May 8th – 22nd.
… and I came back for another tour of the Westfjords and the North of Iceland.
Another walk at the shore in the morning to say goodbye to the seal, but unfortunately it didn’t show up again.
Continuing East, I stopped around lunch time at the small town of Djupivogour, to get coffee and cake. Like at many places in Iceland, you get free table water as well as free refills on coffee – so nice!
Arriving at Egilsstadir really made clear to me that my round trip on Iceland was coming to an end. This was the first town stop I did after arriving with the ferry. Now it was my last stop to shop for some snacks for the 3 days ferry ride via Faroe to Denmark. The Bonus supermarket there is the first and last supermarket stop on Iceland probably for many who come by ferry.
I drove the last 30min to the ferry terminal at Seydisfjoerdur through fog and light snowfall. Iceland really showed how true this saying is: If you do not like the weather on Iceland, just wait 5 minutes.
Checked in at the ferry at 5.45pm, I was on board with my van shortly later. I looked like the ferry would be quite empty again – besides a handful of cars, a number of buses and container trailers were loading. I expected to leave at 8pm – surprisingly the ship left 7pm. The ship schedule followed the official ship time which is Faroe time, so one hour ahead of Iceland now. Lucky me I was early enough. 😉
Thank you Iceland! You rough beauty. Land of fire and ice, sunshine, snow and rain and storm, of solitude in the North and mass tourism in the South.
I came looking for a wide open country and solitude, what I found was so much more. So much contrast, constant change. I met a number of inspiring people. I lost my heart here. Tears of joy and goodbye. I will come back.
Spotted a reindeer around the campground again in the morning – maybe the same one from last night?
Drove on East to Stokksness with its famous black beach and rocky coast. There was an old viking village, a possible movie location nearby. Really looked like the great Viking series might have been shot here.
After that, walked along the coast, looking for seals at the black beach but no luck. Still a special landscape with the beach and mountain so close.
The ring road followed the shore closely. I stopped to take photos.
There were hundreds of swans! Impressive view with the sun setting. The photos can’t really catch this scene.
For my last night on Iceland (for this trip ;-)), I wanted a wild camping spot again. The Hvalnes lighthouse turned out to be beautiful spot for that. At the evening walk along the shore there, a quick glance of a seal! Beautiful round black face appearing in the waves, just for 3, 4 seconds, then gone again. Just like with unexpected spotting of the whales at Gardur – these few seconds gave me a long lasting smile, feeling happy, lucky and connected.
I stood there for a good while, maybe hoping for another glance. But I was happy and content.
“God never made an ugly landscape. All that sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”
– John Muir
The sound of rain on the car roof that night made this such a beautiful evening – could not ask for more. Except maybe more time on Iceland.
Had slept very well with popped up roof, plugged in electrity. Cozy and warm, snuggled in. Glamping. Woke up around 8am… planning to get some laundry done. What a great camping ground! Not only has the Skaftafell NP campground nice and clean grounds, toilets and showers – next to the visitor center are also washing machine and dryer free for use. After starting laundry, the campground was still quiet. Had a delicious breakfast with freshly made scrambled eggs and onion – surely making other campers jeaoulus with the nice smell. I walked a bit to an empty area and did a short drone flight, just taking some photos of the beautiful mountain landscape around me from above (see first photo of this post). Even the camping fee was cheap comparing to other campsite. Definitely my most favorite campground on Iceland so far – but finding wild spots is still the best. 😉
With the laundry done and dry, I left for a hike aiming for a 10-12km loop trail. As I climbed higher and higher, the views become more and more gorgeous. So much beauty around me. Passed a few waterfalls, one with remarkable basalt columns.
Pushed on further for a higher spot for a lunch snack. Even though it was a short hike only, no more tourists walked around here. A lunch break with a view so beautiful I won’t forget. Watched the mountains, the moving clouds. In the flat lands towards the sea, dark clouds formed and some dust or sand storms raced through the open lands. I planned to hike around two peaks, but at this altitude, there was already so much snow that following the trail all the way would be difficult if not impossible without proper gear.
With the clouds getting darker and closer, I hiked back and got ready to move on further East.
Could not get far before the next stop. A glacier reached so close to the ring road that I had to stop right away. A really bumpy road with a warning 4WD cars only led me to a parking right next the the glacier.
With the bumpy road, not too many other tourists were around. So after enjoying the beauty of the icebergs for a while, I took another drone flight. Still careful about possible winds and gusts specifically, I did just a very short fly around. But that’s exactly the footage why I brought the drone in the first place.
Back on the road, I followed the advice from Iceland veteran Herbert.
I did not stop at the famous iceberg sightseeing spot at Joekulsarlon but a bit before at Breidarlon. Also there, a small store offered boat rides around the icebergs but I chose just to walk around the shore. It got more windy, cloudy and with that colder by now. But that didnt make the view less magnificent, just the photos more difficult with so little contrasts between the massive glacier and the grey skies.
I continued East on the ring road, checking out a possible location for the night just before Hoefn. The dirt road leading there was narrow and started to get more and more muddy. I did not want to get on private lands and potentially even get stuck there… so I opted for an easier alternative and drove to the Hoefn campground. Just opposite of a gas station with small shop, it is located an the beginning of the small town. Drove up all the way up and to the end with nice view on the town and the nearby water and meadows. I spotted a reindeer just below grazing. This campground is really basic – most facilities were broken resp not working, still they were asking a steep price.
With the good feeling that I had actually given some wear to my hiking boots today, I fell asleep.
