Different from the Blue Lagoon where tourists are abundant and the expectations high (based on good marketing of a highly misrepresented and man-made fake lagoon), Hveragerdi really takes the biscuit! Ok yes, we agree. This place is also a bit touristy and all, but the 40 minutes hike, the mountains surrounding the river, the harmonic wooden minimalist facilities, and the natural scenery really make of this place something special!
As the stream goes down, there are long flat natural pools where you can immerse and have a relaxing plunge into the hot water. Most amazingly, you can even choose the pool that has the best temperature for you! No, nothing man-controlled as you might be thinking, it’s just the natural temperature loss of the water as the river moves downstream. AMAZING, right?!
For sure Hveragerði was on our top list of favorite places in Iceland! That first impression we had when seeing all that breathtaking beauty was one of those moments where you know you will keep that feeling and mental image for the rest of your life. Everything was so damn splendid, but the ‘beautiness’ of the moment increased when we had to strip and take out the three layers of clothes we were wearing and stay in a mini swimsuit at 5°C.
Since we were in the middle of nowhere with no bathrooms or whatsoever, we changed in a folding screen were of course everyone could see us, but hey, that´s part of the experience! Once we got inside it was beyond amazing: the hot water making you feel as comfy as you can feel, the view of the beautiful mountains surrounding us, and even better, a sincronizada (Mexican snack) in our hands as the most deserved lunch ever after the hike, made of this place and moment one of the most glorious memoirs of the trip. But as the saying says “good things, when short, are twice as good” and it was definitely our case as we were only able to feel like tropical fishes in such paradise for just one hour. ‘The show must go on’ and we had to head back and keep hitting the road to our next stop.
Yeah, that one! And if you want to impress anyone in Iceland take a few days to memorise it. It´s the volcano that erupted in 2010 closing down European traffic and frustrating millions of people for weeks –just like Iceland´s banking system did in 2008 or Iceland´s football team this year–. Áfram Ísland! All jokes aside, Eyjafjallajökull is an impressive volcano/glacier, dormant and chilled now. Its foothills also host Seljavallalaug (took me 5 minutes to write this), Iceland´s first outdoor and obviously thermal swimming pool, built in 1923 with the purpose of training Icelanders to swim. It seems at the beginning of last century, few Icelanders knew how to swim despite most of them living off fishing – today, on other hand – you cannot graduate out of school without passing a swimming test. But unless you go to the pool for the view and its historical significance, you might skip the 15 minutes walk from the road and take some photos once you get out of your car. Out of time ´cause we needed to catch the ferry to Vestmannæyjar Islands and trusting Ed’s story that the pool is not the cleanest to go take a dive, we rushed back to Landeyjarhöfn for our boat. Likewise, Ed said, after stunning Hveragerði it wouldn´t really be worth checking out. We took his word for that.
We did catch the ferry. Though as a matter of fact we didn’t even realise that at first. The ferry terminal is so well connected to the ferry itself that only when it started moving we acknowledge the fact that we were not in the waiting lounge anymore. If you´re planning to visit the islands (and you should), you might as well leave your car in the terminal´s parking lot and avoid paying for it. The main island is easily walkable. Also, there are discounts for students! (double check for Mar’s alumni card passing as student id).
The boat ride was great and refreshing (ergo, really windy). Passing by isolated islets with just one house built on top of the dramatic cliffs, we later found out that those houses are for puffin hunters, and only used couple of times a year. Ed couldn’t stop making references to the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones but well, that was wasted on us, we are probably the only humans on Earth that don’t watch that series. Anyhow, after that shock you probably just had, the streets of Vestmannæyjar’s only town were empty when we got there. It was not the wind keeping locals out, maybe nap time? No!! As we later realised, Icelanders were busy watching the Eurovision final, a song contest where – as Ed put it – European nations (and for some reason Australia too) fight to win the award for the most awkward song and the weirdest stage choreography. Of course, that´s what our hosts were doing when we reached B&B Guesthouse Hrafnabjörg, our shelter for the night. A middle-aged couple, they were extremely friendly and nice, cooking a most delicious breakfast with homemade waffles the next morning.
We took advantage of the empty streets and went out for a walk, we wanted to go on the top of a peak to see the town from above and we wanted to go find some puffins. As the sun was setting we didn’t have time for the birdies as they have a specific time for coming ashore close enough to see them. Nevertheless, the view from above was spectacular, we were able to see the sea, the houses and the cliffs that were in front on the other end of the island.
On our way down to the other shore we stopped at a shop that had sales on candies (apparently having a specific day of the week dedicated to gummies discounts is a very common thing in the country! Yay Iceland!) and which soon turned into a photo session with Mar and Ed posing for Cam’s camera.
Finally getting to the shore, Cam and Mar were overly amazed with how the darkest part of the night was pretty well lit , as if there would be a full moon illuminating a town that had no artificial lights. But it was not too clear and not too dark not to be scared of a terrifying statue overlooking the shore which was a mix of Peter Pan, the devil and a gnome. It really looked like it was going to come to life any moment and start chasing us!
Early on the following morning we caught the first ferry back on the mainland, ready to continue our adventure on the southern coast. But we were in for a big surprise when we got in the car…
…To be continued