Iceland – Thórsmörk, Kerlingarfjöll, Reykjadalur Valley, Landmannalaugar, Reykjanes Peninsula, South Iceland & Reykjavík

After horrible afternoon weather on our first day in Þórsmörk, we woke up to the birds chirping, the sun shining, and a glorious day to explore the “Valley of Thor”. Our first hike was up to the top of Valahnúkur mountain which gave us a wonderful 360 degree panorama of the valley. Just stunning and what a difference good weather can make! Our second hike was to the secret waterfall hidden away in Stakkholtsgjá Canyon. Amazingly, we had the entire canyon to ourselves! Since the good weather was holding up, we decided to make a beeline to the central highlands after Þórsmörk, driving directly towards Kerlingarfjöll. Back in 2014, Kerlingarfjöll was one of our favorite destinations in Iceland, and we were curious if we would enjoy a repeat visit to hike the geothermal wonderland of Hveradalir. Since we were early in the season, the parking lot up at Hveradalir was still covered with snow, but we were able to drive a portion and hike the remaining 3 km distance. It was as magical as we remembered, perhaps even moreso since there were no other tourists around when we visited first thing in the morning. Actually, there were 2 other tourists who were just finishing up their 4 am hike as we were arriving, so we were able to take one perspective photo showing other hikers in the distance. What an awesome day and we were glad we revisited. From Kerlingarfjöll, we visited Gullfoss Falls and the Geysir geothermal area before linking up with the Madventure overland group at Skjól Campground. They were also doing a circular tour of Iceland and we were thrilled that our itineraries overlapped. We are booked with Madventure for a future expedition and were so happy to meet Will and Karen and the rest of their happy group. After parting ways with Madventure, we made our way to the Reykjadalur Valley where we hiked up to the thermal river and spent the better part of a rainy day soaking in the water there. Thankfully the inclement weather only lasted a day, so our next adventure was another jaunt back into the central highlands to visit Landmannalaugar. On the way to the highlands, we stopped by to visit the waterfalls of Hjálparfoss, Gjáin, Háifoss, Sigöldufoss, Sigöldugljufur as well as Stútur crater. Even though it was 9:30 pm by the time we started our hikes in Landmannalaugar, we still had enough time to explore the Laugahraun lava field and hike up to the top of Mt. Brennisteinsalda before the sun set at midnight. Unfortunately, the route to Blahnúkúr was inaccessible due to snow but there will always be a next time! From Landmannalaugar, we backtracked to the south coast and the next day we visited Kerið Crater and Thingvellir National Park. Since we had ample time left in Iceland, we figured we’d try out luck to see puffins at Dyrhólaey. But first a visit to the Blue Lagoon and the volcano of Geldingadalir. Since our last visit to the volcano, the lava flow had overtaken the second lookout point that we hiked to only 3 week prior. The volcano also wasn’t as active as it had been before, but it was still a worthwhile hike to see how much it had changed. At Dyrhólaey, we spotted several elusive puffins but they were too far away for any decent photos. On our way back towards our campsite, we visited the Sólheimajökull Glacier as well as Iceland’s oldest pool at Seljavallalaug. With only two days left on our trip, we hopped into Reykjavik to take our COVID test before visiting the botanical garden and zoo and having lunch at a popular local joint. Our last day in Iceland saw us eating lamb shank in Reykavik, visiting a sculpture garden and checking out the geothermal beach of Nauthólsvík. Our trusty Dacia Duster needed a good cleaning so we stopped by an N1 where we were able to hand wash it for free and vacuum it for a nominal fee. Overall, our trip to Iceland was just as good as we hoped it would be. Our timing was perfect as tourist numbers weren’t at the pre-coronavirus levels yet and we had many phenomenal sights all to ourselves. Till next time Iceland!

