Sad to be leaving but looking forward to our bed! A little bit of stress as the plane was out of headphones we wanted to buy to watch Fortitude, but we managed to get the kids’ packs which had some shitty ones in them too. Also a colouring book and stickers – bingo! London grey and not so warm, missing Reykjavik already, they have sun all the time.
A nice leisurely day in Reykjavik. Beautiful sunny warm weather, we started in Iest’s pick of Reykjavik’s hipster coffee place (Reykjavik Roasters), onto the most famous Reykjavik church Hallgrímskirkja (which is actually quite ugly and in your face), 3D topo map of Iceland in the rathaus (great), and anything in between.
Loads of sketching too. Lunch at Kafi Brennslan, dinner at our fave 2for1 Bergsson Mathús in the sun by the pond.
Afterwards we met with Iest’s animator friend at the local local for locals – Bar 7 – gritty and fun. Awesome final day of our trip!
We checked out Stykkishólmur in the morning, probably the first town we see in Iceland with nice ‘scandi-style’ architecture. If Stykkishólmur can, why can’t the others? Nevertheless, not much to do, so we set out on our journey back to Reykjavik. As we had some time, we decided to take in Þingvellir on the way, the only point of the ‘golden circle’, which we hadn’t seen yet. Þingvellir is a site of immense historical importance to Iceland, as well as geographical, it being the meeting place of the Northamerican and Eurasian tectonic plates. Despite that, it is kinda boring on the face of it, and most of the time I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be looking at. Nevertheless, check!
From there we went straight to Reykjavik to return our car, and back to our campsite. We then walked to town to check out the main sights, it was a beautiful sunny day, and the wind finally quieted down. Delish lunch by the Tjörnin, but not quite sure there is much left for us to do in town tomorrow…
Sleep in we did, which was nice, and then we rolled in to the camp reception to get ourselves a car for a day. It more or less worked out (they were a bit late on the delivery but also gave us a much bigger car than we paid for), and soon we were zooming up north from Reykjavik onto the Snæfellsnes peninsula. A stupid stop in Borgarnes, of which our guide says it has a nice small-town vibe (it had nothing of that sort), and then a beautiful drive along the southern coast of the peninsula. We did a nice coastal walk between Hellnar and Arnarstapi (and back, that’s what happens when you need to get back to a car). Which was really scenic, plus we saw some new birds too.
Then we continued around the peninsula, taking in nice views in the strong winds. Stopped by the famous Kirkjufell mountain and its waterfalls, although in quite uninspiring light conditions.
We checked out camping spots in Hellissandur and Grundarfjöður on the way but didn’t really like them, so we ended up driving all the way to Stykkishólmur. Where we got at about midnight.
We woke up into a super strong wind, shaking up the tent. Despite that the weather was still plenty nice and sunny, if a bit hazy.
We set out on our puffin-hunting, along the western shore of the island to the south. Even after walking the five or so kms along the coast we still didn’t see any (although we saw a number of other birds), and the wind was really pretty gusty. (We later learned that this is, indeed, the windiest spot in Europe.)
When we reached the southernmost peninsula, we were almost losing hope for puffins. We climbed up the hill to the bird-watching hut – and there they were! In their hundreds along the cliffs and on the sea, some bravely trying to fly in the strong wind, their little orange beaks and feets flapping along. It was really pretty awesome.
When we had enough, we went back to the road and decided to try to thumb to town to spare us another hour in the gusts despite the fact that there was very little traffic at this place. We were super lucky though and got a ride immediately with a nice French couple before we even really started hitching.
Back in town we got ourselves a Panini lunch and headed to the last unexplored spot on the island – the aquarium. The place was fairly small but full of wonders – huge amounts of stuffed birds and animals and fishes, and also tanks with live fishes and other water creatures. It also had boxes with little gull chicks, nursing them after they’ve fallen out from nests, until they’re strong enough to survive. On top of all that, there was one guillemot walking casually around; aaand and one local puffin who’s just living there since four years, and I got to hold him! Excellent visit.
Afterwards we bought some skyrs and went to pack up before heading out for the boat.
We said a sad goodbye to the island, and zoomed over to the mainland seamlessly connected with a bus to Reykjavik. We arrived at the campsite at about half ten, pitched the tent in the strong wind (still here as well!), and went to make a dinner in the nice warm common kitchen. Decided we wanted to sleep in a little bit tomorrow, so no getting up crazy hours to catch a bus to Borgarnes, we’ll see about renting a car for the trip.
Beautiful sunny morning, probably the sunniest yet – not a cloud in the sky. We started by walking up the cliff of Herjólfdalur right above our campsite, to the peak of Blátindur for epic views of the whole island and many nesting seagulls. The rugged cliffs and the beautiful sea made for a magnificent setting, together with the other Vestmannaeyjar islands scattered around. We walked over the whole ridge of the crater, saw one solitary puffin too, and walked down on the other side to town.
