The Journey Begins – Hraunfossar and Barnafossar Waterfalls

Northwest of Reykjavik the landscape becomes imposing – high cliffs, gushing waterfalls and boiling geothermal springs. On the first leg of our trip, we are thrown into the deep end of Iceland’s magnificence…

Iceland Ring Road Day 1 – Hraunfossar & Barnafoss

Our first day out in the wilds of Iceland took us north of Reykjavik, and slightly inland, into the Borgarfjörður area, where we got our first taste of the amazing natural landscapes of this country. This area was one of the least populated areas in the country – at least as far as we noticed – we don’t know this for a fact. 30 minutes out or Reykjavik, and it seemed as if the landscape became clear of almost all signs of human life. If it were not for the perfectly maintained roads, we would feel totally lost in time. 

Hraunfossar in all its expansive glory, from a viewpoint just across it

Our first and the only stop was at Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. They are a series of waterfalls and rapids that flow through Hallmundarhraun, a lava field formed a long, long time ago, when a volcano underneath a nearby glacier errupted. Together, they stretch on for quite a bit and are connected by a series of pathways littered with tourists.

The paths are interspersed with wooden platforms that allow you to get a better view of the waterfalls. The well defined viewing platforms and paths in and around most of Iceland’s accessible natural attractions really make this country a great place to visit if you love nature but don’t want to put too much effort into getting to it.

Barnafoss is actually more of a series of steep white water rapids than a waterfall, but impressive nonetheless

The waterfalls are both stunning and fascinating. The water that pours through this lava field doesn’t come from some some spring high up in some mountain, but rather, from a reservoir under the ground. Streams of water pour out in gushing spouts from black lava rock, becoming rivulets that, through the centuries, cut through the rock they flow over. I was completely mesmerised by the whole thing – the thundering of the waterfalls, the cool chill air, the wonderment at the oddity of a waterfall with no discernible source.

Water seemingly pouring out of the vegetation at the upper edge of Hraunfossar

Apart from the waterfalls, there are plenty of other things to do around the area. First of all, the Borgarfjörður area is an attraction in itself. The North Western part of Iceland has some of the most epic landscapes of the country.

Red-roofed farm lost in the landscape somewhere behind the Hraunfossar waterfall, looking very much like a miniature

Sharp, imposing cliffs juxtaposed with rolling meadows over volcanic plateaus – sometimes for miles the only thing reminding you you’re still in civilisation is a lone house in the shadow of a cliff. It became a habit among us to ask each other “I wonder who lives there?”, every time we passed one such dwelling.

Deildartunguhver Hot Springs

The waterfalls are located in a part of Borgarfjörður called Reykholt, which is home to Deildartunguhver, the largest hot springs in Europe. You can visit the springs and take a walk around parts that have pathways for tourists. You can’t bathe in these springs however, they are really hot – I think 90 degrees, and smelling quite sulphurous.

Unsupervised hot-spring tomatoes stand – pick a bag and leave 300KR – amazingly tasty tomatoes!

What you can do there though is to buy some fresh tomatoes grown on the rich volcanic soil in the area and play with the resident border collie – the fluffiest and cutest I’d ever had the pleasure to make acquaintance with.

One of the friendliest dogs we ever crossed paths with

Funnily enough she might be Iceland’s most famous dog since all the photos of the Deildartunguhver hot springs have got her in them. I have to say dogs get cuter the colder in climes it gets since they are kept fluffy and furry all year round which is how I like them.

Hraunsnef Country Hotel

Our board for the nights we were in Borgarfjörður was Hraunsnef Country Hotel, a bed and breakfast located in the shadow of a mountain, spread across a few chalets.

A view from the outdoor hot tub at the Hraunsnef Country Hotel

This was one of my favourite lodgings in Iceland. It was very comfortable and simple – at first I didn’t expect much, but it turned out to be a really nice place.

A boy and his dog playing in a rocky outcrop just outside our accommodation

There were hot tubs filled with naturally heated water – actually the water was so hot it had to be cooled before being sent into the tub – the rooms were cosy and the restaurant was pleasant to chill in.

Easy riders taking a break at Hraunsnef

The best part of Hraunsnef though was the breakfast. It was a real hipster spread – with all the usual breakfast hits, but with one addition, the best bread pudding ever. I mean, I think it makes anyone’s day, to realise they have bread pudding covered in blueberries and raspberries for breakfast, what an indulgence.

As we took a walk we were faced with this amazing panoramic vista, just across the road from our Hraunsnef accommodation

The delicious breakfast, the chilled vibe and the amazing, isolated natural landscape that surrounded us was truly memorable. We would love to return to Hraunsnef for a longer stay in the future and to enjoy more time disconnecting from the rest of the world.

There are many paths one can take from Hraunsnef, but not that many a non-native can pronounce