After a long plane ride from Seattle, we arrived at Keflavik International Airport in Iceland around 5:30 a.m. We then took a bus to Reykjavik where we picked up and loaded our camper van at Cozy Campers.
Eventually, we got underway and hit our first highlight of this 31-day adventure - Glymur, Iceland's second tallest waterfall. We then finished the day in our first campground where we had a view of the ocean and the sunset. Keep reading for all the details.
We boarded our IcelandAir flight a little after 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time for our seven hour direct flight to Iceland. Iceland is seven hours ahead of Pacific Time and four hours ahead of Eastern Time, so our arrival time was around 5:30 a.m.
Flying into the Keflavik International Airport, it was overcast and not very pretty. That area is quite industrial looking, and we were glad we weren't spending much time there.
NOTE: A lot of people assume that the international airport is in the capital city of Reykjavik. It's not. It's in Keflavik which is a 45-minute to an hour drive from Reykjavik.
While waiting for our bus, I purchased a Camping Card at the 10 -11 convenience store at the airport. For $175, the Camping Card would give us "free" camping (except for a $3 tax) at 41 campgrounds across the country for up to 28 days through September 15.
I also got 5,000 Icelandic Krona (ISK) from an ATM to have on hand. Iceland is very credit/debit card friendly, so cash isn't needed much, but I wanted to have a little on hand.
At the time of our trip, 100 ISK was approximately 90 cents U.S. To make the conversion calculations easy, we just considered every 100 ISK to be about $1 US, so 5,000 ISK was about $50.
We took the FlyBus to Reykjavik where we unloaded at the main bus terminal and grabbed a taxi to Cozy Campers, a family owned company run by a brother and sister team. The FlyBus and taxi were covered in our camper van rental agreement.
We arrived a few minutes before they opened, but Harpa, who I've been dealing with for months greeted us. She gave us a quick tour of the Volkswagen Transporter all wheel drive van.
With our RVing experience, she didn't have to explain much to us. The check-out and paperwork was easy.
But it took us quite a while to empty our luggage and load our stuff in the van. Fortunately, we'll only be hauling backpacks as we were able to leave our luggage at Cozy Campers and store our clothes under the bench seat in the back of the camper.
Iceland has excellent cell coverage, so we were able to use Google Maps to guide us out of Reykjavik and head toward our first destination. We purchased the use of a mobile hotspot from Cozy Campers - truly unlimited data for the entirety of our trip - $100.
We're not city people, and we had no intention of spending any time in Iceland's largest city. If you have questions about Reykjavik, we have no answers as we didn't experience it at all.
Now, we decided early on that Linda was going to do all the driving while I handled navigation duties, travel music, snacks, device charging, and photography from the passenger seat.
Just outside of Reykjavik, we started seeing some of the beauty of Iceland.
We made a quick stop at a Bónus - Iceland's discount grocery - in Mosfellsbær to pick up a few items.
My research told me that Bónus was Iceland's discount grocery and they were plentiful around the country. Krónan is another budget grocery that has slightly higher prices, but also has convenient locations.
Eating out in Iceland is incredibly expensive, and we knew we couldn't afford to do that for 30 days. We brought a suitcase completely filled with food, and we were going to be "self-catering" almost all of our meals.
After our stop to pick up some essentials like bread and milk, we continued north away from Reykjavik and there were mountains and water all along the route. I quickly learned that I would have to snap pictures through the windshield while on the move or we would never get anywhere.
Eventually, we made it to our first destination - the waterfall Glymur, Iceland's second highest. For many years it was considered Iceland's highest waterfall, but an inaccessible waterfall was recently discovered in the Iceland ice caps that is taller.
Now, Glymur was one of the "hidden gems" I had read about, but upon entering the parking lot, it was clear it certainly was no longer "hidden".
It was a bit ambitious to take on this hike on our first day, after flying all night. We were quite tired, so, before we did the hike, we set up the bed in the camper, closed all the curtains, and napped there in the parking lot for a couple of hours.
When we woke up, we headed out for this highly rated 3 - 4 hour hike. As with many scenic points of interest in Iceland, Glymur is on private property but access is provided by the landowner.
In researching various hikes in Iceland, I struggled to find distances to try to judge how long they would take us. With Linda's bad knees, we're not fast, so I wasn't sure how time estimates would relate to us.
The sign at the trailhead indicated the round-trip hike all the way to the river crossing above the falls and down the other side was 7.1k (about 4.5 miles), and the out-and-back hike to good viewpoints would take about 3 hours round-trip.
There were also warnings about the dangers of this hike, and I knew this would actually be one of the more difficult hikes we would take on together during our trip. I figured we would take about 4 hours.
We set out past the gate and followed the worn path and signs.
taking the right path at the intersection below.
The first part of the trail meanders gently up and down across small creeks, and we got our first good look at some sheep (a constant in the Iceland landscapes throughout the country).
We reached a small plateau and turned to look back toward the parking lot where we could see the fjord Hvalfjordur.
Over the cottongrass, we could see small waterfalls and the gorge hiding Glymur on the left.
What had started as a rather dreary day with some rain, turned into a pleasant partly cloudy day.
Eventually we reached another plateau, where there was an information sign and we had better views of the river Botnsá below and the gorge.
We could see hikers doing the river crossing on the log that spans half of the river - it didn't seem too bad.
Then we started down some steps ....
that led us into the cave known as Þvottahellir, which is marked as #2 on the trail map above. It's about a half an hour from the parking lot.
