Jökulsarlon - Eldgja - Landmannalaugar

Trip Start Aug 05, 2012
Trip End Aug 19, 2012

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Where I stayed
Landmannalaugar Campground

Flag of Iceland  , South,
Thursday, August 9, 2012

After our visit of Jökulsarlon Glacier Lake in the morning and a lunch break in an other breathtaking scenery, we drove back to the west and made a quick stop at Kirkjubaejarklaustur. While our guides were buying some food for the next 5 days far from any villages and shopping malls, we were invited to make a short hike towards a lake above Kirkju. The trail was short but quite steep. When we arrived at the top, the scenery was very quiet : a charming lake nested in the middle of grassy meadows. We stayed there resting for a while and then made our way back downhill. 



It was not long before Alex and Pierre were back with the food and we could hit the road again towards Landmannalaugar. In order to go there, we had to leave route N°1, and take a mountain road which is not covered with asphalt ! All mountain roads and roads in the interior of Iceland have a surface of loose gravel which make them slippery and not appropriate for speeding. 

The more we were driving towards the interior of the island, the more we could feel the wilderness of this country ! On the way to Landmannalaugar, we made a stop at Eldgja, literally "canyon of fire" in Icelandic !


Eldgla is a volcanic canyon and is part of the same volcanic system as the Katla volcano. It is the largest volcanic canyon in the world, 60km long, 270m deep and 600m wide at its greatest. It was discovered by Thorvaldur Thoroddsen in 1893. The first documented eruption in 934 was the largest flood basalt in historic time. It lasted for more than 6 years. The areal extent of the lava is around 800 km2. An estimated 18 km3 of magma poured out of the earth which makes this eruption one of the biggest in Halocene era ! 


When we stopped the car at the top of the canyon, we could not imagine the amazing view we were about to discover. It was like we were on another planet, or as if we made a time travel back to the origins of the Earth. Seeing this wide canyon which is part of the mid-atlantic ridge was really moving. As in Thingvellir, we could see with our own eyes the separation between the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates ! We walked on the trail downhill and reached the bottom of the canyon 20 minutes later. Here we were, walking with one foot in Europe and with the other in America ;-)

There is a double waterfall named Ofaerufoss within the canyon and we walked close to it. Apparently a natural bridge across the waterfall vanished in 1993 due to excess water from melting ice. We enjoyed this peaceful moment before walking back in the bottom of this giant crack towards a parking lot where Pierre and Alex had brought the cars and were waiting for us. Before reaching the parking lot, we crossed an amazing landscape made of giant rocks which had fallen from the ridges of the canyon. Each giant rock is labelled with a plate indicating the year of its fall. Wandering on this trail was like a dream as dimmed light of the sun was making green of the grass greener and was covering giant rocks with wonderful shadows. 


We finally left Eldgja and kept driving towards Landmannalaugar. The road became wilder and wilder, we had to cross several rivers but it was quite an easy job with our 4x4s ! 


The colours of the landscape kept changing: fluorescent green moss, yellow flowers, white cotton grass fields, and soon the multicoloured rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar ! 

We arrived at Landmannalaugar camp site around 8:30 pm, and light over rhyotite mountains was magic and unbelievable. The many mountains in the surrounding area display a wide spectrum of colours including pink, brown, green, yellow, blue, purple, black and white ! 








Several other 66Nord groups were there and they helped us setting up the camp, which was not easy on a rocky soil ;-)  The camp site is located at the foot of the gigantic Laugahraun lava tongue and offers a natural hot spring which we enjoyed after dinner. 
Lying down in hot water, close to a lava field, below the stars at 11 pm was an incredible experience... 
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