Dates: July 10th to July 22nd
Main Language of Country: Icelandic (although everyone speaks very good English)
Capital City of Country: Reykjavik
Transportation Used: Rental Vehicle, Bus
Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK’s or kr)
Accommodation: Tenting (Wild Camping and Designated Campgrounds)
Number of Photos Taken: 4279
Favorite Place: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Average Cost of a Night per Person: 1000 ISK to 1500 ISK in Campgrounds (free otherwise)
Important Things to Pack: Rain Jacket (and pants if possible), Lens Wipes (for waterfall mist), Backpack Rain Cover
My Best Tips:
- You can arrange to rent a portable wifi hotspot that allows you to have wifi about 80% to 90% of places throughout Iceland. Rental prices vary but it is about 1000 ISK to 2000ISK per day.
- Download the maps.me app and the Iceland map to your phone or other device. This map shows you lots of different waterfalls, volcanoes, caves entrances, supermarkets, and campgrounds.
Iceland is often referred to as the land of ice and fire. Not only is that description very true, it also makes it sound like a place from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. Of course it would have to be the place where the final battle is fought or where the evil enemy lives with a name like that.
If it was up to me though, I would add a couple of things to that description though because I think it should be “the land of ice, fire, gigantic waterfalls, and the-most-unique-landscapes-you’ve-ever-seen.” I guess it takes a bit longer to say, but it’s far more accurate.
Iceland is like nowhere that I’ve ever been, and it’s hard to describe a place that is so varied in its landscape, weather, and features. Just like how the weather changes drastically from place to place, the landscape also always seem to take you by surprise. In a single day, it’s easy to drive by lush green hills and cliffs with massive waterfalls around every corner, to flat, desolate and moss-covered lava fields, to black sand beaches, and you may even see some glaciers as well. The landscape quite literally changes around every corner and bend and it’s not often that you see something that isn’t completely unique and different from anything else that you’ve seen before.
As a photographer, this diversity makes it an incredible place to visit and it makes it’s nearly impossible not to find something to take a picture of.
There are a lot of places that I still have yet to travel to in the world, but even so, I can easily say that Iceland is by far one of my favorite places to travel. It’s one of the few places that I’ve travelled that seems to want to pull you back the moment that you leave. There are endless opportunities for exploration in Iceland and it’s definitely a place that I would like to return to again and again.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula: (July 10 – 12)
I travelled to Iceland with my friend Ryan. We had to take different flights from Canada to Iceland as he was travelling home after the trip, while I was continuing on to the Faroe Islands afterward. We met up at the Keflavik airport on the morning of July 10th and got set up with our car rental.
TIP: We rented a Suzuki Jimmy 4WD from company called Iceland Car Rental. While we were planning the trip we weren’t sure if we needed to spend the extra money to get a four-wheel-drive vehicle but it was absolutely worth it as it allowed us to travel on some roads that we wouldn’t have been comfortable doing otherwise. The rental cost ended up being around 190,000 ISK which was roughly 2,100 CAD at the time.
Our planning for the trip was fairly minimal and we didn’t have a set itinerary that we had to meet. We both had a few ideas of places that we wanted to check out, but for the most part, we left the trip completely open for exploration. In a country like Iceland, the best plan is having no plan as it leaves you completely free to explore where you want and when you want and you can make decisions on-the-go based on the weather and what looks interesting.
With that, we decided to first head West to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We were both tired from missing a night of sleep from the long overnight flights, so along the way we had to take lots of breaks at waterfalls as excuses for not falling asleep while driving.
We spent a couple of days on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and spent the first night camped above a town called Ólafsvík, and the second night we stayed at the campground in Grundarfjörður.
TIP: We stayed in tents for our entire trip to Iceland. As free camping is allowed in Iceland, we would often find a quiet place off of the main roads and set up our tents for the night. There are also designated camping areas in many towns (which are usually 1000kr to 1500kr per night) that are great for showering, filling water, and bathrooms. Some even had full cooking facilities, and they always guaranteed you a flat place to pitch your tent if you were coming into a new place late at night. Because of this, we used both free camping as well as designated campgrounds.