A view of pretty Þórsmörk which literally means "Valley of Thor" A pedestrian footbridge to cross over the mighty Krossá River Þórsmörk panorama view Amazing 360 degree views from the top of Valahnúkur mountain Robby at the top of Valahnúkur mountain; Þórsmörk Robby contemplating wading across a glacial river in his tevas; Þórsmörk Stakkholtsgjá canyon Hiking 2 km through Stakkholtsgjá canyon without any other tourists was an amazing experience! At the end of Stakkholtsgjá canyon, we discovered a hidden waterfall Becky admiring the narrow ravine; Stakkholtsgjá Canyon Þórsmörk is nestled between 3 glaciers. This is the view as we walked back to Básar Hut & Campsite Becky at a tiny sauna hut; Volcano Huts Þórsmörk Icelandic horses galloping towards us;  Þórsmörk A carved female figurine draped in an Icelandic sheepskin Driving on the Kjölur Route (Route 35) to reach the central highlands The Jökulfall glacier river Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort Robby walking across an ice field to reach Hveradalir The rhyolite mountains of Kerlingarfjöll are a hiker's paradise Two hikers exploring Kerlingarfjöll A bridge over the Ásgarðsá River; Kerlingarfjöll Steaming vents in this geothermal wonderland of Hveradalir; Kerlingarfjöll We had perfect hiking conditions to explore beautiful Kerlingarfjöll Steaming vents and bubbling rivers create this dramatic scene at Kerlingarfjöll Hveradalir (the valley of hot springs) is famous for its colorful hot springs and phenomenal landscape views Hills that criss cross the geothermal area of Kerlingarfjöll Horseshoe bend of Hveradalir Wooden staircases to help explore Kerlingarfjöll Kerlingarfjöll is a hotbed of geothermal activity and should be on every itinerary to the central highlands of Iceland Horseshoe bend in the Ásgarðsá River; Kerlingarfjöll View of Gýgjarfoss, a beautiful central highland's waterfall Gullfoss waterfall Strokkur geyser forming a bubble before erupting Strokkur is Iceland's most active geyser with an eruption every 5 to 10 minutes Blue pool at Blesi hot springs Clear pool at Blesi hot spring It's beer time at the Skjól campground bar We linked up with the fun Madventure travelers at the Skjól Campground. Karen invited us for dinner and served up a delicious spag bol Reykjadalur Valley is full of hot springs, mud pools and a hot river that is popular with visitors looking for a nice soak Robby on the path to Reykjadalur Soaking for hours in the Reykjadalur hot spring river Massive lobster statue in front of Hafið Bláa restaurant; Þorlákshöfn Driving on Route 32 with the pretty Þjórsa River in the background Hjálparfoss waterfall A view of Gjáin gorge hidden in the Þjórsárdalur Valley One of several pretty waterfalls at Gjáin Gorge Becky at Gjárfoss waterfall; Gjáin Robby in front of a lava arch; Gjáin Gorge Pretty Gjáin valley is worth the difficult 4x4 journey to get there! Angelica plant; Gjáin Gorge Háifoss waterfall Sigöldufoss waterfall Sigöldugljúfur Canyon in the highlands is also known as the "Valley of Tears" View of Sigöldugljúfur Canyon's vibrant blue water Hnausapollur crater lake Stútur crater View of Landmannalaugar in the distance The Norðurnámshraun lava field as seen from the top of Stútur crater Bláhnjúkur (blue peak) Volcano; Landmannalaugar Natural geothermal hot springs at Landmannalaugar, which means "people's pools" in Icelandic Landmannalaugar's campsite and huts The Laugahraun lava field Mt. Blahnúkúr The rhyolite mountains of Landmannalaugar View of Mt. Brennisteinsalda Steaming vents near Brennisteinsalda A different angle of Brennisteinsalda Volcano  Brennisteinsalda is also known as "sulphur wave" due to its rainbow colors Brennisteinsalda pinnacle Snow capped mountains of Landmannalaugar Midnight sunset at the top of Mount Brennisteinsalda A portion of the rainbow-colored mountain of Brennisteinsalda Path leading through the Laugahraun lava field Graenagil canyon Kerið crater Stairs leading to the crater lake; Kerið Eye level view of Kerið's crater lake Þingvellir national park is situated in a rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates Öxarárfoss waterfall; Þingvellir National Park Another view of the rift valley at Þingvellir National Park Just outside the Blue Lagoon, milky blue water flows through a 2000 year old lava field This blue water color is due to its high silica content; Blue Lagoon On our return visit to Geldingadalur, the volcano wasn't very active. However, we were amazed at how far the lava has flowed towards Route 427 and the ocean View from the top of Dyrhólaey Dyrhólaey's massive rock arch Path leading to Sólheimajökull Glacier Dirt road leading to Seljavallalaug swimming pool Robby at Seljavallalaug (Iceland's oldest pool). The outdoor pool was built in 1923 and its function was to teach Icelandic people to swim The picturesque valley behind Seljavallalaug Robby at a turf house in the botanical garden; Reykjavik Ornamental kale; Reykjavik Botanical Garden Daisies; Reykjavik Botanical Garden Himalayan blue poppies African daisies; Reykjavik Botanical Garden Columbine flowers Orange dahlia Artic fox Artic fox mid yawn Artic fox searching for food Minks were introduced to Iceland from Norway in 1931. They escaped from cages and have thrived in the wild due to no natural predators. They are considered an invasive species Icelandic goat Harbor seal munching on a fish; Reykjavik zoo Harbor seal Red eared slider turtle Icelandic foal One of Einar Jónsson's sculptures on display at the Sculpture Garden in Reykjavik Nauthólsvík geothermal beach Robby washing our car for free at an N1 gas station video lightboxby v6.1

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