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).
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.