If you are planning to hike in Þakgil (also Thakgil), which I think you should :), the hike to the Huldujökull panoramic viewpoint should be the first one on your list. While the name will not sound familiar to most, this is a true gem of a hike.
Apart from Þakgil and the campsite being in a fantastic location, the panoramic views at the trail’s endpoint are truly magnificent.
The Huldujökull glacier and a mind-boggling huge waterfall.
Huldujökull is part of the bigger Mýrdalsjökull, and it’s a sort of horseshoe-shaped valley with many waterfalls falling from the glacier directly into the valley below. The size and the volume of water of some of these waterfalls are of epic proportions.
Moreover, the scenery along the trail is classic Icelandic beautiful, where you can almost feel the forces of nature that shaped it. This is one stunning corner of Iceland that gets less credit than it deserves. Therefore one could safely say Thakgil is home to the best hikes you could find near Vik.
The beautifully green typical Icelandic landscape in Þakgil.
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The Huldujökull Hike in Þakgil presents no particular challenges and steep or dangerous sections. The trail, called Austurafréttur, is well marked, except for the last part leading to the viewpoint over Huldujökull. To get to the viewpoint, you would have to navigate by sight.
I’d consider it moderate difficulty for an expert hiker but hard otherwise due to the total distance and elevation gain. No very steep or exposed sections along the trail.
↑ 1,200 m / ↓ 1,220 m
5:30 – 6:00 Hrs
Moderate to Hard
Panoramic Image of Kötlujökull, one of the many wonders along the trail.
How to get to Þakgil and Huldujökull
Driving Directions: Þakgil can be accessed via a 14km long dirt road called Kerlingardalsvegur. It’s a 5 minutes drive from Vik, and you will need to turn to your left at Hotel Katla. While the dirt road is rough, it is not an f-road and can, therefore, be accessed by 2WD cars. Still, I would recommend a higher clearance vehicle or a small 4X4; I have seen sedans on the road, and the ride did not look fun. Anyway, this is a very scenic drive too, and while it can take 20/30 minutes, it may take longer as you will probably stop a few times along the way to snap some photos.
Parking: the last time I was there, parking by the camp was temporarily allowed to register at the campsite. If you are not planning to spend the night there, there are a few pullout areas you can leave the car at, such as the one here.
Tip: this is a loop hike, and I recommend doing it counterclockwise. You will get much better views of the glacier on your way up. However, if you do it clockwise as I did, you will only see the glacier when you get there, and it will be behind you on your way back.
Unnamed, huge waterfalls. One can only imagine them upclose!
The Austurafréttur Trail to Huldujökull
To get to the fantastic Huldujökull viewpoint, you will need to follow the yellow trail, which starts at the Þakgil campsite. As mentioned above, this is a loop hike, and I’ll describe the clockwise tour as it is the one I did. Read it upside down if you are planning to hike it counterclockwise :)
Jokes aside, the first part of the trail is an uphill old dirt road. After that, the trail will gently gain elevation through Iceland’s lush green volcanic landscape. On a clear day, you will get a good view of Hjörleifshöfði, the mountain where the famous “Yoda Cave” is located. Additionally, you’ll get a great view of the Mýrdalssandur outwash plains.
Some of the beautiful views in the first part of the trail.
View toward south and Mýrdalssandur
Anyway, as the trail continues, it will reach the top f a small hill called Sker, where you get a good view of the glacier. From there, there is no marked trail to the Huldujökull viewpoint, but you can continue in the general direction of the glacier until the views open up over the majestic valley by Huldujökull. It’s gonna be a WOW moment when you get there. Take your time and enjoy the views!
To get back to the campsite, you can retrace your steps back to Sker and follow the trail on the other side. This part of the trail offers amazing views of Kötlujökull. You can stop at several other viewpoints along the way to admire the amazing creatures of this glacier. The trail will then descend toward Þakgil and close the loop there.
Sker, and two hikers looking at the glacier.
Austurafrettur trail on the way back to Thakgil.
Photos and Photography tips for Huldujökull and the Austurafréttur Trail
Undoubtedly, the Huldujökull viewpoint is the major point of interest in this hike.
It is somewhat difficult to render the sense of scale of this place, the glacier and the waterfalls. That is mainly because the best viewpoints are at the top of vertical cliffs, and there is not much of a reference you can include for scale. Still, there are some rocks you can include as foreground that help a bit, also doing panoramas.
I’d recommend planning your hike to get there relatively early in the morning to get the best lighting condition. In the afternoon-late afternoon, the sun will be behind the glacier and the whole valley in the shadows. Instead, if you can get there early in the morning, you’d get the Sun directly lighting the valley, the glacier and the waterfalls. Still, I’d recommend checking any of the Sun position calculator apps to plan the best time/lighting conditions. Of course, none of this matters if it is cloudy :).
Regarding which lenses to bring, I’d recommend anything between 20mm to 200mm. I didn’t find much use for anything wider, so if in doubt, you can save some weight and leave your ultra-wide at the campsite.
Here are some of my favorite photos I took on the trail:
Huldujökull and the view from the main lookout. Panorama of 6 vertical frames.
The horseshoe-shaped cliffs and the many huge waterfalls around it.
View of Huldujökull and a small glacial lake.
An extremely powerful and huge waterfall stemming directly from Huldujökull.
The same waterfall. its mind-boggling size is hard to reproduce in photos.
Detail of the glacier and more huge waterfalls.
The stunning glacier-shaped valley next to the trail.
Drone Panorama – taken with a Mavic 3.
Panoramic image of Kötlujökull. Due to its size, I can only be fully captured with panoramas.
Panoramic Image of Kötlujökull, one of the many wonders along the trail.
Crevasses in Kötlujökull – shot at 200mm.
The beautiful, green valley around Thakgil on the way back to camp.
Video of the Hike
Here is a video of this beautiful hike. Nothing fancy, just some music, the trails and the landscape around it:
Here is the map of Huldujökull Hike in Þakgil. You can download the GPS file directly from the Komoot activity below:
Where to Stay – Thakgil Camping
Þakgil! The campsite in Þakgil is one of my favorite campsites in Iceland. Excellent location, sheltered from the wind, and has a good atmosphere. If you don’t want to camp, they also have huts available. I’d recommend booking it in advance if you go to the hut.
Still, this is a beautiful location to camp. Popular with Icelanders, I’d recommend visiting during weekdays if you are looking for a quiet night’s sleep, as there may be young Icelanders partying during the weekend. If you are visiting during the weekend, I’d recommend pitching your tent far from the dining Cave, as that is where most of the partying usually happens.
Otherwise, the closest hotel available is the Katla Hotel at the beginning of Kerlingardalsvegur. Otherwise, it’s back to Vik.
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