Iceland Day 14 – Hiking in Skaftafell NP, Icebergs at Breidarlon/Joekulsarlon, Hoefn

April 8.

org_6a2af4318b138aa1_1554718598000

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.

dsc04881

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.

dsc04917

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.

Iceland Day 11 – Golden Triangle with Pingvellir, Oxararfoss, Geysir and Gulfoss

April 5.

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:

img_20190405_104936
Road 435 closed due to snow

When I later came to the Pingvellir area, I avoided the main parking spot but took an earlier turn South along the lake.

dsc04611_1

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.

dsc04624_1
Oxararfoss

Following the tourist crowds, next stop was the Geysir area.

 

dsc04658

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?

dsc04671
Gulfoss

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.

Iceland Day 8 – From Westfjords into Snaefellsnes

April 2.

Got up around 9am after that really long night last night. But the photos of the Northern lights still look nice in the morning. So loosing some sleep for these moments was very worth it.

To get out quickly from the Westfjords towards the Snaefellsnes region, I decided to take a ferry that will connect from Brjanslaekur in the Westfjords to Stykkisholmur in Snaefellsnes. It should save me several hours driving. Booking it online just 2 hours before departure was easy enough. I was waiting alone at the very small harbor first, then one truck and another car showed up.

dsc04499

The ferry left around 12pm. The ferry ride was great – beautiful weather, a short stop at a tiny island on the way.

Just as the life in the Westfjords, also the ferry connection seems to be as flexible and multipurpose as possible. Besides trucks, cars and passengers, the ferry carried some lumber on deck that was quickly unloaded during the short stop on the way. Also a small container was exchanged, probably with mail/packages. Water was refilled while the ferry was stopping for these procedures. A trailer was lifted up with the crane to the spot where the lumber had been transported before. Once again I was impressed on how a country and society so small in population still can work.

With all this efficiencies, I made sure to be at the steering wheel when the ship was about to arrive. You notice the big truck behind my van in the rather empty ferry.

I spent the day driving through the really beautiful landscape of the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

For the evening, I planned two locations with hotpots nearby. One turned out to be closed, the other one I was not able to find on the first try. Checking on campgrounds opened in the winter season, I decided to stay in the Snorrastadir farm which also offers a basic campground with facilities. It was great to reconnect with Luise. The hottub was closed unfortunately, but they offerend a big kitchen space well heated for dinner. Had lots of beer for a good night sleep.

Iceland Day 7 – Hvammstangi, Bordeyri, Burdaladur along the South coast of the Westfjords to Talknafjoerdur

April 1.

img_20190401_083259

Had an early start with lots of driving planned for today. I wanted to make it into the Westfjords, even if just for a day or so. And of course I needed a hotpot – something you get used to way too quickly as a daily treat on Iceland.

Stopped at a campsite near Burdaladur for a quick fresh up.  Shortly after, I stopped at the hotpot Gudrunalaug, just a bit off road 60. Blown away by the beauty of this natural hotpot with a view into the snow covered mountains, I forgot to take photos. There is a old small wooden building where you can leave your clothes just next to it. I had the hotpot for myself, forgot the time and fell asleep a few times. Two hours later, I continued way too relaxed on the road 60 North.

The ride turned out very beautiful – and long. Road 60 follows the South coast of the Westfjords. It is a winding road with lots of hills to climbs, turns and changing weather and road conditions. Some parts are unpaved and very steep. I felt glad to pass these without snow or ice.

screenshot_20190404_113849

On the exposed parts, the winds got stronger and stronger. It is irritating because there are few indicators on the wind outside the car. Being used to driving in Germany, you see trees and bushes shaking in the winds. In Iceland with so little trees, you just suddenly feel the push of the wind and the car swerves to a side of the road.

The winds can be beautiful too – like when blowing the snow over the road in the clip below.

I made it all the way to the small community of Talknafjoerdur around 5pm. I was planning to stay near a dirt road for the night – and the map promised another hotpot!

I went late to the hotpot around 11pm. It consists of several pools made of concrete with different depths and temperatures. I went so late because I was hoping for Northern lights. The skies had cleared up in the evening and the aurora forecast looked good – a promising evening.

A bit off track, I felt this hotpot is rather used by the locals of the small nearby village. And indeed – I connected with some locals. I ended up chatting a lot about living in the Westfjords, in a small 250 people town like Talkajfoerdur. I was so curious. And it seems fascinating. It is a functioning community, just really small. Everyone knows everyone. Many people function in multiple jobs. You can get some food and basic needs covered in the village’s small supermarket. There is one bit bigger shop in the the town in the next fjord. They do monthly shopping runs to Reykjavik, a car drive/ferry ride that takes 4-7 hours. And even if your internet is broken – the internet company has a support guy in the next town, so the wait is not more than 2 or 3 days for a home visit.

Not only a different world than Germany. I feel we are moving in Germany even further away. Everything and everyone gets more specialized. Speed and cost pressure dictate life. It was an engaging discussion. Thank you.

And one more thing. The Northern lights that night. Wow.

dsc04484
Stars at night

And then the Northern lights came and blew me away.

dsc04492

A couple of more shots. Shot with my Sony RX100 with a tiny tripod. First taken at 2am from outside the car. Late I moved in and realized the shots are still pretty good through the car windows.

This was really beautiful. Iceland might be a country mainly black and white in winter time. But nature has this beautiful show for the people there. And of course there are the hotpots… 🙂

Iceland Day 5 – Grettislaug, a hotpot day

March 30.

img_20190330_083625
Grettislaug

Got up around 7am, breakfast in the car. After the snow storm last night the skies looked promising – it might become a beautiful sunny day again. I checked out the facilities of the campground again. While the cafe is closed and the place completely deserted, the facilities like a kitchen house as well as the toilets were open and in kind of working condition. Good – I might actually hang out here the whole day.

