Borgarnes in Borgarfjörður is right on the crossroads between the Ring Road heading north and road 54 which rounds the snaefellsnes Peninsula. Close by are Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, and one of the most powerful hot springs in Europe, Deildartunguhver. The road up to Langjokull glacier and Húsafell where Into The Glacier operates from. Also, Hallmundarhraun lava field has the great lava tube Víðgelmir, and there are a few lava caves out here but Víðgelmir has been made safe for visitors and you can book tours with a guide.
The geothermal baths at Krauma are here and since there is hot water almost everywhere around here close to the surface there are a quite a few greenhouses in the area as well as swimming pools which can be well worth looking up. The town of Borgarnes is also well known for being a part of the setting for Egil Saga, the story of Egill Skallgrímsson, the great viking warrior poet. The Settlement Center has an exhibition dedicated to Egil Saga and another one the first settlers who came to Iceland and populated the country in the 9th century based on the Icelandic Sagas. The Settlement Centre gives a straight forward and well put together account of these events and for anybody interested in a bit of history and viking lore this is a must. Reykholt is in this area as well, known for being the home of Snorri Sturluson scholar, bard and chieftain, considered the be one of the worlds most important medieval writers, possibly the author of Egil Saga.
Borgarnes is a great stop when heading out from Reykjavík either for a day tour or a longer journey. Around one hour drive from Reykjavik right next to one of the longer bridges in Iceland the town is a service center for most of the area including supermarkets, pharmacies and a liquor store. Even if you are travelling by super jeep on your way to Langjökull Glacier this would still be great pit stop.
Hraunfossar waterfall (literally the-lava-falls) is around 45 minute drive from the town of Borgarnes through the Borgarfjörður valley, which can be reached by the ring road driving north from Reykjavík. The series of waterfalls flowing from underneath the great Hallmundarhraun lava field covered in virgin birch forest. Langjökull glacier (literally the-long-glacier) is the second largest glacier in Iceland and the volcano from which the lava field flowed is actually covered by the glacier and the glacier is also the water source for the river and thereby the waterfalls. Into the Glacier is a man made ice tunnel created to study the movement of the glacier and also allows visitors to take a tour inside. The tunnel can be reached either by monster truck or a snowmobiling tour depending on your preference. The operation usually leaves from Húsafell which is 5 minutes from Hraunfossar.
Hotel Husafell is the main base of operations in this are where you can find a swimming pool and golf course, as well as various hike trails. Due to the volcanic systems here there are lava caves hidden underneath the lava flows and among those is Víðgelmir a massive lava tube that has scheduled tours going into it and is only a few minutes drive from Húsafell. At the car park next to the Hotel Husafell there are public rest rooms, a small shop and a café. The swimming pool here is heated with geothermal water from a local hot spring and the Hvita river flows by here heading towards Hraunfossar just a little further down river.
On the way from the great Deildartunguhver hot spring up to Hraunfossar Waterfalls there is Reykholt which was home to the great bard and medieval scholar Snorri Sturluson believed to be the author of some of the Icelandic sagas, especially Egil Saga the tale of the great viking warrior poet Egill Skallagrímsson. This area was actually a seat of power during Icelands medieval golden age when the country was effectively an independent republic from 930 AD when the Parliament of Iceland was formed until 1262 AD when the Norway seized control of the country.
Hraunfossar Waterfalls is not only a place of exceptional natural beauty but also an environment which can easily give flight to the imagination. There legends of outlaws having lived up here in the past, raiding the local farms, sealing sheep and living in caves by the edge of the glaciers. Also, stories of elves and trolls are rampant here and looking at some of the lava formations and other strange shapes in the landscape it is easy to start wondering if they were possibly made by some otherworldly beings who cohabited this place with us and maybe roamed this wilderness long before any man set foot here.
Deildartunguhver is a powerful hot spring in Borgarfjörður, one of the largest hot springs in Europe, and the highest flow hot spring in Iceland. Drive along the ring road to the nearest town of Borgarnes and then around 30 minutes on highway 50, and you reach the hot spring and the geothermal baths Krauma right next to it. Just a little further up the road is Reykholt, the home of medieval scholar Snorri Sturluson, believed to be the possible author of some of the Icelandic sagas, possibly even Egil Saga. If you keep going on highway 518, which actually brings you fairly close to Langjökull glacier, you hit the breathtaking waterfalls of Hraunfossar in Hallmundarhraun lava field, close to the lava cave Víðgelmir.