We made our way through town to Skansinn, a 15th century fort built to defend the harbour, and a reconstructed medieval wooden stave church. From there we headed over to Eldheimar, a new a beautifully designed museum of the 1973 volcanic eruption, which altered the island forever and buried over 400 houses under lava. There is also a whole section on Surtsey in the museum, a neighbouring volcanic island and its ecology. Everything was super interesting and amazingly presented. From the museum we went up the culprit volcano crater for another set of splendid views.
By now we were getting quite hungry, and headed back to town for our carefully chosen treat of the trip – Slippurinn restaurant located in a beautifully remodelled old machine workshop (hipster’s dream!), and serving fine Icelandic cuisine. I had creamy lobster soup for starters, fish of the day (ling) with celeriac purée, mustard and pickled onions plus mashed potatoes with smoked buttermilk sweet onions and crispy rye bread on the side, while Iest had cured lamb with cheese, truffle oil and salad as a starter, with the same main, and skyr and sorrel sorbet to top it all up. It was all very lovely, and beautifully complemented by the finest beer from Akureyri. We really did not want to walk back to camp but finally we managed, and slept like babies.
Still sunny – unreal. We picked a nice little walk to Valahnúkur viewpoint, from where we had some spectacular views over the whole valley and onto all three surrounding glaciers. Then we had a nice filling lunch while waiting for a bus to take us out of there, as we’ve had enough mountain beauty for now.
By the time the bus was going, there were some heavy black clouds coming in from the mountains, so just as well that we were going. We took the bus only to Hvolsvöllur, which is not even a village, just a cross-roads type of place (groeslon if you will), and there we waited for another bus to take us to the ferry in Landeyjahöfn. We bought some sandwiched for the wait so the times were good. The bus came more or less on time and soon we were buying ferry tickets too. Everything worked out pretty seamlessly. The ferry ride was short and sweet with calm seas and setting sun (ish of course, it does not do it here). Heimaey welcomed us with some epic clifs and the screams of thousands birds. We found our way to a nice small campsite in a volcano crater, Iest did some washing and we called it a day.
Sunny again, getting a bit boring. Leisurely start to the day, we were once again in no hurry for the rest of the hike. After a hearty breakfast we picked ourselves up and set out along the glacier towards our destination. The final day was quite lazy, nicely rolling 16 kms with some epic views all around. Soon enough, we saw the massive delta of the Krossá river, by which Þórsmörk was to be hiding. Final descent to the lush valley of alpine-like meadows, and we landed in Húsadalur, our chosen camp. We learned from the woman at check-in that on Saturday the yearly Laugavegur ultra marathon is taking place, during which runners do the same route that just took us three days (~55 kms), in 4-5 hours. Way to make us feel like total losers. We did not let that discourage us though, and pitched our tent by the local hot pot/ sauna, and then took one of the best showers of this trip. We topped that up with a lunch of amazing creamy seafood soup with delish bread, coffee, cake and wifi, and we felt pretty good about ourselves again.
SUNNY! We woke up into glorious blazing sun, which was just amazing. We pulled our stuff out of the tent to air out and dry while making a delicious porridge in the sun. we were in no rush as we didn’t intend to do another double day, so there was only some mild 15 kms ahead of us for the day. It was a nice a pleasant walk indeed, with two or three river crossings, which we didn’t mind because – the sun!
There were some beautiful glacier and mountain views but otherwise it was quite uneventful, and we were in Emstrur by 3pm. There were not many camping spots by the hut, so we were lucky to have one of the first picks, and well we picked. By the night the place really filled up. After a good meal (our speciality – ramen noodles in cup soups) we did a nice side walk to the nearby Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon, which really turned out to be more spectacular that the small unpretentious sign pointing to it would suggest. Afterwards we did a bit of sketching and had an early night while the sun was still high up.
The weather wasn’t much to write home about in the morning but at least it was not raining as it rained throughout the night. We packed our wet stuff and set out on the first day of the Laugavegur.
It started nicely up the mountains, with a lot of steaming geothermal fileds along the way. As we picked up altitude the snowfields were becoming larger and visibility lower. After ascending some 500 meters in altitude and crossing the pass between Söðull and Hrafntinnusker mountains in dense fog, we finally reached the Hrafntinnusker hut, where we planned to camp for the night. But it was still quite early in the day (about 2pm), and the conditions were not great – fully under snow and very little visibility – so we decided to push through and do the hike planned for tomorrow already today, to get to more hospitable places. From the hut we still had to cross a large plateau covered in snow before we started to descend and lose altitude quite quickly. Soon we got under the clouds again, and things started looking up, although it was still a fairly long way to the next hut. The next hut/camp at Álftavatn had a great location by the lake, and by the time we got there we even got to see some sun in the cracks between the clouds. We were quite knackered after a long double day, so we dined quickly and went straight to bed.