Heading southeast from the Þjórsá on the Ringroad, the first thing you’ll notice are disproportionate numbers of four-wheel-drives towing boxes, and a wide, rolling expanse of pasture, positively reeking of horse. This is one of Iceland’s premier horse-breeding areas, with Oddhóll, the country’s biggest stud farm, near the small town of Hella. The countryside between here and the distant slopes of Eyjafjallajökull to the east comprises the plains of the two-pronged Rangá river system, famed for its salmon and the setting for much of the action of Iceland’s great medieval epic, Njál’s Saga.
With the highway towns of Hella or Hvolsvöllur as a base, getting out to a handful of the saga sites is straightforward enough in your own vehicle, even if you do find more in the way of associations rather than concrete remains when you arrive. A more obvious draw is Þórsmörk, a beautifully rugged highland valley only accessible by four-wheel-drive or hiking trails from Landmannalaugar and Skógar; you’re also within striking distance of the ferry to Heimaey in the Westman Islands. Ringroad buses pass through Hella and Hvolsvöllur year-round, as do additional summer services to Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar.