Central Iceland -- From farmlands to the rugged threshold of the Highlands
Leaving Reykjavík at 8:00 am, we head southeast along the Ring Road and then turn north in the direction of Mt. Hekla. Depending upon the weather, this impressive mountain may give us fine views for a good bit of the day as we enter the fertile farmland of the south. We have a brief stop at Skálholt, Cathedral, which afterwards may also be our lunch stop. Next we proceed along the valley of Iceland's longest river, the Þjórsá and approach both the authentic replica of a Viking long house, Þjóðveldisbær, and the waterfall, Hjálparfoss. One of these is visited now, and the other on our return loop. Resuming our tour along a jeep road, we pass the ruins of Stöng, a farm which was the model for Þjóðveldisbær. After many generations of use, Stöng was finally abandoned when the devastating eruption of Mt. Hekla in 1104 made farming impossible. It was also here where the Viking, and ladies' man, Gaukur Trandilson lived. In fact, Gaukur travelled widely and his name is carved on a stone on one of the Orkney Islands.
Farther up this road, is the idyllic site, Gjáin (meaning 'the Chasm'), where two river channels cascade over charming waterfalls, and unite amonst a wonderland of lava formations and lush vegetation. We stop here to explore the area and marvel at this beautiful oasis, which contrasts sharply from the site at Stöng. From here we follow a jeep trail upstream to 2 more waterfalls of entirely different magnitude, Háifoss and Granni. Háifoss, means 'High Waterfall' in Icelandic and is very aptly named, at 122 m. (368 ft). Granni can either mean neighbor or be a nickname for the 'narrow one'. Again, either interpretation is appropriate since this narrow waterfall is a very close neighbor to Háifoss, and nearly as high. We pause a moment across the canyon to take in both of these breath-taking falls in the same view. We retrace our trail a bit and return to the highway downhill where we turn off for a short stop to enjoy either the twin waterfall, Hjálparfoss, with its surreal lava formations, or the Viking long house, Þjóðveldisbær, whichever we've not already seen.
From here, we head back down the Þjórsá valley and take a couple of turns to arrive at the country Cathedral of Skálholt where we will have lunch at the local cafeteria. After lunch, we browse through the Cathedral with its beautiful artwork and enjoy the surroundings of this historical site. Certain days of summer weeks it is not uncommon to chance upon a chamber group or choir practicing in the church. From Skálholt we meander back to Reykjavík through pastoral farmland, where trout and salmon streams wind towards the sea. Eventually, we link up with the Ring Road and return to Reykjavík via the greenhouse village of Hveragerði.
Included: Certified, English-speaking driver-guide, admission to Þjóðveldisbær, stops at Skálholt Cathedral, Hjálparfoss, Gjáin, Háifoss.
Additional: Meal at Skálholt
Length: 7.5 hrs. +/- 30 mins. depending on stops, road conditions, weather etc. Season: Late May to Late September, roads permitting.
Price: € 188 per person, minimum 2 persons, reasonable surcharge for solo.
Price change due to inflation and govt. fees hikes.