5 Dec 2017 – Egilsstaðir, Dettifoss, Mývatn Nature Baths
The eastern part of Iceland turned out to be much, much more snowy than the South. We drove on snowy/icy roads the whole day, but I felt safe most of the time (at least, from the passenger point of view).
We woke up at the usual time (around 9.30am – dawn) and headed down to our car. From here on it was going to be a routine affair of scraping ice off the windscreen every morning.
We didn’t spend much time around Egilsstaðir as it was just another town (albeit the capital of the East). Actually, Icelandic towns (other than the capital) are more like villages – small and with populations usually well below 10K. The population of Egilsstaðir is only 2.3K! As I had mentioned in an earlier post, annual tourist arrivals outnumber the local population 7 to 1.
Don’t ask me what she was doing outside the car.. I have no idea.
The weather was quite perfect, and the road seemed to be clear. So far so good. I’m a big fan of snow, so I was really happy about the scenery.
Our first stop was a town named Seyðisfjörður about 50km to the east of Egilsstaðir. The East is full of fjords to explore, so we picked one of the nearest and more popular ones.
It was a very quiet town with very little foot or vehicular traffic. We did see a colourful pavement right in the middle of town though – photo time!
And they had some interesting houses.
A cruise ship. Seydisfjordur is a terminus for the ferry service linking Iceland to the Faroe Islands and Denmark. That’s definitely on our to-do list the next time.
The town was surrounded by steep mountains on all sides – among them two 1000m mountains, Mt. Strandartindur and Mt. Bjolfur. It was an impressive sight to say the least. A very, very picturesque town.
We hung out in the town for a while and visited the local supermarket to get some food for lunch. By this time we were getting quite used to the prices, and we had a better idea of which types of food were more bang-for-the-buck.
It was going to be a long day of driving (and with fewer stops) because we had to get all the way to Mývatn for the night – that was over 200km away. And it was not like we could speed – the icy roads and our lack of experience meant that we had to be a little more careful than usual.
This also meant that we had to eat all our meals (except dinner) in the car. Not that we actually minded, since our travel style has always been sightseeing trumps food.
On our way back to Egilsstaðir we saw a thick layer of cloud hanging over the town. That was an interesting sight.
We stopped for a bit to stretch our legs. Just snow and volcanic rocks that stretched for as far as the eye could see.
We passed countless numbers of bridges on our ring road journey around Iceland. Many of them were single-lane, meaning that either party had to give way. So far we haven’t witnessed an occasion where both drivers met halfway through the bridge because neither one gave way, which was actually quite interesting.
After driving for about 150km, we finally hit Dettifoss. Dettifoss has the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, so this was a must-see. We were actually worried that the road to Dettifoss would be closed, but thankfully we found an alternate route thanks to Google maps. Part of the risk of traveling in deep winter, I guess.
There were very few people here as expected – just a few brave souls. The wind was very strong and it was getting dark (3pm), so we had to make the most of our time.
Dettifoss definitely didn’t disappoint. The sheer volume of water created a deafening roar and it was an awe-inspiring sight. We couldn’t get too close though, because the thick snow meant that we couldn’t tell where the edge of the cliff was. Falling into the canyon would have meant a certain, freezing death.
The canyon was pretty long, and we continued walking to the other end where there was another smaller, U-shaped waterfall.
This waterfall was smaller, but felt much more charming. We lingered for a bit to admire Mother Nature at its full glory.
It was about a 60km drive to Mývatn where we would be spending the night. By this time it was really, really snowy, and a significant layer of snow was building up on our car whenever we stopped.
We dropped our bags at the Vogar Travel Service guesthouse – once again, we were the only guests and had the entire place to ourselves. It was a pretty utilitarian room – no bells and whistles, clean as usual as per the usual Icelandic standards and reasonably priced.
We usually save up for a good dinner, and today was no exception. We headed straight to Vogafjós Cowshed Cafe, the best restaurant in the area at least by its Google ratings.
What made this restaurant a little different from the others was that the restaurant was right beside the cow shed – which meant that the smell of cow dung permeated the dining area. We were quite fine with it though – usually our noses get used to a new smell after a while. Some of you might want to take this into consideration though before choosing to come here for dinner.
We opted for the slow-cooked lamb shank (which was highly recommended) and the panfried Arctic Char. The shank was around S$70 and the char was around S$60.
One thing though, it felt kind of twisted to eat beef right beside the cows, but that wasn’t the reason why we didn’t opt for beef – we just wanted to go for the more recommended dishes.
The lamb shank was excellent – the meat fell right off the bone, and it was really flavourful.
The fish was great as well – lightly seasoned which allowed it to exhibit its freshness. Fresh fish should never be cooked with too much seasoning.
After dinner, we headed straight to the Mývatn Nature Baths. This was the less famous cousin of the Blue Lagoon down in Reykjavik, for obvious reasons – it’s simply much more difficult to get here, especially in deep winter.
There were very few people here. The price was around S$50 per person, which is less than half the price of the Blue Lagoon.
We couldn’t take photos during our bath, because it was nearly pitch dark. So the photos below were taken after they were about to close – the lights were on so they could see if anyone was left behind.
Rushing out from the bathroom to the pool was no joke at all. With very strong winds and blowing snow, it was a sheer test of willpower just to step out into the cold. What made it worse was that the bathroom wasn’t exactly right beside the pool – it was a good 20m or so away. In this regard, the Blue Lagoon was better, since the pool led straight into the indoor area via a passageway.
Back at the guesthouse, we had the kitchen all to ourselves. So we settled down and had some hot chocolate (I had beer as well).
While we had a general idea of where to go, planning the details of the following day was usually left to the night before, because we were both too busy to plan properly before the trip. So far this has worked out pretty well for us, especially since we were traveling during the low season where accommodation never gets even half-filled.
Ending the night with a Viking beer.
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