Trekking Iceland – Volcanic Trails – Álftavatn to Dalakofinn

Our petition to the Universe for better weather was granted overnight and we awoke this morning to bright blue skies and no wind.  It was glorious to sit on the verandah of the Álftavatn hut and soak in the Sun’s rays while admiring the mirror-perfect reflections in the “Swan Lake”.

Almost perfect reflections in Lake Álftavatn - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

Almost perfect reflections in Lake Álftavatn. Quite a contrast to the day before!

These conditions rarely last long, however, especially in Iceland!  And by the time we donned our day-packs and gathered our trekking poles, the lake was once again simply a body of water rather than an echo of the sky above.

After 5 days of black volcanic sand and bright green moss, we were excited to be heading into a more geothermally active region as we made our way along the “back-road” to Landmannalaugar.  Most visitors experience this area by hiking Iceland’s famous Laugavegur Trail (Álftavatn is actually the second hut along this trail), but I was very happy to be taking a less-traveled route through the highlands.  In fact, we didn’t see any other hikers at all until we arrived at Dalakofinn at the end of the day.

Hiking towards the Ljósártungur rhyolite mountains - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

The rhyolite hills of Ljósártungur were almost a sensory overload of colour under the bright Sun

Panorama of the colourful Ljósártungur rhyolite mountains - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

[move mouse over image to see the full panorama]

and we spent quite a while perched on a ridge taking in their deep yellows and oranges.

Admiring the colourful Ljósártungur rhyolite mountains - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

Mike taking some time out to admire the colourful Ljósártungur mountains

Then it was down into the valley for our first river crossing for the day.

Descending towards the river - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

Kjartan had warned us that today would involve a lot of river crossings (there were actually 4 of them), which gave us even more opportunities to improve on the cold-water tolerance of our feet 😊

River crossings Day 6 - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

We also collected quite an array of footwear (and other rubbish) as we negotiated the waterways – reinforcing the recommendation that good trekking companies make about using closed sandals for this kind of activity.

Rubbish found in the river - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

Our shoe haul from a single river crossing. Such footwear is not appropriate for negotiating rivers while hiking

The last of the river crossings was actually quite extensive with multiple channels to ford.  Given it was not clear how deep the later channels would be, Gunnar and I ditched our long hiking pants again and spent the next half hour walking through the Icelandic highlands in our underwear.  No, we have no shame.  And we agreed that it was much better than having wet pants!

Final river crossing Day 6 - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

Crossing the final river on Day 6 of Volcanic Trails. Another relatively deep one with a strong current. Another opportunity to strip down to underwear

After changing back into our hiking boots (and putting our pants back on), we watched several 4WD vehicles ford the river as it cut across the road.  This is not a straightforward maneuver (note the sign), and given how expensive it is if you get stuck out here, they were, very, very cautious indeed!

Cars crossing the river and a warning sign - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

If you get stuck in the middle of a river in Iceland, it is VERY expensive to be rescued! For this reason, people take things very very slowly

Although the Sun had disappeared behind a significant cloud layer by this point, the scenery continued to be a kaleidoscope of colour and interesting shapes as we followed yet another river, but from on high.

More colourful hills on Day 6 - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

This led us to an absolutely stunning waterfall, surprisingly named “the Waterfall With No Name”, where we spent a great deal of time exploring

The "unnamed waterfall" on the way to Dalakofinn Hut - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

The “unnamed waterfall” on the way to Dalakofinn Hut. This was a really amazing view

before hiking the final few kilometres to the hut at Dalakofinn.  Here I tried pickled herring for the first time and discovered it was absolutely delicious!  Not too fishy in either taste or smell, and surprisingly sweet in fact!  I’ll be eating a lot more of this in future!

It occurred to us over our dinner of baked salmon and salad that today was the first day of the trek that we didn’t have to stop to put rain pants on.  The forecast for tomorrow promises more of the same … fingers crossed!

Sunset from Dalakofinn Hut - Volcanic Trails - Central Highlands, Iceland

Trekking Information

Distance = 20.3km

Time taken = 9 hours

Map

Basic Map of the hike from Álftavatn to Dalakofinn in the Central Highlands of Iceland - from Strava

Altitude Profile

Altitude profile of the hike from Álftavatn to Dalakofinn in the Central Highlands of Iceland - from Strava

Read more about hiking In the Shadow of Vatnajökull

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of the 7-day trek with Icelandic Mountain Guides

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Iceland and around the world.

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