I had an enjoyable, if bumpy and rather rainy, drive across Kaldidalur in August. This short highland route can be accessed from Þingvellir and driven in an afternoon and will give you a taste of the highlands, including glaciers and the volcano Skjaldbreiður, after which shield volcanoes are named.
Parts of the road were (and generally are) full of holes and in some places the surface is like corrugated iron, requiring either very slow driving, which will take time but give you a good chance to observe the landscape, or driving at around 60 km/h, which will reduce the shaking but requires considerable skill and experience in driving on gravel and so much concentration that you’re liable to miss all the magnificence of the landscape. We call these corrugated iron-like road surfaces “washboards” after the surface of old-fashioned laundry washboards.
The gravel road ends near Húsafell in Borgarfjörður and the blessedly smooth tarmac road down to highway 1 will take you past Barnafossar and Hraunfossar and through the verdant landscapes of Reykholtsdalur and Borgarfjörður.
The cairn is a nice place to stop and look at the desert landscape of the highlands. Just remember to add a rock to the cairn for luck before you leave it.
I never fail to stop at this place when I’m in this area. It’s a place where Hvítá, a glacial river, comes down through a very narrow ravine, almost just a crack, in the rock and you can really see the power in the water as it gushes down the ravine:
This small cairn is a waymarker on the route to Beinahóll on Kjölur, in the Icelandic highlands. Looming out of the mist it at first looked like something alive.
I came upon two of these near the Búrfellsvirkjun pump station. They are apparently an experimental project to harness the immense power of the wind:
The windmills looked somewhat eerie but, strangely, also as if they belonged, up there in the highland landscape:
Before the photo, some geology:
A “skriðjökull” (literally “crawling glacier” in English) is the Icelandic name for outlet glaciers, the tongues of ice protruding from ice caps in which you can see the constant movement and flow of the ice in the whorls and cracks on the surface. They crawl down valleys that they have carved over the millennia and generally have rivers running from under them and some have glacial lagoons in front of them where the river has been dammed by glacial drift: rocks and rubble that the tip of the flow churned up before the glacier began receding. Many of them have names distinct from the ice caps they originate in.
The following photo and the photos I’ll post in the next couple of days are from a visit to Gígjökull (“Crater Glacier”), an outlet of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull. It once had a lagoon in front of it (here’s an aerial photo), which got wiped out in the April 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull when a massive flood burst from under the glacier and washed away the natural dam (here’s a video, (it has an ad in front). Now there is just the river, and the foot of the glacier is considerably smaller and more tongue-shaped than it was before the flood. The deep fissure to the right of the glacier itself is where the main body of the flood came down.
Unfortunately I was there around noon and the sunlight was harsh. Click to enlarge.