I woke up the following day to an inviting sunny weather and clear skies. It was my last day in Reykjavik as I was heading towards the south coast. I enjoyed my last breakfast at the hostel, which was always great by the way, and bade them adieu. I didn’t have a set plan regarding how I would spend my time. I just had an idea about what I can possibly do, and I kick-started the day with a visit to the Kerið Crater.
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area of South Iceland. It is not part of the Golden Circle route, but it can be considered as an extra stop along the way if time permits it. It is relatively a fresh crater as it is about half the age of most crater lakes found in Iceland, it is only around 3000 years old. Being the “young” crater that it is caused the slopes to have a vivid red color rather than the usual black which adds to the appeal of visiting the crater. The crater is part of a privately owned land hence, there is a symbolic entrance fee of 400 ISK (the equivalent of about $3).
It may seem like nothing to write home about but let me assure you that it is something worthy of writing home about! The minerals from the soil colors the water of the lake with an aquamarine blue. The contrast between the red crater slope and the aquamarine blue of the lake makes for a pleasant sight. In addition, one side of the crater wall is not that steep and can be descended quite easily. It was sunny and bright when I was there, and the sunlight allowed the colors around the crater to shine so vividly. I just loved it.
Upon the recommendation of an American dorm-mate from my last night in Reykjavik, I drove to the town of Hveragerði afterwards. Within the vicinity of the town resides the Reykjadalur Valley which is part of the Hengilssvæðið Mountain area. Hengilssvæðið is an active volcano despite not erupting for about the last 2000 years and Reykjadalur in Icelandic means “Steam” and that’s what this area is famous for! The valley is filled with hot springs and mud pools, a sign why Hengilssvæðið is considered still active, and more importantly a hot river that can be bathed in. Now that was a piece of information the dorm-mate forgot to mention! I thought I will be going on a hike that offers beautiful scenery, little did I know that I could have been able to take a hot and relaxing dip at the end of it if I was well prepared! I only knew about the hot river from a really nice guy I met on my way up who gave me recommendations about where I should go to enjoy the steaming river! BUMMER!!
The hike took between two hours and a half to three hours for a round trip exclusive of the bathing! It was sunny and gorgeous. The views were so beautiful that I would stop every now and then to take in my surroundings. It wasn’t a demanding hike, quite moderate actually, except for the beginning when there was a little bit of an incline. The snow was melting back then and walking over the melting snow was a little tricky sometimes, but those remaining batches of white complimented the view so I can’t really complain.
You’ll know that you have reached the bathing area once you spot a boardwalk that comes with semi-private changing partitions. You need to be aware that some of the hot springs can reach a boiling temperature so don’t dip yourself where you are not supposed to. There are warning signs about how hot the water is in some places so be conscious about that as well. It wasn’t at all crowded when I was there. The water isn’t that deep so part of you will be exposed while bathing. After second thoughts, I’m not sure if I would have been able to pull it off if I was prepared for a dip. The lack of private changing rooms and the notion of a wet burkini underneath my clothes while hiking down didn’t look appealing to me! Nonetheless though, I was quite pissed that my burkini was in the car and not in the backpack I was carrying 😀 Being the stubborn person I am sometimes, I would have probably taken a dip and tormented myself till I was able to be in a set of dry clothes!
If you are up for a hike that offers a free access to a hot spring then that might be the day trip for you. For the parking location press here.
After the hike I had one last stop to make before heading to my accommodation: Seljalandsfoss. Seljalandsfoss is quite a popular waterfall in Iceland and one of the most visited due to its proximity to the ring road. The waterfall is part of the Seljalandsá river which originates from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and has a drop of 60 meters. The reason why it is so popular among tourists is because of the ability to walk behind it and have a look of what’s behind the scenes of the waterfall. It is the only waterfall in Iceland where you can actually do so. I have to warn you though that you will get drenched, so you need to be prepared! I wasn’t and got completely soaking wet, but I was still feeling warm thanks to the down jacket I was wearing.
I was at the waterfall the last hour before sunset and it was so perfect because the setting sun bathed the waterfall in a golden glow that was breathtaking. After having a full circle around Seljalandsfoss I followed the dirt road to the hidden Gljúfrabúi waterfall. Gljúfrabúi is nestled cozily inside a cliff rock and can only be reached by wading one’s way through the stream of Gljúfurá via a split in the cliff and into a small opening where Gljúfrabúi plunges over a 40 meter high boulder into a small pool. It is quite “hidden” as the name suggests and mostly overlooked by visitors to the nearby Seljalandsfoss.
You need to be careful going in there as it requires walking within the stream of the running water and that can be quite tricky! I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t have a waterproof hiking shoe and you shouldn’t attempt delving in there if there is snow and/or ice! I read there is a staircase that can lead up to an elevated viewpoint, but I don’t remember seeing it. I did see some folks going up a muddy and slippery part of the cliff to have a look at the waterfalls from above, but I wasn’t encouraged to attempt such a climb by myself specially with all the “no stepping” signs that were hanging around!
I read somewhere that the Seljalandsfoss parking lot is a pay and display parking for 800 ISK. I didn’t have to pay for parking my car when I visited so you might need to pay attention to that if it is true. The 800 ISK should last you a full day as I read.
I took my time enjoying the views of the waterfalls and the south coast until I needed to drive myself to the accommodation that hosted me for the two nights that followed. I was staying at a guesthouse that rests nicely at the foot of a cliff just across the ring road from the ocean. I had a small but cozy single room that came with an armchair, a private bathroom, and an amazing view outside the window. I instantly loved the place. I was famished by that time so upon checking myself in, I headed straight to the restaurant. I was so ready for dinner. I willingly ordered fish that night, I had salmon that came with a salad and a bedding of mashed potatoes. It was really good. I sealed my meal with tea and some desserts before I started getting ready for that night’s hunt. That night the northern lights were active, and I decided to seize the opportunity and try to realize those dancing lights.
I put on some warm clothes, packed my camera, a flashlight, and the tripod and headed to the Skógafoss parking lot which was a few-minute drive away. I was all set and waited patiently for the show to begin. Unfortunately, it kind of didn’t! The lights were active alright, but they were shielded from sight due to some clouds!! I could see the greenish hew but not a vivid dance as I was hoping for. I was a little disappointed I have to say but kept assuring myself that I still have the rest of the week and who knows, I might get lucky. We will see about that!
I waited for a couple of hours hoping the sky will turn around and when it didn’t, I gathered my stuff and drove back to the hotel. Tomorrow is a new day I thought to myself and who knows what might happen in the nights that would follow. I called it a day and went to sleep as I was going to explore more of the south coast the following day. Can you guess where I went?
The trip dates back to March 2017