With a deafening roar, the foamed water of the Dettifoss rushes down. We stand there and look in awe at the gray-brown wall of water, as high as a ten-story building. We've been to Iceland for a few days now, but we've never seen anything like the mighty Dettifoss. Neither in Iceland nor anywhere else in the world.
The Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe
A few days ago we were still at home in warm Munich - at well over 30 degrees. Here in Iceland there is a different climate even in midsummer. We spent the night in the tent. Where exactly? We do not know that. Thick fog obscured our view. We could barely see the hand in front of the fog. In addition temperatures around freezing point and the wind came directly from the ice hell, at least it seemed to us.
No, Iceland is not a country for fine minds. We had to experience that when we arrived a few days ago. The rough volcanic island in the far north received us with a stiff breeze. Our first night in a tent somewhere on the rugged south coast was short and uncomfortable. It didn't bother us that it never gets dark at this time of the year. It was the relentless wind that shook our tent all the time - and the cold that went through the bones.
In the morning the sun woke us up and the wind had died down. A rare event, as we will see in the next few days. A brilliant blue sky, bright green meadows and huge fields of lupine - that's how Iceland welcomed us on the second day.
In Iceland you can set up your tent almost anywhere
After a good hour's drive we reach the Nationalparkingvellir National Park. It is only a few minutes' walk to Oxarafoss, the first highlight on our tour of Iceland, which we rewind in a counterclockwise direction. A good friend urged us to do so. He has to know it, he is Icelander and knows about the forces of nature and peculiarities here on the island. It rains more often in the north than in the south - so the south should always be the beginning of a round trip. Wet clothes and a soaked tent are difficult to dry in the climatic conditions in Iceland - and the longer we keep our equipment dry, the better.
Unfortunately, the weather is a problem for us. A hitchhiker tells us that this summer is exceptionally cold and wet - it had even snowed in the highlands recently.
The breathtaking landscape makes up for that. It is bubbling everywhere and geysers are hissing loudly into the sky. The earth is bubbling in the Haukadalur hot water valley at the foot of the Laugarfjall mountain. The hot springs are located in a volcanic area and still testify to the history of the earth. Sensitive noses should be said that the foul-smelling sulfur smell is difficult to bear.
The strokkur shoots a giant water fountain into the sky every few minutes
The situation is completely different with the Gullfoss, which is a stone's throw away by car. The air is cool and clear - a blessing for our exhausted city lungs. The spray of the huge waterfall still reaches us a few hundred meters away - depending on the icy wind. It's a sublime feeling to stand up here on the cliff, at our feet one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland. We only feel the pure power directly at the Gullfoss. A comfortable hiking trail leads to the edge of the demolition where the water rushes down by more than 30 meters.
The mighty Gullfoss
The next evening we stand on the black lava beach of Vík í Mýrdal - probably one of the most magical places in Iceland. Brute breakers keep hitting the beach. Particularly in winter, tragic accidents often occur here with careless tourists who underestimate the forces of nature. Suddenly, tsunami-like waves wash out of nowhere on the beach and sweep away everything and everyone.
The Vík í Mýrdal lava beach
A stop in Vatnajökull National Park should not be missed on our trip to Iceland. The hiking shoes must be in your luggage if you want to explore the huge area. With an area of over 14,000 square kilometers, you can only scratch the largest national park in Europe, but that alone is a unique experience. One of the easy hikes is the tour to Svartifoss. The waterfall is neither the tallest nor the most powerful in Iceland, but is located in the middle of a unique basalt landscape, which makes it so unique.
The Svartifoss is one of the highlights in the Vatnajökull National Park
The hike to the Skaftafellsjökull glacier tongue, to which we set out in the evening, is probably unique. At the beginning we pass a huge lake, which draws its water from Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland. Everywhere it creaks and crunches and huge blocks of ice crash into the brown water. The ice is in constant motion - a unique sight and an indescribable experience. The glacier always attracts adventurers who want to defy the forces of nature. On the approach to the glacier, a plaque commemorates two German mountain athletes who lost their lives here and were never found. An oppressive feeling comes over me when I put myself in the hopeless position of the two, enclosed by millions of tons of ice.
The meltwater lake at the end of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier tongue
50 kilometers away is the Jökulsárlón glacier lake, which is also fed by the huge Vatnajökull. The sun has long set and the temperatures have dropped significantly. The seals don't care. Again and again a head peeps out of the water between the huge icebergs, only to dive again afterwards.
Icebergs in the Jökulsárlón glacial lake
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of huge diamonds on the coast, or so it seems. The icebergs flock to the open sea with brute force, only to be washed up on the black lava beach as ice diamonds. A breathtaking spectacle that steals my complete sleep that night. I hurry from one ice diamond to the next for hours in the dim light of the night. A sublime feeling, because at this time no human soul can be seen here and there.
