Friday, 24 June 2016

Four outdoor pools in Iceland worth visiting

Iceland is not only known for its outstanding volcanic landscape and geothermal energy but also for its 100+ public swimming pools, most of them heated thanks to the all-natural volcanic heat. Icelanders of all ages go to the pool regularly.  If you are awake early on a weekday and feel like a morning hot pot, the standard opening time is 6:30 am. When at the pool so early, you’ll be amazed to see it more crowded at opening time, than at 9:00 or 15:00! A dip in the pool before work is common!

Four outdoor pools in Iceland worth visiting

The swimming pools in Iceland come with strict hygiene rules, everyone must shower naked before entering the pool, but don't panic! men and women have separate shower rooms. Showering naked at the public pool is the norm for Icelanders, but for anyone uncomfortable about it, most pools have at least one shower with a curtain. You must know, the pool facilities are not just for swimmers, many people go just to lounge in the hot pots, steam rooms, and jacuzzis.

Four outdoor pools in Iceland worth visiting

More than just a leisure activity, the swimming pool is an institution in Iceland, even the smallest village has a pool. The swimming pools are around 30 degrees celsius and the hot pots between 37 to 43 degrees celsius. In the middle of winter, do not hesitate to go to the pool, after ten minutes in a hot pot at 40 degrees celsius, you can easily walk from a pot to a pool without feeling the cold.

The swimming pool in Hofsós, Skagafjörður is well known in Iceland for having an extraordinary view.  While there you can enjoy the spectacular view of the Þórðarhöfði peninsula, Drangey island, and  Skagafjörður fjord. The pool overlooks the sea, so from certain photo angles, you would think that the pool and sea are one.

Four outdoor pools in Iceland worth visiting

The local pool in Akureyri consists of two large pools, a small children's pool, four hot pots, two slides and a steam room. This perfect pool complex suits everyone's needs and even has a cold pool for the brave. Well worth checking out when you are in Akureyri.

Four outdoor pools in Iceland worth visiting

While visiting the beautiful peninsula Seltjarnarnes in the west of Central Reykjavík, check out the local pool.  It has a large salt water pool, a children's pool, four hot pots and steam room. This is certainly the right place to come to relax after a morning’s outing in Reykjavik.

Four outdoor pools in Iceland worth visiting

The pool Hreppslaug, near Borgarnes, was built in 1928 and is protected as a cultural heritage. It is surrounded by beautiful nature and hot springs, that supply Hreppslaug's pool and hot pots with natural hot water.

Four outdoor pools in Iceland worth visiting

Joanne, Iceland24

Monday, 20 June 2016

Hiking routes in Skaftafell National Park Iceland

Following are suggestions for a few of the more popular hiking routes in Skaftafell. Whenever possible the suggestion is a circular route. Please note that these are only suggestions; in most cases it is possible to use alternative paths, return the same way, do a reverse circle etc. Also note that distance and walking times are for reference only.


Hiking maps for Skaftafell are available in visitor centres, information offices and from park rangers. You can also use the ones here on the right; click on each picture for enlarged version.


Skaftafellsjökull (Skaftafell glacier) 
Distance: 2 km (4 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 1½ hrs. 
Route difficulty: 1 (easy) 

A paved path goes from Skaftafell Visitor Centre towards Skaftafell glacier. From the end of the paved section a gravel path leads to a point where there is a good view towards this impressive outlet glacier and its roots in Vatnajökull ice cap.

After enjoying the view you should walk back the same gravel path and then take another gravel path on the left which will lead you to Skaftafell Visitor Centre.


Svartifoss ('Black waterfall') 
Distance: 2 km (4 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 2 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 1 (easy) 

After walking 250 meters from the visitor centre through the campsite take you slightly upwards into the mountain heath in Skaftafell (elevation is 140 meters in 1.5 kilometers). From that point the path will take you down into the ravine below the waterfall).


After enjoying the waterfall and its surroundings you should walk up the basalt column steps on the other side of the ravine and follow that path all the way down to the campsite via Lambhagi. When visibility is good It is recommended to do a little extra loop to the viewpoint at Sjónarnípa on the way down.


Kristínartindar ('Kristín's mountain peaks') 
Distance: 16 km 
Walking time: 7 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 3 (difficult) 

The route to Kristínartindar goes from Skaftafell Visitor Centre through the campsite and up into the mountain heath as if you were going to Svartifoss. It is possible to go all the way to Svartifoss and then head on to Sjónarsker, but the shortest way is to cross the river on the walking bridge next to Magnúsarfoss and from there head to Sjónarsker. From Sjónarsker the path goes all the way towards Kristínartindar. When arriving at the foot of Kristínartindar you have two options.

The easy one is to walk the path around the mountain peaks where you will come onto the walking route again. The other option is to walk the path that goes through the rock scree all the way to the top of the mountain. For that hike it is strongly recommended that you have good boots and trekking poles. To go down you return the same way as you came up, with the exception of that when you arrive at the shoulder between the mountain peaks you take the path that goes to the left.

That path will take down towards Gláma where the paths meet again. From Gláma the path takes you down to Sjónarnípa and then onwards to the visitor centre/camp site via Austurbrekkur.


Sjónarnípa (a viewpoint) 
Distance: 3,5 km (6,5 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 2 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

From the camp site walk up towards Svartifoss. Skip the first signpost for Sjónarnípa. After 450 meters another 'Sjónarnípa signpost' appears. Choose that path towards Sjónarnípa. Then continue back towards the camp site via Austurbrekkur. Even better option is to skip the second signpost also and choose the third one which is located right before Svartifoss.


Morsárjökull (Morsá glacier) 
Distance: 10 km (20 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 6 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

The route goes from the camp site in Skaftafell across the mountain heath to Grjóthóll in Morsárdalur. A marked path goes from Grjóthóll towards Morsárjökull and the glacial lagoon in front of it. On the return you take the same path towards Grjóthóll and continue across the walking bridge on Morsá river.

You then continue on the trail next to the river all the way down to another walking bridge by Götugil. Walk over the bridge on follow the marked path that leads to the camp site.


Bæjarstaðarskógur ('Farmstead woods') 
Distance: 7,2 km (15 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 5 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

The route goes from the camp site in Skaftafell across the mountain heath to Grjóthóll in Morsárdalur. A marked path goes from Grjóthóll towards Morsárjökull. From Grjóthóll continue across the walking bridge over Morsá river and straight on the marked path that leads to the woods in Baejarstaðarskógur.

The path continues through the woods and past two beautiful ravines that are worth a closer look. After passing the ravines it is relatively easy to walk across the sands back towards Skaftafell. There is no marked path on this route but aim for the lower end of the Skaftafellsheiði mountain heath and you should arrive at the walking bridge by Götugil. Walk over the bridge on follow the marked path that leads to the camp site. If you are not comfortable with crossing the unmarked sands you can return the same way as you came.


Kjós ('Dell') 
Distance: 12 km (24 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 8 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

The route goes from the camp site in Skaftafell across the mountain heath to Grjóthóll in Morsárdalur. A marked path goes from Grjóthóll towards Morsárjökull. From Grjóthóll continue across the walking bridge over Morsá river and straight on the marked path that leads to the woods in Baejarstaðarskógur. Then instead of walking into the woods you should turn right and walk on the gravel bank of Kjósarlaekur.

Please note that there is no proper path or way marking. Continue until you arrive in Kjós. The same route will take you back towards Grjóthóll but instead of crossing the bridge you should continue on the trail next to the river all the way down to another walking bridge by Götugil. Cross the bridge on follow the marked path that leads to the camp site.


Getting there

By car: Road 1 goes from Reykjavík to Skaftafell (326 km). Road 998 (2 km) leads up to the visitor centre in Skaftafell. Road 1 continues to the east from Skaftafell. The distance to Höfn is 136 km and the distance to the Glacial Lagoon is 56 km.

By bus: A scheduled bus goes between Reykjavík and Höfn via Skaftafell. For further information check this website: www.straeto.is


Restaurants / food stores 

A cafeteria is operated in Skaftafell during the summer. It offers hot soups, sandwiches, cakes and coffee, along with some basic dairy products, bread, biscuits and fruits, to mention some.

A restaurant can be found in Freysnes which is 5 km to the east from Skaftafell (opposite Hotel Skaftafell). It is operated all year round and also has a small-scale food store. A larger grocery store is in Kirkjubæjarklaustur (70 km to west) and yet another one in Höfn (136 km to east).

Accommodation 

Information on accommodation near Skaftafell can be found on the website of the regional tourism organisation.


Skaftafell campground

The campground in Skaftafell is in full service from 1 May to 30 September. Guests are permitted to camp outside the service season but must take notice of limited services. Guests should contact the service desk at the visitor centre prior to camping.

Late arrivers should make contact first thing in the morning. Vatnajökull National Park does not offer any equipment rental.

Tel: +354 4708300
 e-mail: skaftafell@vjp.is


Source: Vatnajökull National Park

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

For many years now, Askja has been the most popular excursion from Lake Mývatn and one of the top destinations in Iceland.

