Highway 518

We didn’t really have a plan for today. So we woke up and headed down to breakfast here at Hraunsnef Country Hotel with only a sketchy idea of what the day would hold.

Breakfast China at Hraunsnef Country Hotel

I choose this hotel almost completely at random: I knew we wanted to see something of Western Iceland, and that we wanted to be in the countryside, but that was about it. Iceland Farmholidays was where I turned first, but they have a “you can’t book a specific place” policy that didn’t strike me as all that convenient. Hraunsnef, although a member of their network, also allows independent bookings, however, so lured in by their website, I booked two nights. It wasn’t until we arrived that we got some concept of the area.

Under the counsel of our friendly host, we decided to spend the day looping up Highway 518. It was quite a journey: by my rough calculation we passed through about a dozen geologic epochs and just as many biological regions: we saw everything from verdant riverside fields full of sheep to bouldered Moon-like landscapes:

River with Interesting Bank

The Moon?

Highway 518 winds its way up one side of a valley and back down the other. At the apex of the loop you can almost see the Langjökull glacier — if we’d had a more powerful car we could have driven closer, but one look at the “F” road that led that way (the designation given to “you need a 4x4” roads) and we realized that we had to be content with a faraway look:

Directions for Driving

Glacier in the Distance

Down the other side we passed a little country church with an “organ” made of rocks:

Organ made of rockets

And a little bit down the road an impressive waterfall that came out of the side of a river:


The tiny village of Reykholt was where we stopped for lunch. Alas we stopped at 2:06 p.m. and the only restaurant in town, at the big tourist hotel, closed for lunch at 2:00 p.m., so we had to be content with bread and cheese from the gas station (good bread, though). Reykholt is an important historic site in Iceland, a centre of literature and religion; while the modern and historic churches are indeed impressive, the museum under the church is moribund and not at all a must-see. We did learn, however, that it’s time to cut Oliver loose next week:

What happens when you turn 8...

At the end of Highway 518 is Deildartunguhver, the largest geothermal spring in the world: it spews out 50 gallons of boiling water a second, water that’s piped long-distance to the towns of Borgarnes (34 km) and Akranes (64 km):

Catherine in the Mists of Deildartunguhver

Deildartunguhver Pipe

By this time the day was late, and Oliver needed to pee, necessitating a quick over-land jaunt to the gas station. Then back to Hraunsnef for a soak, another excellent supper, and, soon, sleep.

Hot Pot at Hraunsnef

Catherine in the Hotpot