Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Eight of the world's best road trips

Get behind the wheel and embark on a world famous road trip for an experience of a lifetime you will never forget. If it's mountain scenery, sea views, historic castles, wildlife or a journey into the past you are after, try one of these eight routes for a taste of the open road.


Iceland Ring Road

Iceland's 800 mile Ring Route is the perfect way to experience this magical land's impressive scenery. From the picturesque two-lane highway you can see waterfalls, mountains, lakes and glaciers, on your way to some of the country's most stunning attractions. Not to be missed are Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, 200 feet high Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Sólheimajökull Glacier, the crystal ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier, and Myvatn Geothermal Area. Although you can circle the island in around 16 hours it is recommended you take 10-14 days to take in all the sights, especially between April and August when the Northern Lights will illuminate the sky.

Iceland Ring Road


Scotland North Coast 500

Dubbed 'Scotland's answer to Route 66' the country's newest driving route, North Coast 500, showcases the fairy tale castles, wild beaches and high mountain passes of the north. The route starts in Inverness, weaves along the west coast to Applecross and then northwards towards the bustling towns of Torridon and Ullapool. From there, you'll venture to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland. On route visit the famous Urquart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, enjoy fantastic views of the Highland mountains, walk along the pristine white sands at Balnakeil Beach near Durness and warm yourself up with a trip to one of the famous whisky distilleries.


Scotland North Coast 500


And now for the original Route 66!

Maybe the world’s most famous road number, Route 66 was one of the first highways in the USA and the main connection between Chicago and Santa Monica, California where a sign still signals the end of the road. This is the classic road trip through small town America, covering a total of 2,448 miles. Once a major path for immigrants heading west, the original Route 66 doesn’t exist any more, but you can still follow parts of it on portions marked 'Historic Route 66'. Rent a convertible, eat in old-school diners, and fill up at desert gas stations for the iconic American road trip. 


The original Route 66!


The Cabot Trail, Canada

The Cabot Trail is one of Canada’s most famous road trips. It is a 186 mile loop around a large chunk of northern Nova Scotia. Passing through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, this drive has amazing ocean views and it’s not uncommon to see moose, a variety of birds and other wildlife along the way. The natural beauty of the highlands provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities such as golfing, kayaking, hiking, cycling, and whale watching. Three to five days is recommended to fully enjoy the experience, with great local seafood available to sample, and lots of arts and crafts as well as the scenery and sports. If you complete the Cabot Trail you can rest assured you have visited one of the world's most scenic destinations! 


Portugal's Perfect Road Trip

Portugal is as fascinating as it is diverse, with towering mountains, a beautiful rocky coastline, deep valleys and ancient cities. The perfect way to discover the country is the flexibility of a road trip. You can either do it by car or by campervan, depending on your budget and your appetite for adventure. Starting in Porto in the north, spend two weeks weaving your way down to Faro in the southern Algarve. On the way experience the country's magnificent Atlantic coastline, take a diversion inland to the spectacular world heritage town of Sintra then stay for a couple of days in the capital of Lisbon, with its quaint cobbled streets and painted houses. Finish the tour driving through impressive Algarve scenery stopping off in the charming town of Lago. 


Portugal's Perfect Road Trip


Wild Atlantic Way

Opt for one of the most spectacular coastal routes in the world and take a drive along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. At 1600 miles (2600 km) in length, it is one of the longest defined coastal routes in the world. It winds its way all along the Irish west coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in the north to the picturesque town of Kinsale, County Cork, in the south. As its name suggests, the route unfolds over wild and rugged terrain, with towering cliffs and magical bays and beaches. Coastal villages and ancient monuments are dotted around offering a glimpse into Ireland's mystical past and traditional lifestyles. The route is divided into 14 stages for easier travelling, pick one to get started or attempt the entire marathon! 


