#thorsmork

Iceland is now entering the most interesting time of the year. There is no arguing that the summer months June and July are the best months to visit Iceland and travel in Iceland.  And this year we do not need to make a fuss about the weather. Winter has been mild, and now nature is more responsive.

A good start for the best season in Iceland

Spring has arrived early in Iceland.  April is not always part of spring but more often part of winter, but the weather can change all that. At least in the minds and heads of Icelanders.  We at Hit Iceland are always touring around the country and took a day trip to Þórsmörk yesterday on Good Friday.

Early spring in Þórsmörk

Stakkholtsgjá or Stakkholts Canyon is a beautiful natural wonder, a canyon in Þórsmörk in the Icelandic Highland. From the entrance of the canyon, it is surrounded by high and straight one hundred meters high palagonite cliffs.  Hiking the two kilometers to the end of the canyon is one of the most rewarding short hiking trails in Iceland.  Inside the canyon is a small creek that runs on a bed of pebbles, enhancing the landscape within the canyon. The track is not smooth and crossing the river, that can at times be quite high in volume, takes caution. But on the other hand, it is not a particularly tough hike. The palagonite cliffs have many forms, suspicious caves, shelves with vegetation and deep and narrow ravines, to name a few.  Once inside the canyon you will experience a remarkable peace that embraces your thoughts and you simply can't avoid thinking of creatures from other dimensions. It is an exotic place as the canyon narrows, and you approach the bottom, turning into a very high cave open at the top, at the end of your track. In the cave, the water falls like a dreamlike shower with both light and drizzle falling on your face as you look up.  It is one of those phenomenon in the landscape, in nature, where your mood and feelings change while walking, viewing and experiencing.  

Stakkholtsgjá is a perfect place to take kids

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is a natural wonder that plays with your mind and imagination.  It is not merely a beautiful place but a place that starts all kind of ideas in your head, even at the entrance.  You can't help thinking if this is one of those places where elves live and as you get deeper into the canyon if there might be creatures living there up in the cliffs, less attractive.  A picture of a troll climbing into one of those caves might pop up in your mind.  This is one reason why Stakkholtsgjá is an excellent place to take kids, especially energetic kids with lively imagination.  It is one of those places Icelanders have loved and visited for many decades and just perfect for families to hike. 

Access to Stakkholtsgjá is a bit difficult and requires a full-size 4WD vehicle

Access to Stakholtsgjá is not simple.  It requires a 4X4 vehicle of the larger kind.  From the Ring Road Nr. 1 in the south you turn north on Road Nr. 249, the same turn you take to see Seljalandsfoss and the road that takes you to Þórsmörk. When you continue on Road Nr. 249 you quickly enter the mountain road F249 that is both rough and requires river crossing. Done correctly and with caution, it is a major adventure to visit Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk.  

The palagonite cliffs in Stakkholtsgjá in Þórsmörk have many forms

As one of Iceland's most remarkable place to visit and a natural wonder, Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience plus hiking trails.  A place where you can find peace and quiet and your own little sanctuary by a small creek or under a hunted cliff.  It is an ideal place to take a bus from Reykjavík the capital equipped with hiking shoes, a tent, and supplies for a few days stay.

Þórsmörk is not only beautiful but also packed with things to see and experience

 

If you ask an Icelander about the most beautiful place in the country, many would reply Þórsmörk. For many Icelanders, Þórsmörk is their favorite place for camping and visiting during summer and the number one place if they had to set up a list of favorite locations in  Icelandic nature.  It is almost romantic and comparable to our sacred place Þingvellir except in the Highland. It is an oasis surrounded and protected by mighty rivers, mountains, mountain ridges, cliffs, and glaciers.  Although defined as the Highland the altitude is not as high as in most of the Highland which is why Þórsmörk has more vegetation than most places in the Highland. It is an area of magnificent landscape, mighty rivers, endless creeks and peaks, beautiful canyons, impressive hiking trails, continuously moving glacier tongues, excellent camping areas and infinitive ways to have an outdoor adventure. Not to forget proximity to active volcanos that have just recently spared glowing lava down into some of its canyons.

Þórsmörk is hiker's paradise

There are many excellent hiking trails in Þórsmörk. Two of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland end in Þórsmörk. Laugavegur hiking trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk and Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail from Skógar and Skógafoss waterfall to Þórsmörk.  Both hiking trails are spectacular and so is most of the places and landscape in Þórsmörk. If your trip to Iceland and travel in Iceland takes you to Þórsmörk, we recommend spending at least two to three days hiking and enjoying nature in this remarkable place.