Ice diamonds on the coast of Iceland
Faster than I can count to three, the warming sun is pushing the horizon again and transforming the cool landscape into a colorful sea of ice and water.
Sunrise in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
Our journey takes us a long way to Dettifoss in the northeast of the island. There is hardly anything going on in the east of Iceland - a stark contrast to the west, where the coaches chase crowds of tourists to the top spots. We drive past crumbling houses, herds of horses and hundreds of sheep grazing on lush meadows, rugged mountains, steep cliffs and high waterfalls. We finally reach Dettifoss around midnight. It is a ghost hour. We spend the night in the tent just like on the whole trip. Thick fog takes away our view. We can barely see the hand in front of our eyes. In addition, temperatures around freezing and the wind comes directly from the ice hell, at least it seems to us.
Something like luxury awaits us at Mückensee: Showers and warm water at the campsite - a real treat. The hot water hits us on the head. We had already forgotten what that feels like. We are recharging our batteries for the next adventure that awaits us in Húsavík. Despite the wind and rain, we set sail with a sailing ship. It's good for two hours, then I feel sick. Whale fins keep popping up in the jagged sea - I can't enjoy that. No, I curse every second on this nutshell. Only when I have solid ground under my feet again do I realize that we have just seen whales here. With the big marine mammals it is like the first kiss or the first trip to Iceland: you never forget the first time.
Fluke of a whale when diving
Late in the evening we make our way to Aldeyjarfoss, which is at least not officially accessible with a normal car. In order not to risk anything, we set out on foot on the arduous path. The wind whips us in the face and if we weren't following a gravel road, we would probably get lost in this fog soup. Then the Aldeyjarfoss suddenly lies in front of us. The Skjálfandafljót River only falls 20 meters deep. Due to the strong contrast between the dark basalt columns and the white spray of the icy water, this place exudes a very special magic. The Aldeyjarfoss casts a spell on us so that the next day we stand again on the high cliff, from where you have the best view of the waterfall.
A very special magic also emanates from the basalt rock Hvítserkur, which we reach deep in the night. The wind on the cliff is brutal. The tent set-up is a game of patience, but in the morning the storm has subsided - and then it lies at our feet, the Hvítserkur. The black monster rises like a primeval dinosaur on the fine sandy beach. Countless birds buzz around the prehistoric cattle, always hunting for prey for the offspring.
The Hvítserkur basalt rock seems completely out of place
We set off in the direction of the Westfjords. We cross deep valleys and snow-capped mountain peaks pass us. A threatening cloud front is gathering in the sky. We drive an eternity through the mystical landscape, which we believe in part of the "Lord of the Rings". We follow the coastal road, which always offers breathtaking views. On the left it goes unsecured, sometimes several hundred meters deep, on the right hundreds of meters high rock and scree walls pile up.
After a few hours of sleep and completely exhausted, we make our way to the huge Dynjandi Foss. Nature is inhospitable and everywhere along the dusty slope huge snow fields testify to how brutal winter is here. The Dynjandi Foss is another highlight on our trip. It ripples everywhere and drifts above everything the huge, 100 meter high and 60 meter wide waterfall, the spray of which is carried hundreds of meters into the country.
The Dynjandi Foss in the Westfjords of Iceland
At the far west corner of Iceland, we have a huge colony of birds. Millions of birds breed here in the steep rock cliff and create a deafening background noise. You don't need a lot of luck to come across puffins. The somewhat clumsy birds are not afraid of people and are a grateful motif for every photographer. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle, put on your hiking shoes and follow the narrow path on the steep coast high above the sea. After a few minutes we are completely alone - only the birds, we can not get rid of them.
The puffins are grateful photo models
Hike in the Westfjords
The next day we stand in front of the mighty mountain Kirkjufell, in the foreground of which an impressive waterfall pours. This breathtakingly beautiful landscape was created by the greatest designer in history: nature. When the sun disappears behind the horizon around midnight, the sky shines in the most beautiful colors - an unforgettable moment for all times. Here - and it is not the first time on this trip - we are once again shown how small and insignificant we all are.
The Kirkjufell mountain after sunset
The same feeling comes over us when we stand high above the sea in front of a huge rock wall on which an imposing waterfall rushes down steeply. Are we the first discoverers? Many probably shy away from the steep pathless ascent to the foot of the waterfall, from which you can see the entire coast.
There are impressive waterfalls all over Iceland
The culmination of our Iceland trip marks the 200 meter high Glymur.
The Glymur falls 200 meters deep
The hike to Iceland's second-highest waterfall is a bit tricky in places. We are particularly troubled by the icy wind at this height. However, many hikers struggle more with the sometimes quite steep passages that have to be overcome on the way to Glymur. No, Iceland is not a country for fine minds. We know that now.