Friday, November 3, 2017

9 Days Iceland Summer Road Trip Itinerary: Day 6 - 7 - North Iceland

North Iceland is home to two magnificent waterfalls (save the best for the last eh) and the Mývatn geothermal area. Wake up early on Day 6 to prep yourself for what's to come. Lady M and I headed to the supermarket, Bonus, in Egilsstaðir to get some bread, juice, yoghurt (and chocolate) - yeah that's like our standard road-trip snacks. It's a 2 hour-plus drive to the day's first attraction - Dettifoss, so you better be prepped.

The largest waterfall in Europe
Egilsstaðir > Dettifoss (2 hours 10 mins)

Besides carrying the title of the largest waterfall in Europe, do you know that Dettifoss is known as "the beast" as compared to Godafoss, which is "the beauty"? People have told us that Dettifoss is so powerful that you will hear the gush and feel the tremble of the ground before you even come close to the waterfall. Well, there might be some exaggeration on the "tremble" part, but I shit you not, this waterfall is crazily strong with an average of 96,500 gallons of water crossing its bow every second! Most paths to Dettifoss are gravel roads (meaning unpaved), but the journey is definitely worth it.

Trivia time! If this waterfall looks a tad familiar, it has appeared in the opening scene of Alien: Prometheus (2012), where the pale-looking being swallowed some shit and fall into the fall. Fall into the fall (see what I did there?)
Would you just look at the mist?

Oh, and there are no barriers to this waterfall, so you better watch your step if you have no plans to meet your creator that early.

Lady M's favourite sulphur gas
Dettifoss > Hverir (1 hour)

Head south onto the Ring Road again as you proceed to Hverir, a geothermal spot noted for its bubbling mud pots, and you guessed it, sulphur gas. No joke when I tell you that the smell reaches you before the sight. If you like rotten eggs, this is heaven. Despite the smell, do you know that sulphur is actually good for health? According to various sources on the internet and journal articles (I am a researcher so I better add in the latter part), Icelanders have one of the world's lowest rates of depression, obesity, and heart diseases because of the high sulphur content in Iceland.
I swear that Lady M read that sulphur is good for skin irritation (and well online sources really state that), so she applied sulphur water on her skin at least three times per day. At a place like Hverir, of course, she wasted no chances and absorbed all the sulphur she can.

Does sulphur help with skin irritation?
Not in our case. Lady M had a sudden outbreak of acne when she came to Iceland, and for myself, I had pretty bad rashes on my thighs and sexy butt cheeks. Despite using sulphur water to bath daily (all water sources in Iceland has sulphur), it doesn't help and on the contrary, it became worse. It only became better when we returned to London. Nevertheless, just a disclaimer that it may affect us differently as all skin types are different.
Mutant in the making

Thinking that we may go to the nature baths at Mývatn, we skipped Blue Lagoon, which I am sure you have already seen on your friend's Instagram if they have just visited Iceland. With heavy marketing, Blue Lagoon has become one of Iceland's "must visit". With the influx of tourists, the entry prices to Blue Lagoon is on the rise. From March 2018 onwards, their lowest package will cost 6990ISK (~SGD$90), which includes entry to Blue Lagoon, a towel, a silica mud mask, and a welcome drink. WHUT. As of November 2017, prices to Mývatn is 3800ISK (~SGD$49, entry only).

Fun fact: Both baths are man-made.

For more details on Blue Lagoon, click here.

(Optional) Bath in blue water
Hverir > Mývatn Nature Baths (6 mins)

With the mentality that Mývatn is less crowded, we headed there to find the carpark packed, the waiting time to go to the lagoon is at least 45 minutes, and the queue of half-naked people (in the cold, mind you) was all the way to the entrance. OH GOD WHY. At least we used the toilet for free there and perhaps stole some glances of half-naked people prancing in the waters.

For more details on Mývatn Nature Baths, click here.
Source: nordicvisitor

"The Beauty"
Mývatn Nature Baths > Godafoss (45 mins)

If you haven't had enough of blue waters, the waters at Godafoss is pretty blue too. According to an ancient myth, the "waterfall of the gods" is named after a lawspeaker made Christianity the official religion of Iceland and dumped all of his Norse god collection into this waterfall. Although not as high as Dettifoss, Godafoss is wider giving you a great panorama view of this beauty.
Again, watch your step, if not, perhaps you may see the Norse gods underwater.
Iceland's second largest city
Godafoss > Akureyri (45 mins)

From Godafoss, drive for just another 45 minutes till you hit Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland, standing strong with... 18,000 Icelanders! Although it's small compared to other countries, Akureyri has almost all you would need - cafes, theatre, quirky bookstores and several museums. However, with such a long day spent on the roads, we recommend you to rest for the night, recharge yourself for tomorrow's adventure at Akureyri. 

For us, we stayed at Hrafnhildur's place, which was really nice and close to the central area of Akureyri. The house was really neat and clean, you can even watch movies in the bedroom! But the highlight wasn't the house, it was the heartwarming vibe of the host. She was amazing, friendly and really nice in sharing about the place and recommending places to visit and food to eat. We highly recommend you to stay at her Airbnb when you're at Akureyri.
Recharge? Awake? Spend the day exploring this lovely city. One of the main attractions is definitely Akureyri's Lutheran church, also known as Akureyrarkirkja, which stands high and mighty atop of a small hill. If you're lucky, the doors might be open for visitors (high chance in summer).
Spend some time wandering the streets of Akureyri, sip a cuppa at one of their quaint cafes (Icelanders are proud of their coffee), go book shopping at their many gift shops, or enjoy their unique architectures coupled with street art. Here's a famous one:
Our Airbnb host recommended the Arctic Botanical Garden in Akureyri for nature lovers, and the old farmhouse, known as Laufas, for a piece of Icelandic history. Well, for food lovers, do hunt for Brynja - Iceland's most famous ice cream. It's quite a coastal walk, about 15 minutes from the city center to Brynja (pronounced as brin-YA), also known as Brynjuís. We walked, and in the end, we thought we should drive instead because we have to walk all the way back. Well, in any case! BRYNJA!
This vanilla soft serve dipped in molten chocolate will be the best dessert you eat in Iceland. You can also choose to eat it in a cup and with various toppings such as crushed nuts and gummies. Although not the cheapest (each cone like this costs about 550ISK [~SGD$7]), we do recommend to eat this, especially on a cold, sunny day - just because there's no hot in Iceland. And that's one of the best things, your ice cream lasts really long even outdoors!
Grab a dinner at one of their many restaurants. The sushi pizza from the high-end restaurant, RUB23 was recommended by our Airbnb but we did not get to try it, unfortunately. Do rest up before you hit the roads again tomorrow - stay tuned to Day 8 of this itinerary!