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Friday, December 1, 2017

Day 9: Hiking Glymur - Iceland's 2nd tallest Waterfall

If there was ever a way to end a trip, this is itSunshine, beautiful weather, and an amazing hike up, across, and down one of Iceland's tallest waterfalls (second tallest to be exact). You follow a rocky trail up the waterfall, along cliffs, crossing the icy flowing river at the top of the fall, and eventually making the slow descent back down.  So far, all the of the waterfalls we had been to were a drive and a short walk away.  But throw in a 7.5km hike round trip to see Iceland's second tallest waterfall and you really weed out the crowds.  You can find solitude, and take in the raw beauty of this fall from the trail.  This gets the title of one of Iceland's best hikes for a reason. 

While this is an amazing hike, it's not for the faint of heart.  If you do the loop, there are two river crossings (one with a log, one just jump in and get wet!), steep sections of climbing, and precarious cliff edges.  Be smart, be prepared, and have the right gear and you will be all set. 

Starting at the Trailhead: Photo courtesy of Amanda at The Spurned Wanderer

KW Thoughts: Amazing hike (and our first chance at a real hike- elevation, distance, not just a path to something).  This is a KW Must Do if visiting Iceland.  Challenging, away from crowds, and a great chance to hike up, across, and down one of Iceland's tallest waterfalls.  A unique opportunity in an amazing landscape.

 - 64.385175, -21.293486. Drive north on Route 1 from Reykjavík, but turn right before the Hvalfjörður tunnel onto Route 47. At the end of the fjord, turn right at the sign for Glymur, and follow the dirt road for around ten minutes. It’s about an hour’s drive from Reykjavík. 

Distance: 7.5 km roundtrip 
Elevation: 245m/800'
Duration: 3 -4 hours. 
Known for:  Second tallest waterfall in Iceland (196m).
Facilities:  None
Fees:  None
Crowds:  No- we saw a few people on the trail up and down. 

Need to Know:  A sign at the parking lot tells hikers whether the log is up at the first river crossing, though the cable is a permanent fixture. The hike can be done as a loop but will require you to cross the river again at the top of the falls (no logs or rocks).  I can't imagine trying to attempt this hike in the winter months with the river crossings, snow, and ice (spring through fall access only).

Route:  Most people do this as an out and back.  We did it as a counterclockwise loop, following the popular well-marked trail (solid black) up and a combination of the red and black dotted trails back down (harder to navigate on the black dotted trail). 

Busy parking lot at Glymur

Glymur is gaining in popularity and large tour operations take visitors out on a guided hike to the falls.  Glymur is only an hour and a half away from Reykjavik city and the hike takes less than four hours meaning its a doable day hike for many.  For a while, Glymur was known as the tallest waterfall in Iceland but that has recently changed.  At 197 metes, Glymur is now the second-highest waterfall in Iceland.  However, Glymur is far more accessible than the recently-discovered Mosárfoss (the now tallest waterfall in Iceland).

Making our way up to the top of Glymur

Views down the valley on our way to the top

This hike starts out tame, following a level path as you make your way along your river to your first point of interest, the cave.  After passing through the beautiful little cave (you won't need a light or anything, it's short), you see your first challenge of the day... the river crossing.  The rocks are slippery, the log is long, and the cable is certainly moving while water rushes under your feet.  Best yet, the log isn't always there (there will be a sign at the trailhead letting you know if it has been removed for the season).  We were a little nervous at first but I am happy to report all humans and electronic devices made it across our first challenge safe and sound. 

Views down the valley 

Cave at the beginning of the hike

Log crossing at the bottom

Log crossing

After the river crossing, the hike became more challenging as we ascended steep sections of rock, a little too close to cliff edges for my comfort.  The really steep sections had chains and ropes that help hikers make their way up to the waterfall. 

Views down the valley 

Thatcher and the valley 

Steep sections of the hike with a rope to guide you

Fall in the valley 

Finally, you are rewarded with your first view of Glymur as it drops nearly 200 meters down.  This area was a little nerve-wracking for me as it is pure cliff edge with no barriers and curious photographers like to get a little too close. 

Glymur Waterfall 

We followed the trail to the very top of the waterfall where we were actually able to CROSS the waterfall at the top.  There is something pretty magical (and terrifying) about hiking UP, OVER, and DOWN one of the countries tallest waterfalls.  The river crossing at the top was even scarier than the first, as this time we had no rocks, cables or logs and had to plunge into the icy fast moving water.  For safety's sake, we hiked up the river quite a ways to give us plenty of room to cross the river and not make our way down the waterfall.  The water is ice cold, burning your feet and legs and the rushing water is a constant reminder that if you lose your balance and get taken with the current, it is going to be a reallllly bad day. 

Crossing the river at the top of the waterfall

Views at the top of the waterfall 

By this point in the hike, we were giddy and ecstatic, almost finished with this amazing yet challenging hike in a part of Iceland that felt so raw and untouched.  To get away from the crowds and work up a sweat in this amazing landscape, is a memory we will not soon forget.  As far as 'best hikes of my lifetime", Glymur has certainly made its way into the top 3.  

I should note that because we did this as a loop we did have a hard time finding portions of the trail on our way DOWN and did a little bush-whacking the last leg of the trail.  We eventually made it onto the correct trail, muddy, weary, and in love with this part of Iceland.  I was so thankful that the weather cooperated the one day we planned a big hike, yet so sad of all the missed hiking opportunities along the way due to time and weather. You cant have it all but if you have to have one hike, I think this one is it. 

On the other side of the waterfall on our way back down

Making our way down the trail 

A rainbow as we left Glymur and headed back to Reykjavik

We ended our trip the same way we started.. in the same city in the same Airbnb, with another 1/2 day to explore the most northern capital.  Day 10 was spent soaking in the last bits of Iceland's sunshine (such a rare sight on this trip!) and walking the streets, eating all the food we could before our plane left at 5 pm.  

Iceland humbled us and made us fall in love with a different type of travel.  No white sandy beaches and welcome drink, no 80 degrees, no palm trees or fancy amenities.  Iceland showed us an amazingly varied landscape and about four seasons of weather in one day.  Stay tuned for my final 10-day itinerary recap on how we spent our time in Iceland, including a budget on how much we spent.  

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