The next chapter of our Iceland road trip continues in West Iceland. Most tourists tend to go counter-clockwise around the Ring Road, but since we had partially done that in January, we decided to go clockwise instead. We were super anxious to get closer to the North, and where we were headed to in West Iceland was the gateway. After snorkeling at Þingvellir National Park, we hopped back into the car for a 2 hour drive north to our next destination – Husafell. But in order to get there, we had to take some rather unconventional roads. Google Maps told us to take route 52… and that certainly was the most adventurous route. Since we had never traveled on this road before, we had no idea it was really just a road of rocks and gravel. I was amazed Google Maps even listed it! This road is closed in winter, and it’s easy to see why. Thank goodness we had a 4-wheel drive SUV, or else we wouldn’t have made it over some parts of the road.
While this was a somewhat hilarious, somewhat terrifying drive (it’s in our vlog!), I would recommend heading back out towards the Ring Road (route 1) and heading up route 50. Both roads are paved and easier on your car if you didn’t get 4 wheel drive or an SUV. After driving on some regularly paved roads for about an hour, we then stopped at Hraunfossar, which is about 5 minutes away from our hotel. Hraunfossar, which means “lava waterfalls” in Icelandic, is one of the most stunning places you can stop in Iceland. This area in West Iceland is composed of a lava field from an eruption of a volcano under the Langjökull glacier nearby, and water from the glacier seeps through the lava rocks and pours out as waterfalls into the Hvita river. The water in the river is the purest blue I have ever seen, and it’s contrast against the orange, yellow, and green landscape made Tor and I feel like we had stepped into a watercolor painting.
After spending some time at Hraunfossar, we got back in the car and drove just down the road to our next home away from home for the next few nights – Hotel Husafell. You can see the hotel in the distance from miles away as you approach thanks to its unique architecture. Hotel Husafell is one of the only luxury hotels in West Iceland, and the hotel is perfectly tucked away in a quiet valley surrounded by mountains. But it’s also close to Langjökull glacier, which is where we were headed for some activities later on. Needless to say, it would be the perfect spot to call home for a few days.
Click the arrow under the image to see more.
After checking in, we were still a bit cold from our snorkeling adventure earlier in the day so we grabbed our swimsuits and headed down to Husafell’s thermal baths (free for hotel guests). We couldn’t wait to submerge in warm waters! What was pretty cool about these baths is there are four pools at four different temperatures. We started in the second warmest pool, then moved on to the hottest bath. After 2 minutes, it actually got too hot for me so I jumped into the second coolest pool. It actually felt incredibly refreshing, and we ended up spending more time in there than any of the other pools.
We had to take a special van up to the snowmobiles, since there was a lot of ice on the way. If you think I held my breath the whole time during that ride, you’re right! Once we reached the top, we picked our snowmobiles and off we went!
The next day, our outdoor adventures continued. One reason why Hotel Husafell is the prime spot to stay if you’re doing any outdoor activities is because the activity hub is located right next to the hotel. Tor and I were scheduled to go snowmobiling and then tour inside Langjökull glacier with Into the Glacier, and the meeting point was literally steps from our hotel lobby. We got on a bus with a few other couples, and we were driven about 20 minutes east (through landscape that pretty much looked like what you envision the moon looks like) to the base camp at the edge of the glacier. After suiting up in thermal underwear, snow pants, sweaters, parkas, snow boots, a jumpsuit, and another jumpsuit, not only did we feel like melting but we were also excited to finally head up to the snowmobiles! We had to take a special van up to the snowmobiles, since there was a lot of ice on the way.
If you think I held my breath the whole time during that ride, you’re right! Once we reached the top, we picked our snowmobiles and off we went! Unfortunately, it was a complete whiteout that day so there wasn’t much to see on the ride. I let Tor drive the snowmobile, especially since we didn’t write a will before this trip and if I was the driver, we probably would have needed to have one ready. After 5 minutes, we reached the entrance of Into The Glacier. Langjökull, which means “long glacier” in Icelandic, is one of two glaciers in West Iceland. It is on the edge of Iceland’s highlands, which make up the interior of the country and are completely uninhabited. There’s snow and ice here year round, so even if you take this tour in the summer, still be prepared with proper snow gear.
There were so many fascinating parts about the glacier, including the grey line you see as soon as you enter. That grey line is a line of ash from the 2010 eruption of Eyafjallajökull (you’ll see me attempt to pronounce this several times in upcoming vlogs). Since then, the ash got covered by snow and ice. Our guide informed us, however, that when the ice melts away, people will be able to walk on ash from the volcanic eruption seven years ago. Speaking of ice melting away, that’s exactly what’s happening to the glacier. The glacier continues to grow as it snows each year, but it’s melting faster than it’s growing which is a problem.
In less than 150 years, Langjökull will no longer have any ice. It’s hard to believe that as we walked through winding tunnels throughout the deep glacier, but but it’s also not difficult to believe thanks to global warming. When I heard that people during the generation of my great-grandchildren would never see this glacier, I got sad. That’s not really that far away when you think in the grand scheme of things in the history of Earth, so we felt extremely lucky that we got to experience this once-in-a-lifetime tour.
During our tour, I began to feel a bit dehydrated, but our guide told me not to worry because there would be a pool of fresh glacier water we could drink from in the glacier, and there was! She filled a water bottle for Tor and I with “fresh Icelandic water” as she called it, and we downed it. It was extremely refreshing and clean (and cold). After about 30 minutes inside the glacier, it was time to take the snowmobiles back to the glacier edge. Unfortunately, since I was busy getting camera equipment organized, I missed it when our guide said he would be taking us on a detour to get back. About 10 minutes into the drive, I began looking around wondering if we were lost.
Tor kept assuring me we weren’t lost, as our guide had a GPS on his snowmobile so he knew exactly where we were. But because I panic at everything, I still was nervous. At one point, when we reached the very top, the clouds parted and the sun came out. We had a better sense of how high we were (and how isolated we were). 5 minutes later, we arrived back at the base safe and sound. A few others didn’t hear we were going on a detour, so I wasn’t the only one who thought we were lost. To quote one of our new friends, “Jesus and I had a deep conversation up there!”
Once back at the hotel, I created a new routine that I would be following pretty much everyday for the rest of our trip – nestling up with a mug of hot cocoa and watching the snow fall. Hotel Husafell has cozy corners throughout the building, including a lounge with two-story windows that make watching snow fall or witnessing the Northern Lights dancing possible. There was definitely a feeling of “hygge” while we called Hotel Husafell home.
Dinner at Hotel Husafell
After some relaxation time, we headed to the restaurant for dinner. Our server Andri was very accommodating and hilarious. He made sure to secure us a table by the window, and then he was very diligent and adamant about getting all of my allergies correct. As we all cracked jokes with each other (Andri met his match with Tor!), we sipped wine and dined on a delicious Nordic menu. One thing Iceland does well is langoustines, so anytime I saw it on the menu, it was really hard for me to say no. We also indulged in cod and salmon, as well as the famous Icelandic skyr (a yogurt-like dessert).
Click the arrow under the image to see more.
The next morning, we enjoyed coffee and hot cocoa on the terrace before having to pack up and say goodbye to West Iceland. We loved every second at Hotel Husafell and we learned a lot more about Iceland’s glaciers with Into The Glacier. If you are going to visit West Iceland, make sure this is where you stop. There are many more activities to be enjoyed here, including the thermal baths as well as mountain biking, golf, and the newly opened Krauma Baths (on my list for next time!).
Check out our vlog from West Iceland below! It’s probably our funniest one yet!