Australia’s Great Ocean Road

If you're thinking of going 'down under' take a drive on what is arguably Australia’s best coastal road trip, the Great Ocean Road. Starting in the state of Victoria at Torquay it passes along 157 miles of near-deserted beaches, lighthouses, rainforest, and pretty villages before reaching its finish in Warrnambool. Encounter exotic animals like anteaters, kangaroos, penguins, koalas and parrots, or have a swim or surf at the countless beaches. The most sensational stretch is the appropriately named 'Shipwreck Coast', home to the Twelve Apostles (now reduced to eight by natural erosion), a formation of rock pillars up to 200 feet high. 


Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria

If you are looking for a challenge why not tackle one of the most famous road trips of them all, the 36 hairpin bends and 48 kilometres between Heiligenblut and Bruck over Austria’s highest peak, the Grossglockner? Described by BBC's Top Gear program as a route for “thrill-seekers” the High Alpine Road is a big attraction for sports car enthusiasts who relish those hairpin bends. As the road climbs to more than 8,000ft there are stunning views over 37 mountains while taking in an ever- changing landscape of pine-clad hills, rocky cliff faces, lakes, meadows and glaciers. Stop-offs include the Building of the Road exhibition next to the Fuscher Lacke, charting the severe challenges faced by labourers who, in 1935, built what’s often called the “most beautiful road in the world”. 

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Friday, 2 October 2015

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Mývatn offers a unique natural environment. With large contrasts and small distances you can experience the most and the best that Iceland has to offer. Large open spaces with roads and walkways lead travellers to interesting locations, were volcanic eruptions have played a crucial role in the formation of the landscape.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Whether the plan is to enjoy the landscape, examine unique natural phenomena or take a closer look at the plant and bird life, Mývatn has it all. Furthermore the area offers a variety of services in accommodation, food and entertainment, based on years of experience and knowledge. A large number of travellers visit Mývatn in the summer, but many believe the lake and its surroundings to be no less impressive in the wintertime.

The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and rootless vents (pseudocraters). The effluent river Laxá is known for its rich fishing for Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon. The name of the lake (Icelandic mý ("midge") and vatn ("lake"); the lake of midges) comes from the huge numbers of flies (midges) to be found there in the summer.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Must do

-Drive or cycle around Lake Mývatn, one of the largest lakes in Iceland, 37km2. Varied bird life, unique nature with landscape being formed by intense volcanic activity. Possible to rent a bike.

-Climb up to the crater Hverfjall. Walk the whole circle around the rim of this beautiful tephra ring which is one of the largest in the world.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Taste the traditional “Hverabrauð” with smoked trout. This is dark bread that the locals bake underground in the geothermal heat. Available at most cafe’s and restaurants.

-Take a relaxing bath in the Mývatn Naturebaths and don ́t forget to try out the natural steam bath as well, but steam bathing is an old tradition in the area. The spa is open all year round. Spoil yourself!

Summertime (1. June - 31. August): 09:00 – 24:00
Entry no later than 23:30.
Wintertime (1. September - 31. May):  12:00 – 22:00
Entry no later than 21:30.

More information: http://www.jardbodin.is/en/

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Go birdwatching around the lake and visit Sigurgeir ́s Bird Museum for an interesting showcase and great information on icelandic birds and their habits.

-Take a sightseeing flight from the local airport in Reykjahlíð village. It sure looks different from above, great views over the region.

-Rent a bike and cycle to the Höfði Peninsula. Great view to the lake, rich birdlife, trees and vegetation.There is a hiking path around the peninsula and great view from the top of the hill.

-Get lost in Dimmuborgir lava formations. Great place for hiking, with marked trails that take you around these beautiful natural formations. Beware of the trolls and elves around.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

The Dimmuborgir area consist of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row to the East, about 2300 years ago.

At Dimmuborgir, the lava pooled over a small lake. As the lava flowed across the wet sod, the water of the marsh started to boil, the vapour rising through the lava forming lava pillars from drainpipe size up to several meters in diameter. As the lava continued flowing towards lower ground in the Mývatn area, the top crust collapsed, but the hollow pillars of solidified lava remained. The lava lake must have been at least 10 meters deep, as estimated by the tallest structures still standing.