You will travel through the largest wilderness of Iceland, filled with marvels of nature, driving across lunar landscapes where US-astronauts trained before they ventured to the moon in 1969.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

You will see scenes of unforgettable nature and exiting geology. Askja, the huge caldera, is still in the making through bedrock subsidence above a deep-seated magma source. It lies centrally in the mountain massif Dyngjufjöll and is an active centre of a volcanic system.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

Askja was not explored until the 19th century. In 1874-1875 there was a series of volcanic eruptions in the system, culminating in a very powerful eruption. Some 2 billion cubic metres of ash and pumice where blown from vents now on the bottom of Lake Öskjuvatn . This 11 sq. km-lake formed within a few years, following the event. It is the deepest lake in Iceland, 220 m. The latest eruption in Askja occurred in the autumn 1961.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

We recommend you to walk at the slopes of a 1961-crater. An easy 30-min.-long walk leads you to the explosion crater Víti (Hell) at the rim of Lake Öskjuvatn.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

A small, milky and warm lake adorns the crater. Amazingly, it turns into a heaven if you care to take a bath in it. After enjoying the unearthly quietness and bizarre landscape our passengers return to the bus.
Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

Víti is a popular bathing site, but if you intend taking a dip, please be aware that the sloping path is very slippery in wet weather.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

Route back to Lake Mývatn, you could make a stop is made at Herðubreiðarlindir where clear water flows from springs in an old lava flow. The springs sustain beautiful vegetation and form small ponds providing conditions for flowering plants and birdlife in the otherwise barren, volcanic landscape. The high bulk of the old sub-glacial volcano (tablemountain) Herðubreið (1682 m) rises about 3 km distant and provides a breathtaking background to this wilderness oasis.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

Askja is a 50 km2 caldera in the Dyngjufjoll mountains. The mountains emerged in eruptions under an Ice Age glacier cap. Askja itself was formed, for the most part, at the end of the Ice Age in a major ash eruption which caused the roof of the magma chamber at the heart of the central volcano to subside. Askja is a part of Vatnajökull National Park. The caldera contains several volcanoes, including Víti (explosive volcanic crater). Water has accumulated in the crater, its temperature is variable - it is around 30°C on average.

HOW TO GET THERE?

The road to Askja goes from road 1 to road 901 and onto mountain road F905. Onward to F910 to Drekagil. On this route there are two fords to cross, usually small. From Drekagil goes mountain road F894 (8 km) to the car park at Vikraborgir.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

Another option is to go from road 1 to mountain road F88 via Herðubreiðarlindir to Drekagil. On this road ther are fords on the rivers Grafarlandsá and Lindá that need to be crossed. The fords can be difficult or even impassable for small jeeps.

HOW TO DRIVE ON F ROADS?

So what do you have to keep in mind when planning a trip to the highlands?

-You have to be driving a 4x4 vehicle.
-It is strongly advised that people travel together in 2 or more cars.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

-You should check information about the conditions of the roads before you start your journey. It is best to call 1777 or check www.road.is.
-Make sure that the F road you plan to travel on is open for traffic.
-Driving outside of the roads in the highlands is strictly forbidden. Actually, driving off road in Iceland is always forbidden!

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

-Buying a detailed map of the route you will be travelling is much better than using the standard free map you can get at tourist information centers and gas stations. This is not necessary but can be very helpful.
-Whenever possible, try to talk to local people about conditions in the area, such as rangers.
-Tell somebody about your travel plans. You can for example tell the good people over at www.safetravel.is (or just the ranger you talked to before).


-It is good to be prepared for all types of weather as the weather in the highlands can change almost with a blink of an eye.
-Be aware that telephone signals in the highlands are not very stable and you can go for a long while without a mobile connection.
-The emergency number in Iceland is 112. You are able to call it in the highlands, even without a mobile connection.
-There is no petrol station in the highlands so make sure you fill up! :)


THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CROSSING THE GLACIER RIVERS

When you cross rivers, make sure that the 4 wheel drive has been engaged before going into the river. Drive very slowly and use the low range if possible. Never switch gears in the middle of the river.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

Glacial rivers usually have less water in the mornings. During warm summer days, the flow of the river can increase a lot. Heavy rain can also increase the flow of a river substantially. Be aware that rivers can sometimes not be crossed even if the road is open and you are driving a 4x4 vehicle.

A good rule of thumb regarding glacier rivers is that if you would not want to wade through a river you should not drive through it. Crossing rivers can be a serious matter if people are not careful. Whenever possible, cross with someone with experience in crossing rivers.

Askja volcano travel guide (Iceland)

Fords over rivers are usually marked and should be easy to spot. Be aware of big rocks that might be under the surface of the water. The worst place to cross is where the water is most calm because that is usually the deepest part of the river. The best way to cross is to follow the torrent diagonally down the river, that way the torrent helps the vehicle over.

If you prefer a guided tour, we recommend a guided tour from Lake Mývatn to the Askja Caldera with this Icelandic company.

You can also make it with a Bus 4x4 from the company Visit Askja. Good price and great adventure!

Peter and Helga
Iceland24