The western side of the Diamond Circle probably is the one with the least flashy sites. No wonder why most people simply fly on the road between Húsavík and Mývatn or between Húsavík and Goðafoss, believing not to miss anything. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some lunar landscapes are just as impressive as the most famous ones. Some hidden spots are worth getting to know better. The delicate rural atmosphere you will feel here is something unique in the Circle and contrasts the mightiness of most of the main highlights of the Diamond.
The rocky black desert of Hólasandur surrounding road n.87 between Húsavík and Mývatn recalls the dozens of barren kilometers along Sprengisandur Route. Coming from the lake, Skjálfandi bay and the snow capped mountains of Flateyjarskagi appear in the distance like sparkling gems at the end of the desolate road. Coming from Húsavík the steep hill cut by the dusty road looks like an insurmountable wall. West of Hólasandur the river Laxá flow. The “Salmon River” alternates cascades, regular flow, still pools and is riddled with several islets. As the name prompts, Laxá is a paradise for trout and salmon fishing, Brown Trout and Arctic Char in particular. Truly one of the best in the world. Ask Neil Armstrong if you don’t trust us.
Following the stream of the river, a power station stands close to a canyon and within a radius of few kilometers 2 exhibitions are to be visited. The Transportation Museum at Ystafell, the oldest automobile museum in Iceland, surely is something you don’t expect to find everywhere. The farm of Grenjaðarstaður is instead an elegant, traditional turf dwelling abandoned in 1949 that now hosts an interesting local heritage museum. Along road n.87, few kilometers North of Hólasandur, there is another power plant, a geothermal one, in Hveravellir. Greenhouses heated with geothermal energy are close by, it’s said tomatoes produced here are the best in the world. Give them a try.
Lastly, not far South from Húsavík, a small gravel road leads to a waterfall of Laxá river. A waterfall as hidden and unknown as magnificent called Æðafossar. A sort of barrier on the jump splits the river in two making two smaller waterfalls out of the single wider one. It’s possible to get two different angles of Æðafossar, from the cliffs and from the level of the water after the jump. Just in front of the waterfall a huge black beach spreads to the southern bottom of Skjálfandi bay. It’s only a tiny section of the whole beach, even so it seems to be endless. To get a good view over it, climb back the cliff of Ærvíkurbjarg and follow the path until the end of it. In clear days you’ll be able to see the beach in its full length cut by Laxá and Skjálfandafljót, the sea will be sparkling under the sunlight which would also enlighten the grassy hills, the lush banks of the two rivers and the icy mountains. In overcast days the waves of the metallic coloured ocean, shattering on the dark sand, are the only thing you will be able to see. It would feel like standing on a cliff at world’s end.
How to get here and around:
Hólasandur is crossed while driving road n.87 from Húsavík to Reykjahlíð at lake Mývatn. Hólasandur is about 9km long, 38km South of Húsavík and 7km North of Reykjahlíð.
From Húsavík to Laxá Power Station is a 30km drive. First 26km are on roads n.85 and n.87 until the junction with road n.854. Here turn right and drive 4km direction West. From Reykjahlíð to Laxá Power Station drive 28km on road n.87 direction North until you reach the same junction with road n.854. Here, of course, turn left. If you’re coming from the West (Akureyri, Goðafoss) reach the junction between roads n. 1 and n.845. Drive North on this road for 10km and at the junction with road n.854 turn right. 6km more and you’ll get to the power station.
From Húsavík to Grenjaðarstaður drive 20km on road n.85 direction South until the junction with road n.845. Take this road and drive 7km direction South. From Reykjahlíð, Grenjaðarstaður is 38km away. First reach Laxá Power Station and continue on road n.854 for 6km more direction West. If you’re coming from the West (Akureyri, Goðafoss) reach the junction between roads n. 1 and n.845. Drive North on this road for 10km to get to the museum.
From Húsavík to Ystafell drive 36km direction South on road n.85. From Reykjahlíð drive 53km on road n.1 direction West until the junction with road n.85, turn right and drive 9km direction North. Take the same turn if you’re coming from Akureyri or Goðafoss.
Hveravellir is 20km South of Húsavík on road n.87, 9km to be driven on road n.85 and 11 km on road n.87. From Reykjahlíð, Hveravellir is 35km away, 4km to be driven on road n.1 direction West and 31km on road n.87 direction North.
Æðafossar is 10km away from Húsavík. From here drive 8km South on road n.85 and, at the junction with a gravel road, turn right. The waterfall is 2km from the junction, after some building looking like farms and summerhouses. The cliff on the bay is 1km North on a quite rough road, better to be walked than to be driven. From the junction of road n.85 and n.87 the gravel road leading to the waterfall is only 500mt away, direction North.