This was the longest hiking day, a double day. Since we stopped halfway the day before, we had to make up for it and go further to do the planned today’s hike. So, in total, we had to walk about 27km (17 miles). The first part was getting from Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn 12km (7.5 miles), then lunch at Álftavatn, and then the second hiking part from Álftavatn to Emstrur-Botnar hut for another 15km (9.5 miles).
From Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (Swan Lake)
This was probably the most beautiful part of the whole hike. We were so glad that we stayed the night at Hrafntinnusker and saw all this beauty in good weather conditions. The first part of our 12 km was going up and the second part was mostly going down the hills. There is really nothing else to say, the pictures will tell the story better than any words.
Soon after we descended from Jökultungur, we encountered our first river crossing. I was kind of scared of crossing glacier rivers on foot because I tend to get cramps. So for this trip I bought neoprene socks specifically for crossing the rivers. It was the right decision. Good sandals and neoprene socks is all that is needed to keep your feet warm in icy waters. However, other travelers did not have any of that. Most people in our group did not have sandals, so the guide shared his. After the first person crossed the river, he threw the sandals back to the other side and so on…
After that, the landscape changed dramatically, the snow disappeared and we were crossing a much flatter and much greener hills and valleys along the banks of river Grashagakvisl.
Here is a map of our trek from Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn:
From Álftavatn to Emstrur
The facilities at the Álftavatn hut are much better than at Hrafntinnusker, no wonder Extreme Iceland preferred making the overnight stop at Álftavatn and skipping Hrafntinnusker.
By the time we got to the Álftavatn hut, we were all pretty tired. Our guide decided to help a little by taking us across the river a couple of miles ahead. That way we would cut our total hiking time and miles, and get to our destination at a more reasonable hour.
After the river crossing, the landscape changed dramatically again. Now we were crossing a black volcanic desert, called Mælifellssandur desert.
We were very tired by the time we got to the hut but also very happy. It was a beautiful day and our guide prepared an amazing meal with barbecued lamb. And best of all, the hut had hot water showers. They were not free but we did not care about the cost :).