Sunday, September 15, 2013

Experiencing Skogar and Skogafoss in Iceland


Want to travel around Iceland on a tight budget?  Websites like Trip Adviser and Huffington Post Travel offer advice such as "shop at local grocery stores" and "avoid guided tours by exploring on your own".  Both are things my husband and I did during our recent stay in this picturesque nation.  Another really great way to experience the beauty of Iceland is to avoid the overpriced hotels and to instead choose to camp your way across the countryside.

Skogafoss, one of Iceland's most powerful waterfalls.

Camping is cheap and easy in Iceland.  Most tourist locations with sight-seeing hot spots offer camping areas with quite nice amenities.  It is common to have clean washroom areas with flush toilets and hot water showers.  A lot of the places we stayed at had camp kitchen areas with stoves, microwaves, and kettles for public use.  

Skogafoss is the highlight of the Skogar valley in Iceland.

Our first experience camping in Iceland was probably the most spectacular: we set up shop under a wide, roaring waterfall in a lush green valley next to the village of Skogar.  The Skogafoss waterfall thundered in the background, lulling us to sleep and muting the noises from the other campers in the area.

Joey and I enjoy the majesty of the Skogafoss waterfall.

To camp outside Skogafoss is much cheaper than staying in the village hotel.  For one tent with two adults we had to pay a whopping $26 CDN - you pay per tent and per person, plus tax.  The washrooms were clean, there were washing areas for our supper dishes, and there were hot showers available (for a price).  Hotels, however, run from $180 to $220 a night on average for the area of Skogar for two adults in one room.  Quite a difference!

Joey and I arrived in Skogar a bit later in the evening after a long day of driving from Reykjavik - we'd explored Seljalandsfoss, Keldur, and Seljaviller Valley, and had stopped at about 20 other different roadside beauties on our way from the capital city.  By the time we hit Skogar, I was tired and hungry, therefore cranky (being 4 months pregnant at this point) and all I wanted was dinner and a comfy bed to relax in.  We DID check out the hotel, just in case I got too cranky, but the cost was way out of our budget.  Off we went to the campsite.

Wanna keep it cheap while traveling in Iceland? Try camping and making your own meals!

Before we'd left for Iceland, Joey and I had hit up Mountain Equipment Co-Op, a Canadian outdoor supply store, and had bought a backpacker's tent, kitchen stove (it burns twigs and bark to cook - very cool), and some new sleeping bags.  We hadn't even tried them out yet, so it was an adventure in itself to set up camp! (Remember, my husband was setting up camp with a tired, hungry, cranky pregnant woman - he's a brave, brave man.)  In the end, it was a success and we were quite proud of our beautiful campsite.  We didn't even have the energy to explore the waterfall that night - it was dinner and straight to bed for us.

The view from our camp site in Skogar, Iceland.

I woke up in the middle of the night and had to use the facilities, as pregnant women are prone to do.  Joey accompanied me, and we marveled at the fact that at 3 a.m. in Iceland, we could see the amazing Skogafoss waterfall just as clearly as we could at 8 p.m. when we'd first arrived.

Skogafoss waterfall and campground at 3 a.m.

The next morning, after cooking a great breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon using our twig-burning camp stove, we decided to hike up to the top of the waterfall.  Oh. My. Word.  Those stairs! Those steep, calf-burning, never ending stairs!  I had to take about five "sit down and start breathing again" breaks before hitting the top.  However, the climb was worth it (and probably really good for my heart) once we saw the spectacular view from the top.

Looking down towards the plunging waters of Skogafoss.

Once to the top of the waterfall, you can climb a little ladder over a barbed wire fence, and explore further up the river that supplies the Skogafoss waterfall.  There are several smaller waterfalls and rapids along the way, and it is a really pretty hike.  Honestly, we didn't get very far - that climb up those brutal stairs had pretty much done me in.  I was more than happy to go back down and enjoy the cool spray of the waterfall from the bottom.

Taking a small break to die just a little on my way up the Skogafoss waterfall stairs.

A view of the Skogar valley from atop the Skogafoss waterfall.

There is more to do in Skogar than just hike up the waterfall.  Joey and I spent the majority of the morning in Skogar perusing the very neat Skogar Museum, which focuses on early life in Iceland and features at least 10 restored turf houses, Iceland's traditional architecture.  The cost to enter the museum is 1500 ISK for an adult (500 ISK for children 15 to 12, 1000 ISK for seniors, free for kids 12 and under).  Depending on exchange rate, that isn't very much at all.

