After an early breakfast in Reykjavík, Matty and I headed south along Route 1. With a day full of hiking and hot springs and waterfalls, we could not wait to get on the road and explore South Iceland!
Where: South Iceland
When: July 2016
Stayed: ION Hotel
Our first stop was Hveragerði: the flower town. Glowing greenhouses dotted the fields, leading us to the Reykjadalur (“steam valley”) hot springs hike. An easy way to find this trail is to put “Hot River Coffee” into google maps – the parking and trail head will be obvious once you get there!
We were giddy for our first Icelandic outing, and this mini trek way exceeded our expectations! The hike itself was so incredibly beautiful. We passed grazing animals, hopped over bubbling springs, and floated through clouds of steam. When we reached the springs themselves, it started to pour, which made the warmth of the water all the more intoxicating. We stripped down, put on our bathing suits, and got mud just about everywhere. Then, we soaked. Ahhh.
After Reykjadalur, we stopped by Seljalandsfoss, a giant waterfall right off of Route 1. There is a path completely around the falls, so you can see it – and feel it – from every angle. Neither of us had ever been in the presence of a waterfall like this before, and it was truly amazing. I remember walking down to the base of it, where it was wet and windy and crashing loud, and just standing there with my eyes closed for a good ten minutes. It felt almost supernatural – a crazy, magical experience of the senses. One of my favorite moments of the trip, for sure.
There is a gift shop at the waterfall, where we saw this amazing puffin sweater hanging. It smelled and felt like a sheep, and I couldn’t resist.
We then continued on to the beautiful Seljavallalaug thermal pool. If you drive down Seljavellir Road, you will come across the map below, which will lead you to the pool. It is an easy 20-30 minute walk, and I would recommend bringing some beers or other cold drinks to enjoy while you soak.
After a couple of relaxing hours, we dried off, packed up and drove to Skogafoss – another powerful waterfall right off the main road.
Our next stop was the black sand beach in Vik. A stunning, monochrome landscape.
We had hoped to visit the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell National Park, but my one-day itinerary had been a tad bit over-ambitious.. by the time we reached Vik, it was already well into the evening, and we still had to make the drive back to our hotel. Basing ourselves out of a centrally located property wasn’t the best planning on my part, given our itinerary. Next time, I would rent a camper, or check into random spots along the way. That being said, we definitely did enjoy where we stayed – especially the gorgeous thermal pool and Bond-like architecture! If your plan is to drive around the Golden Circle, or to skip the hikes and just sightsee along Route 1, then the ION Hotel would be an absolutely perfect choice.
Next stop: the Snæfellsnes peninsula!