Friday 8th of September, 2017
For our second day in Iceland, we woke up to a sunny, beautiful day. We packed up camp and headed towards Brúarfoss. We had read several blog posts about this bright blue waterfall. Many of the blog sites described how to get to the falls because it can be quite a challenge to get there. To no surprise, it was really hard to find. It is not marked at all so pay really close attention to anyone that tells you how to get there. We got turned around a couple of times. We ended up driving around enough to find some others who were coming back from the falls. We were able to follow a path to get there. We weren’t sure what route we ended up taking, so we would recommend seeing if anyone has recent (within the year) recommendations on how to get there. It was very beautiful and, surprise…blue! There was only one other person there for most of the time we were taking pictures, probably because it is such a challenge to find.
(Editor’s note: Directions & GPS coordinates to Brúarfoss)
After Brúarfoss, we drove to Geysir. This was pretty “touristy” but not bad overall. It was really fun to watch the geyser build up enough pressure to explode. We stayed here for longer than we planned because it was really fun to watch and it took five minutes or so for it to erupt again. Also, the geyser started off so blue right before it exploded into the air so it was really fun to watch it build up and then burst. We also shopped at the store across the street from the geyser. We got coffee and beer (to go), and not the 2.25% grocery store kind!
From Geysir, we drove to Gullfoss. The falls here were very impressive; both in its massive size and its beauty. There were a lot of people here but it is so large, there is enough place to walk around and get good views with pictures. We recommend bringing your raincoat, which we forgot, because the mist carries a long way. There are two places to park. The “address” or books take you to the top of the falls where you have to walk down some stairs, but there is also another road before the actual falls that will take you down lower so you don’t have to take all the stairs (On Google Maps it is the “Gullfoss (car park)” where the GPS takes you up top off road 35. There is a store here that is expanding, clearly due to the drastic increase in tourism. We also spent some time reading about Sigriður Tómasdóttir, known as “Iceland’s first environmentalist” who walked barefoot from the falls to Reykjavik to protest an investor who wanted to harness Gullfoss for electricity. Despite her not officially being successful, the water was never harnessed and now the Icelandic government owns it and it is now protected and publicly available for all to experience. It was a helpful reminder to keep fighting the fight – whatever fight that may be!
We left Gullfoss and headed towards Gjáin in the Þjórsárdalur valley. The road was marked 4×4 only and there were some cars parked in a field next to the entrance. Even though our camper van was technically a 4×4, we chose to walk it. We had talked to someone coming out and they said it was 50/50, so we didn’t want to chance it. (Note: after the walk we realized it wasn’t bad at all and we could have drove it fine, but we would still recommend following all posted warning signs.) It took us just over 45 minutes to walk it (one way). The terrain walking towards Gjáin reminded us of what Mars probably looks like.
Once we got there, we were in love. Walking up to the area, we were not sure what to expect. Then we looked over the edge of the cliff and the place resembled a fairy garden. We were half expecting a troll or hobbit to be walking around on one of the many foot paths or wooden bridges. There were a couple waterfalls you could explore, in addition to all the footpaths. Unlike many of the other Golden Circle areas, this one is not roped or fenced off so we were able to carefully and respectfully explore the area without man-made obstructions in the way of our photos. We could have stayed here all day with a picnic basket, blanket, and a book. This was a “hidden gem” in our opinion and probably one of our favorite locations we went to in Iceland.
We left Gjáin and drove to Háifoss. These two areas are off the same main road. The road to Háifoss was way more rugged than the Gjáin road and was not marked as a 4×4 only road, but we took it slow and worked out just fine. It was way further than Gjáin too so we are really glad we didn’t try to walk it! We saw another couple with a small rental car that had to stop half-way and attempted to walk the rest…they gave up and ended up turning around. Háifoss was phenomenal. Although not as powerful as Gullfoss, the waterfalls and valley was extremely impressive and deeper than Gullfoss. It was really windy at the top so we had to keep our distance from the edge, which meant we couldn’t even see the bottom of the falls!
We left Háifoss and we weren’t really paying attention and went about 20 minutes out of our way, oops! We were headed to a campsite in Hvolsvöllur but could not find the campground. We had purchased the Iceland Camping Card which has a lot of good campgrounds, but they were all really hard to find, like this one. There were no addresses in the camping card book and many of the sites had incorrect GPS coordinates. We ended up stopping for directions at a gas station and luckily a woman in line said she lived right buy it and we could follow her. We drove for a real long time before they flagged us that we had arrived. The campground was adorable. The lady at the check-in (the bar), owned the farm and the campground. We had planned to go in and have a beer with her, but the northern lights came out and we watched that for at least two hours with another couple from Germany. We ended up getting this cool shot of our camper van under the Northern Lights.
The weather during the day was clear and sunny, about 10º – 13ºC (50-55 F) which was comfortable for us.
Read more: 9 Days on the road
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