Discovering The Saga Valley

15.8.2011
Words by Marta Bardón and José Ángel Hernández
Crossing a river, touching Hekla’s ashes, finding a huge crater lake, and contemplating waterfalls—these are just a few of the adventures that you will experience on the ‘Landmannalaugar & Saga Valley’ tour with Reykjavík Excursions.

The full-day tour begins at 7:40 from the BSÍ bus terminal where we meet a friendly driver and guide who welcome us aboard the bus. The guide begins to tell us about all of the amazing things we are going to see. We make a quick stop at Selfoss to pick up some lunch and then it’s not long before we leave civilisation behind us for the day.

DIDACTICISM AND AMUSEMENT

As the bus lurches along, the landscape looks like something from out of this world, only the wild horses prove that it isn’t. We first stop at a marvellous place to admire Hjálparfoss, also known as the ‘Helping Falls’ because the horses that inhabited the region in the past recovered there after arriving from the desolate Sprengisandur route.

In front of the waterfall, the guide teaches us about three different types of flowers used as spices in Iceland. One of them, the thyme wildflower—a really small purple one—“is delicious mixed with meat,” our guide tells us.

As we continue driving toward our destination, we make some stops to take pictures of the extremely impressive landscape that characterises the region of Landmannalaugar. The lava fields surround the dry mountains in a variety of colours and the hills appear like dunes in a desert of lava. While tourists on our bus liken it to Mars on Earth, we can’t help but picture it on the big screen as a backdrop to a Hollywood blockbuster.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL LANDSCAPES

Then we start a 4,5 kilometre hike, which begins on a narrow path flanked by bizarre walls of gray and green that add to the alien-like landscape. Beautiful colourful stones and rocks surround us the whole way.

Our guide stops several times to show us sharp volcanic stones and explains that the inhabitants of the island used them as weapons in the past. As we continue our ramble we arrive to even more weird scenery: A scarlet hill with steam vents. Once again we have the feeling of being on an old movie studio set with fog machines expelling smoke, adding a touch of mystery to the scene.

We leave the hill to our side and go up a steeper slope. Though it is a little bit difficult, the effort is worth it because our reward is an overwhelming view over the valley. The mountains appear in front of us as enormous defiant giants of stones and rocks. We take a breath and relax while enjoying one of the most beautiful moments of the trip.

A HAPPY ENDING

With our stamina completely renewed, we face the last part of the hike where we find several stretches of the path covered by ice, adding some risk to our adventure. All the way back our guide giggles and talks about introducing us to a couple of his friends, but we find out sadly that those famous friends are in fact a rock formation that visibly resembles a couple of drunk guys after a crazy party.

When we complete the hike we don’t get on the bus immediately. A well-deserved bath in a natural pool of hot water awaits us. There are a bunch of children splashing around, but it is not an impediment for enjoying a moment of relaxation in the warm spring. It is such a happy ending to an amazing trip into the vast uninhabited heart of Iceland.

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The ‘Landmannalaugar & Saga Valley’ tour is offered by Reykjavík Excursions for 18.000 ISK. It can be booked through www.re.is or by calling +354 580 5400. Note that it is only available during July and August.

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