9.13.2018 – 9.14.2018 || Skógar | Vik | Hveragerði|| Iceland
In case you missed the first part of our Iceland adventures, read about Reykjavík and the Golden Circle first. After spending our first night in Iceland relaxing at the Blue Lagoon and exploring downtown Reykjavík, we set off for the Golden Circle, saving the Ring Road to Vik for last. After a good night’s sleep at the ION Adventure Hotel we were ready to explore southern Iceland.
Waterfalls come in a close second to rainbows in terms of being EVERYWHERE in Iceland. We skipped the Gullfoss waterfall on the Golden Circle route and Selfoss in favor of hitting up Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss further south along Ring Road (Route 1). We were spending the night in Vik which helped to spread out waterfalls and hikes over two days. The sight we were most excited about was Skógafoss in the town of Skógar but before we got there we saw a least a half dozen smaller waterfalls along the way, even pulling over like a tourist to snap the occasional picture. It isn’t every day you see waterfalls AND lots of sheep.
Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a drop of ~200 feet. The waterfall produces a pretty powerful spray so be prepared to get wet and to see multiple rainbows as long as it is a sunny day.
It is a popular spot with tourists so pack your patience and be on your toes for an opportunity to get a solo shot, you just might discover that you have a rainbow shooting super power like me!
This view was great but that is not the only reason we came to Skógafoss. There is a set of very steep stairs, well over 400 of them that lead up the right-hand side of the waterfall and offer and even better view of Skógafoss, the coastline, the mountains, and surrounding area.
There is a 23 km, three-part hike to fully explore this area but we narrowed our focus to part one, the Waterfall Way, or at least part of it.
After you climb to the top of Skógafoss there is a dirt path full of twists and turns and climbs that take you past 22 waterfalls of varying sizes.
We saw anywhere from 6-11 of the 22 waterfalls along the 75 minute hike out. After awhile it was hard to tell what constituted a waterfall as there were so many water chutes and segments of falling water along the gorgeous hike.
We spent a little under three hours at Skógafoss and Waterfall Way before heading out to find some lunch, once again wishing we stopped at N1 to grab some Sómi sandwiches. Fortunately, we had a pretty solid backup plan that a friend had recommended. Gamla Fjosid is an old cow house now turned family restaurant that serves delicious soup, homemade bread, and more. We had to backtrack a little but it was worth it.
After lunch we had a little bit of daylight left before needing to make our way into Vik. We made our way to Sólheimasandur black sand beach where a US Navy airplane was forced to crash land on November 21, 1973. The crew all survived, but the wreckage of the Douglas DC-3 remains on the black sand beach. It is important to only park in the roped off parking lot and to only approach on foot via the well-marked path IF you go. This is not something I would recommend and should have swapped it out to explore more of Vik.
From the parking lot you have NO sense of where the wreckage is except for at the end of a path that leads to the ocean. It is a FIVE MILE round trip walk with NOTHING to look at along the way, the photo above is it. The path is also full of rocks of all sizes and isn’t easy to maneuver, even with hiking shoes. We like to walk but it was windy and a brisk afternoon walk after we already walked five miles that day but I was determined to make it there and back once we committed.
It isn’t every day you see a plane up close like this on the beach so we checked it out, took some pictures, and headed back to make the return trip while it was still day light.
We stayed at Hotel Kría a relatively new hotel, in Vik that evening. After a day of outdoor exploring we had an early dinner at the hotel’s restaurant and called it a day.
The next morning we started out at the black sand beach at Reynisdrangar. To the right were views of Dyrhólaey, a peninsula we didn’t get any closer to than this. I would swap this out for the plane wreckage if you are planning to go.
The basalt columns at the base of the cave are incredible an a pretty impressive backdrop for the black sand beach.
The cliffs above are full of puffins and are a great spot for bird-watching (with your cell phone).
As if there wasn’t already enough to take in while here, Vik’s iconic sea stacks called Reynisdrangar rise from the ocean. As I was trying to fit into the stacks I came across a wedding photo shoot right out of Game of Thrones.
The next destination was Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that you can walk behind. You have to pay to park in the small lot along the side of the road before making your way down the path towards the waterfall. Tip: Bring rain gear and proper accessories as it was very wet, damp, and cold during our time there. I also had my phone inside a waterproof case.
Seljalandsfoss is similar in size to Skógafoss, both have a ~200 foot drop, however, Seljalandsfoss isn’t as wide or as powerful. This is the kind of waterfall you’d want to walk behind though! Backpack not required for this activity but I bought a waterproof cover in case it rained and wanted to try it out! It worked.
The walking path is one-way and guides you to the other side where you can go back to the parking lot or continue on to a small cave.
We had a little bit of time to dry off on the way to our third destination, Reykjadalur Thermal River Hike in Hveragerði. This area is one of Iceland’s most geothermal active areas with bubbling boiling water everywhere. This hike is popular because of the hot spring that is safe to swim approximately ~3k (1.86 miles) from the parking area, but it is UPHILL so be prepared. We arrived at the parking area, gathered our swim gear and lunch, and set off for the uphill climb, already coming across a sulfur smelling bubbling pocket of water.
You really can experience several seasons in the same day. It was incredibly windy and brisk when we set off for this uphill climb but the views were worth it.
We also FINALLY came into close contact with the beautiful Icelandic horses who were waiting for their tour group to finish up their swim. At this point we were about 2/3 of the way there.
As we continued on through this part of the valley there were more streams and more steam coming off of the ground, it really smelled like sulfur, too. The main swimming area was spread out along a wooden walkway with a small wall acting as a makeshift changing station.
I was all about getting in until we got there and I realized the water was ankle deep, at least the section that we sat down to enjoy lunch. To avoid feeling like a fish out of water we simply soaked our feet in the warm stream while eating our favorite sandwiches from Sómi – this one is smoked salmon and egg on a poppy seed roll. Yes, I am wearing water shoes, American flag water shoes, that I bought in case they were needed to cross streams while hiking. We didn’t need them but it was the last day of the trip and I wanted to make use of everything I brought along!
After lunch we headed back and now that we knew the drill knew it was downhill this time, it was time to enjoy the views.
Overall, I recommend this hike, you can continue on if you want to add some more mileage or you can stick to the 3 km trail that leads to the swimming pool. We are used to hiking with lots of trees through forests where you have to work for the view so it took awhile to realize that this too is incredible and offers all of the views the entire hike. On the way out we were able to take in the full view of the hike and could see the path carved into the mountain, pretty cool!
Notable Ring Road to Vik Sights:
- Skógafoss hike
- Reykjadalur Thermal River Hike
Notable Ring Road to Vik Food Experiences:
- Gamla Fjosid
- Sómi – amazing on the go sandwich option found at gas stations, grocery stores, etc.
Question: Did you travel along the Ring Road? What was your most memorable thing to do?