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Dettifoss – Europe’s Most Powerful Waterfall

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During our three months in Iceland, we saw a lot of waterfalls. Gullfoss, Dynjandi, Hraunfoss, Goðafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Svartifoss, Glymur and many more. But we couldn’t claim to have adequately covered the waterfalls of Iceland until visiting Dettifoss, the largest and most powerful in Europe.

Dettifoss Waterfall

It was raining when we parked our car and set out across a well-worn trail through the snow. After about ten minutes of hiking, the roar of the waterfall could be heard, but it took another ten minutes before the Jökulsá River came into view. Soon, we were standing speechless before Dettifoss. Crashing down a cliff 45 meters wide, the churning gray water is breathtaking, its sheer power and volume almost unbelievable. The glaciers of Iceland are huge, but still, it’s inconceivable that they can generate this much water.

You can approach Dettifoss from either side of the river. The views are supposed to be better from the east, but since that road was closed by snow, we were forced to take the western route. About a kilometer further upstream, there’s another waterfall called Selfoss. Far less powerful than Dettifoss, but even more picturesque.

Dettifoss is perhaps most famous for its appearance at the end of 2012’s hit film Prometheus. Ridley Scott used the waterfall and its otherworldly landscape to represent a nascent planet still being formed. Excellent location scouting. The unbridled, transformative power of Dettifoss is something to behold.

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October 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm Comment (1)

Sushi, Viking Style

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If you hear the same suggestion from a variety of different locals, it’s smart to listen. And it seemed that everyone we talked with in Stykkishólmur recommended a boat trip of the islands around the bay. So we bought tickets, and discovered that the locals were right. The Viking Sushi Tour was one of the most entertaining excursions we had in Iceland.

sea urchin roe
Sea Urchin Roe in a Scallop Shell

A company called SeaTours runs the “Viking Sushi Tour” out of Stykkishólmur. The 90-minute boat ride promises bird-spotting, island-viewing and fine Viking-style dining.

As our boat neared the first island, Þórishólmur, I felt my stomach crawling up into my throat. Our vessel was huge, and we were approaching land way too quickly. I looked up at the captain to make sure that he was neither sleeping nor drunk, but he seemed in control. Turns out, Þórishólmur is a volcanic plug which sinks straight into the sea, so even large boats like ours are able to get very close. And we were near enough that I could have almost reached out and touched the rock.

Had I tried, my fingers might have been pecked off. The island’s cliffs were packed with sea birds: guillemots, kittiwakes and puffins. We saw more puffins on this trip, and were closer to them, than on our tour out of Reykjavík.

Saga Stone

The boat brought us by two other islands, one of which had a huge crevasse almost splitting it in two. A large rock was somehow wedged into the crevasse which, according to legend, was thrown by a troll woman from the mainland. Annoyed by the bells of the town church, she hurled a rock at it, but missed and hit the island instead. In an example of science following folklore, the rock has been studied, and did in fact come from the mountain on which the troll is said to have lived. Not just that, but the church would have been directly in the stone’s path.

The stories and island-hopping were a lot of fun, but the best part of the tour came at the end, when the crew dropped a giant trawler into the ocean. Considering our proximity to shore, the water’s depth was astounding; the trawler just kept sinking and sinking. Soon, it was raised and its contents dumped onto a large cleaning table. Greedily, we looked upon our bounty: an amazing number of scallops, crabs, starfish and sea urchins. And now, we would feast in a manner worthy of Vikings! (Well… effete Vikings who eat with chopsticks, sip on white wine and let the boat staff do all the work of cleaning and schucking.)

I had expected to feel revulsion while munching down raw scallops and (especially) sea urchin roe, but it was all surprisingly good! I suppose it really doesn’t get any fresher, than straight from the freezing depths of the Northern Atlantic.

Stykkishólmur is an extremely picturesque town, with plenty to do and see, and the Viking Sushi Tour is a real highlight. Not to be missed.

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August 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm Comment (1)
Dettifoss - Europe's Most Powerful Waterfall During our three months in Iceland, we saw a lot of waterfalls. Gullfoss, Dynjandi, Hraunfoss, Goafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Svartifoss, Glymur and many more. But we couldn't claim to have adequately covered the waterfalls of Iceland until visiting Dettifoss, the largest and most powerful in Europe.
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