Kleifarvatn and south coast (driving) Route Details

Route Description

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Our last day and a chance to revisit the smelly geothermal stuff at Selturn, and the dramatic drive along the south coast and the huge towering ridge, and lava fields, which Tim likes to paraglide on.


Dirt roads can be difficult in snow, especially over the higher ground and even summer conditions on narrow gravel roads are at times tricky.

Detailed description





We left Reykjavik, and drove out of Hafnarfjörður. The edge of the newish industrial area, still half finished following the finacial crisis soon gave way to an open road passing fish drying racks and moss covered lava stretching away to distant mountains, showing the old and new in iceland in 5 minutes of each other. Just before kleifarvatn the road changed to a gravel road and we drove over a low pass to the end of the ice covered lake at kleifarvatn.


After pausing to soak in the silence and the view, we drove along the narrow winding lakeside road to Seltun, and the geothermal area. There was a wooden board walk up into the steaming mud pots and vents. Caution is required if you decide to try and investigate any of the vents as the ground is soft and there's boiling water all around.


We then drove south to the coast, and carried along the south coast road below the towering ridge which was punctuated with lava flows. After stopped for a geocache by the small lake we countined to towards Þorlákshöfn, a small but rich fishing village on the south coast. Beyond the low lying country, and the lava flows and minor craters we could see across the east coast to the towering glacier covered mountains of Mýrdalsjökull, and the outlying Westman islands, which lay a good 100 km away. The richness of the fishing village was evident as we followed several very expensive SUVs (a much rarer sight post 2008) up the road to Hveragerði. The road was flat but mountains and an open landscape dotted with plumes of geotermal steam lay to the east. The hills on the left had obvious scars from rockfalls from the quake a few years ago. Tim told us about a fellow paraglider pilot who was in the air at the time of the quake and actually felt the air vibrate as the quake happened, and watched as huge boulders fell down the cliffs.


At Hveragerði we drove around to see the geothermally heated green houses, and the new geothermal area above the town, where steam flowed across the bare fields. We had a brief attempt at some geysir baiting, but the hver (hotspring) was not playing. The area is so geothermally active even the drains in the town billow steam, and steam rises from small hot springs between house, which were reactivated by a recent quake. We decided to have a coffee and cake in a local bakari, before setting off on route 1 back to Reykjavik.

On the way we diverted to see the geothermal power station at Hellisheið which belched huge clouds of steam into the gathering dusk.


After driving around the outlying suburbs of Reykjavik, where the effects of the kreppa had left large half completed office buildings covered in graffiti, we drove via Kopavugar to the Perlan. Sat atop a hill, the Perlan is a popular tourist site and an interesting use of the massive hotwater tanks used by the city. Between the tanks a building has been created featuring a revolving restaurant, a cafe, and a walkway around the outside (admission is free) which gives great views of the entire greater Reykajvik area, and on this day with good visibility, superb views of the Esja mountains we'd been on a few days ago.

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