Sad to be leaving but looking forward to our bed! A little bit of stress as the plane was out of the 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 (thanks Bjarki!) 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…
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.
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.
We had a pretty sweet time posing for the camera up on the Valahnúkur viewpoint – with Eyjafjallajökull behind us.
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 sandwiches 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.
We woke up into a bit of rain and low cloud, and decided to head over to Landmannalaugar today. That meant we had some time for a lazy morning as the bus was not leaving until half 11. By that time the weather cleared up quite nicely, so we dried the tent and soaked up some sun. Our bus driver turned out the same chatty guy from Höfn, which was nice. The route to Landmannalaugar from the east we originally wanted to take was still closed, the summer this year is really late, so we had to go all the way to Hella (with a couple of waterfall stops on the way, who even cares by now; for the second one we didn’t even bother to get out of the bus anymore; and also a stop in rainy Vík’s black sand beach), and switch to an off-road bus to Landmannalaugar from there. Off-road bus it really was, and the road was pretty rough for the last about 60 kms, including a few river crossings. We arrived in Landmannalaugar at about half eight in a slight drizzle. After pitching the tent and making a nice couscous dinner we went to have a look at the local hot springs where a few people were bathing (we’ll do that tomorrow), and then straight to bed.
Decided to finally sleep in, so no alarm, and we woke up about half eight. It had been raining at night quite a bit but in the morning it was all gone, though still a bit of a grey start to the day. After breakfast we set out for our hike for the day, the nice little Skaftafellsheiði loop on the ridge between the two glacier tongues, with nice vistas on both sides. Unfortunately the short but exciting addition on the loop to reach the top of Kristínartindar was still closed at this time, and Iest didn’t let me go there ‘cause he’s just such goodie two shoes. It was a lovely walk nevertheless, and we did some more sketching on the way down. We also saw more exciting birds – what we think was an arctic skua with impressive wing spread, and also a redwing. By the time we were down it was also sunny and quite hot.
We got a couple of nice sandwiches in the café, and decided it was also time for a shower today. Managed to get, write and send postcards too, so overall a very productive day.
This day we wanted to explore the Mývatn area and its main sights. Unfortunately, while not far away, they are still a little bit too much spread out to walk around all of them in a day. There’s a bus making the round trip between 12 and 16:30 or so, but we thought it was quite expensive for what it was, and even more importantly, it would not give us the opportunity to walk around the short trails at the places we wanted to see.
So we decided to try our luck hitching rides for the day, especially since without our big packs we thought we should be ok. We waited on the road out of town to the direction of Hverir where we wanted to go first, and initially didn’t have much luck, because we were only second in line after a couple of hippies with big bags nobody wanted to take. Nevertheless, after about half hour (and increasing our distance from the hobos) we were picked up by a very nice French guy and his mum, who were touring Iceland together – they took us all the way to Hverir parking lot, bingo!
At Hverir, we marvelled at the beauty of yet another sulphur-stinking geothermal areas, as our guide puts it “magical, ochre-toned world of Hverir is a lunar-like landscape of mud cauldrons, steaming vents, radiant mineral deposits and piping fumaroles.” Quite so.
We walked a short circular trail over the nearest ridge, which was a great choice because not only did we discover more steaming fields bur also we got to see the whole area from up top, with amazing views all the way back to lake Mývatn on the other side.
After getting down, we went back on the road and walked over to the turnoff to Krafla, where we got lucky already with the second car going up – a young US couple.
At Krafla, we went first to the Víti explosion crater, which is now filled with turquoise water. From there, we walked over to the Leirhnjúkur lava field, which was created through a series of nine eruptions as recent as the 1970s and 80s – a very impressive trail of blackness and fumes again!
It was beginning to be a bit chilly and we also hadn’t eaten the whole day, so we were ready to have a late lunch and warm ourselves up in the local nature baths – just to get there. But we were lucky again, taken down to the main road by an English guy, and from there in a bit by a nice French family all the way to the baths. We had a light lunch in the café, and then we were ready to jump in. The baths are not huge but two good sized connected pools, the cooler of which with amazing views over the lava fields all the way to Mývatn in the distance.
Needless to say, we stayed mostly in the hotter one, and enjoyed it immensely. The milky steaming waters were supremely relaxing, and the floating heads of other people had an otherworldly beauty to them – the steam worked like a soft focus lens. We stayed soaking for about an hour until we were all wrinkly and then reluctantly left. Despite being all relaxed and soft, we decided to walk back to the lake on a trail, which was nice, and we saw some new lava formations too. Once we hit the main road by the lake we found Daddi’s pizza and treated ourselves in this small but popular spot to a couple of pizzas, which were surely too big but delicious. I went for the house special – with smoked trout and pine nuts – delish! Iest had his fave Icelandic beer too.