Kaldidalur Valley
Kaldidalur Valley
4.5

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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles11 reviews
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Peter B
Jersey City, NJ36 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2022 • Couples
This spontaneous shortcut turned into perhaps the most unforgettable drive I’ve ever undertaken. Let me start out by saying that if you don’t have at least a half tank of gas and a 4-wheel drive SUV, don’t even think about taking this adventure mountain pass from Thingvellir to Husafell or vice versa; there is a high chance you’ll get in trouble on this route courtesy of the numerous potholes, rugged terrain, and absence of civilization here. In fact, chances are if the road is even open your rental car company has explicitly stated in its agreement to keep off as its one of the most dangerous highland passes in Iceland and, thus, a huge source of liability for the agency. Having said all that, if you do decide to take this 25 mile unpaved route, you will be treated to an otherworldly and unforgettable experience.

Our unwitting journey here started merely bc of a sign I noticed near the north entrance of Thingvellir National Park that simply stated that Husafell was 40 Kms (25 miles) away in this direction. We had just exited the park around 5:15 and knew that we had about 1.5 hours of daylight left to get to our hotel in Husafell that night. I had checked my GPS driving directions and it offered up a roundabout western route that was slated to take 2 hours; this supposed shortcut, mysteriously not even included as a viable route on my Google Maps, seemed to offer a much quicker and more direct option. Being old school, I decided to go the old-fashioned way and trust the sign! What could possibly go wrong??!!

The first two miles offered up no hints whatsoever of what was to come. It was a winding, albeit paved, road that didn’t seem any different than some of the stretches I’d taken earlier along the southern route of the Golden Circle. The weather was partly cloudy with even some hints of sunlight, and we even saw another car pass us from the other direction. The rugged scenery was stunning, and it soon became apparent that this mysterious road seemed to be leading towards the glacier highlands in the northern horizon. Still, what could possibly go wrong??!

We got our first answer after only about 3-4 miles or so when the paved road abruptly ended and became a dirt road with numerous potholes. It was only at this point that I realized exactly why the GPS had not even shown this route and the potential challenges that lay ahead (HINT: if in doubt, trust your GPS!!!). I had plenty of gas so I could still turn around, take the 20 min or so hit on wasted time, and still make it to Husafell, anxiety-free. But no. I am a stubborn man who loves following his gut - sometimes over reason - and I felt a certain ego and pride as a superior driver who could handle any road conditions I encountered, being from New England. So I went on, vowing to drive the rest of the way much more carefully at about half speed (15-20 mph).

As the sun dipped towards sunset, the elevation rose, the road conditions deteriorated, and the highlands glacier got nearer. At this point, I took my first picture of the landscape to my left (attached) and became aware of just how desolate this place was: no trees, no green, no more vehicles, no communication towers or lines. Just strewn rocks along the mountainside on the left, with the glacier getting closer on the right. The vehicle thermometer showed that the temperature was steadily dropping, and it soon reached freezing. Looking around, I couldn’t help but admire this raw, rugged landscape. It resembled something from the Wastelands of the North in the Chronicles of Narnia, from my childhood. Or north of the Wall from the more recent Game of Thrones. Or a video clip from the Rover on Mars. Or the moon.

We climbed above the clouds as darkness set in, and then it started snowing - first lightly, but then heavily as we climbed further up the pass. At this point, I took another photo (attached). I also realized that it was time to slow down some more and REALLY keep my eyes on the increasingly indiscernible road bc the potholes were no longer the biggest problem; there was a very real chance now of getting the tires stuck in deeper snow if I didn’t accelerate the vehicle enough on the climb…or to skid off the ridge if I drove too recklessly.

At this point, the journey had clearly turned to a matter of life and death with regards to driver error, so I couldn’t even enjoy the scenery anymore. My significant other managed to somehow get a signal and call Hotel Husafell to tell them what was happening and to send help in case we didn’t make it within the hour (the operator’s initial reply to the call was, “Can you turn around?” and when we replied no bc we were too far along and on the ridge line, about 10 miles away, she simply told us to be extremely careful the rest of the way). The good news, however, was that I soon realized that we weren’t climbing anymore and that we had reached the peak of the pass. It wasn’t snowing quite as hard anymore, and I had gotten more confident with driving in this snowy terrain by the time the descent began. Once that descent towards Husafell started, I relaxed a bit and took in the glacier scenery again to my right, through the night, clouds, and snow. It was just a matter of time before we made it to the paved road again at Husafell. It was about 2 hours and 25 miles later, and we had not seen a single vehicle on the road the entire time since that first car at the very start of it!

