Friday, October 28, 2016

Needs

Grettislaug

Following is the second instalment of Sascha's visit to Iceland. 

Whereas the previous posting foussed on the country's southwest, what follows concentrates on 4 soaks accessed from the north.

One of our globes majestical soaks is up first, that in Viti crater's lake which forms part of the Askja caldera. Then it's a great find at the nearby hot spring of Laugarvalladalur.
  • Lake Viti 
Lake Viti is a special hot spring in many ways. It is a long but very beautiful way to get there. An offroad car is not only recommended but mandatory, otherwise it is not possible to pass at least two rivers. However, a small Offroader like a Suzuki Jimny or a Dacia Duster are sufficient, no need to hire a big and expensive offroader to go to Lake Viti. The alternative is to book an organized tour (which is not my thing). 
The best is to stay one night at the camping site or the lodges at Drekagil. The facilities are comfortable but be aware, this place can be often crowded. I went there in September which is used to be the beginning of the off-season, but I had the impression to be in high season which means waiting time for preparing your meals in the kitchen, etc. 
Start early in the morning to lake Viti, it is an easy 40 minutes trip by car or a much longer hike from the camping site. After parking your car, a 30 minute walk though a beautiful lava landscape and suddenly the clear blue lake Viti appears, surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The scenery is fantastic, and as usual even more if the sun is shining. The way down to the lake is a bit muddy, but is not a serious problem as long as you don’t come along with flip flops. 


Unfortunately, lake Viti is not really hot, I measured 23°C. Closer to the hot spring on the left side of the lake the water was warmer but never really hot. I read, that there are other hot springs on the bottom of the lake that can be extremely hot, but this seems not to be true, the temperature was almost constant on each part of the lake. Although the water temperature is low, it is definitively worth to go there because of the scenery, the way itself and the unique experience to swim in crater. 

 

My evaluation for Lake Viti: 4 stars (of 5). 
  • Laugarvalladalur 
One of the best hot springs I visited during 2 weeks in Iceland. Easy access, but not easy to find. However, Jon Snealand’s “Thermal Pools in Iceland” provides the GPS coordinates. It is quite far to the next town, better bring some food and water with you. As the hot springs are neither located in a national park, nor on private land, wild camping is permitted. Even for Iceland it is rather exceptional to camp close to a perfect hot spring. 


The temperature of the pool is around 40°C, just right to stay longer in the pool, to watch the landscape, to take a hot shower by the waterfall or just to relax. The pool is not a secret, do not expect to be alone, but due to the remote situation the pool is not (yet) overcrowded. 


My evaluation for Laugarvalladalur: 5 stars.
  • Vallarlaug 
Further in the north, there is a fantastic hot spring that is definitively recommended. Drive to the town of Varmahlid and ask in the tourist office (that is at the same time gas station and supermarket) for the right way. A friendly German girl will explain you the way but she pointed out that the town wants to avoid mass tourism to the hot spring and this is also the reason why the hot spring is not further described in the hot spring bible for Iceland written by Jon Snaeland.


However, the hot spring is definitively the thing to do in this town. It is located on private land and you have to pass some cattle barriers before walking 10 minutes along the river to reach a beautiful waterfall where the hot spring is situated. Ok, there are waterfalls in the South that are more stunning, but this one has clear blue water and there is a chance that you are alone. The pool is completely natural with a temperature of around 42°C, perfect for bathing and switching over into the cold river. The bottom of the pool is muddy and camping is of course forbidden (2 camping sites exist in town). 


My evaluation for Vallarlaug: 5 stars. 
  • Grettislaug 
More popular than Vallarlaug, but also great because two pools with different temperatures are waiting directly at the seaside. You are requested to pay an entrance fee (1000 krona per adult). From Saudakrokur, you need to drive 14 km to Grettislaug, the way is well described. At the location, there is also a beautiful camping site with seaview and a bar. 


The small pool has a temperature of 41°C. The bigger pool of 44°C is rather for serious soakers…Both pools have a gravel bottom. If the weather is beautiful (like it was during my visit), Grettislaug is a place worth to stay the whole day and meet people from the whole world (mainly Canadians, Germans and British when I was there). 


My evaluation for Grettislaug: 4 stars

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