DAY 4: WATER, HOT AND COLD
- Highlights: Lækjavik coastline, Djúpivogur, Eggin i Gledivik, Hengifoss, Litlanesfoss, Gufufoss, Yst-i-Rjukandi, Myvatn Nature Baths
- Meals: Fosshotel Vatnajokull, Subway
- Lodging: Vogafjos Guesthouse
The hotel was nice and quiet that evening. We later discovered that the place was maybe 20% booked up that evening. Breakfast was extremely well-rounded for the size of the hotel. While the variety of food was not as plentiful as Icelandair Hotel Vik, it was definitely the second most diverse of all the hotels we stayed at on our trip. The view of fields and cliffs in the distance was unbeatable as far as breakfast viewpoints went.
After breakfast we checked out and hit the road, aware that we had the longest journey of our trip ahead. Our first leg was from Hofn to Djúpivogur, where the Eggin i Gledivik statues were located. What Google Maps called 1 hour 21 minutes turned into two hours, as the road conditions grew treacherous and slippery and fog set in. The above was our view for the majority of this part of our journey.
As we travelled, we passed a beautiful smaller, unmarked waterfall on the left side of the road. We turned the car around and backtracked. A pull-off area allowed us to stop and venture about 100 meters up a slippery slope and up a rock scramble. Well worth the soaking we received, even if just to get out of the car for a few minutes.
We eventually reached the Eggin i Gledivik statues in Djúpivogur. It was still rainy, and after all the driving we had just dealt with, we were honestly hoping for a little bit more. While it was an interesting attraction, it was in a dumpy dock-like area. The more interesting attraction were the massive whale skeletons at the museum you can see in the center background of the above photo.
From Djúpivogur to Egilsstaðir things got really bad. The roadds turned to gravel and we began up an icy mountain pass. For 30 minutes we drove 15 miles per hour up and down this mountainside with some of the worst visibility we had ever experienced. At no point did we pass anyone in the opposite direction (luckily). To the left was a sheer cliff, and to the right were sheets of ice. The only things keeping us on the road were the occasional sign and some yellow markers similar to those at the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck path.
Above is a solid example of what we had driven over. By the time we reached Egilsstaðir we had driven for over four hours and had not really seen anything interesting when compared to the previous days. We stopped at Subway for lunch and then backtracked onto Road 931 to get to Hengifoss.
Here is the view from the parking lot for Hengifoss. Do you see that white line in the center back? That’s Hengifoss, the third tallest waterfall in Iceland (after Glymur and Haifoss, neither of which we saw on our excursion). The total distance of the hike is five miles. The first two and a half of which, similar to Svartifoss, is mostly up a steep hill.
There are a good number of stairs on the first part of the hike. This is a solid tourist deterrent. We found this out after we finished the hike, as two large tour buses of elderly Dutch had arrived, yet nobody was willing to climb the stairs, so most of them were just milling about by the restrooms.
As you hike, a canyon begins to carve itself out of the hillside, with a rushing river in the center. The trail gets dangerously close to the edge of this river the closer you get to Litlanesfoss.
Litlanesfoss is a very much underrated waterfall. It is similar in size, shape, and surroundings to Svartifoss, in that it is a straight drop off from black basalt. The waterfall is more choppy, though, and the location in which the above picture was taken is as close as you can safely get to the falls. This waterfall is approximately 1.2 kilometers from the trailhead. If you look to the left, you can see Hengifoss still a relatively far distance away.
As you continue up the hill, turning around gives you this incredible view. The rushing river disappears, dropping off to form Litlanesfoss. Basalt and lava rock mix with moss and red clay, and far in the distance is a lake called Lagarfljot, with beautiful mountains as the backdrop. At this point we were halfway to the perfect viewpoint for Hengifoss.
Eventually we cross a few bridges and the trail disappears. At this junction, we began walking up the riverside towards the waterfalls. The falls to the left we were told is generally dried up. However the heavy rains had caused it to swell. Unfortunately, this made fording the river extremely difficult. Sadly, as a result, the closest we were able to get to Hengifoss was standing beside the waterfall in the center of the above image.