There is a lot to see in this area and we were only able to explore a small portion of it, but some of our favorite places were:
Canyon Above Ólafsvík:
On our first day in Iceland we drove out to the area around Ólafsvík. We were looking for somewhere that we could put up our tents for the night and decided to drive up the road F570. About 2 or 3 kms up the road we saw a canyon to our left heading away from the road. We decided to park the vehicle and check it out.
It ended up having a few waterfalls that you couldn’t see from the road and we set our tents up above the canyon and stayed the night. In the morning we explored the canyon some more and took some pictures of the falls. It wasn’t a bad introduction to the country and was a really cool place that we were lucky to stumble upon.
Kirkjufellsfoss is just outside of the town of Grundarfjörður and is a waterfall that you often see in photos from Iceland. It’s easy to see why, however, as the mountain in the background (Kirkjufell) makes a great background.
It’s also very near the road which means that a lot of people visit every day. If you want a picture without any people in it, you’ll have to be prepared to be a little bit patient.
Besides the waterfall itself, make sure that you walk to the opposite side of the lake that the waterfall flows into, as you can get a great view of Kirkjufell reflecting off of the waters. In fact, there is a lot to explore in this area beside the waterfall itself and you can get lots of different views of Kirkjufell that can make great photos.
We checked out Kirkjufellsfoss on our second day in Iceland when we stayed one night in Grundarfjörður. We stopped quickly when we were driving through in the afternoon and then returned again for the sunset. This was the only day during the entire trip that the skies were clear enough to get a colourful sunset.
In July the sun doesn’t set until about 11:30 so it felt very weird taking sunset pictures near midnight. The best part about the sunsets in Iceland though, is that they seem to last forever. In fact, the colour from the sunset will stay in the sky all of the way until sunrise around 3:00AM. So it’s like an endless sunset that blends right into the sunrise.
Grundarfoss is another waterfall near Grundarfjörður and is on the opposite side of town from Kirkjufellsfoss. It takes a bit more to walk to (about 20 minutes), but because of this it seemed like it was far less visited as no one was there when we went there. The waterfall itself is great, and then you also get a really good view back down the valley. We were there in the late evening when the light was low and soft and the details in the mountains and hills were awesome.
Lava Fields near Bjarnarhöfn:
When we were leaving Grundarfjörður after staying the night and driving east along the Peninsula, we drove over a small hill and the landscape suddenly changed. Rather than the green grasses and smooth hills, all of a sudden it became a large lava field with colourful cone-shaped hills and volcanoes. The lava field is covered in a faded-green moss and when you walk on it, it feels like you’re walking on couch cushions because it’s so thick and soft. It never ceased to amaze us how fast the landscape changed and how varied everything looked from place to place, and this was just one example of that.
Stykkishólmur is a small fishing village on a finger of land sticking out North from the Snæfellsnes peninsula. There is a small harbour, colourful houses, and some cliffs to explore. From here, you can also take a ferry over to the West Fjords. Unfortunately we decided that we didn’t have time to include the West Fjords on this trip, but this ferry might be an option for exploring that area if you have enough time.
Gullborgarhellar (Volcano along highway 55):
After Stykkishólmur we drove south along highway 55 to complete our circle around Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Along the way we spotted a small trail that headed toward a volcano off in the distance. Neither of us had been near a volcano before so we decided to check it out. The trail heads through the lava field and you can climb up onto the rim of the volcano and look inside the crater. All of the different colours and shapes of the rock makes it interesting and you can find lots of collapsed lava tubes along the base of the volcano and throughout the lava field as well.
With only two days on Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we definitely left a lot unexplored, but it was one of my favorite areas and I’d definitely return there on future trips to Iceland.
Glymur: (July 12 – 13)
After the Snæfellsnes Peninsula we headed back toward Reykjavik and stopped near the waterfall called Glymur. We arrived late and, as you aren’t allowed to free-camp near Glymur, we camped in a nearby valley along the small road 4891 at the base of a small waterfall. The next morning we woke up early and headed for Glymur.
They say that, at 198 metres, Glymur is the second highest waterfall in Iceland and it’s very unique because it drops into a large steep canyon. There is a trail up each side of the canyon, so you can walk up one side, cross the creek at the top, and the walk down the other side. There are also a few other hikes that you can do in this area if you have the time.
