Written August 28, 2012
A gorgeous morning, clear blue skies outside hotel Anna,
so we head up route 1 to 249 towards the entrance to Porsmork reserve. We want to hike but are unsure of where to find trail heads or how well marked the trails will be. So far we’ve been unable to find a good trail map of the area, having spent little time in a town of any size. We are also uncertain of how our little Jimny will handle the rough track into the park. Lonely Planet warns that some of the river crossings should not be attempted by the unprepared.
As 249 turns into the valley and the pavement turns to gravel our hearts fall, finding the entire valley blanketed in fog. High above the sun tries to burn through this hazy layer that separates us from clear blue sky.
The track is challenging with many river crossings. At each one Don stops and analyzes the situation to find the right spot to cross.
In some cases we wait for another passing vehicle to demonstrate the depth of the water and the best place to cross. Deeper and deeper we head into the valley, passing a hanging glacier – a frozen waterfall melting into the river.
The fog seems to be lifting and we discern the outline of the astonishing volcanic formations the area is known for.
The cold wind blowing through the valley makes the thought of hiking less pleasant. We continue on. The river crossings become precarious but not impossible.
Just past the Basar hut you can take the blue blazed trail towards Skogar. Climb up the steps that lead up to Fimmvorduhals camp. (click here for a map) Even in the fog, the surreal valley full of volcanic formations cloaked in green is magical. The fog continues to lift, revealing glaciers looming above.
The howling wind cuts to the bone on the exposed trail, but the views are worth every step.
In places the trail runs consumes the entire width of a narrow ridge that plunges steeply on both sides. Not a climb for those with vertigo issues.
About an hour and half into the hike we reach the Morinsheidi plateau with Eyjafjallajokull glacier on the right and the much larger Myrdalsjokull glacier on the left.
Here is the crossroads with the red blazed trail that leads back to Utigonguhofdi. Despite the amazing views and surreal moonlike landscape we decide we have had enough of the elements and make our way back along the same trail. By now the haze has almost completely lifted and we can see across the entire valley. It’s no wonder this is one of the world’s top hiking destinations.
Making our way back out the same dirt track Don continues to ford the stream crossings cautiously but with more confidence.
We stop frequently to gawk at the spectacular valley, now glowing in the late afternoon sun. At the entrance to the valley, where we meet the pavement, and where we saw nothing but fog earlier in the day, you can now clearly see the Myrdalsjokull glacier looming over the entire valley.
Still on 249 just before we reach route 1 again we stop at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, radiant in the late afternoon sun. A path leads behind the falls enabling views of the tumbling water and glistening rainbow from every angle.
Nestled in one of the many pastures along the green volcanic rock face running along this section of Iceland’s southwest coast, it makes a great base for visiting Porsmork reserve, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and Vik further down route 1. The rooms are average sized with tiny bathrooms, and while they are decorated with homey antique furnishings they are also way overpriced for what you get. Trouble is, there isn’t much else to choose from in the area. The cozy dining room with ample space between the tables serves a breakfast buffet included in the price. An adequate spread of the usual breakfast items, cold cuts and fish, jam, cheese, muesli, etc. plus homemade bread still warm from the oven.
In the evenings they offer a limited dinner menu with three kinds of fish – salmon, cod, and trout; and three meats – lamb, horse and minke whale.
Homemade soup and bread comes with all entrées. The fish dishes are well cooked but rather over-herbed. The meat dishes are cooked medium and served in a red wine reduction with a side of baby roasted potatoes. Service is friendly and efficient. While not my favorite dining experience it wasn’t bad either.