Iceland is a country of the extremes. Within one view you can see a sunny beach at the ocean and an ice-cold glacier on top of a volcano. Especially in the transition period in spring, when we visited Iceland in a road trip, this becomes obvious. Our fifth day was the day of the opposite between hot and cold. We visited Reykjadalur National Park, where hot springs invited for a bath and just moments later we were in the cave Raufarhólshellir, that was all covered by ice. But we also climbed up a volcano and saw another aurora borealis.
Hot Springs in Reykjadalur National Park
With brilliant weather on day five, it was time for another hike. This time we went to Reykjadalur National Park south of the capital Reykjavik. A varied hiking trail led us up to the mountains (because: if you do not follow the coastline in Iceland, you have to go up the mountains). In many places besides the path we could see steaming rivers and springs.
Due to geothermal heat from the ground, all surface water was heated up to temperatures between 40 and 80°C, making it sometimes dangerous to even touch the water. It was impressive to see a hot spring so close to the snow, that was still covering parts of the hills nearby. In some places there was even a strong smell of sulfur in the air making it difficult to breath. But in most places this was no problem.
Particularly interesting were also smaller springs, where water vapor was constantly released making them seem to boil. Due to the various minerals in the soil, the springs were very colourful and despite the sulphurous environment, grass and moss was growing in between them.
At the turning point of our hiking trip, there was even a public bath, where people could enjoy the warmth of the river. Unfortunately we were not prepared for that, but for sure it would have been a nice experience.
The Frozen Cave Raufarhólshellir
Once again impressed by the nature of Iceland we returned to our car and moved on to our next stop: the frozen cave Raufarhólshellir. It is located just a few kilometres from the hot springs and quite well hidden. After multiple attempts we finally found the entrance and climbed inside.
Inside the cave it was considerably colder than outside. This caused condensed water to freeze and form stalagmites and stalactites both on the floor and the ceiling of the cave. What is usually made of stone and takes centuries to form is created in Raufarhólshellir every year again.
Climbing Up A Volcano
After climbing inside the cave, we had enough power left for another climb. Our next stop was the bottom of the volcano Þríhnúkagígur. To reach the top, we had to climb up a steep snow field and cross a rough area of large stones. We were rewarded with a brilliant view at the surrounding plains
Even though we climbed a volcano, it was pretty safe though – the last eruption dates back to more than 4.000 years ago. For nature protection reasons, the 4×4 m large crater opening is not accessible to the public, but scientists discovered a 120 m deep cave below it.
Standing on top of the volcano let me think back about the impressive days we had in Iceland and to all the extremes we experienced. The picture above shows once more steep mountains and flat plains, snowy fields and warming sunlight. This is Iceland.
A Final Aurora Borealis
The last night in Iceland had come and we had a nice evening together enjoying the fish of the day in a local restaurant. Just before going to bed, we checked the sky outside for a last time and we discovered what we were hoping for: another aurora borealis.
Collecting our camera equipment, we hurried outside to the seaside, where we had an open view at the sky. Once more, we stayed outside for hours, fascinated by the natural light display. We were happy and thankful for that last present given to us by the beautiful Iceland.
The Story Continues…
Before heading to the airport the next day, there was one stop left on day six. Stay tuned for our last day in Iceland by following my articles by e-mail.