You can also walk up the canyon itself from the bottom. It requires some river crossing and wading, but it gives you a totally different perspective. I highly recommend hiking to the top of the falls as well as through the bottom of the canyon as both give you very unique views of the waterfall. Make sure that you give yourself nearly a full morning or afternoon, however, as it does take some time.
If you make it far enough along the bottom of the canyon, you can feel the mist from the waterfall and with all of the birds calling and circling above your head, it’s quite a feeling.
Þingvellir: (July 13 – 14)
After Glymur, we headed across highway 48 to Þingvellir.
TIP: As we moved from place to place, we would stop in some of the larger towns for groceries. We often stopped at the supermarket called Bonus as it had a large yellow sign with a giant pink pig on it that we could spot from anywhere.
This worked well for us and saved us a lot of money compared to eating meals from restaurants or cafes. We had a camp stove with us so we were able to prepare simple meals and we had bought over a few dried meals that we had prepared before the trip which were convenient.
Þingvellir, or Thingvellir, is a national park that is unique because of the large rift valley that cuts through its centre. This valley is a made up of vertical cliffs caused by continental drifting. Although we never did this ourselves, you can snorkel or dive in the Thingvallavatn lake between two tectonic plates.
We stayed here one night at the campground and explored a couple of sights in the area:
There is a waterfall called Oxararfoss in Þingvellir that pours over the walls of the rift valley. It can be a bit busy, but it’s definitely worth checking out. There are also other fissures and cracks in the areas that hold pools of standing water that are worth exploring as well.
Þingvellir Parliament Buildings:
Þingvellir is a heritage site and the buildings there once served as the outdoor parliament buildings. You can get free guided tours from the nearby information centre as well if that interests you. We arrived late the night that we checked these buildings out, and there was no one else around which gave it a very eerie and haunted feeling.
Lava Caves (Gjabakkahellir and Tintron):
When we left Þingvellir, we drove along the small road numbered 367. We had a map that marked a few cave entrances along this road and we decided to investigate them.
The cave Gjabakkahellir ended up being a fairly significant lava tube that had an entrance and a separate exit. The lava formations within the cave were like nothing that we had ever seen and it was absolutely incredible. It wasn’t very long, but it is definitely something worth checking out.
The second cave which was nearby, called Tintron on our map, ended up being a vertical cave. Unfortunately we had no ropes or gear to explore the cave, but even seeing the entrance was very cool.
Geysir and Gullfoss: (July 14 – 15)
Our next stop on the trip was near the town of Geysir. It has an obvious name because there is a famous Geysir immediately off of the highway when you drive through town. We never ended up seeing the Geysir, and instead camped at the Skjol campground just outside of the town.
We also spent some time at the waterfall called Gullfoss. This is a major attraction and is a huge and incredibly powerful waterfall. Unfortunately, when we were there the wind was very strong and was blowing the mist from the falls which made getting any pictures near the falls quite difficult.
Although Geysir and Gullfoss are the major attractions in this area, there is a smaller and lesser known waterfall called Bruarfoss that is also nearby.
There isn’t anything powerful or intimidating about Bruarfoss, but it is it’s colour and uniqueness that makes it so incredible. When we were at Bruarfoss, it was pouring rain, but with some rain covers and a lot of wiping of lenses we were able to get some photos.
The vibrant blue colour of the glacial water only shows up in the deeper waters down the center of the waterfall so it creates an effect that doesn’t look real.
F-road 208: (July 15 – 16)
Once we left Gullfoss and Geysir, we wanted to head back towards the south coast of Iceland. Along the way, however, we took a small detour into highway 32 to explore some waterfalls that were shown on our map along that road. Some of our favorites along here were:
When we got to Hjalparfoss it was raining quite heavily, so we didn’t take any pictures here. It’s not far off of the road however, and it definitely worth looking at. The river above the falls splits into two so that the falls are actually made up of two separate water slides the fall into a single falls.
Hekla is an active volcano in Iceland that is predicted to erupt again soon. You can get a good view of it from along highway 32.
Gjáin in Þjórsárdalur Valley:
Gjain is hard to describe but it made me think of it as a waterfall oasis. All of the land around it is fairly flat and not overly spectacular, but this one spot is filled with little waterfalls, walking paths, caves, basalt columns, and deep pools.
