Iceland Day 14 – September 14, 2018
1°C (about 34°F) weather and freshly fallen snow on the mountains greeted us in the morning in Seydisfjörður. Our coldest night in Iceland, and a good reminder that winter is rapidly on its way when you’re at 65°N.
After breakfast and piling on the clothes, we headed back up Road 93 towards Egilsstaðir, making a quick stop at Gufufoss. We were enjoying the drive down Road 93 too much the previous day to make a stop here, plus the parking lot was full. Perks of a cold morning and waiting a day, we had the fall to ourselves, but made it a quick stop due to rain and the cold.
We continued on Road 95 once we arrived in Egilsstaðir, which would be taking us to hiking destination for the day, Hengifoss. Road 95 goes along the shores of Lagarfljót, Iceland’s third largest lake, in the Fljótsdalur valley. As an extra, Lagarfljót is also home to the famous serpent, Lagarfljótsormurinn. It’s considered a bad omen if you see the serpent, so luckily the only monster we saw was my toy brachiosaurus on this day. Road 95 also passes through Hallormsstaðaskógur, Iceland’s largest forest and first national forest, which was designated in 1905.
After a beautiful, if not slightly un-Iceland, drive through the forest along the lake, we arrived at the trailhead for Hengifoss, which is Iceland’s third highest waterfall (second highest easily-accessible). Donning our rain gear, we began the trudge uphill (we were still waiting to find a downhill both ways hiking trail in Iceland… ha!).
The hike treats you to several other waterfalls, including Litlanesfoss, which is surrounding by basalt columns. Basalt is one of my favorite things ever, so even though I hate to admit it, I might’ve enjoyed Litlanesfoss more than the main feature, Hengifoss!
The trail turned pretty muddy once it flattened out to head towards Hengifoss. We located the trail register, so we signed the book, and then went for a closer look. Supposedly you can walk right up to Hengifoss, but it seemed very rocky, tricky, and muddy so we enjoyed the views from a distance.
Round trip the hike to Hengifoss was about 3.2 miles and we spent 1 hour 45 minutes total.
Hiking done, we turned our attention to finding a spot in the forest to enjoy some lunch. There are many hiking trails and pull offs in the area, so we found one with some restrooms and trails. In a moment of anger, Kubo threw the leftovers of the horse meat adventure from Day 7 out of the doors of the van, complaining that it was too salty. (No worries, he picked it up and discarded it properly in the trash.) I don’t know why, but I had a good chuckle about the whole incident. We cooked up some soup and I wandered the trails for a few minutes. Hallormsstaðarskógur definitely made my list of “need to come back here and hike” – next time. Seriously, Iceland just has way much cool stuff that is impossible to see all in one trip!
We continued back to Egilsstaðir and turned onto the Ring Road for the final time on our trip… this would be the road that would lead us all the way back to Reykjavík in just a few more days!
The east fjords, or Austurland, of Iceland are just crazy, insane, beautiful craziness! Jaw dropping scenes surrounded us on all sides for the rest of our drive today, and definitely was a highlight of our whole adventure. I lost count of how many times I exclaimed, “Shut up, Iceland! Just stop!” at the next beautiful scene around each corner. Kubo and I also struggled to announce every waterfall, as there were so many… but no, we still weren’t sick of them (seriously, how do people get sick of waterfalls?!)!
In and around the fjords we went, passing near Reyðarfjörður and Fáskrúðsfjörður, before arriving in Stöðvarfjörður. I patted myself on the back for selecting to take the coastal route versus staying inland and going over Road 939, or Oxi Pass. Many people skip Oxi due to the “scariness” of it, but as much as Kubo and I love Icelandic mountain passes, we were happy we skipped it in order to witness the amazing things Austurland had to offer.
In Stöðvarfjörður we stopped briefly to glance at Petra’s Stone Collection, but decided for the sake of time that we would skip the tour of the inside. However, it was nice to get out and stretch our legs for a few minutes before continuing on.
In between demanding that Iceland stop with the beauty because I couldn’t handle it and snapping off photos from the passenger seat, Kubo and I took to some impressive van karaoke, especially to Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On.” Maybe the scenery was making us go a bit… KuKu? Ha!
At the head of Berufjörður we stopped for a quick restroom break at some port-a-potties that were set up in a rest area, and then Kubo spotted a gravel road marked for Eyjólfsstaðir, and decided to drive up (apparently by skipping Oxi he didn’t get his fill of steep gravel for the day!). And what did we find?! A waterfall – Sveinsstekksfoss!!
Sveinsstekksfoss is not a huge waterfall by any means, but always nice to find a hidden gem to explore. What the falls lacks in size is made up by the views all around of the mountains and fjord.
Done chasing waterfalls, we continued on, and things just kept getting more and more amazing.
Djúpivogur was our next destination, Eggin í Gleðivík specifically.
Kubo and I thoroughly enjoyed Eggin í Gleðivík, and walked the entire length, taking photos, and picking our our favorite eggs. I think we also both had an awareness to enjoy our last day of solitude in Iceland before we would hit the heavily trafficked southern coast where we’d be sharing the sights with thousands of our not-so-close traveling friends.
I had nothing else on the itinerary after Djúpivogur, but we kept finding spots to pull off and take photos and explore. Lækjavik was our next one, which has parking overlooking the ocean and a nice sea stack. Oh, and there were beach sheep! Those damn Icelandic sheep will eat anything and live anywhere apparently!
I about pooped my pants when Eystrahorn came into view, which is the eastern (and underrated) twin to the famous Vestrahorn. Luckily there was easy parking for photos!
But wait, there’s more!!! We soon found ourselves stopping to see some horses and take more photos. It’s never ending in eastern Iceland!!
Finally we pulled into Stafafell campground, our spot for the night. We were the first to arrive and reception was not open so we had first pick of the perfect camp spot among the amazing views and roaming sheep.
Stafafell is a basic campground, but they did have free showers… neither Kubo and I had showered since Mývatn on Night 11, and I was going crazy with how my hair felt (mmm camper van life!). Though the facilities were dirty/in disrepair, I enjoyed the shower and feeling fresh once again, knowing that it would be a few more days without a shower as south coast campgrounds tend to charge for showers. We cooked up some dinner, and then Kubo went to shower. I was putzing around in the camper van, and had a strange feeling come over me that I should look outside…
EEK AURORA OMG OMG OMG!
I grabbed my camera, threw on my “better” lens and couldn’t find the tripod, so I took to taking some handheld shots, at least remembering to focus properly unlike the first aurora night way back on Day 4. I couldn’t contain my excitement, so I busted into the co-ed bathroom facilities, rushing past some other girls, and screamed “Kubo, get out there, there’s Northern Lights!” and then ran back through the sheep poop to take more photos.
Once Kubo finally wandered out, he located the tripod for me, and we took to enjoying nature’s light show.
We went to sleep knowing that we had another #BestDayEver while #LivingOurBestLife. 😀
Follow along on our entire 19 day Iceland road trip adventure! Click here for a comprehensive itinerary, with links to each day’s adventure.