Sunday, July 1, 2018

Iceland: Skogar to Thorsmork

Iceland has been high on my list of places I want to visit list for a long time. Not only do I have ancestors from there but I love the cool northern climate, and it is know for a strong outdoor culture and beautiful landscapes. On the downside, it is also known for being extremely expensive. The trip came together thanks to Lori, who tacked on five days at the end of her Austrian adventure. Normally this time of year is too busy for me to take any vacation but as I am between jobs for a couple of weeks, it worked out perfectly.

I met Lori at the airport in Reykjavik after a long day getting there. The airport is about a 40 minute drive from the city, so we bought bus tickets. In hindsight, and with a little more time on the island, I think renting a car is the better option. Bus tickets are pricey, and especially with two people, they add up fast. We ended up spending about $350 in bus tickets during our five days, and it came with the inconvenience of longer travel times and a lot of waiting around.

One nice thing was that the currency conversion was very easy. There are about 100 krona to the dollar, so you just move the decimal place two to the left, 1000 krona is about $10.00.

We spent a total of a day and a half in Reykjavik, a very nice little city. I neglected to take any photos there but its very walk able with a ton of cool murals and some great food. We tried to avoid eating out as much as possible due to the cost but the few times we did were excellent. And while we are on the subject, they have some nice spirits there as well. The sheep dung smoked whiskey was particularly good, if a bit of an oddity.

Sheep dung smoked reserve, very tasty

The main focus of the trip was getting into Thorsmork, a nature preserve in the southern part of the island.

To get there, we hiked the Fimmvorduhals trail, a 30 kilometer trek that leads from Skogar up into the mountains and back down into Thorsmork. We were warned that the trail can be difficult to follow due to weather, so we made a few precautions before starting. There is a great website which has up to date weather and trail conditions as well as other information that came in handy: Safe Travel Iceland. We checked this before hiking to make sure the trail was passable. We also used a GPS app to help navigate in case of extreme fog. I used the Gaia GPS app and it worked flawlessly (thanks for the tip Jacob!), it also worked really well for navigating around Reykjavik.

The bus took four hours from Reykjavik, if you drive its about two hours. We were dropped off at 11:00, and normally this would be a bit of a late start, especially with a long walk ahead. But, being so far north, we had about 22 hours of light in a day and so there was no real need to get an early start.

The trail starts at Skogar, which has a very well know waterfall. It was beautiful but there were so many people that Lori and I decided get out of there fast. The first half of the hike is uphill, with about 1000 meters of elevation gain. The trail passes by a series of waterfalls that are really incredible.

The day started mostly cloudy and as we ascended quickly ended up in the clouds. Visibility was fairly poor for much of the hike, the app came in handy a few times.

One of the last waterfalls we could see through the fog
We hit snow about 12 kilometers in and spent the next few hours making our way through it.

A brief clear moment while ascending


Hiker Trash Gore-Tex
View from the top of Magni
The trail passes between Magni and Modi, created during the 2010 eruption that disrupted all the air traffic in Europe. 

The snow eventually ends and the trail winds down into the river valley with spectacular views all the way.

Lori is stoked

View down to Thórsmörk 

Eating and enjoying

We arrived around 10 pm, pretty tired but elated to be in such a beautiful place. The next day was spent day hiking and enjoying the cool weather.

Lunch in a light drizzle

We ended up taking the bus out of Thorsmork to get back to Reykjavik due to poor weather conditions. Unfortunately, this took up most of the day and we only had a couple of more hours to spend walking around the city. The trip home took me 24 hours and I was very tired but happy.

If you do get the chance, go to Iceland. It's a lovely country, the people are friendly and it really is worth the effort.