At about 8am, I walked over to the two hotpots. They are beautifully located close to the sea, still protected with a stone wall from the direct winds.

dsc04350
View from the hotpot

Spent there 2 hours, just soaking in the water. Sitting absolutely quiet, you could hear the waves hitting the shores from two directions. Some seagulls crying. Felt like a good idea to stay. Felt like arriving in how I expected Iceland to be.

“A human’s choice is either to see new things, mountains, waterfalls, deadly storms and seas and volcanoes, or to see the same man-made things endlessly reconfigured.”
― Dave Eggers, Heroes of the Frontier

The hotpots had 38.5 respectively 40 degrees – a good temperature to spend a long time in there.

Around 10am, two other tourists showed and I took a walk around the area.

The two girls turned out to be German as well  (yes we love to travel….), one of them working in Iceland since a couple of years. We chatted for a while and I got some hints for spots to visit during the next days.

During the day, a couple of cars showed up, some stayed for a dip in the hotpots.  In the later evening, luckily everyone left except Herbert, his wife and Gerald, another German solo traveler with VW van.

The wind died down – a chance for another drone flight. I was a bit more careful than last time. First a quick look around in all directions – after that I got a bit more brave.

 

Herbert had not only brought beer but a complete bbq equipment, meat, potatoes… so after a last hotpot session around 7pm, we started bbqing as it got darker and colder.

img_20190330_204020

A relaxing day with nice company and chats came to an end around 11pm.

Iceland Day 3 – Selfoss, Dettifoss, a hitchhiker, Godafoss and the perfect spot for the night

March 28.

dsc04290
Selfoss

The day started late for me just around 8am, the last night had been late. Breakfast with James and his mum and Luise in the kitchen / common room of the campground.

img_20190328_100318
James and his man toy

Then I left for Dettifoss with blue skies.

When turning of the main road, I picked up a hitchhiker from Brazil. He was standing there in the wind with two backpacks on a road with basically no cars. The road to Dettifoss was a bit slippery, but with no cars easy to drive. Getting to the parking area where paths to both Dettifoss and Selfoss started, the wind started picking up.

I spent a longer time at Selfoss, walking up as close as possible. No other vistors. Beautiful.

Dettifoss, the more famous and bigger waterfall, was a bit crowded and the only access was a sightseeing platform at a distance.

dsc04295
Dettifoss

I took the hiker back towards Myvatn with a stop at Namafjall, a geothermal area.

 

After a quick stop at Myvatn for gas and some groceries, I drove on to the next waterfall Godafoss, right at the ring road.

img_20190328_145502

Then wind really picked up – see the video below.

I was getting adventurous and wanted to try a spot for the night North of Grenivik. The Beautiful drive on the 835 North to the potential camping spot turned out to be the most beautiful road I had seen so far on Iceland. The gravel road had spots covered with snow and ice – and my van finally got dirty!!

I arrived at the spot at 5.30pm – for me a perfect place to spend the night. 

At this beautiful spot, I will sleep again with  open curtains… hoping for northern lights.

And guess what… around 10pm, the show started!!!

Perfect finish for a beautiful day.

Iceland Day 1 – Seydisfjoerdur, Egilsstadir, Hengifoss, Iceland Horses and Vopnafjoerdur

March 26.

After breakfast in an empty cafeteria, the ferry arrived at 9am in Seydisfjoerdur. Since the ferry was so empty, also the unloading of the cars was rather quick. Just a bit of backing up needed, then there was space to turn around and drive off the ferry.

First stop was customs. Many of us were not sure about the amount of food we were carrying – there is an official 3kg limit on food besides the usual restrictions on tabacco and alcohol. A very kind customs agent waved me through – welcome to Iceland!

I continued straight through the village towards Egilsstadir with its super markets. We would all reconnect at the Bonus supermarket there. Bought fruits and vegetables, the famous Icelandic Skyr yogurt.

While my intention is to go North following the ring road, I wanted to get my bearings in the area first. So I visited a major waterfall Hengifoss, just some kilometers South of Egilsstadir.

On the way there, I saw some closed campgrounds. It seems they will still offer free parking, just no facilities or water/electricity while they are closed for the season. I hope I will be able to do wild camping most of the time. At least there is no need for showers with the amount of public hotpots throughout the island.

It was a nice short hike going up to Hengifoss. A few smaller waterfalls along the way. Still beautiful weather with sunshine and blue skies, just the wind picked up. I saw a handful of vistors coming down from the waterfall. At the waterfall, Luise caught up with me.

With nobody else around and nobody I could bother, I started the drone to take some footage from Hengifoss. All good until the flight back – the drone was caught in the winds that got stronger and stronger and carried away. I could just watch on the camera how it drifted off, not strong enough to return against the winds. With a big lake in the back, I was close to panic. Luckily, I could force it down on a field despite its impossible tries to return to the starting point. It had drifted away nearly a kilometer. I drove as close as I could and found it shortly after all intact. What a stressful first flight on Iceland. Will need to be more careful with these winds.

img_20190326_150641

I checked out another campground in the area but decided to make some kilometers North.

Tomorrow evening, I want to be at Myvatn Lake to enjoy the hotpots there. I found a nice spot for the night around 6pm close to Vopnafjoerdur. Exciting first day – I am actually tired after the last days just chilling on the ferry. Sleeping with all curtains open – hoping for aurora / polar lights. 🙂