Visiting Grábrók volcano crater, Glanni waterfall and Paradise Hollow in Bifröst can easily be added to your itinerary when you're driving between Reykjavik and the north of Iceland. With easy hiking conditions and good trails, these gems can be visited in just a couple of hours.
I’m on my way home to Akureyri from Reykjavik, driving on a winding road through the beautiful Icelandic countryside. I’ve just gone through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel and passed Borgarnes, and my usual way I’m thinking about what’s coming next. After a while I realise that I’m approaching Bifröst – a tiny town with a bus stop, a little grocery store, a hotel and a University campus, that is located pretty much in a middle of a mossy lava field.
Suddenly I start thinking about all of the tour busses, that I keep seeing parked about a mile down the road from the hotel, every time when I’m driving past. I start wondering what’s there worth seeing - there must be something interesting, otherwise no tour bus would take any visitors over.
I check the time, and see that I’ll have enough time to stop and check what the fuss here is about. I’m going to do this today, the weather is decent and for once I’m in no rush. Once approaching Bifröst, I turn left and park the car next to the hotel - I’m planning to go and see if I can get a coffee and maybe some information about the area.
Grabrok volcano crater with mossy ground. Travelade/Mari.
At the Hotel Bifröst reception, the sweetest and most helpful lady called Helga explains about the area to me, in a very great detail. I listen closely – I’m utterly impressed by her knowledge about the surroundings here, and ask if it’s possible to have a quick coffee before I start my adventure.
“No problem”, she says and leads me to a restaurant area where she pours me a cup of hot steaming coffee. I sit down and start investigating the hiking map more closely.
“Thank you so much for all the info, it’s been really helpful” I say and smile to Helga when I’m ready to leave.
“You’re welcome, and remember to look for the sheep trails!” she yells after me whilst I’m going through the doors to get into my car.
View of the top of Grábrók. Travelade/Mari.
I drive about a mile down the road and park on my first stop of Grábrók volcano crater. I observe the trail map a bit and learn that the Grábrók is the largest of three craters with the same volcanic fissure. Greeting fellow visitors on the wooden staircase on my way up, I slowly start understanding why Helga was so enthusiastic about this place. The views are getting more and more impressive by every step, and once I reach the top, I’m actually speechless.
The top is only about 560ft tall (170 meters), and I feel the strong Icelandic wind blowing heavily. It doesn’t bother me though, instead I look all over, and my eyes get fixated to the view of the Norðurárdalur valley. Multiple mountain tops are forming an astonishing silhouette on the horizon and I’m thinking it’s been a long time since I’ve seen something this beautiful.
View from the top of Grábrók volcano crater. Travelade/Mari.
Once again, I feel so privileged to be able to live in this country. The weather is indeed windy, but there are no low clouds in the sky, allowing me to see into the never ending distance. Who knew there was something this cool right next to Bifröst?
On my way down I remember Helga mentioning the sheep trails. I look over the wooden staircase, and further down I see a trail leading to the left. I follow the trail and walk past something that looks like used to be little houses back in the day, made of stones. I keep following the trail, now getting more and more narrow by every step, and soon witness a whole new scenery opening up in front of me. Another crater is not too far away and the trail seems to be going around that.
I can’t help but feeling like I’m trespassing and walking somewhere where I maybe shouldn’t, so I go through Helga’s words in my head again. I definitely wouldn’t want to be walking on some important vegetation that takes decades to grow back, but I’m sure I’m on the right track here – like Helga assured me, there are only very visible sheep trails with some random hiking poles here and there. Can’t really go wrong here, I think. I walk around the other beautiful crater and see that walking up to it is forbidden. No worries, I think, it’s beautiful enough here just to wander around.
Old stone house ruins around Grábrók. Travelade/Mari.
Lava fiels covered in beautiful moss. Travelade/Mari.
Once I’m back at my car, I glance at the map and see that I need to drive back south and past the hotel a bit to reach my next stop, a waterfall called Glanni. I park my car by the little café next to the golf course, and start my walk through the marked trail surrounded by the forest. Not too far away from the parking area, Glanni opens up on the left and I walk up to the viewing point to admire this hidden little miracle.
This is where the salmon river Norðurá falls down to form Glanni, a stunning little waterfall with multiple drops. It reminds me of Godafoss up in the North a bit, but in a miniature version. I remember Helga mentioning that Glanni, which means shining and light, is believed to be a dwelling place for many elves and trolls.
The stunning Glanni waterfall. Travelade/Mari.
After having a moment there I carry on walking through the trail. Soon there’s a path on my right side leading to a pond full of the clearest water I think I’ve ever seen. I realise I’ve found Paradísarlaut - Paradise Hollow – another place that Helga told me to check out.
The hollow is surrounded by a moss covered lava field called Grábrókarhraun, and some lush bushes and trees. No wonder I see a few people having a picnic here – the trees and lava formations offer the perfect shelter from the wind. There is an underwater stream that brings the water to the pond, and whilst one might think it’s perfect for a little dip in, this water is actually quite cold.
Paradise Hollow in it's full glory. Travelade/Mari.
The surroundings of Paradise Hollow. Travelade/Mari.
I know that a bit of a further hike down south, there is a Laxfoss waterfall, where the river Norðurá falls down a few meters over some basalt rocks. I’m running out of time though so this adventure needs to be saved for the next time.
Hotel Bifröst serves also as a Tourist Info. It’s worth stopping here as the staff can provide you with all the information that you need about the area. The hiking trails in the area are suitable for all levels. The drive here from Reykjavik is about 1,5 hours.
Visiting Grábrók volcano crater and the surrounding easy trails takes approximately an hour. Add another hour for Glanni waterfall and Paradise hollow. Quite an easy stop to indulge some nature during your drive on the main road.
Enjoying the outdoor areas around Bifröst is also suitable for kids. Read more HERE
For more detailed hiking in the area, check HERE
The best travel recommendations come from locals. Check out these Wanderguides from Iceland by locals sharing their travel tips and hidden gems.