Photo Post

Dettifoss

Iceland is a country that is often defined by superlatives - Home to the world’s northernmost capital, Europe’s largest glacier, most powerful waterfall, one of the world’s leaders in energy efficiency and coincidentally one of the most stable economies and oddly enough Europe’s largest banana plantations.

Among many more.

If you are planning on travelling to Iceland, one thing you’ll quickly realize is that it is also one of the most expensive places in the world to visit.

Even though most of the destinations you’ll want to visit are free of charge - Eating, sleeping and getting around is likely to cost you an arm and a leg.

There are of course ways to save money and travel on a budget while in Iceland, but cost tends to be one of the most important factors that prevents people from visiting, or just limiting their travels to the “Golden Circle” route.

If you’re a good at planning and you have the time and resources to travel (What has become popularly known as) the “Diamond Circle” you’ll discover that the northern portion of Iceland is just as amazing as the rest of the country and if you skipped it like many others have, you will have really missed out.

For most, the most important destination on the northern stretch of the Diamond Circle just so happens to be one of those ‘superlatives’ mentioned above - Europe’s most powerful waterfall.

You may be thinking, “I’ve already seen dozens of waterfalls in Iceland, why would I travel hundreds of kilometres north to see another one?” and I wouldn’t blame you if you asked that.

I started feeling a bit weary of waterfalls after a few days in Iceland.

But, its important that you realize that there are waterfalls, and then there is Dettifoss.

Dettifoss is a force of nature.

Standing next to this waterfall is probably one of the most humbling experiences that you’ll ever experience. The sheer size and power of this waterfall in addition to having the ability to just walk up next to it and see it so close is reason enough to make the long journey north.

Dettifoss

Known to locals simply as “The Beast”, the name Dettifoss actually translates loosely to English as “The Collapsing Waterfall.

I’d submit that its nickname is probably much more fitting.

Dettifoss is 100 meters (330 ft) wide and 45 meters (144 ft) high, making it among Iceland’s largest waterfalls. The more important measurement though (and the defining feature of this waterfall) is that over 500 cubic meters of water plummets over the falls every second creating a cloud of mist that can be seen from miles away.

It also makes for some really beautiful rainbows.

The water comes from the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river and has travelled hundreds of kilometres from its origin at Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier, to get to the falls.

The river, which is Iceland’s second longest at 206km in length then continues to flow north until it meets the Greenland Sea on Iceland’s northern coast.

Another one of the waterfall’s defining features is the odd greyish white-coloured water that flows down the river and gives the falls its distinctive colour. You might look at the photos and think that the water is dirty or polluted but the colour is actually common for glacial rivers as they are carrying volcanic sediment out to sea.

Visitors to Dettifoss are able to enjoy the waterfall from two different vantage points - namely on the West or East side of the river. It is important to note that when you are planning your visit that you will to have to keep in mind which side you want to view the falls from.

If you’ve got time to spare, you could check out the waterfall from both sides, but that will require a few extra hours of driving in order to cross the river canyon.

Whichever side you choose, there are parking lots, hiking trails and public restrooms made available by park authorities making your visit rather simple. It should go without saying that no matter which side you visit, you are going to be able to fully enjoy the waterfall.

There are however Pros-and-Cons for each.

By now you may have noticed that all of my photos were taken on the same side of the falls.

I strategically planned where I would stay the night before we went to Dettifoss so that we could wake up early in the morning and take the long gravel road out to the East Bank.

From my research I felt that the view from the East side not only would allow me to get very close to the falls but would also offer me a better view of nearby Selfoss as well.

The road to the east bank is terrible and if you’re driving a rental car you’re going to have to take it easy so that you don’t cause any damage. Likewise the hike from the parking lot to Dettifoss and further on and can be dangerous, especially during winter.

On the East side, the height of Dettifoss will be much more prevalent than the width and you’ll be able to stand next to the river at the base of the falls.

The view on the western side of the falls is a bit higher than that of the east side, so you’ll be able to better enjoy the width of Dettifoss. The view of Selfoss on this side however isn’t as good and you’ll miss out on some of its beauty on this side.

