Hiking & Björk-spotting in iconic Iceland
I’ve just boarded the plane that is going to take me home. On the same plane to Copenhagen is Björk, would you believe it. I already saw her in the airport. She was asking for a Chai Latte, while doing some rather strange superstar-esqe stretching. I’m amazed to find out that she turned 52 in less than a month.
This flight is the last step of a beautiful and at times tough trip to Iceland. With me came my 15 year old son. I wanted to do this trip with him. Show him the magical splendor of Iceland. Teenagers can be difficult, but we luckily we share a liking for hiking, and possibilities for hiking are plentiful in Iceland.
We picked up our camper van and began our trip from Reykjavik. Ahead of us were 12 days of road trip, hiking and living in the back of a van. Father & son.
We drove straight east. Our first goal was the village of Vik. Here we camped for two days in front of the old deserted supermarket, where we could find a bit of shelter from the heavy wind and rain and prepare our meals in the outdoor kitchen.
Vik is a very small village, but like many other Icelandic villages and towns, it has a very strong identity. There is a great tourist information with an exhibition about Eyjafjallajökull and there is a museum which tells the story of Vik. The gem of the exhibition is an old movie made in the 1950’s, which show how daily life was back then. Very fascinating.
From the tourist information we were advised to take the hike to Hatta, a mountain of 504 meters overlooking Vik. The hike is marked all the way to the top. The weather was tough, with heavy winds, but it was dry and relatively warm, so after reaching the summit we decided to leave the trail and go further into the wilderness.
It was so amazingly beautiful. Fantastic views and the sensation of being completely by ourselves. I got the feeling of – for a short while – being the sole observer and caretaker of this beautiful piece of reality. I felt small and important at the same time.
The teenager became child again and started assembling rocks to make a cairn – the sign to others that we had been here. Soon the father also became child again and joined the construction.
From Vik we drove further east to the famous Skaftafell, where you can also find some very good hikes. We stayed at Skaftafell for two nights and did two long hikes. One very wet and foggy 20 km hike to Kristinatindar which is just over 1000 meter high. It is supposedly very beautiful with views of the glacier from above, but we had a visibility of 50-100 meters, so we didn’t see anything at all. Again the weather was nice in the sense that we didn’t have much wind and the temperature was decent, but we came home totally soaked because of the rain and heavy fog. Fortunately you’ll find a washing machine and a tumble dryer in Skaftafell, so we were ready again the next day.
This time we took a 20 km hike through Morsádalur to Morsájökull. This track has little elevation, so it’s easier. And this time the weather had cleared up. Morsádalur is a big glacier lagoon and has a ridiculously beautiful view into Vatnajökull. We could hear the ice grumble. I got the feeling that I didn’t want to leave this magnificent beauty. But of course we had to. The hike goes through what the guides called a forest. Coming from a country with a lot of forest (Denmark), I would call it a shrubbery. I experienced this more than one time – that Icelandic guides like to talk about and recommend these forests. I think it is a little bit silly. Be proud of what you have: ice, volcanoes, geysers, mountains, waterfalls – and forget about the forests.
From Skaftafell we drove further east. We reached the fishing town of Höfn, where we treated ourselves with a delicious seafood pizza. Again we visited the local tourist information where we got great advice. This time we decided to go to Hoffell to try to climb the peak of Geitafellstindur which is about 900 meter high and situated about 25 kilometers from Höfn.
Geitafellstindur is one of several peaks around what is an an old volcano with a stunning view of Hoffellsjökull which is one of the most Southeastern outlets of Vatnajökull. You literally walk the rim of a volcano that was extinguished 7-8 million years ago and it still easy to see the shape of the volcano and the caldera. We were extremely lucky with the weather. Clear, still and almost warm. And again we made a cairn on the top. Go see it. We left an unopened can of Pine apple inside.
The hike was supposed to be 20 km, but it felt a lot longer due to the at times very steep elevation. On our way we saw a flock of raindeer. They weren’t really afraid of us. The hike up took six hours, the hike down took two and a half hours.
The day ended in the excellent hot tubs at the foot of the mountain. If its daylight you can’t miss it. 1000 ISK per person, they have changing rooms, toilets and a very cool caretaker, who’ll serve you drinks at the tub. Search for “Glacier World hot tub Höfn”. There are five hot tubs each with room for about six people. A lot of local people use it too. We were in the water for two hours, and it was by far the best money I spent in Iceland.
During our long return drive to Keflavík, we were treated with some very beautiful Northern lights. They weren’t really how I had expected, but still very enthralling. The were like big, wide and green circles in the north sky. For some reason I had imagined that they would look more like curtains. The light was visible for most of the night but it peaked for about 30 minutes.
And that is it. As I’ve been writing this we’ve crossed the half the Atlantic, passed the Faroe Islands and the Shetland Islands and now we’re almost touching down in Copenhagen. Me, my son and Björk. The triumphant trio. A lot of experiences and memories richer.
Martin Ljung Krabbe
Read more: The Iceland Trip
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