It kind of made me think of it as Iceland in miniature. The waterfalls aren’t exceptionally large or unique compared to others in Iceland, but something about it is especially magical.
Haifoss (and Granni):
About a 20 minute drive off of highway 32 on a fairly rough road you’ll find the twin falls of Haifoss and Granni. You can get to a lookout across the valley from the falls. Haifoss drops about 120 metres down and it’s a bit dizzying standing across the valley from it looking down into the valley below. If you can afford the time, definitely put this one on your list to see.
Further down highway 32 it turns into a smaller less travelled road numberer 26. We were interested in checking out a waterfall called Fagrifoss, even though it turned out to be about an hour or two out of our way.
The road 26 takes you through a landscape that slowly curves through a rolling landscape that I can only compare to what I think the moon would look like. We drive for a long time without seeing any other vehicles or signs of life and it began to feel like we were the only ones on the planet. This is a feeling that we seemed to get often in different parts throughout Iceland as it was never hard to get off of the beaten path.
After a while driving on the road we were sure that we weren’t going to find a waterfall anywhere but we soon saw a small makeshift sign and after parking and walking there was a waterfall.
It wasn’t the waterfall that we were expecting to find, however, and it turns out that there are two different waterfalls which both have the name Fagrifoss, so beware of that. Read down below, as later on we found the Fagrifoss that we had been looking for.
Either way, it was a really cool place to explore and ever just the drive and road 26 made it worth the detour.
We had planned to return back down highway 32 the way that we had come so that we could make our way to the south coast again, but after a bit of research we found that there was a four-wheel-drive road (or F-road) that would also take us to the coast and would save us some back-tracking. This road was called F-208.
Driving F-Road 208:
We hadn’t been on any significant F-roads throughout the trip yet and some research told us that there we several creek crossings along F-208. We decided to try it out, however, and were very glad that we did. There were, in fact, about 8 or 10 creek crossings along the entire road, some of which were quite deep, but none of them caused us any issues.
With all of the exploring that we had done earlier in the day since leaving Geysir, we ended up starting down F-208 quite late and it was about 10:30PM when we got underway. It wasn’t a huge concern, however, because of how light the nights are in Iceland throughout July.
F-208 is likely one of the most scenic driving throughout all of Iceland and it takes you through landscapes that are incredibly unique. You drive through valleys and around lakes where the mountains are a neon green or yellow which contrast with the black dirt and the white and grey snow.
This is another place that is very tough to describe but it felt like driving through the middle of something out of a Dr. Seuss book where the mountains and the rivers didn’t seem real. It was strange driving it so late at night as well and the whole thing had a haunted feeling.
The entire road took us about 4 hours to complete and we ended up staying the night at a campsite near Silfurfoss where we arrived around 2:30AM.
South Coast: (July 16 – 19)
After completing F-208, we ended up back on the ring road along the southern coast of Iceland.
There are a ton of attractions along this section of the ring road and it is the most popular place to travel within Iceland. Because of this, it is quite busy and there are a lot of tour busses filling the parking lots. If, like me, you prefer to avoid crowds and busy places, there are lots of lesser known places in this area where you can easily avoid the crowds. You can also try to plan seeing the main attractions early in the morning or late into the evening as they all tend to be significantly less busy during these times.
Either way, the area is popular for a reason and I would say that it has some of the coolest features in Iceland.
You may have seen pictures of Svartifoss as it’s quite a unique waterfall. There is a wall of basalt columns and the waterfall pours right over the top of it into a large pool at the bottom. It tends to be quite popular and there is a large parking lot at the bottom. It’s only about a 20 or 30 minute walk up from the parking lot and there are a couple of smaller falls to look at along the way on the walk up as well.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon:
Right off of the road along the southern coast, is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The lagoon is caused from the Vatnajökull glacier receding over time and carving out a large pool. The pool is filled with water and as parts of the glacier calve off, they form glaciers in the lagoon that slowly float out to the ocean.
The glaciers are a vibrant blue colour and as they slowly melt, the sometime shift around, and break apart, so the scene is always changing and you’ll hear the occasional crash and spash when one breaks apart or flips.
The chunks of ice are anywhere from the size of a suitcase, all of the way to bigger than a bus or even a small house. We spent several hours here one day, and with the way that it’s always changing I feel like you could return again and again and never get bored of it.