The road to the parking lot is much better and the hiking trail on the western side is much more well-developed as well as being considerably safer if you’re travelling with children or seniors.

No matter which side you visit, if you are planning on visiting both Dettifoss and Selfoss when you’re there, it is about a 2-2.5km round trip from your car!

Getting There

 

If you are driving directly from Reykjavik, it should take you a little over seven hours to arrive at Dettifoss.

I sincerely hope you aren’t driving directly from the capital just for this waterfall though - That’d make for a really long day and you’d pass by so many other interesting things!

The route you take to the waterfall depends on which side you intend on visiting, but both roads are a simple turn off of Ring Road #1, the highway that circles the country.

East Bank - Road 864 (Hólsfjallavegur)

The road to the East Bank of Dettifoss is a well-developed paved road that is open to the public year round. From the Ring Road it is about a 30km drive to the parking lot.

If you are travelling to the waterfall in the winter months, you’re likely going to be forced to drive this route due to road closures or the type of car you’re driving.

It is possible however that this road will be closed due to weather.

West Bank - Road 862 (Dettifossvegur)

If you like a bit of adventure you’re going to love this road - Road 862 is a simple turn off of the Ring Road and is a bumpy 25km drive to the parking lot.

If you’re driving a 4WD you’ll be able to fly down the road and have a pretty good time.

For everyone else, take it slow and try not to cause damage to your rental car.

The drive from the Ring Road to the parking lot is a flat and rather desolate ride that seems like its never going to end.

There are some resources online that claim that the authorities will close the gate on Road 862 during the winter months while others say that road closures depend on weather conditions. Before you go, make sure to bookmark and regularly check the road conditions and road closures on the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration site which provides you with real-time information on all of the roads around the country.

Link: Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration.  

You’ll find Roads 862 and 864 listed under ‘Northeast Iceland.’

Dettifoss is the highlight of every travellers journey through the northern section of Iceland’s Diamond Circle. It might be a bit of the way and somewhat of a hassle to get to in comparison to most of Iceland’s other destinations but it is highly worth the time and effort it takes to get there. This waterfall is definitely one that you’re not going to want to miss.

Just don’t try to go for a swim. You may end up in Greenland.


Tung Blossoms 2019 (客家桐花祭)

As a long term resident of Taoyuan, I’ve been lucky over the years to have been immersed in pretty much everything that is Hakka culture. Almost everywhere you go around here, you’re able to find amazing cuisine, festivals and museums set up to share and preserve the culture and language of one of Taiwan’s largest ethnic groups.

Of all the Hakka related festivals that take place every year, the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival has grown to be one of my personal favourites. Taking place every April and May, the festival showcases the beautiful Tung Blossom, a Sakura-like blossom which has become synonymous with the Hakka people.

As each year passes, festival organizers do an amazing job of coming up with new and exciting events and activities that attracts people of all walks of life to the mountains throughout the Taoyuan-Hsinchu-Miaoli area and beyond.

I’ve never really needed any these snazzy events to attract my attention - The beautiful Tung Blossoms that turn Taoyuan’s lush green mountainous landscape white in the months leading up to summer have always been more than enough for me and during the two-month period when the blossoms are in bloom, the beauty of the Taoyuan area in particular begins to shine - and I head to the mountains in my free time to take photos and enjoy nature.

Many of the events that are planned it seems are geared toward attracting the older crowd who are more interested in a day-trip where they can combine the blossoms, some entertainment and most importantly some great food. The younger crowds on the other hand have proven to be much easier to attract as they’re all about the Instagram, and what could be more Instagrammable than these beautiful white blossoms?

As it has become somewhat of a yearly tradition of mine to head to the mountains to check out the Tung Blossoms, there are a few locations that have become my go-to destinations for taking photos. One of the problems when taking photos of these blossoms is that unlike the relatively short cherry blossom trees, Tung trees are tall and that makes it difficult to get close to where they’re blooming.

Not everyone has a telephoto lens, so this is why people have come up with clever ways and cute to take photos of the blossoms. If you pay attention to Instagram, you may have noticed people collecting the blossoms that have fallen to the ground and to heart-shaped designs, Tung blossom crowns, or taking cleverly posed photos of the mountain paths where the blossoms have fallen on the ground creating what looks like a layer of snow.