Access is not easy and requires a good 4X4 vehicle

Although it is quite easy to find the way to Þórsmörk by taking a turn on Road Nr. 1 to the Road Nr. 249 that also leads to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the road to Þórsmörk is a rough and challenging Highland Road. As Road Nr. 249 continuous from Seljalandsfoss it turns into F249, Mountain Road Nr. 249, within eight kilometers.  From there by the old bridge over the river Markarfljót, it is a rugged road only for a large 4X4 vehicle.  There are some streams, creeks, and rivers you need to cross and most of them can change from “small” too big in a heartbeat due to rain, warmth and all kinds of climate related matters.  Driving to Þórsmörk in a small car is simply and plainly irresponsible and can be very dangerous.  One of the best options is to take a bus if you don't want to go through the expense of hiring a good 4X4 vehicle. 

 

For many Icelanders, Þórsmörk is their favorite place

This waterfall is sometimes described as a treasure in the Icelandic landscape and the flora of natural wonders. It's nearby sibling Seljalandsfoss waterfall, only in a short walking distance away, is one of Iceland's most renowned attractions. Gljúfrabúi is, on the other hand, gaining more and more attention and most of the visitors viewing Seljalandsfoss also take the time to look at Gljúfrabúi.  Although coming from the same cliff, there are some striking differences between the two waterfalls.

A beautiful name and stunning waterfall

There is something wonderful about the Icelandic name Gljúfrabúi. It means Gorge Dweller.  It conveys the feeling of a peaceful being living in this cave-like place with water falling from the 40-meter cliff. The name is not very old and is believed to originate in a poem by Iceland's most beloved poets Jónas Hallgrímsson who was also a natural scientist.  And this is the reality of the waterfall rimmed in a narrow gorge producing its drizzle and this cold damp like a cold sauna. You need to be prepared to enter this wet world of the Gorge Dweller.  The crack is narrow and the open cave is muggy. It is not an easy entrance but once inside you might think of a cathedral for creatures from another world. Although mostly dark inside and under the waterfall there is a lot of vegetation on the rocks because of the constant moist. In addition to the inside viewing you can also climb the narrow path on the outside and up to the cliff in front of the waterfall and view it from above.  Both places require extreme caution and good hiking shoes.

Access to get there is easy

This waterfall, like Seljalandsfoss, is conveniently located a short distance from the Ring Road, Road Nr. 1, in the southern region in Iceland.  It is only one and a half kilometer from the intersection of Road Nr. 1 and Road Nr. 249 Þórsmerkurvegur, the road leading to Þórsmörk in the Icelandic Highland.

 

The crack is narrow and the open cave is muggy.

Fimmvörðuháls, the Five Cairn Ridge, is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland.  Although quite challenging, and even dangerous, many Icelanders and visitors walk this 22 km and 1000 meter high track every summer. Obviously, it has something to offer.  It is a spectacular hike with stunning views and many natural wonders: waterfalls, craters, canyons, glaciers and breathtaking landscape.   In 2010, a small eruption started on the track almost by the most challenging part of the track, Heljarkambur or Crest of Hell.

Most of the hikers walk from the well-known waterfall Skógarfoss to Þórsmörk. At the peak, the track is on the east side of Eyjafjallajokull and west side of Mýrdalsjökull.  Both glaciers house powerful volcanos that can erupt with short notice.  Even the most notorious volcano in Iceland's history as well as geological history, Katla in Mýrdalsjökull, has been due for a long time. 

In 1970, a group of eleven hikers started the trail in good weather determined to walk to Þórsmörk. There was nothing exceptionally unusual about the weather or the condition.  On the top near Heljarkambur, a severe weather hit the mountain and three of the hikers became exhausted and died within hours.  The rest of the group made it to Básar in Þórsmörk with enormous hardship and difficulties.  The story is a constant reminder of the unpredictable weather that two glaciers can produce. It is also a reminder of the necessity to prepare to hike over Fimmvörðuháls thoroughly and take all the percussion possible. 

The track is only accessible from late May until September and is only for highly trained and experienced hikers at any other time of the year.   

Although quite challenging, and even dangerous, many Icelanders and visitors walk Fimmvörðuháls 22 km and 1000 meter high track every summer.