Laugarvatn to Vik
Andy woke up at 2 am and eagerly looked out the window to a dark sky. No northern lights tonight – too bad!
He had trouble falling back asleep so busied himself researching other waterfalls and sights for the next 2 days.
He woke Laurie at 7 am to share his findings and get us moving for the long day ahead.
It was raining steadily as we packed the car but we were ready for all seasons. We wore our bathing suits under hiking pants and our rain pants over them, complemented by waterproof hiking shoes and raincoats. We even had umbrellas but the stiff wind made using them undesirable.
Only in Iceland can one wear bathing suits and rain clothes as part of one outfit!
Our first stop was Geyser – geothermic pools with one (Strokkur) that erupts every 5-10 minutes, spewing sulfuric water and steam 20 meters (66 ft) into the sky.
We walked around, admiring the bubbling pools of 100° celsius water and stretching our legs before a long day in the car.
Iceland is a country of waterfalls. There are too many to see and it is hard deciding which ones to attempt. Google doesn’t indicate between 4 wheel drive and sedan passable dirt roads so some of it was a wait and see adventure.
As we drove to Gullfoss, one of the most popular, scenic and easy to get to waterfalls, we admired as the clouds started to break and more and more glaciers popped into view. A vibrant rainbow appeared making the views even more majestic. We both felt giddy.
After taking a few photos of the amazing rainbow, we redirected our attention to why we were there.
Gullfoss more than lived up to its reputation. It was amazing! The amount of water that cascades through this gorge is insane.
The sun once again peeped its head out shining a nice glow to the water on the upper portion of the falls.
We didn’t stay long as we had so many stops to make on today’s journey.
Next stop was to a place multiple people had mentioned as being one of their favorite places in Iceland – the Hot River.
Although it meant a little back tracking toward Reykjavík and travel into dark clouds we figured it was worth checking out.
After an hour of driving through nonstop rain we pulled up where Google maps had directed us only to find the road blocked by rocks.
Andy did some quick research and found that the area had been closed in the spring for restoration.
Comments mentioned that it had reopened in the summer so we figured we would try our luck. By this time it was pouring. A few other cars pulled in where we had and turned around.
But we had come this far. We set out walking up the road past the rocks accompanied by a local dog. As we turned a corner we saw a bunch of cars parked in the distance.
Given the popularity of the Hot River we figured that was the parking area our backroad was trying to get us to and we were right.
We walked back to the car, sharing our findings with a German solo traveler who had the same confused look on his face. Five minutes later when we pulled into a medium sized lot, we were in the company of 30 or so cars and vans.
The hike to the swimming holes is 3 km uphill. It rained the entire time but the trail was easy to follow and rocky so not slippery. The surrounding curvy brown and green hills provided a nice distraction.
Our canine friend met up with us again and led us all the way to the Hot River swimming holes. We passed many people heading back to their cars. For the most part everyone looked happy, even though they were completely soaked.
The swimming area is depicted by wooden planks and changing areas. The water was disappointingly luke warm and filthy.
Lots of debris in the water stuck to us as it made its way downstream. Perhaps it was filthy because of the rains? The pools also weren’t very deep so we weren’t as warm as we would have wanted.
The rain picked up considerably, making us cold. Laurie sat below the wooden platform to protect herself from the cold droplets landing on our heads, shoulders and backs.
She grew impatient and decided she’d had enough. Andy tried to convince her to wait in the warm water for the rain to die down a bit before getting out but it was to no avail.
Getting dressed in the pouring rain was hard because our now wet clothes stuck to our wet skin and provided a lot of friction.
On the way back to the parking lot we noticed our packcover had fallen off. Andy handed Laurie the car keys and turned around to go look for it.
After about 20 minutes of backtracking all the way the start of the boardwalks he gave up. He had asked hikers heading out if they had seen it, but no luck.
Now our lost items in Iceland totalled 2 (a Nalgene and a packcover) – not great given we were only 2 days into our trip.
Meanwhile Laurie went back to the car to get warm and finish organizing all of our stuff.
We ate lunch in the car while driving. It was now decision time. Do we add 2 hours of driving time to visit 4 lesser known waterfalls or head down the main highway and reach our guesthouse before dark?
Laurie, who likes to pack it all in, was leaning toward the additional loop. Andy, who hates rushing, was hesitant but made the final call. Adventure it was!
The first waterfall (Hjálparfoss) was great – 2 wide rivers conjoined via separate waterfalls into a nice round pond. As we got out of the car a tour bus showed up. We know we are in the right spot when there are tour buses!
Luckily we are faster walkers than most and saw the views without the crowd and cigarette smoke.
As we left Laurie tried to take a picture of the sheep but ended up scaring them off as she rapidly walked toward them. Andy laughed from the car as Laurie was left dejected. Guess she needs to be more stealthy next time.
We tried to see 2 other falls (Gjain and Haifoss) but the roads were not advisable for a small sedan. Darn.
We looped around through a barren moons scape, stopping at Thjofafoss. It was absolutely stunning and worth the visit. Even in low light and cloudy skies overhead the water was a beautiful green color.
Once on paved roads again, we started seeing farms and signs of civilization.
The sun was beginning to set and the agricultural fields wore a beautiful golden hue. Horses and sheep scattered the fields. The sheep were the cutest with their wide woolly bodies and short skinny legs.
We stopped at one last waterfall as the sun dipped behind the horizon.
Laurie remembered reading about a waterfall that has a trail that allows visitors to walk behind and take nice sunset pictures.
She couldn’t remember what it was called as all Icelandic words are hard to pronounce and thus hard to remember. As it happened we visited Seljalandsfoss in the dark as we couldn’t pass up the illuminated (by a spotlight) waterfall right next to the main highway.
Having been incredibly wet earlier in the day we chose to enjoy the falls from the distance and continue to our guesthouse for the night.
The rest of the drive was completed in the dark.
We arrived to the guest house tired and grumpy. We had tried to do too much and both of us were exhausted.
We attempt to fall asleep now to the sound of the wind whipping against the windows. The guesthouse offers complimentary ear plugs. Laurie thought it was to block out the sounds of snoring from other guests through the thin walls, but perhaps it is for the wind.
Either way, we are glad to be in a structure rather than a tent or even a van.
We are both so tired we will sleep well, at least until 2 am when Andy tends to wake up eager for the day!
Tonight we are grateful for waterproof boots and rain pants.