Exploring Iceland in a VW Camper – Day 3
Saturday 9th of September, 2017
We woke up and left Langbrók in Hvolsvöllur and headed to Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest outdoor pools in Iceland. The pool was built in the mountain side in 1923 and is volunteer run. It is a bumpy drive down the farm road to the parking lot. From there we walked about 15 minutes down the valley to the pool. It was pretty full of people when we got there by 09:30. The pool was lukewarm, but at least it was full of water. We had talked to someone on Instagram the previous week who was there and they said the pool was only partially full. We spent about 20 minutes in the pool, which is about all that everyone spends in the pool which is good, because the turnover is high and people can rotate through the corner of the pool where the hot water comes in. We wish we would have brought some Icelandic currency because we would have left some money in the box to help pay for the upkeep. We realized here, and was reiterated throughout our tip, that some Icelandic currency would have been nice for these kind of drop-boxes.
While in the pool we got to talking with two guys and it turns out we are from the same (Relatively small) city in the US! We talked to them and discussed how surprised we were with all the people this “late” in the year. They said they experienced the same thing and getting really good photos, like you see on the internet, was a challenge. They recommended to get to photo locations early in the morning before some of the mad rushes of people. We talked about the DC-3 plane and our goal to hit that up the next day. They said they were there the previous day early in the morning and someone actually had pitched a tent in it and was sleeping when they got there! He said they were able to get photos without the tent which was good. We decided at this time that we were going to wake up early to get to the plan to watch the sunrise.
We had planned on going to a specific hiking trail in Þórsmörk but decided not to do that because some of the reading we did said the roads are rough. We headed to some waterfalls instead: Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrafoss. It was at this location we understood the magnitude of tourism growth in Iceland. We had to park down the street because the parking (which costs money) was overflowing and people were parking everywhere. There was a store, restrooms, and a food truck all in the parking lot of this location. When we read about other people going here, it sounded way more remote but it was not at all and off a main road. The two falls are within the same area and are very easy to walk in-between the two. You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss (rain gear a must) but we did not do this, but we did take time to get a good picture to represent out team on game day, Go Blue!
Because we had to park down the road, we forgot our rain gear in the car and didn’t want to walk back. Gljúfrafoss was really cool and something we were looking forward to seeing, but because there were so many people, it was more frustrating than anything. You have to walk along slippery rocks through a crack in the mountain side to get to the falls. We had a group of tourists that pushed past all of us to skip ahead to get in as the rest of us patiently waited our turn to get through this “one way” passage. So, unfortunately, we had a hard time appreciating the falls because of the magnitude of people, including extremely rude tourists. We highly recommend going to these falls early in the morning before the rush of people and buses if you want to enjoy this with less people. Alternatively, if you set your expectation that this set of falls is one that will have a lot of people, you will be fine too; we just had the wrong expectations based on what we had read.
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From here we headed to Skógafoss. We had wrote “OK to skip” on our itinerary because the falls are right off a main road and we expected a lot of people, and even more so now. We had nothing else left to do that day on our itinerary so we decided to just drive to Skógafoss anyway and check it out (i.e., reset our expectations that we will be with a lot of people). It was really busy as we expected but you could still enjoy it and get pictures without it being full of people. This is another waterfall you will want your raincoat for because you can walk right up to it.
We decided to go up the stairs to the top of the falls. When we got to the top of the falls we saw some trails that disappeared as they went over the hillside, so we decided to follow them. This was by far one of the best decisions we made this trip and we are very happy that we did not skip this stop! We ended up spending over five hours up here walking the trails and the further we walked, the less people there were, just what we needed.
As much as we wanted to keep walking and hanging out in this beautiful area, we had to get going to head to our campground in Vik. We discussed if we come back to Iceland, we would want to backpack this trail which goes to Þórsmörk. If you are interested in reading more of this, look up Fimmvörðuháls hike (aka Fimm hike). When we got to Vik it was rainy and windy so we had to cook dinner in the rain. The campsite was packed full and everyone was inside the warming house eating dinner. The next day we were headed to the DC-3 plane wreck and wanted to be there for the sunrise so we parked right next to the exit so that way we wouldn’t wake everyone up when we started driving at 4:00am. It was so full that someone squeezed right next to us which made it hard to cook. The rain was coming on an angle and this was the only protection we had!
The good part of this rainstorm was we got to use the neat feature in our van where we could spin the front seats around and sit facing back to eat, which worked out real well and made it much more comfortable.
We took on the rain and walked down the street to check out a local grocery store, since he hadn’t been to one yet. We picked up one of the “famous” 2.25% abv beers from the grocery store and also a few apples and sparkling water. The rain continued through the night with extremely high winds which woke us up several times throughout the night.
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