The (oxymoronically titled) Diamond Circle is a popular tourist route in northern Iceland, encompassing the town of Húsavík, Ásbyrgi Canyon, Lake Mývatn and the Dettifoss waterfall. We could easily have spent several days here, but – with only one available to us – we opted to do the latter half of the circle; and in the process, visited some of the most spectacular sights of our entire trip.


Toasted marshmallows!

Dettifoss is a waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, and the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Pretty much everything in the north was ridiculously beautiful, but this was a scene-stealer.

I initially read this as insecure and was about to make a crack before I realised my own illiteracy.

The fosselfies continued in earnest.

🌈

Fun fact: Dettifoss was also the waterfall from the opening scene in Alien prequel, Prometheus.

This rainbow effect is, by all accounts, how Gullfoss was supposed to look on the Golden Circle!

Not pictured: the terrifyingly precipitous drop behind me.

Previously on Lost.

Next up: our explorations of the countless amazing sites surrounding Lake Mývatn.

This is Hverarond (or Hverir): a high-temperature geothermal area with bubbling mud pots and fumaroles (openings in or near volcanoes through which hot, sulphurous gases emerge).

The smell of sulphur was, in fact, so strong that I was in danger of losing my breakfast the minute we opened the car door. Staying upwind was key.

Olfactory surprises aside, the alien-esque landscape was the most extraordinary thing.

Behind it is Mt. Námafjall – which half of us were soon to conquer!

John is basically sorted if he ever needs a cover for his country music album.

The first stretch of Námafjall was easy going…

…that is, until we got halfway up and the path descended into loose, fragmented scree rock which made climbing impossible unless you were prepared to physically dig your hands into the debris and drag yourself bodily upwards. This proved a losing battle for John and Linds (who, despite all exertions, were wearing the sort of shoes that invariably caused them to slip two steps back for every lunge they made forward), and so Julien and I continued on alone.

Just as I was on the verge of giving up, the ground finally solidified again beneath us, and we were able to follow a decidedly more civilised path to the summit!

The view from the top, overlooking the Mývatn area.

Curiously, for this being the most strenuous hike of the trip (and, to my knowledge, the only one I’ve ever done where I wasn’t sure if I could physically complete it), it was almost impossible to get a sense of height in these photos due to the angle of the mountain slope. Please take my word for it, however, when I say that these particular shots were some of the most hard-earned!

Looking west, we could make out the azure waters of Lake Mývatn.

You can just about make out the mud pools below us at the base of the mountain.

Despite feeling rather accomplished by the successful ascent, I couldn’t face the possibility of doing it again on the way down and – putting dignity aside – I opted to slide on my ass to get back to the bottom. It was surprisingly effective.

This smoking fumarole was spewing so bilious a cloud of sulphur into the air that I was heaving whilst trying to take this photo and John abandoned me completely to head back to the car.

Our next location was rather more subterranean in nature…

This is the hot spring inside Grjótagjá cave, but it’s better known to some of you as JON SNOW’S SEX CAVE IN GAME OF THRONES!

The GoT nerd in me was dying.

We had thought to take a dip when we got there, but the 40 people with us on the cave quickly put an end to that fantasy.

Onwards to the Viti crater lake.

Highly reminiscent of the crater lake on Mt Zao, Japan; which Lindsay and I visited together SEVEN years ago. (Where did the time go?!)

Life on Mars.

Through a combination of self-timers and compliant geography, we tried to get at least one group photo per day!

One of Iceland’s many geothermal power plants.

And, finishing up our tour of Lake Mývatn…Lake Mývatn! The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and pseudocraters.

With another dauntingly extensive drive ahead of us, we stopped back in the port city of Akureyri for dinner.

We chose Kaffi Ilmur purely because it looked adorable from the outside…

…but the all-you-can-eat buffet was certainly a welcome surprise! As I’ve mentioned already, the menus in Iceland can be eye-wateringly expensive – offset, it must be said, by the fact that the entire country is basically a giant national park with free entry to some of the most beautiful geological sites you’re likely to see in your lifetime. All the same, when I found a limitless smorgasboard for a third of the price we’d paid for a single pizza, I wasn’t about to waste the opportunity, and – after several days of eating rather more modestly than I’m used to – I had multiple plates piled this high with everything in sight.

Julien opted for one of the region’s traditional meals: fish and bread which has baked underground in the natural geothermal heat of the area. All of us stopped short, however, of trying any of Iceland’s more “unique” delicacies like rotten shark, sour ram’s testicles, or sheep’s head.

Finishing up my all-you-can-eat-salad with some all-you-can-eat fruit.

Some of the adorable graffiti on the streets of Akureyri. ☔

🎈🎈🎈

This portrait is by street artist Guido Van Helten, for the Akureyrarvaka Culture Festival in 2014. Guido paints deeply nostalgic pieces, working from photographic references that are culturally specific. This particular image is of a woman named Sia (not of “Chandelier” fame) who passed away in 2010 in Akureyri. This piece was painted from an image found in the town’s archives of Sia at a young age.

Some local trolls.

They see me trollin’, they hatin’.

I think I saw more rainbows in a week in Iceland than I have over the course of my entire life hitherto.

With limited time accommodation available, we skipped the far eastern side of Iceland in favour of travelling back the way we’d come and conducting a more thorough exploration of the south and southeast with the days we had left.

In order to avoid another 6-8 hour drive, however, we broke up the journey by staying that evening in a literal cabin in the woods; arriving in the dead of night up a creaking, gravelly dirt road. A warm bed and heated floors, however, soon drove all thoughts of Jason Voorhees from my mind.

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