Day 2: GLYMUR OF HOPE
When we awoke at 6:30am, it was raining so we had a change of plans. We had originally planned to do the Golden Circle of Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss. Instead, we opted to drive north to the end of Hvalfjörður where Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur, awaited.
We began the day with our basic brekkie, then we recovered our parked car (parked on the street since it seemed that we could only do street parking at this hotel), and then we eventually left Reykjavík at around 7:30am
Instead of heading south then west like yesterday, we were now heading north. Getting out of the city (which was pretty quiet at this time of day) and onto the Ring Road was pretty straightforward. The drive itself was scenic in that we were passing through some pretty barren-looking lands sprinkled with some farm buildings.
Eventually, we got to a point where we had a choice of continuing on the ring road into a tunnel that appeared to go underneath the body of water known as Hvalfjörður or going along the fjord due east. We went east knowing that the tunnel beneath the fjord would continue going north. We knew that the trailhead for Glymur was at the head of the fjord based on the pre-trip research.
Initially, we had lost about a half-hour or so on the hike as we apparently lost the trail. Even though the trail seemed pretty obvious at first (helped along with some spray-painted yellow dots acting as trail markers), somehow we took a wrong path that seemed to lead us to a point where we couldn’t find any more trail indicators nor the trail itself.
Once we recovered the main trail from backtracking towards the trailhead, we noticed some interesting side cascades. They weren’t major, but then again, they probably would’ve been a pretty big deal back at home given how waterfalls seemed to be pretty rare and insignificant by comparison to what we’ve seen around the world.
Now that we were on the main trail, we paid even more attention to the yellow spraypaint on the rocks. Yet despite the increased attention, there were still some sections where we weren’t quite sure whether we were going the right way or not.
We eventually got to a place where we followed along downed barbed wire fences, and we’d eventually get to a fork where the trail on the right led us towards a seemingly dark tunnel. However, once we plunged into the darkness, we noticed there was light immediately coming from down below.
It turned out that that tunnel went through a rather interesting natural arch. Julie and I couldn’t recall any time where the trail went through a natural arch on the way to a waterfall, but it seemed to be the case here. The tunnel itself could’ve been one arch, but there was another one that split the opening into two right at the other side of the tunnel.
Fortunately, there was a reinforced log acting as the bridge over the river. Somehow, Julie lost one of her water bottles cupped in the mesh on the sides of her daypack during the crossing. We figured it was from ducking under the wire we were supposed to hold onto while crossing the log. But it wouldn’t be until later in the hike when we had noticed that it was missing.
In any case, we pressed on. Despite the cold weather from this morning and the continually threatening skies, we moved enough to be comfortable.
Next, the trail had to climb to the top of the gorge over loose basaltic rocks. It was very steep and certainly not for those fearful of heights. We both wondered how tricky it would be on the way back when we would have to descend this part!
Next, the trail pretty much hugged the narrow gorge as the trail continued to climb its way further up to the gorge’s head. We started to notice part of the waterfall Glymur way up in the distance, and that just strengthened our resolve to keep persisting as we knew we were almost there.
The further up we went on the gorge, the more we noticed that the Hvalfjörður was further in the distance while the gorge below us was more prominent. From this perspective, we knew that we were going to have a pretty long way to go to return to the trailhead.
Eventually after maybe 90 minutes or so on the trail, we finally arrived at the first overlook of the waterfall. It was still somewhat distant and obstructed so we continued onwards. However, we did notice a second smaller waterfall nearby that we could see partially.
The hike remained progressively uphill and somewhat rough as we had to get around minor gullies and streams. Some of the streams and gullies contained smaller cascades that were interesting, but they almost seemed like obstacles that made it a little harder for us to keep going.
We’d eventually get to perhaps the closest frontal view of the falls, which was disappointingly more obstructed than before. This turned out to be our turnaround point though we noticed there were still some more use trails that kept going to the waterfall’s top. But we decided that going all the way to its top wasn’t worth the time or effort (though I wondered if we would regret that decision).
The thing was that now we were at the overlook, where we enjoyed watching the birds flying back and forth from one side of the gorge to the other, we saw that we either took a shortcut to regain the trail further downhill or we had to hike all the way back uphill to the main trail, then recover and go downhill on the main path.
Whether we were wise about it or not, we decided to take the shortcut from here to the familiar trail on the way back. However, it was not easy. I wondered if it saved any time or not given the exposure to dropoffs and some of the steep sections where we had to sit and scoot. Still, we eventually managed.
We noticed there were some other hikers ascending on the other side of the gorge. I wondered if that was where that trail we didn’t take (as we headed into the tunnel and natural arch) led up to. We thought we took the right trail to get the best views of Glymur, but I wondered if the views were any better on that side, or if the trails would eventually connect somewhere upstream of the top of the falls.
Well, we weren’t going to do it given how much time we had already spent on this trail. So as we returned to the steep and loose basalt descent to return to the river level, we didn’t hesitate to get back through the arch, and then continue back towards the fjord ignoring the path we didn’t take on the right leading back uphill on the other side of the gorge.
It had some organized rocks nearby in what looked to be ruins or at least some sort of rock maze. In any case, my Icelandic wasn’t good enough to figure out what the signs were saying on the spot so we left the site with this mystery.
It wasn’t long before the GPS had us turn inland from the fjord on the Road 48 passing alongside the Laxá River. At the mouth of the river, there were some series of small cascades, which were interesting.
As we went further up the road, the GPS eventually had us stop at some seemingly obscure place where there was a pole and a little pullout with room for maybe a car or so (unless someone wanted to park on the grass). It seemed like an unlikely place to go find a waterfall.
Next, we took Road 48 along the and needed the help of the GPS and map to find Þórufoss along the way. It was a pretty river-type waterfall and I’d bet only locals, anglers, or tourists with a GPS (like us) knew where it was since it was unsigned and not directly visible from the partially gravel road.
After seeing this waterfall, it looked like the skies started to clear up enough for the sun to start coming out. It wasn’t long before we’d intersect with Road 36 (Þingvallavegur), but before I could get comfortable cruising, we had to get onto an unpaved rural road as our next targeted waterfall was Tröllafoss.
I was already having doubts about this one as the signpost for the falls pointed us onto a road that was also signposted “4×4”. I guess we had to put our rental 4wd to the test and so we proceeded onwards with the GPS as our guide.
Eventually, the map would tell us we arrived at our destination, but it appeared there was nothing around here. The road ahead also didn’t look very doable in our car. So Julie stayed in while I walked the road in search of the falls. Eventually, I’d find the falls down a steep gorge, but I only got an obstructed view at the top. The scramble down looked way too dangerous so I had to settle for the shot that I got. I had read somewhere that you could easily see this waterfall by horseback and from looking across the gorge, there did appear to be a trail or something but I knew it started from someone’s farm so it wasn’t public.
The rest of the evening was spent walking around Laugarveggur in Miðbær Reykjavík (a bit further than walking distance from our hotel) where there were numerous cafes and shops. We also found a Bónus Supermarket and bought some munchies there at a relatively reasonable price.
Forsaking the $30-$50 mains in the cafes, we opted to eat hot dogs (pylsur) at a stand so-called Bæjarins Beztu (literally “the best in town”) near our hotel. It was good but hardly filling. We topped off our dining by having soft serve frozen yogurt (softís) in one of the stands nearby.
Tired from a pretty successful day of waterfalling (except for Tröllafoss), Julie and I crashed back at the hotel. Tomorrow, we’ll be doing the Golden Circle – rain or shine…