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More Pictures from Þórsmörk

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The morning after completing the 25-kilometer Fimmvörðuháls hike, we awoke with muscles so sore that just leaving our tent took almost half an hour. The last thing we felt like was more hiking, but we had six hours to kill until the bus back to Reykjavík. And in Þórsmörk, there aren’t a lot of other options. More hiking it is!

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We decided to walk from Básar to the Langidalur campsite, on the northern side of the valley. Our path brought us to the Krossá River, a wide and deceptively powerful westward stream issuing down from the glaciers. Traversing the Krossá is easy enough for hikers, as there’s a pedestrian bridge set up near Langidalur, but it’s a trickier gambit for cars.

This isn’t a neatly defined river with grassy banks and a steady path, but a mess of streams hurrying down the valley as quickly as possible. As the glacial runoff ebbs and flows, the Krossá can become deeper in unpredictable spots. Just because someone forded the river at a certain place yesterday, doesn’t mean it’s safe today. Once we were at Langidalur, we sat on the grass and had fun watching the cars attempt the crossing. The danger of getting stuck or pushed uncontrollably downstream, or even having your car flipped, is real and it happens frequently.

We experienced the rush of crossing ourselves, later, when our bus picked us up for the return to Reykjavík. As we splashed down into the river, we could feel the bus being carried away. But our experienced driver had little problem righting the course and we emerged unscathed on the other side. In a compact car, you could never make it, and I’d be nervous to try even in a Jeep.

Þórsmörk is one of the most lovely spots that we’ve visited in a while, so deep into the interior of Iceland, and so far from any town. I’d have been happy to stay a bit longer, even if it meant more hiking.

Locations on our Iceland Map: Básar | Langidalur

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September 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm Comments (2)

Fimmvörðuháls – Fimmvörðuskáli to Þórsmörk

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The first half of our 25-kilometer hike from Skógar to Þórsmörk had been dominated by waterfalls, barren mountain vistas, and an unending uphill climb. But after passing between the two glaciers of Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull, our path would start its descent, and the clouds which had been plaguing us all day would clear up, revealing the valley of Þórsmörk below us: one of the most stunning landscapes we’ve ever seen.

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After passing the Fimmvörðuskáli hut, we emerged into serious glacier land, and were forced to trudge across huge banks of snow. The terrain was surreal. Between the snowbanks were fields of lava, strange tiny cones of ash and sinister black craters. At one point, we noticed that the land was smoking. The ground here was still super-heated from the 2010 explosion of Eyjafjallajökull. I reached down to touch the soil, digging down before yanking my fingers back. It was a little much for my mind to process… was I supposed to freezing here, or burning?

Once we had the smoking landscape of snow and lava behind us, the sky cleared up and Þórsmörk came into view. This valley is one of the most beautiful areas in Iceland. In fact, when we asked locals about their favorite places, Þórsmörk was the most common answer. And I can see why. Having it laid out before us from the mountain heights was absolutely magical.

With the valley visible below, we figured the final few hours of our hike would be easy. Nope… nothing like it. This was by far the most challenging stretch of the day, requiring extremely steep descents on tricky terrain, at a point when we were already physically and mentally fatigued. Some sections even forced us into scooching along the ground on our butts, terrified about kicking loose a stone and tumbling down.

But slowly, slowly we made it. Our tent was waiting for us at the campsite of Básar, and we had just enough energy left to set it up before collapsing into our sleeping bags. It had been quite a day… we’ve done a lot of hiking in different places around the world, but I don’t think for sheer, majestic nature, anything holds a candle to the Fimmvórðuhals.

Locations on our Map: Fimmvörðuskáli Hut | Básar

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September 17, 2013 at 8:32 am Comments (8)


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Hotels and guesthouses are certainly more comfortable but, as far as we’re concerned, camping is the best way to see Iceland. This country is all about the nature, and there are some incredible places to pitch a tent. Many of the campsites we visited during our trip to the Westfjords were highlights in their own right, and Breiðavík might have been best of all.

Breiðavík Beach

The southwestern corner of the Westfjords is home to the Latrabjarg bird cliffs, the Hnjótur Folk Museum, some gorgeous nature… and not much else. This isn’t an area overflowing with towns, people or services, and if you’re looking for a place to eat or sleep, the lodge at Breiðavík is pretty much the only option. So it’s a relief to learn that it’s a nice one.

Breiðavík offers hotel rooms, sleeping bag accommodation and a campsite bordering an incredibly wide beach of golden sand. We arrived at the end of a long day of driving and, although the dinner service had concluded, the friendly girls in the kitchen were happy to whip up a couple sandwiches for us. Apart from sleeping possibilities, the lodge offers ATV adventure tours of the area, but we chose to take a morning walk along the beach before continuing on.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay near the bird cliffs of Latrabjarg, you’re almost definitely going to be sleeping at Breiðavík. So it’s not exactly as though you need our stamp of approval. But [stamp] there: you have it anyway.

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September 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm Comments (2)

Norðurfjörður and the Pool at Krossnelaug

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The Westfjords’ Route 647 ends at Norðurfjörður, a tiny settlement underneath the imposing Krossnesfjall Mountain. After arriving and setting up our tent at the beach-side campsite, we took a short excursion to an amazing pool called Krossnelaug.

Krossnelaug is fed by natural hot springs trickling down off the mountain, positioned right along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. After the long day of driving, it was a pleasure to soak our bones here, with a backdrop provided by the wide open sea and a soundtrack by the lapping waves. And with the departure of the rowdy Icelandic family who had been sharing the pool, the experience got even better.

On the way back to our tent, we stopped at the small fishing harbor and spotted a seal in the water with a herring between its teeth. A growing army of seagulls had designs on its meal, but the seal was too clever. Between bites, it would flee underneath the water, leaving the gulls to squawk in frustration, and then reappear a few meters away. A humorous sequence, like something out of a Pixar flick, and a fun way to end an eventful first day in the Westfjords.

Location on our Iceland Map: Krossnelaug
[Save money and buy all the outdoor gear you’ll need before coming to Iceland: Tent, Boots, Backpacks and Trekking Poles]

Going on a Road Trip? We rented our car from SADcars!

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August 27, 2013 at 8:09 am Comment (1)
More Pictures from rsmrk The morning after completing the 25-kilometer Fimmvörðuháls hike, we awoke with muscles so sore that just leaving our tent took almost half an hour. The last thing we felt like was more hiking, but we had six hours to kill until the bus back to Reykjavík. And in Þórsmörk, there aren't a lot of other options. More hiking it is!
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