The interior of the museum has many artifacts from early Icelandic life - fishing accessories, household items, farming implements, and even some ancient boat replicas.  There is A LOT inside the museum.  I found it very interesting, but almost overwhelming there was just that much stuff to see.

Learning about Icelandic history in a turf school house in Skogar.

My favorite part was exploring the turf houses.  The turf exhibits are outside and split into 'farms' - one section is an old farm depicting very early life in Iceland.  The second is a more recent but traditional farm, and the third is a modern and more wealthy type of farm house.  I enjoyed the first farm more, with its ancient wooden beams, dirt floors, and traditional interior design.  It was like stepping back into the past.

A replica (but built upon an original) Icelandic turf farm.

The second farm area was very similar to the first and older farm, but with a more modern design.  The stalls in which livestock were traditionally kept (yes, early families in Iceland lived with their livestock) had been converted into bedrooms - the advent of having a second story on one's house.

A tiny turf house at the Skogar Museum, Iceland.

The third farm was very swanky considering the times - hardwood floors, china cabinets, and paintings on the walls. It was interesting because all the wood used to build the planking on the walls had come from various shipwrecks which had washed up on Iceland's shore. It was a very narrow house, however, and after touring it for awhile, I began to feel very claustrophobic.

The Skogar turf houses are set in a beautiful backdrop.

Skogar was perhaps one of the least expensive places we visited in Iceland, but that certainly wasn't because it offered the least!  No wonder it is such a popular stop along Iceland's well-traveled Ring Road!

12 comments:

  1. We LOVED Skogafoss, in fact it was my favourite waterfall! The chocolate cake in the museum is fabulous too!! What an amazing view to have from your campsite.

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    1. Nooo! We missed the chocolate cake! But I agree - Skogafoss was amazing!

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  2. Did you need to pre-book your campsite.

    My boyfriend and I are also a Canadian couple planning on camping iceland. We arrive at the start of Aug.

    Where did you get your groceries?

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    1. We did not pre-book any campsites - they were all very easy to access and never full (we were there in July, but I'd imagine it would be very similar in August). The campsites don't really have designated or numbered camping "spots" - you just set up your tent in a spot you feel works for you. So it seems there is room for everyone! :)

      We bought most of our groceries at a chain grocery store called Bonus (it has a logo of pig on it). Good prices, lots of selection, easy to navigate. We had zero problems with grocery shopping, although lots of people I've talked to say it can be confusing (not sure why - we found it very straightforward.) Most Icelanders know English as well (it is mandatory in schools to learn) so if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask! The people are very friendly!

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  3. Hi!
    I'll be in Iceland with my tent next summer.
    Do you remember if it is possible to use electricity inside the camping around Iceland?..what about the Skogar Camping?
    Thank you.

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    1. Hi Luca! At Skogar I do not remember seeing electricty access poles for campers, and there aren't distinct campsites (you just camp wherever on the grass). I assume some campgrounds might offer electricity (the one at Kirkjujarklauster had a section with campers so there must have been electricity). We took all backwoods camping equipment and so we didn't require electricity so I can't say for sure. Most campgrounds had a website so you might want to look them up before you go. Have fun! It is so beautiful!

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  4. Hi there,
    I am also a Canadian travelling to Iceland this summer! I was wondering if there was a charge to get into Skogafoss Waterfall? Thanks! Katie

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    1. Nope. Totally free, even the parking. There is only a charge if you camp there. None of the waterfalls we visited charged you anything. Just free and natural beauty. Enjoy your trip there! It is an amazing country!

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  5. Loved your review. How much was it to camp there?

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    1. Hi Sierra. It worked out, at the time, to $26 / night for two adults in one tent. They charged by person and by tent, so depending on the size of your group it could vary. And this was about 3 year ago so things may have changed but I can't see it changing too drastically. Are you headed there soon?

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  6. Hello, great post! Where do you go to pay for the campsite? And where exactly is the campsite?

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    1. There is a building right on site that houses washrooms and such - that's the office where you pay for camping. The campsite is literally in the field at the base of the waterfall. You won't miss it - there are tents just there in the grass. No marked spots or anything - you just set up your campsite wherever. We didn't see any campers in that field - maybe there is a different place where campers are meant to go.

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