Once the glaciers float all of the way out to the ocean, they melt and then get washed up along the beach. You can walk along these beaches and see all of the chunks of clear or blue ice that continually get tossed around in the tides like gigantic ice cubes. They make a really stark contrast against the black sand beaches and it all makes yet another thing that seems to be a unique sight in Iceland.
Fjadrarglufur is a canyon near the town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur (try saying that one 10 times fast). It’s just off of the main ring road and you can walk up along the edge of the canyon for a view downwards, or you can walk right up the centre of it from down below but it requires a bit of wading across sections of the creek.
In the same area as Fjadrarglufur Canyon, there is the road F206 which takes you to Fagrifoss. If you remember from reading above, we tried to find Fagrifoss several days before, but ended up going to a different waterfall with the same name. This time, however, we found the one that matched the pictures that we had seen.
It’s a bit of a drive and there are 2 or three creek crossings along the way, but it’s fairly accessible and the waterfall is a small walk off of the road. There is a big viewing platform beside the falls where you can get a good view.
Further up the road F206 is the volcano Laki. We didn’t go far enough to see the volcano but if you have time it might be worth checking out.
Even though it is quite small, Vik is one of the major towns along the southern coast of Iceland. It is quite well-known for it’s black sand beaches. Particularly the beach that is southwest of town that you can access along road 215.
The beach has basalt columns and a shallow cave called Halsanefshellir at one end and two black pillars rising out of the water at the other end.
There is also the Dyrholaey lighthouse nearby and there is a road all of the way to the lighthouse that you can access by driving a little bit further down the ring road. From the lighthouse you can get great views of the surrounding area.
If you have the time, Vik is a great place to explore. Like a lot of the places along the ring road in the part of Iceland, it can be quite busy but if you arrive early in the morning, or later at night you can miss a lot of the crowds.
Also in this area near Vik is a the wreckage from a DC-3 plane that crashed. We didn’t stop here to look at it, but if this interests you at all, you can find it just east of Vik.
One of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland would have to be Skogafoss. It’s visible from the ring road and on a typical day, the parking lot will be filled with tour busses and crowds of people. If you want to see it without all of the crowds you are best to arrive very early or late in the day when the tours have subsided.
You can walk to the base of it and feel the thick mist from the waterfall as it swirls with the wind, or you can walk up to the top of the falls.
This is also end point for the 25 km trail from Thorsmork to Skogar (called the Fimmvörðuháls trail).
Very near Skogafoss is actually another waterfall called Kvernufoss. With all of the people and crowds around Skogafoss, you would expect Kvernufoss to be busy as well, but there was hardly anyone else there when we arrived. The waterfall is at the end of a narrow green valley and you can walk all of the way around the back side of the waterfall for a totally different perspective.
Sticafoss is a waterfall that is a little bit more off of the beaten path. It’s a little ways down the road F-249 towards Thorsmork and there are several creek crossings along the way. Once you have driven as far as you can go, there is a small hike up to the waterfall, but it is more than worth it.
It’s in a lush green valley with gigantic moss covered boulders. You can walk around behind the waterfall into a fairly large, but shallow, cave. The evening that we hiked up to Sticafoss we took our camp stove and ended up having supper beside the waterfall. Without a doubt, it is one of the most memorable suppers that I can remember and I can still taste the pasta, sausage, and garlic tomato sauce. Well, actually the food wasn’t very memorable at all, but the setting itself is hard to forget.
After supper the sun began to set and the whole valley seemed to glow with a warm soft light. Even though it was only 20 minutes from the ring road and several other busy waterfalls, we had the entire place to ourselves. Just like many other times throughout our time in Iceland, it was one of those moments that felt like we were the only people on this strange, exotic, and unexplored planet.
Gljufrabui is a small waterfall near the very popular waterfall called Seljalandsfoss. It’s different from most in that the falls drop into a very steep and narrow valley that feels like you’re at the bottom of an elevator shaft with water pouring from the top. You can walk along the edge of the creek and stand at the bottom of the shaft but it’s quite difficult to take any photos because the mist fills up the bottom and swirls around in the wind.
Seljalandsfoss is a popular waterfall just minutes from the ring road that is unique because you can walk around to the back of the waterfall and take pictures from behind.
