Kleifarvatn and Graenavatn lakes, Seltun, Eldborg volcanic caldera, Gerðuberg Basalt Columns, Tradir Guesthouse.

5:30am: Land in Keflavik!–Our 6 day July road trip in Iceland started with our flight from Vancouver landing half hour early, so by 6:30 a.m., we’d picked up our rental car from Avis and were already on the road. Located inside the airport, the Avis rental counter is very handy compared to the majority of car rental agencies, which are located at a nearby building block that requires a shuttle to reach. (Avis is kind of pricey, though, unless you have collected “points” with them).

Fields of lupins 'round the outskirts of Reykjavik
Fields & fields of wild lupines around the outskirts of Reykjavik

6:40am: Kleifarvatn, Seltun, and Graenavatn!–In the drizzle, wind, and heavy mist, we headed in the direction of Reykjavik on route 41 & turned off near Hafnarfjordur, onto route 42, a winding, picturesque drive through a moonscape of lava fields, with the rounded peak of Helgafell purportedly in the background (we couldn’t see it for the heavy mist).Kleifarvatn Kleifarvatn is an impressive lake in a volcanic fissure, bordered by black-cinder sand shores. The lake was silent and eerie, and in the heavy drizzle, impossible to do justice to in a photograph. Next we continued down route 42 to Seltun, a geothermal field bubbling and hissing with sulfuric volcanic vents. SeltunSeltun is drenched in the “Icelandic” smell of rocks dissolving in super-heated sulfuric acid, reminiscent of old boiled eggs.  Just south of Seltun is Graenavatn, a beautiful green lake that fills an old explosion crater.  We reached it by 7:50am and breakfasted on trail mix from home.

Graenavatn
David, poised to fly over Graenavatn

From Graenavatn, we retraced our way up route 42, back to 41, skirted outside Reykjavik, then headed north along route 1 to Borgarnes, about 1 hour 45 minutes’ drive away.

En-route to Borgarnes
Roadside waterfall, Route 1, on the way to Borgarnes

10:00am  Borgarnes!–Despite the cold drizzle, we walked about the quiet little town, first to Skallagrimsgardur, the burial mound of the father and son of saga hero Egill Skallagrimsson.

Burial mound
Skallagrimsgardur

We met only one person on our drizzle-soaked rambles, a local strolling a section of the scenic promontory adjacent to Borgarfjordur.

 

11:00am-Settlement Centre!–Shivering and wet, we ducked into the warmth of the Settlement Centre and spent a mesmerizing hour weaving our way through the audio-narrated museum. We were both stunned and captivated by the outrageous stories surrounding Egill Skallagrimsson and his often violent life.

In the fascinating Settlement Centre
In the fascinating Settlement Centre

12:00noon–We were very hungry by now, and not just a little dazed with jet lag, so paid the exorbitant fee to eat at the Settlement Centre in the quaint cafe upstairs, where we fell on the salad buffet like a pair of starving rabbits. Then we stocked up on groceries for the week at Bonus, a grocery store at the edge of the fjord bridge coming into town, and headed northwest up route 54 to the Eldborg volcanic caldera.

Walking to Eldborg
Walking towards Eldborg (note the winter clothing, despite the fact that it’s July)

2:30pm–Eldborg volcanic caldera! Approximately 40 minutes from Borgarnes, we turned off Road 54 to the farm Snorrastaðir (GPS Points N64° 47′ 46.523″ W22° 19′ 20.593″) to view the Eldborg crater.  The walk to the crater meanders along a lovely stream, awfully muddy when we visited, in very pretty farmland.

Snorrastaðir
Snorrastaðir

The trail actually leads away from Eldborg for quite a distance, skirting the farmer’s land and wending through scrub, bush, and lava field, before actually leading to the crater.  Unless you’re a very brisk walker, it is not a quick side-trip to Eldborg–about a 45 minutes’ walk there, and 45 minutes back. We only strolled along the stream to stretch our legs, as jet-lag was really setting in. Several days later, we rented a little plane and we flew over Eldborg.

Aerial of Eldborg
Aerial of Eldborg

3:45pm–Gerðuberg Basalt Columns!–About 10 minutes away from Eldborg on the western edge of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, along route 54 and then a short 1km detour along a dirt road, were the impressive basalt columns of Gerduberg, rising up from the ground like a dwarfish fortress.  The wind here just about knocked us over.  We spent over an hour photographing the striking steeples and turrets and meandering along the base of the rocks.

Gerðuberg
Gerduberg

5:30pm–We bought gas at the next station, right at the start of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, and drove to Tradir Guesthouse, 356 Snaefellsbaer.  In an immaculate, cozy cabin right by the sea, we cooked dinner, wandered the secluded, quiet seashore, and deemed Day One a fantastic start to our Icelandic adventure.

img_0861a
Private cabin with kitchen, Tradir Guesthouse

Tips:

Road signs are small and subtle in Iceland; having an approximate ETA at a destination is helpful for knowing when to keep an eye-out for the next humble little sign.

Picking up supplies in Borgarnes is essential if you’re self-catering on your road trip on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, as there are no grocery stores.

Booking guesthouses/hostels at least 5 months in advance is necessary; Iceland is very popular.

For Day Two of our 6 day itinerary, click here.

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