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Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar

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After visiting the cliffs of Ásbyrgi, we hopped in the car and drove a few minutes south to the Vesturdalur campsite and the start of an extraordinary five-kilometer trail which would bring us through the Hljóðaklettar (Echo Rocks) to the foot of the Rauðhólar (Red Hills).

Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar

The Hljóðaklettar rocks are a wild array of basaltic columns, twisted and angled in every conceivable direction. The bizarre bending of the rocks results in caves, towers and other unclassifiable geometrical shapes. It’s like being on another world, and the area has an alien and almost menacing sort of beauty. Formed when the powerful Jökulsá River washed away chunks of volcanic craters, the rocks at Hljóðaklettar have strange acoustical properties which reflect, enhance or mute the river’s roar, depending on where you’re standing. Hence the name “Echo Rocks”.

After leaving Hljóðaklettar behind us, we approached the Rauðhólar (Red Hills), volcanic cinder cones made of pure red scoria. Capped with white snow, the hills add a shocking splash of color to the otherwise black and gray landscape of lava, mountain and river. You’re no longer allowed to ascend the Rauðhólar, as over-hiking had started to degrade their quality, but that’s not a big deal. They actually look better from a distance.

Location of Vesturdalur on our Map

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Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
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Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
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Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar
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October 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm Comments (3)

Underground, Underwater: Lava Caves and Hot Springs

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Driving around Iceland with a guidebook and a map can be rewarding, but even the most astute tourist won’t find everything on their own. To reach certain places, you’ll have to enlist the help of experts. That’s what we did, in order to explore a secret lava cave and an amazing hot spring.

Travel Blog

Our trip was run by Icelandic Mountain Guides, a tour company operating out of the capital. Shortly after our pick-up, we had helmets affixed to our heads, and were entering a tunnel found in a lava field just outside Reykjavík. I’ve been in caves before, but none formed by a flowing river of lava. The experience was different. At 4000 years in age, this cave is relatively young and fairly shallow.

At times, the tunnel narrowed precariously. In order to complete the tour, we had to get down on our hands and knees and wedge through a couple small openings. Not a huge problem for me, but a considerable one for 6’6″ Jürgen (who, it turns out, does a very clumsy crab walk). We saw some stalagmites and the bones of a poor lamb which had become lost in the cave, and learned a lot about the unique geology of Iceland.

Next up, the part of the journey I had most been looking forward to: hot springs. We drove out to the Hengill Mountains, where we’d recently completed a fun walk lovingly nicknamed Hengill Death Hike. But today would be less dangerous. After a 30-minute hike past steaming vents shooting out of the over-heated earth, we arrived at a river in which people were bathing.

Crazy Icelandic People

The river here combines both cold water streaming down off the glacier and hot water bubbling up from the earth, mixing to create the ideal temperature for a bath. Despite the difficulty of reaching it, the location is no real secret — a lot of other people were present when we arrived. But no matter. The river is long, as rivers tend to be, and we were able to find a nice quiet spot to soak our bones.

Icelandic Mountain Guides – Website

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August 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm Comment (1)
Hljaklettar and Rauhlar After visiting the cliffs of Ásbyrgi, we hopped in the car and drove a few minutes south to the Vesturdalur campsite and the start of an extraordinary five-kilometer trail which would bring us through the Hljóðaklettar (Echo Rocks) to the foot of the Rauðhólar (Red Hills).
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