We were lucky to be driving by when there was a great sunset, so we stopped and took our share of pictures. We were shoulder-to-shoulder with other photographers with the same idea as us, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to get the photos that you want in these popular spots.
After working our way along the southern coast of Iceland back towards Reykjavik, one of our final stops was in the town of Hella. This is where we based for the multi-day hike that we did along the Laugarvegur trail.
The Laugarvegur Trail – Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk: (July 19 – 20)
The Laugarvegur trail is one of the most popular hikes in Iceland and it takes you from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk in a total distance of roughly 53 kms. The hike is set up to be completed over the span of 4 days and 3 nights.
A rough summary of each leg of the hike is:
- Leg 1: Roughly 12 kms and gradually climbing 470m from Landmannalaugar to the first hut.
- Leg 2: Roughly 12 kms and gradually descending 490m to the second hut.
- Leg 3: Roughly 16 kms and mostly flat with only about 40m descent to the third hut.
- Leg 4: Roughly 13 kms and gradually descending 300m to Þórsmörk.
We left our vehicle at the campsite in Hella and caught the bus out to Landmannalaugar where we arrived at 12:30PM on July 19th.
TIP: There are two bus routes running to and from Reykjavik and Landmannalaugar and to and from Reykjavik and Þórsmörk. The first intersection of these two routes is in Hella which makes it a great place to bus to and from if you are planning to do this hike and aren’t based in Reykjavik. Bus tickets from Hella to Landmannalaugar and from Þórsmörk to Hella each cost about 6000 ISK.
When we arrived at Landmannalaugar in the afternoon, the weather was fairly clear with small rain showers from time to time. As we began to climb higher, however, we got into a very thick fog. We kept expecting the trail to descend and drop out of the fog, but that didn’t happen for a very long time.
TIP: Navigation along the trail is fairly straightforward and the entire route is marked with stakes. This is especially helpful in foggy sections as it’s hard to navigate and you are often forced to rely solely on the stakes. There was only one or two times that we found our GPS (on our phones using the maps.me app) helpful in finding the right way.
We reached the first hut several hours after starting out on the hike, so we had a quick meal and filled up our waters and continued on. We were still in a thick and damp fog so we were hoping that further along the trail we would drop below the fog.
This didn’t happen until just before we reached the second hut. The second hut was located on the shores of a fairly large lake and had lots of room for tents. We considered staying here for the night and completing the rest of the hike the next day. It was still raining and the clouds seemed to be dropping even further, however, so we decided to push on.
TIP: You can stay in huts or in designated camping spots along the trail. The huts are very popular and have limited space so you have to book in advance. Camping is only allowed in the designated spots beside the huts along the way, but there is always room and this is your best bet if you don’t have a hut reservation.
We were both feeling quite good after having completed the first 24 kms of the hike, and we were hoping that we could keep up our pace for the third leg of the hike. This leg had two different creek crossings on it which require that you take off your shoes and wade across. Be prepared for this as the water is glacial and can be quite deep and quick moving and is shockingly cold. If nothing else, however, it seems to breathe new life into your tired feet when they emerge numb on the other side.
By the end of our first day, we had hiked about 40kms in 9 and a half hours. Unfortunately, with the weather and the fog we didn’t get to enjoy the hike nearly as much as we had planned and we ended up completing it as fast as we could to get out of the bad weather.
When we finally arrived at the third hut where we spent the night, we set up our tents on a small hill of black, volcanic dust. During the night, however, a storm blew in and a very strong wind picked up out of nowhere. I wasn’t confident that my tent pegs would hold in the soft ground, so I slept restlessly for a few hours and kept waking up to check on my tent.
It was a few hours into the storm that I began to realize that the storm was blowing dust and sand underneath my tent and covering everything, including my backpack, camera, clothes, and sleeping bag. The wind was blowing sand into my eyes and mouth and leaving a layer of sand everywhere.
I eventually got tired of the wind and called out to Ryan who was also awake in his tent. We decided to pack up and get back on the trail. At this point, we had only had 3 or 4 hours of sleep and it wasn’t quite the rest that we were looking forward to after the long day of hiking the day before.
We only had about 13 kms to complete the trail back to Þórsmörk, however, so we took our time and it seemed to go on for an eternity. There was one point about 5 or 6 kms into the day when our heads began to nod as we were both starting to fall asleep while walking. We were both exhausted and had to take a quick nap in a grassy field before continuing on.
