We're on the road again, this time bringing you tips for things to see and places to stay on the Ring Road. We're travelling counter-clockwise, starting in Vík, and ending in Varmahlíð.
The first night of our ring road tour we were scheduled to stay at a place called Þakgil (pronounced “thak-gil”), near Vík, on the southern coast. We knew very little about it, except had been told that it was well sheltered from the wind. This was a HUGE plus, since we left Reykjavík in a storm and weren’t particularly relishing having this be our weather for the rest of the day (or week).
Having left Reykjavík much later than anticipated, and also stopping a couple of times along the way to drop off books, we didn’t get to Vík until around 7 pm. Of course we had to make the obligatory stop at Dyrhólaey ...
... before continuing on our way to find Þakgil.
I had checked online and saw that the turn-off was around 6 km past Vík. So far, so easy. We barrelled along and found the correct turn off, expecting to drive around 4 km from the road to where we were going. By this time we were both pretty hungry and tired, and were looking forward to firing up the barbecue and popping open a nice bottle of organic red.
Four kilometers came and went. Then six. Then eight. By this time the landscape had become increasingly rugged and highland-like. Not to mention exquisitely beautiful. Jagged mountains with a velvet green veneer and an almost hazy, otherwordly quality. We later found out that this was where parts of Game of Thrones were filmed - which made perfect sense.
I guess we started to get a little concerned when we got to this:
It did not bode well. I mean, RUINS? Had those folks preceded us, tried to look for Þakgil and given up, making their own rudimentary dwellings instead? Had they perished there from fatigue and hunger, desperately craving a barbecue and bottle of red wine?*
We decided to turn around.
Thankfully we only got as far as a few metres before we met another car. It contained three young women who said they were also looking for Þakgil. They informed us that it was not four kilometres from the road, but more like 14. Oh. Uh. Okay.
After another 15 minutes or so we turned a bend in the road, and found this:
Folks: Þakgil is amazing. A flat valley, with jagged slopes rising up on all sides, covered by that beautiful velvet green that was everywhere and brooks running down them. The landscape is very reminiscent of Þórsmörk, which is considered one of the most breathtaking areas of Iceland. Also - as we had been told - the mountains provide perfect shelter from the pesky wind that is everywhere here in Iceland. Not only that, but there is actually a cave - a cave - for eating in. Yep. There are barbecues outside, picnic tables inside, and even a wood burning stove to provide warmth. The crowning glory are metal holders that are stuck into the wall for holding candles. EXQUISITE.
We were only able to stay one night there, but I wish it could have been longer. For one thing, there are amazing hiking routes in the area. This is right near the formidable volcano Katla (not to worry, there is usually plenty of warning if she’s about to blow) and that adds a special kind magic to the atmosphere. To me there is something incredibly special about glaciers - an energy that is completely unique, a serene, awe-inspiring majesty. One of those hiking routes takes you right up to the edge of the glacier (but remember: do not venture onto the glacier without a guide - it can be VERY dangerous!).
WHERE WE STAYED
In one of the tiny cabins on the site. They are very compact with basic amenities like heating and cold water, plus ensuite toilet. There are two gas plates for cooking, but you have to heat your own water (i.e. no hot water out of the tap). Consequently no shower in the cabin, but there is a shower on the campsite that you can use for a fee (ISK 300). The cabin has a bunk bed with two double beds, a table with four chairs, and basic cooking utensils. Also, you’re expected to do basic cleaning when you leave (washing the dishes, vacuuming). It was perfectly cosy and fine if you don’t mind roughing it slightly.
The waterfall that appears when you climb a short distance up the gully to the far right. It’s a gem.
* We were later told that those ruins were part of an abandoned film set.