On the other side of Deildartunguhver lies Snæfellsnes peninsula stretching out towards the west at the end of which rises the volcano Snæfellsjökull that Jules Verne used in his book Journey to the Center of the Earth. Going out on the peninsula is a full day tour but well worth since it is rather unique and beautiful part of west Iceland. The hot water here has created a little greenhouse community producing among other things tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries. Sometimes there is a little shed with bags of vegetables and an honesty box right next to the hot spring. This is also an important source for the distribution of geothermal water in the area and in fact this is the hot water source not just for Borgarnes but also the town of Akranes some 64 kilometers to the south. There are also a few swimming pools in this area and they are well worth looking up since the geothermal water is absolutely wonderful to bathe in. In case you do the super jeep tour up to Langjokull glacier it would be great idea to plan a soak in one of those geothermal pools. There is one in Húsafell and right next to Deildartunguhver is Krauma, a nature bath focusing on the geothermal experience with hot tubs and steam baths.
Deildartunguhver hot spring should be on the itinerary if you are visiting Borgarfjörður and it is quite conveniently located on the crossroads where you can either go further inland towards langjökull glacier or turn towards the ring road going north towards Akureyri. The area is worth a visit both summer and winter, in summer a particular species of fern grows around the hot spring and in winter ice chrystals often form around the steam. This is also another good location to wait for the northern lights during winter and if there is clear sky.
The ice cap on Langjokull glacier stretches almost 50 km from north to south and is on average between 15 and 20 km wide. The Golden Circle Tour as a day tour can add a visit to the glacier and a snowmobile ride on the ice although this needs to be planned and booked in advance. The south-east side of the glacier can be reached from Gullfoss Waterfall if you are doing The Golden Circle and the south-west from Þingvellir National Park via one of the highland roads. The main route to the Into The Glacier operation is through Borgarfjörður, first reaching the town of Borgarnes via the ring road and then head further inland. Going along road 50 we reach the largest hot spring in Europe Deildartunguhver close to the settlement of Reykholt which was home to the great medieval scholar Snorri Sturluson, believed to be the author of some of the icelandic sagas, Egil Saga in particular. Hraunfossar, The Waterfalls in the Lava, are an absolutely beautiful series of waterfalls coming from underneath an ancient lava field overgrown with a wild birch forest.
When going to Langjökull on the west side, where the man made ice tunnel is situated and the Into The Glacier operation works from, we go through Húsafell, a popular holiday spot. Húsafell is a birch forest right on the edge of the highland tracks which has numerous cottages as well as the lovely Hotel Húsafell complete with a bar and swimming pool supplied with hot water from a nearby geothermal hot spring. Going up to the glacier and on it requires special vehicles, monster trucks, which will take you all the way to the top. Another track in the area takes you to the lava cave Víðgelmir, which has been made safe for visitors and can be explored with a local guide.
The view from the top of Langjökull glacier is absolutely fantastic on clear days. At an elevation of almost 1500 meters from sea level there is a view into the highlands to the north and east, and out to sea to the west and south. If you are on the glacier after dark on a clear night you should definitely keep your eyes in the sky since it is an amazing place to see the northern lights.
A visit to glacier is always an experience whether you choose hiking, snowmobiling or going into it either via man made tunnel or a natural cave, but it should be absolutely clear that glaciers can be very unstable and that going on one should always be with an experienced person preferably a local guide.
West Iceland is rich in history dating back more than 1100 years, a setting for some of the most exciting moments of the icelandic sagas and seats of power in the late middle ages. Here in Borgarfjörður at the start of Snæfellsnes peninsula you can drift back in history and hear the echoes of viking swords clashing, ancient voices whispering forgotten lores and revealing secrets and clues from pagan poetry full of scary monsters and heathen gods. This is also an area filled with rugged natural beauty such as Iceland's most powerful hot spring Deildartunguhver, the breathtaking waterfall Hraunfossar coming from underneath a lava field and Langjökull Glacier a little further up in the mountains.
This is a great day tour for anyone wishing to combine visits to locations of great natural beauty and explore the history of Iceland at the same time. There are a few variations that can be made of this tour and all destinations are easy to reach and close to the car park.
The Settlement Center Exhibition in Borgarnes is a great introduction to icelandic and scandinavian history divided into two parts. First there is the exhibition all about the first settlers that came to Iceland as a part of the viking expansion into the world and how they coped and thrived. Then there is the Egils Saga Exhibition which takes us through the events of Egil Saga which tells the tale of the great viking warrior poet Egill Skallagrímsson, his family, adventures and includes some of the epic poems accredited to this viking age hero. The exhibitions are very accessible and you can get through them on your own speed using an audio guide provided in various languages.
Between Deildartunguhver, which is Iceland's largest hot spring, and Hraunfossar, the lava falls, there is Reykholt which was the greatest seat of education and power in Iceland from the 11th until the 14th century. Snorri Sturluson is recognised as one of the world's great scholars of the early 13th century and a writer of considerable importance. He is credited with the Prose Edda and possibly is the author of Egil Saga. Snorri was also the wealthiest chieftain in Iceland and good buddies with the king of Norway. His name has recently come up again through popular media when American Writer Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods and the Sandman graphic novels among other things, published his book Norse Mythology which is a retelling of some of Snorri´s work.
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