very often get is, is Jökulsárlón worth the long drive?
Yes, it is. Jökulsárlón is such a place that you get to see only once in your life. Unless you travel there twice. In Jökulsárlón, the crystal clear water and floating ice rafts live happily side by side. Here you can follow the seals jumping and playing, diving under water every time your camera is ready to shoot. Here you go right back to your childhood, and you want nothing else but to jump around cheerfully, just like a kid in a candy shop. You can’t do much more than wonder aloud, is this place really real?
Believe it or not, even after this, I still have untold stories from Iceland. One on the top of my mind is a story from the rocks of Vík. The day, when the waves of the rough sea nearly swallowed me, but I survived, and the day was crowned by a surprising finding.
Perhaps the time for those stories will come, one day.