You descend through the cave and on down to river level.
You then walk along the river to point #3 which is the river crossing at 1.7k (about a mile) from the parking lot.
Once we got to the crossing, it looked trickier than we had thought. The river was flowing fast and was a little deeper than we expected. Stepping across the rocks to get to the log, wasn't going to be easy.
Some people, especially families with small children, turned around not wanting to take any chances. It's not a life-threatening crossing by any means, but you could get very wet or suffer an injury that could end your Iceland trip if not careful.
We watched a few people cross to give us confidence, and then Linda just went for it.
The cable is not solid; it moves a lot, and we had to go under it in order to get on the log. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as it looked, and we managed to cross without getting our feet wet. Many people bring water shoes and remove their hiking boots for the crossing.
Now on the other side of the river, the real work was about to begin on the first of a few very steep sections of the trail where ropes are present for assistance.
Rocks are loose, and if it has been raining, the trail can be quite treacherous.
Once through that first steep section, the views expanded and we got our first glimpse of Glymur.
The trail continued upward with a couple more steep sections and views of other waterfalls along the way.
After one more steep descent with ropes, ....
we climbed up to point #4, the Steðjasnös viewpoint which is 2.4k (about a mile and a half) from the parking lot.
There, a rock promontory juts out into the canyon providing a nice view of Glymur.
And that's where Linda decided to park it. She was going no farther, and others also determined that was as far as they needed to go. Here's a look at that stop as I continued higher.
The next viewpoint, #5 - Hellupallur, was only another 160 meters (tenth of a mile).
Many photos of Glymur are taken from Hellupallur with its short, little rock wall which is the only thing along this canyon that resembles a railing.
Here's a little video from that spot.
From Hellupallur, it was another 800 meters (half mile) to the top of Glymur, point #6. I headed in that direction, but the trail once again got very steep.
The next photo is from an unmarked viewpoint looking back down at Viewpoints #4 (where Linda was sitting) and #5.
Continuing on, I came to another unmarked viewpoint where I had this view and decided there was no reason to continue on.
I shot a short video from there - sorry about the wind noise.
Another look back down canyon from there to show the perspective and the elevation change from Viewpoints #4 and #5.
Again, I decided not to go to point #6 at the top of the falls or farther to point #7 where you can ford (wade) the river above the falls and return down the other side of the canyon.
Many people ford the river and make it a loop hike, but I knew Linda certainly wasn't up for that, and I wasn't either by the time I got as far as I did. You can't see the waterfall from the other side, and my research indicated that the trail down is not always easy to follow.
There are two trails down on the other side that are both about the same distance. One is steep and the other is a more gentle descent away from the canyon. I saw people on both trails.
As I went back down, quite a few people had gathered on Linda's rock.
In the canyon and along the cliff walls, we were introduced to Northern Fulmars. They resemble gulls, but they are a part of a different bird family.
There were many nests and adults tending to chicks on the cliffs.
These birds, like the sheep, were common throughout our trip.
When I got back to Linda, she said I was making her nervous on the cliff edges above. Now, I'm no fan of ledges, so I was quite cautious and highly recommend similar caution on this hike.
We started down, and watched as a few people contemplated this steep section that we had to climb before the remaining downhill to the river.
We trudged up in the opposite direction, and Linda was relieved to get that part out of the way while I enjoyed the background scenery.
Looking behind us at this relatively short, but challenging, beautiful trail.
A couple more shots of our last steep section before the river crossing.
At the river there is often a back-up as people slowly make the crossing. Once everyone from the opposite side crossed, we made our way over less awkwardly than before.
Here's a little video of Linda finishing up her crossing.
Here's a look at the interesting cave as Linda entered one of the two large openings as we hiked back up through it.
A half an hour later, we were back in the parking lot where there were fewer cars and our Cozy Camper was waiting for us.
That was a great first hike, and I reiterated to Linda it was probably the toughest of the short hikes I had planned for us. She was already worried that I was going to wear her out with hiking on this trip, so I had to reassure her a bit.
We certainly didn't waste any time getting into nature in Iceland, and I was already enthralled.
I can see why the Glymur hike is a favorite of many visitors. It's certainly not one where you just hop out of the car and skip to the waterfall for a quick look; it requires some time commitment - but it's worth it.
We left Glymur and headed toward our first campground. It wasn't long before we had our first "sheep in the road", something we had to be wary of every day.
I was enjoying the rural landscapes as we drove.
As we went through the town of Borgarnes in west Iceland, we passed the campground there and noticed it was right on the water. So, we ditched our original plan to go to a campground on our Camping Card, and turned around and pulled into the Granastaðir camping ground.
There are no designated campsites, so you basically park wherever you want. We chose a gravel parking lot, and backed in so we were facing the water. It was low tide at the time, but our view was great.
Eventually, we were surrounded, but we were still quite happy with our first camping experience.
We had an ocean view and mountains off to our side.
We learned that most of the campgrounds didn't have full-time attendants. Most of them had "wardens" that came around between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. to collect fees. And then they came around again the next morning to collect from those that came in after their evening collection.
Some campgrounds did have someone there all the time in which case you paid before parking, but most of the time we just parked and then waited for someone to come by and collect.
Learn more details on our Camping In Iceland post.
We were off to a fantastic start on Day 1 in Iceland.
Day 1 Driving - 125k (78 miles) (Not including the bus ride from Keflavik International to Reykjavik)