The lava flow surface remains partly intact around the Dimmuborgir area, so that the Dimmuborgir itself sits below the surrounding surface area. The area is characterised by large hollow cell- or chamber-like structures formed around bubbles of vapour, and some dramatically standing lava pillars. Several of the chambers and pillar bases are large enough to house humans, giving rise to the term "castles" (borgir).

-Explore the pseudocraters at Skútustaðir, interesting crater formations formed in steam explosions when molten lava flowed over wetland.

-Visit the geothermal area Hverir by Námaskarð. High temperature area where you find steaming fumaroles and bubbling mudpools. Watch out it ́s boiling hot!

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Get to know the icelandic horse and it ́s good temper by taking a riding tour through the beautiful district of Lake Myvatn. No riding experience needed.

-Visit the Krafla area, one of Iceland ́s most active volcanic area. Marked hiking trail to Leirhnjúkur, where the lava is still steaming hot since last eruption in 1984.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Hike the marked trail to the top of Mt. Vindbelgur. Amazing view over the lake, pseudocraters and the Mývatn region from the top.

-Take a day tour to the Askja Caldera and the nature reserve Herðubreiðarlindir. Scenes of unforgettable Icelandic nature and geology. Only accessible by 4x4.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Experience the Aurora Borealis - Northern lights, during winter time. You can also go on a snowmobile tour or nordic skiing tour on the frozen Lake Mývatn.

-Meet the Icelandic Yule Lads in Dimmuborgir during the month of December. These are the 13 “santa clauses” of Iceland, funny and interesting fellows.

-Dettifoss is a waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, and is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier and collects water from a large area in Northeast Iceland. The falls are 100 metres (330 ft) wide and have a drop of 45 metres (150 ft) down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. It is the largest waterfall in Europe in terms of volume discharge, having an average water flow of 193 m3/s.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Buy a traditional Icelandic woolen sweater, as a souvenir to take home. Knitted by the local ladies.

-Participate in the Myvatn Marathon held in May every year. One of the best views one can get while running a marathon. The track goes around the lake.

-Explore the beautiful cave Lofthellir, a weird world of ice and darkness. Amazing ice sculptures inside the lava cave. Only accessible on a guided tour and 4x4 offered by Visit Askja.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

LINKS

Mývatn panoramic virtual tour

Click Here.

HIKING FROM DETTIFOSS TO MÝVATN

Many hikers go from Dettifoss to Mývatn (Krafla). This route is not marked and not within Vatnajökull National Park. However, for the many hikers that go this route, here are some points to consider.
Distances:


Dettifoss – Lake Eilífsvötn (west side) 12-14 km 

Eilífsvötn - Krafla ~12 km 

Krafla - Reykjahlíð ~13 km



Navigation  


The route from Dettifoss to Krafla is not marked and there is no clear path to follow. The hike from Krafla to Reykjahlíð is a marked trail and starts at the car park at Leirhnjúkur. Therefore, during most of the Dettifoss-Mývatn route, hikers need to have good navigation skills. 

Hikers need to know how to use a GPS instrument and/or a compass and have a good understanding of maps. There are hills and mountains in the landscape that are helpful for navigation, eg. the mountain Eilífur, which can be easily seen from nearby Dettifoss on a clear day. However, on a foggy day the forms of the landscape cannot be seen and it is easy to lose direction. Those who do not have good navigational skills are recommended not to go this route. 

Route landscape  

There are no special dangers on the route. The route from Dettifoss to Lake Eilífsvötn goes over a gravel plain, moor and tussocks and is quite easy to pass. From Lake Eilífsvötn, the conditions of the hiking route depends on which direction is chosen. The more west hikers go the more lava and ravines they pass, where special care has to be taken. 


Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Drinking water  

Hikers need to carry all beverages for each day of the hike, as there are only three places where there is access to drinking water:  

-On the campsite at Dettifoss there is drinking water in containers. Rangers from Vatnajökull National Park fill the containers with fresh water every day. Please use this water as spaerly as possible. 
-At Lake Eilífsvötn, both on the west side and east side, are springs and brooks which are safe to drink from. 
-At the toilet house at Krafla/Leirhnjúku
Berglind Rós, Iceland24
© 2014 Iceland24, December 2014