The goal of our group of 14 was hiking along the south coast of Iceland in a series of day trips.
Our home for the one-day stay was the Hotel Leifur Eiriksson choosen as it is right across from the most imposing sight in the city, the Hallgrimskirkja Church. However before exploring the church as having just arrived after a long flight we headed to the nearby Café Loki for a quick lunch of lamb soup.
It was then a self guided walking tour of the capital including the port area and main pedestrian only street. We also headed to the Bonus grocery store for supplies. Although a nice city it deserves no more than a one night stay as Iceland is all about the scenery.
Most visitors purchase this as a one day tour but we were using rental vehicles and intended to stay along the route to cover more. This was the most touristy part of our trip.
Just north of Reykavik is Thingvellir National Park, our first stop. Nature is free in Iceland meaning there are no admission fee’s to the National Parks but some charge a small fee for parking. Just enter your licence plate number and credit card into the machine and you are good to go.
We went for a walk along the wide paths of the park where the North American and European plates meet. An easy walk which includes Almannagia Gorge, small waterfalls and some historic building. Very touristy but good for an introduction to the country.
We next went to the Frioheimar Restaurant at Revkholt where the owner gave us a tour of the greenhouses heated with thermal energy. Lunch was right in the greenhouse surrounded by the plants and featuring the best tomato soup I have ever enjoyed along with unlimited bread and tomato based drinks.
A little further north we arrived at Gullfoss waterfalls which rival Niagara in scale. Best to go to the upper parking lot for a view before going down the stairs for a closer look.
Finally we went to nearby Geysir and our accommodation in the Geysir Cottages. Then headed across the road to the geothermal field to watch Strokkur erupt about every 10 minutes plus a few others small geysers. Also went out at night to catch the Northern Lights.
The next day we drove to the Kerio Volcano for a walk around the rim and right into the crater. This is not a public park so there is a very small admission fee.
We then headed to Hveragerdi and the famous Reykadalur. We hiked for 3.5 km up a mountain and through a smokey valley in this thermal area. Plenty of sheep also along the hillsides. We arrived to an area with a boardwalk on both sides of the stream and settled into the warm waters surrounded by the majestic mountains. It was a 3.5 km return hike. No charge to this park.
We then drove to the nearby Bonus grocery stores for provisions and headed along Highway 1 to Lambafell and our accommodation in the Welcome Holiday Homes (cottages).
Drove 6 km to Skogar, home of the Folk Museum. But we were here to hike and started right from the Skogafoss Waterfall by walking up about 500 steps to the top for an awesome view. Then it was along the legendary Fimmvorduhals Trail which follows the Skoga River with about 26 waterfalls and deep gorges in an 8 km stretch.
This is a long distance hiking trail goes right into the interior of the country passing volcanoes and glaciers and we passed many hikers loaded down for the multi-day trip. However we only hiked for the day before returning and stopping an one of several restaurants at the start.
Skaftafell National Park
It was a 178 km drive along Highway 1 east to get to Skafafell National Park while enjoying this scenic country.
Once arriving at the park we took the moderate hiking trail uphill to the Svartifoss Black Waterfalls (because of the color of the rock) and the connecting Sjonarsker-Sel which provided an amazing view of the glacial river delta. After descending we took the easy trail to see the glacier from the bottom.
Our accommodation was in the nearby Hotel Skaftafell and we headed across Hwy 1 to the restaurant in the gas station for the buffet dinner.
Vestmannaeyjar, Westman Islands
It was an early departure for the 213 km drive to Landeyjarhofn where we caught the ferry for the 40 minute journey to the Westman Islands.
On arrival we parked the vehicles and headed for a hike up the short and steep Eldfell Volcano which last erupted in 1973 and added an additional 2 km of land to the island.
Once we returned to Vestmannaeyjar at the bottom we discovered by chance that we had parked our vehicles right next to the Puffin Patrol. During our visit and for a 6 week period each year the islanders go around with boxes catching puffins who have flown into the town. This is because it is normal for the adult puffins to abandon the nest and the babies use the moon for navigation but the lights from the town distract them.
The baby puffins are then brought to the Puffin Patrol offices for vital stats before being taken to 5 or 6 sites along the west coast. Here they are tossed into the air and fly off to sea. The friendly islanders even gave us a few babies to toss ourselves.
A further drive along the coast near the pirate fort was a short trail and observation shed where we could see the more colorful adult puffins in flight.
Our accommodation was called “Glamping and Camping” so we did the glamping part by staying in giant barrels, hobbit style. There was a small sitting area in the front and twin beds in the back. Washrooms, showers and a large dining room with kitchen facilities was up a short hill. Behind us was a massive mountain with the sea to the front.
The next morning it was a drive back to the ferry docks for the 40 minute ride back to the mainland. About 12 km down the road we arrived at the Seijainadsfoss Waterfall, which with a cave behind it permits you to walk behind the falls.
I used the Rick Steves Iceland guide and to help me with the planning.
For us that was the end of the trip as we headed back to Keflavik Airport. It had been an incredible week having seen thermal streams, islands, greenhouses, glaciers, waterfalls, volcano’s, puffins, great hiking and much more.