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Hveravellir: Halfway through the Highlands

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At the midway point of our journey along the Klöjur Road, we stayed overnight at Hveravellir. After hours of desolate lava fields and no signs of life (apart from the occasional shrub), we greeted this lonesome outpost like Bedouins stumbling upon an oasis in the desert.

Hveravellir Iceland Blog

Hveravellir is a lodge with the most basic of services: some food, a room to relax, beds, and most importantly, people to talk to. The Klöjur Road gets lonely! So, although I felt bad for the two girls working in the lodge, nothing was going to stop Jürgen and I from blabbing their ears off. I’m sure the tale of our harrowing journey through the highlands was fascinating to them. I’m sure they hadn’t heard the exact same story a million times before.

Once we got our fill of human companionship, we explored the area. Hveravellir is built around an active geothermal area, and a short path leads past a number of bubbling, sulfur-spewing holes in the earth, each with its own name and personality. Öskurhóll is a white volcano-shaped mound spitting out constant clouds of steam at high-pressure. Fagrihver is a beautiful light-blue pool with crystallized sulfur covering half its surface. Eyvindarhver is an evil, yellowish spring; in the infrequent moments when it isn’t belching smoke, you can see a horrific, moaning face in its depths.

Eyvindarhver was named after Eyvindar the Outlaw, a famous figure from Icelandic history who lived in exile with his wife, Hella. One of the harshest punishments in 17th-century Iceland was banishment to the country’s highlands. It was basically a death sentence, but in the unlikely event that the criminal should survive twenty years, he or she would be pardoned. Eyvindar and Hella were among the few to withstand the elements for so long, and they managed it by living part-time in Hveravellir. Here, they could stay warm, and even boil sheep in the hot springs.

Not all of the hot springs at Hveravellir clock in at a deadly, sheep-cooking temperature. In fact, the best thing about staying here is the perfectly-heated tub just outside the sleeping quarters. After a long day on the road, nothing could be better.

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October 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm Comments (0)

The Kjölur Interior Road

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After our successful completion of the Introduction to Highland Driving course provided by the Kaldidalur Road between Húsafell and Þingvellir, we felt confident enough on the very next day to tackle level two: Kjölur. The 200-kilometer route F35 cuts through the interior, connecting Gullfoss to the northern town of Blönduós.

Kjölur Road Trip

The drive started out without any major drama. “If anything, this is easier than Kaldidalur,” I semi-shouted at Jürgen over the music we had blasting from the stereo. Björk grunting something about being a hunter. “Maybe I’ve just become a better driver since yesterday!”

The drive wasn’t just easier, but more beautiful than the previous day’s journey. Glaciers everywhere. To the left, the Langjökull; to the right, the Hofsjökull; in front of us, the Hvitárvatn glacial lake. The sun is shining! And then we spot a rainbow. Björk is purring in joy… it’s oh so quiet. And it’s all so lovely!

Of course, the road eventually degraded into a mess of potholes and puddles so deep they might qualify as ponds. Eventually, I started to question my driving abilities. Eventually, Björk’s voice started to grate on my nerves. Eventually, the landscape looked less lovely than desolate. We weren’t surprised; this is Iceland, where the only constant is constant change. Earlier on this same day, we had experienced hail in Reykjavík, a thunderstorm around Selfoss and sunshine at Gullfoss. Everything shifts rapidly in this country: landscapes, weather, moods, road conditions.

By the time we reached the halfway point, at Hveravellir, we were finished both mentally and emotionally. Our car was filthy, our nerves were frayed, and we had played straight through Björk’s entire discography. On the upside, we could stop driving for the night, knowing that an evening of wine and hot springs awaited us. The downside? The second half of Kjölur loomed the very next day.

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October 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm Comment (1)

The Kaldidalur Interior Route

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For 60 kilometers between the Hvitá valley resort of Húsafell and the Þingvellir National Park, the bumpy Kaldidalur (Cold Road) cuts between glaciers and across lava fields. It takes about two hours to traverse and acts as a kind of beginner’s course to the country’s highlands.

Kaldidalur River

We tackled Kaldidalur after having visited the Glymur Waterfall at Hvalfjörður. The weather had been pleasant enough by Icelandic standards, but took a turn for the worse almost as soon as we started the journey to Þingvellir.

Although the low clouds and pounding rain obscured from view the glaciers surrounding us on all sides, it also added something to the experience: the sense of hopeless desolation which should be a part of a journey into the highlands. As we bumped along southward, hopping from one pothole to the next at speeds barely eclipsing 20 miles per hour, I surveyed the lifeless landscape through the rain-battered windshield and a cold dread enveloped my soul. “This is perfect,” I said to Jürgen. “What do you feel right now?”


We didn’t have much of a view, but Kaldidalur skirts right between two glaciers by the names of Ok and Þórisjökull. The landscape was otherworldly, almost completely lifeless until we neared Þingvellir. And though the road presented some tricky driving, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Actually, it made me eager for our next challenge in the highlands, which would be coming up very soon.

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October 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm Comments (3)
Hveravellir: Halfway through the Highlands At the midway point of our journey along the Klöjur Road, we stayed overnight at Hveravellir. After hours of desolate lava fields and no signs of life (apart from the occasional shrub), we greeted this lonesome outpost like Bedouins stumbling upon an oasis in the desert.
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