Personally, I prefer taking photos of the blossoms while they’re still on the tree, so the places I visit are often areas that allow me to get close enough to take photos. This year, I decided to visit a location that I’ve never visited before, but has become a photo hotspot, due to the relative youth of the trees and the ability to get close enough to the blossoms to take photos.

On the day I visited, the place was packed with people of all ages taking photos, having picnics and enjoying a Hakka concert and dance performance. I typically stay away from places like this, especially those that have become really popular with Instagram types but on this day, I didn’t really mind. I had a great time taking photos and people-watching.

I was also able to have a good laugh on several occasions as the beautiful young woman featured in some of the photos scolded her boyfriend for taking sub-par photos. One of her comments stuck with me: “The picture you took of me makes me look like a dinosaur!” (你把我拍的跟恐龍一樣).

I can’t imagine how stressful it is being the boyfriend of an aspiring Instagram beauty.

If you’re reading this and are interested in heading to the mountains to take some photos of the Tung Blossoms, I recommend going soon, before you do though, make sure to consult the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival website linked below. The website provides accurate advice on where are the best locations to view the blossoms and their current state.

Tung Blossoms: 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Tung Blossoms (油桐花)

Every year between the months of April and May, forests in many areas of Taiwan turn white thanks to the Tung Blossoms (油桐花) that grow throughout the mountains and hillsides of the country. Often referred to as as "April Snow" or "May Snow" (depending on when they are in full bloom), the arrival of Tung Blossom triggers a considerable amount of domestic tourism with people of all ages making an effort to travel to areas where the trees grow in abundance.

The Tung Tree (油桐樹) is a deciduous tree that grows to a height of about 20 meters. It is endemic to South China and Burma but was brought to Taiwan by the Japanese during the Japanese Colonial Era (1895-1945), and was planted in mountainous areas in north-western Taiwan for its economic uses.

The cultivation of the tree was became most important to the ethnic Hakka people of Taiwan who lived in the areas where the trees were cultivated. The tree brought with it economic benefits as its seeds were instrumental in the production of Tung Oil which was used to make paint, varnish, caulking and wood finish while the timber was used for making everything from furniture to toothpicks.

When the economic benefits of the Tung tree eventually subsided, it took on a new role transforming into a symbol of the Hakka people and the long lasting relationship that they have shared.

While not as popular as Cherry Blossoms, Tung blossoms are loved for their ability to turn hiking trails 'white' with a snowfall effect as the blossoms fall to the ground.

The popularity of Tung Blossoms has skyrocketed in recent years with young people, especially young couples who head to the mountains to have impromptu photoshoots with the blossoms. You’ll often see couples on hiking trails collecting blossoms that have fallen on the ground to arrange into a heart or young men putting the blossoms on a string to make a ‘Tung blossom crown’ for their girlfriends - endless amounts of cuteness, I assure you.

Hakka Tung Blossom Festival (客家桐花祭)

In 2002 the Council for Hakka Affairs started the annual "Hakka Tung Blossom Festival" (客家桐花祭) an annual event which takes places during the two month blooming season as a way to promote and help to preserve Taiwan’s Hakka culture.

The well-organized event attracts large crowds of tourists to Hakka areas of the country, most notably in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli to not only see the blossoms but also to learn about and experience Hakka culture and cuisine. Organizers plan events according to the blooming season offering visitors entertainment and a festive atmosphere at the popular blossom viewing destinations.

I don’t heap praise too often on websites produced by the Taiwanese government, but the website for this festival is arguably one of the most beautiful and interactive spaces on the web. The site offers real-time information on the condition of the Tung Blossoms and the best places to view them by region. Likewise, the website is available in Chinese (Traditional and Simplified) as well as Japanese, Korean and English giving international tourists the opportunity to view the blossoms and experience the culture of one of Taiwan’s largest ethnic groups.

If you are thinking about checking out these beautiful blossoms, click one of the links below!

 Hakka Tung Blossom Festival Website: English | 中文 | 日語 | 조선말