This was the narrowest point for us to try and cross the creek. It was easy to see that in lower rainfall days, one could quickly cross the rover by hopping from rock to rock. Such was not the case for us on our travels.
Here is Hengifoss, black basalt striated with red clay layers. Apparently if you are able to catch the falls on a slower flowing day, you can walk all the way to the base and even get into a cave behind the waterfall! I was unable to find any images of the cave, and very few close up images of the waterfall itself, sadly.
We backtracked downstream, hoping to find a narrower location in which to cross, but were unsuccessful. A few hikers willing to get their boots soaked waded through and further up towards the falls. Not us, though. We still had a few stops to make that day. Still pleased with the view we received, we started off back down the trail, which started again to the right of the above image, zigzagging along the edge of the hill.
Once we returned to the car, we drove through Egilsstaðir again and headed on towards Gufufoss. As we drove down Road 93, the roads became curvier, with multiple hairpin turns up a large mountainside just pastEgilsstaðir. Once we got to the top of the mountain, things became flatter and straighter. We got concerned once things turned to ice, but the road stayed in good condition, although it got extremely curvy again. How curvy? The area we drove between the above image and reaching Gufufoss was the scene for the longboard scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Gufufoss and its corresponding parking area comes up quickly on the right side on a downhill, so be sure not to miss it! From the parking area, a small town is visible. This is Seydisfjordur, and the water you see in the background of the above image is the inlet of the fjord of the same name, which empties out into the ocean.
Gufufoss looks very similar to Skogafoss in shape, although is significantly smaller. The waterfall looked large though, as we were the only people there at the time, a nice breather from how tourist-heavy Skogafoss had been. The falls were majestic, and we were able to trek closer via the rocky riverbed on the right of the falls.
After Gufufoss, we headed back to the car and back down to the Ring Road and through Egilsstaðir once more towards Myvatn. The road between the two towns was relatively nondescript. The same beautiful views were visible on our way, including the above frozen lake right before hopping back on the Ring Road.
While on our way, we began passing several extremely large waterfalls right off the roadside. The above image was the largest of the waterfalls we saw. This chain of falls is known as Rjúkandi, the largest of which is referred to as Yst-i-Rjukandi. In the peaks of summer and winter, this waterfall is rarely flowing, yet between snow melt and heavy rains, it was flowing strongly when we passed by!
After almost eleven hours of driving throughout the day, we eventually made it to Myvatn, where we were greeted with a Mars-like landscape unlike anything we had seen yet in Iceland. We checked into the Vogafjos Guesthouse (please note that the check-in is across the street from the actual cabins, and that Maps.me and Google Maps will take you to the wrong location), which was quite different than the two hotels we had stayed at thus far.
Exhausted, we discovered that we were not too late to enjoy the Myvatn Nature Baths, so I stopped at the reservations desk for directions and discovered that we could purchase 20% discounted tickets at the desk. We did so and traveled the 10 minutes to the Baths from the guesthouse. We were surprised to find an ultramodern building and a relatively empty parking area.
We went inside and checked in, then received our accessories and changed into our bathing suits, showering off after changing in the open locker room setting. I got confused as to how to exit, and ended up missing the sign to get to the bath area, walking back out into the lobby in my bathing suit. A kind-hearted employee guided me in the right direction.
The baths were a beautiful, deep blue and incredibly warm. The bathing area to the right was slightly cooler than the bath across the bridge, which explained the lack of fellow bathers in this area. The water is blue from sulfur, so expect a strange, egg-like smell to persist. You’ll get used to it eventually. Make sure you keep your key on your wrist at all times as well, as this is the only way to get back into your locker after you are done!
The view from the baths was stunning, and unlike the Blue Lagoon, these were nature-made, with a rocky bottom. While the baths were relatively busy, there was still ample room to swim about and relax. A sauna provided natural steam soaks as well, although I lated about three minutes inside before I thought I was going to stop breathing.
After showering off and changing back into our clothes, we headed back to the guesthouse for the evening. Please note that there is no television in these rooms, and the walls are very thin. Nevertheless, even with louder backpackers next to us, we slept soundly throughout the night.