At the hotel, we were told by the front office just how dangerous that road was and that even the locals generally avoided that route. The next day, when we took the Into the Glacier tour from Husafell via a proper glacier truck that was equipped for these conditions, we were able to really enjoy this route, anxiety-free. On a blue sky, sunny day…both sides of the valley were just beautiful: Mars-like desolate, rocky terrain on one side (3rd photo attached) and snow-filled glacier on the other. We eventually took a side road towards the glacier, but not before our driver told us how he had been called the previous evening to rescue a bus full of passengers that had become stranded after it had skidded off road and almost off the ridge line to what would have been a catastrophic end. He also mentioned that he was regularly called in to rescue stranded passenger vehicles along the route that had skidded off-road or suffered flat tires after hitting a pothole too hard. I felt like we had truly survived and dodged a bullet!
Written 7 December 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Pras499
Cincinnati, OH498 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2018 • Family
Make sure you have enough gas and wifi. Not going to lie, thought twice about the trek with our little girls but drove through and liked it.
Written 31 July 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

fisici-mi
Milan, Italy271 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2018 • Friends
Amazing track between Húsafell and Thingvellir passing just in front of the Langjojkull and other minor glaciers.
The views are impressive with ice on your left hand side and lunar rocky landscapes on the right hand side.
The 40 kms track is rather easy, with no river crossings. In summer it can be done even without a 4WD (I think).
Apart from the glaciers this is the only place I have seen in Iceland where it is possible to drive several kilometres without seeing rivers or lakes or vegetation.
In my opinion a must do
Written 22 August 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

rometrips
154 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2018 • Family
The Kaldidalur valley is one of the three old highland routes taken by the northern people to join the meetings at Thingvellir. As the road is quite accessible the call it the highland route for beginners. It is a drive of about 30km which takes an hour or so. The landscape is overwhelming. Sometimes moon-like, sometimes dominated by the glacier you ride past.The slow driving forces you to take in the harshness of old day Iceland and what people had to endure. When crossing the 52/F338 it goes further as 550 and asphalt. Step out and set foot on one of the snow tongues you drive past. Easy in a 4wd. On our day and in our weather a 2wd would have made it esily even though i think it not allowed officially. Enjoy.
Written 27 July 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Barbara S
293 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2017 • Friends
Stunning countryside in the winter with brown earth & grass contrasting with the stark white snow & volcanic rock / put it on your long list of Iceland ‘must do’s’
Written 12 February 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

edeet7
Larchmont, NY60 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2015
We drove route F550 on a very windy, foggy and rainy afternoon. This was one of the more exhilarating 4X4 drives we experienced in Iceland. Due to the fog and rain we could only concentrate on the very rough wet narrow road close ahead, see the out temperate gage in the car drop with every mile we pass. We had to imagine where the the skies start, whether we see a rive, ice or a cloud near us below the road - it was scary and thrilling!
To keep our spirits up midway a magnificent 180 degree rainbow followed us to the end of the route.
It was a drive to remember!
Written 7 September 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

beachqueen2225
sarasota157 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2015 • Family
We set our GPS at Thingvellir to Husafell as a destination and made the mistake of trusting it. The route began as a normal paved road. When it turned to gravel we assumed it was a temporary short stretch such as we had encountered near Geysir on another day.
But the gravel road continued, and included some grades of 10% and 12 %. Eventually it turned to a dirt road and we hardly saw another car. It was pretty scary and yet the scenery of mountains and glaciers was very striking. I would rate this road as 5 for scenery and 1 or less for road condition.
When we got to our rental house that evening and had wi -fi access we discovered that there can be sandstorms along route 550 and other hazards. Some maps show it as 4 wheel drive, others show a dotted line, and some have a line like normal roads with no indication that it is not paved.
Written 23 August 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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