When we finally arrived in Þórsmörk it was a great feeling to have completed the hike, although we were both disappointed that our views were so limited by the bad weather.
When everything was completed, we completed the 4 day hike in less than 24 hours and did 40 kms the first day, and 13 kms the second day.
TIP: If you are considering doing this trail, I would recommend that you plan to do the hike in either 2 or 3 days. You can very easily skip the first hut and carry on to the second. It is probably wise to stay the night at the second hut and either complete the remainder of the hike in one last day, or over the span of two days. This would give you plenty of time to look around and even explore some of the side trails that would be great to do if the weather allows.
All in all, the Laugavegur takes you through so amazing terrain and in good weather it would be we worth the hike. If you’re not quite up to taking on a long trail or if you’re short on time, you can always just check out Landmannalaugar itself. There are lots of day hikes in that area and it is a must-see destination with the unique geothermal springs and hot pools and the multicoloured hills. I promise that it will be like nothing that you’ve seen before and it’s yet another place in Iceland that makes you feel like you’re walking through a strange place on some far-away planet.
Reykjavik: (July 20 – 22)
After completing the Laugavegur trail a day earlier than we had expected, we had an entire extra day to spend doing something else. We were nearing the end of our trip and had to make our way back to Reykjavik to catch our flights out of the country. Because of this, we slowly made our way up the coast and stopped at several caves and explored some back roads along the way.
Some of the caves just south of Reykjavik, such as Raufarholshellir, Buri, and Arnarker, were quite interesting. Unfortunately, the cave entrance for Buri has a hatch across the entrance that is locked, although it looks to be a very interesting cave to explore.
Once we arrived in the city of Reykjavik we found a campground near the airport. It was strange being in the busy city after spending the last two weeks exploring the vast open landscape in what often felt like complete isolation from the rest of the world.
On the morning of the 22nd, we spent a bit of time in the city seeing the sights before I caught my flight over to the Faroe Islands for the next leg of my journey.
Even though I was quite exhausted after our whirlwind trip around Iceland, it was still very tough to leave. I know that we left a lot unexplored in the country, but I think that this will always be the case in a country like Iceland because there is so much diversity in the landscapes and the sights. Once you think you’ve seen everything that Iceland has to offer, you drive around one corner and the landscape will quickly change to something that is totally unique and like nothing else that you’ve seen.
One part of Iceland that we didn’t spend much time delving into, was the food and culture. Throughout the trip we were mostly by ourselves and typically ate from supermarkets and grocery stores which only gave us brief encounters with both the local people and traditional food.
The contrast, of course, is that by camping in tents and doing lots of walking and hiking we had completely immersed ourselves in the landscapes and weather of the country. We spent nearly every waking moment outdoors and became very engrossed in the natural side of Iceland.
Our choice to camp in tents rather than stay in hostels or other types of accommodation ended being very important for our style of travel. It gave us the freedom and ability to not plan ahead and to travel where we wanted, and when we wanted. Of course, the downside was that we were sometimes at the mercy of the weather and that we had to set-up and take down our camp every day as we moved around. To me, however, it was a small price to pay for the freedom that if afforded. It also made us more aware of our surroundings as we were always watching the weather and there was something special about sleeping outdoors every night that would be lost by sleeping in hostels.
One thing that I forgot to mention above is the vehicles in Iceland. Because of the unique landscapes and the difficult terrain in Iceland, there are a lot of modified Landcruisers and Jeeps that are built to specifically to travel these difficult spots. At times, it feels like you’re in the middle of a scene from Mad Max, and even some of the busses meant to travel off-road have been lifted up and modified.
The last comment that I have, that I’ve already mentioned before, is that it’s always possible to get off of the beaten path and find somewhere that makes you feel like the only one on the planet. Even along the southern coast of Iceland, where the parking lots of waterfalls and other sights are sometimes packed with tour busses, we were always able to get away from the crowds. Sometimes it just took going to some smaller and lesser-known sights and waterfalls that were a bit further from the convenience of the ring road. The small amount of extra effort to get off of the beaten path would always be worth it when you were sitting beside a spectacular waterfall with no one else around you.
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