Woke up with the alarm at 4.40am, before sunrise that would be at 6.15am. One good hour planned to walk to the plane wreck. But… the storm was still on. It had been shaking the car all night and was continuing to do so in the morning. So my determination to make it to the plane before dawn was not strong enough to walk through that storm in darkness and the additional cold from that. Turned around, snuggled in and took another nap. 🙂
So I left at 9.30am for the one hour walk to the plane wreck. :-p The shuttle bus, only allowed means of transport, just overtook me shortly before arriving there.
Good thing: there were still only a handful of people around the wreck. Bad thing: There was a wedding couple posing all around the wreck for photos with the respective 3 person photo crew. That made exploring the wreck and taking photos rather difficult.
Finding perspectives that make the wreck look deserted was the challenge of the morning. And I had mixed feelings for the couple. They were really freezing in the cold strong winds there for their photos – it did not really look like they enjoyed themselves too much.
On the other hand, it was a bit annoying that they were kind of demanding the wreck as their exclusive photo spot. I was asked by the groom at a certain point to step aside so that they can take their photos. Their photo session lasted longer than I did. After about one hour, more and more people joined, including group that came on quads through the endless waste lands. With that, I had my share of overcrowded tourist spot and started my walk back to the car.
Next stop was the rather famous hotpot Seljavallalaug, about 1km walk into a beautiful canyon from a designated parking. With the number of the cars parked, I was already a bit worried.
But the pool turned out quite big and the 4-5 other people in the pool distributed well enough. It was my coolest hotpot on Iceland. With just 31 degrees according to my watch, I could not stay in there too long without cooling out.
Continued on the ring road. Really beautiful landscape passed by, had to stop again and again for photos.
Another glacier to the left. Perfect spot for some van selfies…
Planning to do some hiking the next day, I stopped at the Skaftafell national park / campground for the night.
After a good night in the van, I left the Fludir campground in the morning going South towards the ring road. But one more stop was planned before – the Kerid crater respectively crater lake.
Even from a distance, you could see lots of people walking along the crest of the crater. Yes, I am still in the golden triangle. This was the first attraction that actually asked for an entrance fee. I did the walk around as well as walking town to the frozen crater lake. It was one of the places where you really see how Iceland is struggling with mass tourism. Even though there were marked trails and lots of fenced off areas with the respective signs, the whole area was disturbed, the grass destroyed.
I am a tourist too, contributing to this situation. But I wished more people would stick to the paths to keep the impact to Iceland’s beautiful nature as small as possible.
Continued towards the ring road. Arriving at ring road, taking the road South East towards Vik. Next stop was the beautiful waterfall Seljalandsfoss – the one where you can walk behind the waterfall itself, so you get a 360 degree perspective on the water falling.
Quite special – and quite wet. 🙂 I loved the water spray in my face. Standing there in my rain gear in the wet wind, this took me right back to the last weeks hiking the Pacific Crest trail in Washington. Oh PCT – I miss you so.
But I only brought two weeks for Iceland, not like the 5 months for the Pacific Crest Trail. So I kept driving on, further on to the Skogafoss waterfall. In search of Wifi, I took a coffee break in the restaurant there. No Wifi… :-p but a salad. Around 5pm, I walked up to Skogafoss, stair cases leading up offering a nice view from the platform above.
I passed the famous airplance wreck/respectively the parking for it at the ring road. My plan was to visit the wreck at sunrise next day – with maybe less other tourists around. So I drove on Dyrholaey lighthouse. At 630pm in really strong winds, it seemd like I would not be lucky to see birds. The winds were so strong that I could barely open my car door.
I didn’t give up on internet yet, so I drove into the town Vik in search of Wifi. It turned out the biggest store of the town (Icewear) had a connected coffee shop with decent internet. I stayed there backing up photos and blogging until being kicked out at the shop’s closure at 9pm.
As planned, I returned to the airplane wreck parking for the night. No other cars, looking good. Plan to get up 4.40am next day to make the one hour walk to the wreck before dawn.
This would be the day of the golden triangle – the major attractions Pingvellir, Geysir and Gulfoss that are located close enough to Reykjavik for a day trip. With that, I was also anticipating more crowds of tourists than in the relatively quiet North.
Heading towards Pingvellir, I was planning to take road 435. I had read some nice reviews about Pingvellir where approaching was recommended via this scenic route. As it turned out, that advice was only good for summer time:
When I later came to the Pingvellir area, I avoided the main parking spot but took an earlier turn South along the lake.
Took a lunch break on a small dirt road in this beautiful area.
Continuing on towards Geysir, my next stop was at the Oxararfoss waterfall and a connected small canyon. The access into the canyon was a bit steep. With so many people crawling down, it was actually funny to watch how many were scared of slipping or falling and decided to glide down instead sitting on their pants.
Following the tourist crowds, next stop was the Geysir area.
After this geothermal area, I was heading on towards Gulfoss, again with a full parking lot. I really wonder if this is low season, how is this area looking like in peak season?
And it was time for another hotpot for the night. Checking the useful hotpoticeland.com website, I drove a bit South towards Fludir. The camping ground there was closed, but would make a good parking for the night anyway. Drove on some dirt roads towards the close hotpot in Hruni called Hrunalaug. Due to the proximity to the golden triangle, this hotpot was packed full with visitors. Some people from Iceland, but also from China and the US. It got a bit tight in there, but I still stayed for an hour or so. Surely not the same and these lone hotpots in the North I had enjoyed so much – but a hotpot after all.
At 9.30pm at the closed campground where I stayed for the night.