Iceland’s Westfjords: Hike Day

Last week we went on a hike in Hnífsdalur, in Iceland’s Westfjords region. It is a hike that is advertised as a guided one from the local tour companies, but we didn’t feel the need to pay the money for it. We went on our own and avoided paying, and we were able to go our own pace up the large glacial valley behind the village.

Before the hike, we stopped by the Melrakkasetur / The Arctic Fox Center in Súðavík. The Centre spreads information about the only native mammalian species in Iceland, a holdover from the great glacial maxima that spread in Earth’s history over the whole of the Northern parts of the world. I learned, for example, that the Arctic Fox may have originated in Tibet!

It’s well worth the visit, especially if one is lucky enough to be there for the feeding time of their two yearling foxes. They give them food at 10:00 and 16:00 daily, and it is sooooooooo cute.

After that, we headed out in the car to the trailhead. It’s easy to see the one we took, which is really more of a road than a trail. It was easy going for the first 4km, and then a bit harder as we walked toward the top of the mountains.

There is a trail, but once you get up to the glacial bits the trail is harder to find. It would probably be better to walk on the opposite side of the valley if you intend to go up and over the top, since there are marked trails there.

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The biggest of the many waterfalls of the day. 

Be very careful on the snows themselves if you do go the way that we did. You could easily wander onto a hollow part and fall through to the meltwaters below. Stay on the parts that are obviously shallow and cross the snow via a quick route.

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Glacial Snows near the top

Since it was such a gorgeous day, we also decided to go into a natural swimming hole that can be found at the bottom of one of the waterfalls on the trail itself. The day we went the water was not particularly deep, but it was COLD.

As evidenced by my ridiculous face in the middle picture above. Should probably add it to the Super Unflattering Photos post from recently. It was so cold as the be painful, but the isolation of the place meant that we could change into and out of our swimsuits in the open without fear of being seen. Few things are as fun as being briefly nude in nature, especially if it’s so sunny and gorgeous out!

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Our trip in the Westfjords was full of cold and hot water dips. Into the hots spring on the side of the road. Into the freezing river to get to another hot spring. Into the freezing fjord at low tide and the kelpy forest therein, and into the bath water of the natural pool draining into the sea. And finally, most hilariously, into the Greenland Sea itself at the Red Sand beach. If you haven’t seen the video of that one, you really really should. 

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The hike was about 12km in total, and not too difficult. It should be easily manageable if you have some experience hiking. If you don’t have outdoors experience, consider stopping at the end of the road section. The waterfalls there are spectacular and the trail is easy. It would be a real achievement to get lost on that section in the summertime.

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The last of the Westfjords posts should be up today or tonight, and then we’ll move on to new Iceland Adventures!

Our next week off is in early July. Have you been somewhere amazing in Iceland, that we really shouldn’t miss? How about some awesome hidden hot pots, or the best ice cream, or new experiences that we could have while we call this country home for a summer? Send them my way, and I’ll put you in the post once we’ve done it. 

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