Just an hour north of Reykjavík lies in the secluded inland sprawl of Borgarfjörður. Home to some interesting historic villages, a powerful hot spring and a large lava field—plus caves, waterfalls, hiking trails, and distant Highland glaciers—it’s a fascinating place for a day trip from Reykjavík or, preferably, a longer stay.
Lunch: Kaffi Kyrrð
Borgarnes has a reputation for being little more than a glorified gas stop, but it’s completely unearned. Turn left into the old town and you’ll find the Settlement Museum, a bird museum, a nice local pool, and Kaffi Kyrrð, a cosy café where you can get cakes, coffee and snacks, buy flowers, and try out the various fortune-telling decks of cards that are lying around.
This 52km-long lava field dominates Borgarfjörður. There’s a road all the way around its edge, with great views over the mossy expanse and various tempting hiking trails leading off into the craggy, mossy rocks; the mountainous scenery makes it an enjoyable drive whether you decide to stop for a walk or not. Stick to marked trails if you do, especially in winter time.
Hraunfossar is a series of waterfalls pouring from the 900m edge of the Hallmundarhraun lava field. Countless rivulets pour down into the Hvítá river below and there are trails leading to viewpoints over the area. Barnafoss is nearby, with an information plaque telling the grim tale of how it got its name, Children’s Falls.
Stay: Hotel Húsafell
The last town before the interior wilderness is Húsafell, a tiny settlement where you’ll find the relatively newly built Hotel Húsafell. Tucked discreetly into the landscape, it’s a nice find: the rooms are cosy and the restaurant—including a cocktail bar—is excellent. You’ll also get access to a simple swimming pool with hot pots.
This impressive lava tube is over 1.5km long and, in places, over 15m high. The cave is gated to preserve the features inside, so take a tour from the nearby visitor centre. This makes for an enjoyable experience with an expert guide who can fill you in on the formation of the cave, its many geological features and information about an intriguing period of human habitation.
Langjökull forms a white bar over the eastern horizon of Borgarfjörður. There are a couple of ways to get onto the ice to experience the glacier first hand. One is the “Into The Glacier” trip to a man-made ice tunnel, running daily from Húsafell; another is a snowmobiling excursion, where you can follow a guide on your own vehicle, speeding over the white expanse.
After a day of road-tripping, waterfalls, caves, glaciers and whatever else you decided to do in Borgarfjörður, there’s no better ending than a dip in the Krauma baths. Mixing cold meltwater from the former Ok glacier with hot geothermal water, there are pools of various temperatures, a steam room, and a relaxation lounge with an open fire. Leave a couple of hours for your visit—it’ll pass in a flash.
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