Exploring Iceland in a VW Camper – Day 5
Monday 11th of September, 2017
We decided to finally sleep in a little bit today. We woke up at 8:30am and hit the Skaftafell National Park trails at 9:30am. Since we had saw Svartifoss the previous day, we could take a different trail this day. We chose to take the Skaftafellsheiði loop which is supposed to be about a five or so hour hike (without going to the peak). There are several different paths you can take but we wanted to take a scenic route that would take us most of the day to hike. WE highly recommend getting a map. You can take a photo of the map at the base of the trails, but it is not complete. Additionally, when you are in the park the signs are not color coded like the map. We went on our hike thinking we would just follow the “red trail” but none of the signs were red. It seemed like all the different destinations started with an “s” so we had to stop and borrow someone’s map after we started our hike.
The employee at the National Park building working the cashier said the Skaftafellsheiði loop was a good hike and would provide some “epic” views even if we didn’t want to go to the peak, which he said is a challenging hike. The weather was really nice with only some light misting when we got to the highest point of our hike (2376 feet or 724 meters). We got to see some great views of the mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and glaciers. The hike was peaceful with not too many other people, maybe 20 or so during our whole hike. We got back to our camper at 3:41pm, just over six hours after we had left. We have no regrets not going to the peak because we were exhausted when we got back and probably couldn’t have done much more walking.
After our hike, we hit the road. We stopped at Svinafellsjökull on our way out so we could see the end of the glacier that we could see while we were hiking. This was really cool to see the glaciers up close. It was a fairly dirty glacier with lots of sediment from the mountains but the stormy looking clouds and some bright blue glaciers make it really neat to photograph.
We left Svinafellsjökull after only about 20 minutes walking around. We wanted to hit the road since we were already tired and had more than an hour and a half drive to our next campground in Höfn. On our drive, we saw Jökulsárlón (glacial lagoon) and decided to stop. We hadn’t planned on stopping because we were going to kayak a glacial lagoon the next day and assumed that this would be the place. We decided to stop anyways. There were many different options to pull off, we chose one in the middle. Be careful if you are in a car, the pull off we chose had massive pot holes. We are really glad we stopped because not only was it the most beautiful lagoon in Iceland (that we saw), soon after we got there and while we were taking photos, we heard a loud noise, very similar to thunder. As we looked up, we saw that it was not thunder, but actually a large chunk of an iceberg breaking off of a larger iceberg. It fell into the water and the remaining part of the iceberg bobbed back and forth until it flipped over and another large chunk broke off! We unfortunately couldn’t get any real good photos in time because we both had our cameras setup for macro shots and couldn’t get everything changed in time. You can still see some of the action through our blurry shots we did get.
Overall, even without the iceberg collapsing, the lagoon is beautiful and we would highly recommend stopping here. You could also probably go here a few times if you happen to be going by more than once because it probably is changing all the time. We had talked to someone later and they said when they were there a year earlier, there were large chunks of ice on the shore. When we were there, it was just really small pieces of ice along the beach, which still made for some fun photographs.
We stayed at Jökulsárlón for about an hour and then continued on towards Höfn. We checked into our campsite and looked on our phones to see if there was anything in the area to check out. After a little research, we found a website for a brewery about 20 minutes west of Höfn. We couldn’t tell based on the website if they were open yet, but we decided to head out and check it out anyway. We arrived to Jón Ríki, brewery and restaurant, and thought we were in the wrong place. There was a barn situated between a farmhouse and some other buildings. The barn was what appeared to be the restaurant based on the parking signs. We went inside and were floored by how awesome it was! The inside had a bright colored ceiling, reclaimed wood walls and a neat wood bar. They had a nice glass full sized window so you could see the beer brewing setup. We sat next to the window and could look out at the mountains and watch the sunset. Although there was every musical instrument you could think of displayed in the back corner, there was no music this night.
Since we had already eaten dinner, we got a sample plate with our beers (we got the New England Style IPA and the Russian Stout – both phenomenal!). We got the fresh potato chips with truffle oil, side salad, and the meat and cheese board. The meat and cheese board included two of Iceland’s “famous” foods: hákarl (fermented shark) and harðfiskur (dried fish). We like our fish, but these were a little too “interesting” for us. The shark was salty and extremely chewing. One of the restaurant owners was pretty surprised when she came over to check on us and saw thought that we had ate all the hákarl.
After our night snack we headed back to our camp in Höfn. We had to pay for our showers at the Höfn campground and this time we bought more than 5 minutes’ worth!
Overall the weather was clear and sunny most of the day with only some light sprinkles throughout the day.
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