The water circuit
The next day we left the lake and set out to explore the northern roads of the Diamond Circle, heading first to Dettifoss Falls.
As the Gullfoss waterfall is to the Golden Circle, Dettifoss is to the Diamond. With a 330-foot-wide pounding curtain of water, Europe’s most powerful falls sprayed the sprawling viewing platforms and walkways on the canyon side, leaving the trails icy cold.
Travel trends that will define 2022
Both Dettifoss and our next destination, Asbyrgi, 20 miles north, are part of the northern branch of Vatnajokull . National Parkwhich encompasses much more inaccessible wilderness, including the Vatnajokull Ice Sheet in southeastern Iceland.
According to Norse mythology, the Elliptical Gorge was created by the eight-legged flying horse of the god Odin, who left a hoof print on Earth. It is a suitable setting for alien legends. The mossy forest surrounding a spring-fed lake at the far end of the canyon seemed a fitting home for the “huldufolk” or hidden people many Icelanders believe live here.
From the canyon, the Diamond route heads about 24 miles northwest to the Tjornes Peninsula, past petrified sea cliffs and south at Skjalfandi Bay toward Husavik, Iceland’s oldest settlement and, more recently, the country’s whale watching capital. A wooden church built in 1907 overlooks the protected harbor, filled with wooden high-masted ships and fishing trawlers, many now run by whale watching companies. Overlooking the harbour, the extensive Husavik Whale Museum exhibits many of the species that sailors can see, including an 80-foot (82-meter) skeleton of a blue whale.
The rough seas canceled the boat launches that day, and we decided to scan the horizon for the telltale blowholes of humpback whales from the modern clifftop geosea spa just north of Husavik. The spa leads geothermal heated seawater to the pools and, like so many baths in Iceland that cater to tourists, has a wade-up bar.
We spent our last morning in the north hiking the jagged Dimmuborgir lava field near our cabin with its castle-like volcanic rock formations – according to the signage occupied by trolls – before leaving Lake Myvatn. When we got back to the ring road, we closed the Diamond loop Godafoss, another breathtaking dive full of legends. Here, when the island converted to Christianity around AD 1000, Iceland’s leader is said to have thrown all his pagan idols into the swirling pool created by the semicircular fall of the Skjalfandafljot River. The betrayal angered the gods so much that they split the falls in two.