Hraunfossar (Lava Falls) is a kilometer-long succession of small waterfalls that drape over the lava rock on the north bank of the Hvitá River. The falls originate from cold springs and gush out from beneath trees, creating the impression of a giant water sculpture. From Hraunfossar, a short path leads upstream to Barnafoss (Children’s Falls), a raging ravine renamed (from Bjarnafoss, or Bjarni’s Foss) by the mother of two children who went missing and were presumed to have drowned there. Hraunfossar is marked from the southern branch of Route 518, about 18km (11 miles) east of Reykholt.
From Route 518, east of Reykholt and close to Surtshellir and Vígelmir, Route 550 cuts southwest through Kaldidalur valley, passing between the volcano Ok and the Þórisjökull and Langjökull glaciers before joining Route 52, which continues south to Þingvellir. Regular cars proceeding slowly and carefully usually will not encounter problems between mid-June and mid-September. (The road is sometimes mistakenly identified as mountain road “F550,” and “F” usually signifies “4WD only.”) However, all drivers should beware of sandstorms in high winds. Kaldidalur is recommended to those who will not otherwise experience Iceland’s gritty and desolate interior highlands. The road’s highest point, at 727m (2,385 ft.) above sea level, is marked by a huge cairn and has a marvelous view of a rhyolite peak to the east.
Bus Tours -- Iceland Excursions (tel. 540-1313; www.icelandexcursions.is) offers a “Vikings, Waterfalls, and Hot Springs” tour from Reykjavík three times a week from early June to early September for 18,000kr, which takes in Borgarnes and the Settlement Center, Reykholt, Hvalfjördur, Hraunfossar waterfalls, and Þingvellir National Park.
Glacier Tours -- The region’s much-hyped new attraction, Into the Glacier (tel. 578-2500; www.intotheglacier.is), offers a trip into a man-made ice cave with LED light walls, tunnels, a chapel, and interior chambers on the Langjökull glacier. Multiple daily tours leave from Husafell or Reykjavík and run in the summer, costing 17,900kr for a 2 to 3 hour excursion. Children 12 to 15 years old receive a 50% discount, while children under 12 are free. Off-season tours run Thursday through Sunday. Add-ons include other attractions, like stops at Hraunfossar and Þingvellir, or helicopter transportation.
From May to August, Mountaineers of Iceland (tel. 580-9900; www.mountaineers.is) offers a “Lava and Ice Adventures” tour, including 4WD transport from Reykjavík, that stops at the Deildartunguhver hot spring, the Hraunfossar and Barnafossar waterfalls, Langjökull, the Kaldidalur desert valley, and Þingvellir. It costs 35,700kr, plus add-ons for snowmobile rides on Iceland’s second-largest glacier or excursions through ice tunnels.
Golf -- Borgarnes has an excellent 18-hole course, Hamarsvöllur, run by Golfklúbbur Borgarness (tel. 437-1663; www.gbgolf.is). The course fee is 9,000kr ($73/£51).
Jeep Tours -- Mountain Taxi (tel. 544-5252; www.arcticsafari.is) has a year-round "Iceland in a Nutshell" tour for 37,500kr (around $303/£211), which includes Þingvellir, Kaldidalur, Langjökull Glacier, Surtshellir, Hraunfossar, and Reykholt. The "Silver Circle" tour with Eskimos (tel. 414-1500; www.eskimos.is) is nearly identical, but does not visit caves and costs 18,000kr ($288/£144).
Kayaking -- Arctic Adventures (tel. 562-7000; www.adventures.is) offers a kayaking tour of Hvalfjördur—certainly the best way to see this beautiful fjord—suitable for beginners, leaving from Reykjavík for 25,170kr.
Caving -- Plunging into the monstrous Surtshellir lava tube cave is an exhilarating adventure but should not be attempted without good shoes, warm clothes, and a strong flashlight; helmet and gloves are also recommended. Proceed with extreme caution: The cave floor can be slippery or strewn with loose boulders, and the complete darkness can be disorienting. The main tube extends nearly 2km (1 mile), but narrow side passageways are the most fun to explore. To reach Surtshellir, take Route F578 for about 8km (5 miles) from the easternmost point of Route 518. Regular cars should have no trouble reaching the marked parking area, which is a 5-minute walk from the cave entrance.
Vígelmir is 148,000 cubic meters (5,226,571 cubic ft.), making it the biggest lava cave in Iceland and one of the biggest in the world. Among its dramatic rock, ice, and mineral formations, its smoothed, icy stalagmites create the impression of a Moomintroll-populated underground. The cave is close to Surtshellir but can only be accessed on guided tours led by Fljótstunga Farm (tel. 435-1198; www.fljotstunga.is). Tours leave from May until September (10am, noon, 3pm, and 5pm) and by request during the off-season. The basic 1-hour tour is 3,000kr per person, with a minimum of two people. Note: These tours are not suitable for young children. Viking-era artifacts found inside Vígelmir in 1993, including a fireplace and animal bones, are now on display at the National Museum in Reykjavík.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.