Skaftafell National Park

 Borgarfjörður Eystri isn’t the biggest town, to put it mildly. With a population of 90 there’s not a whole lot to it, but you don’t come to Iceland for the city life. 

The weather wasn’t terribly conducive to outdoors pursuits and my socks were soaked, so I opted to hang out in the minuscule common area. A trio of Israelis I had seen before gave me some advice for Skaftafell National Park, and helped me plan the rest of my trip. 

Southeast Iceland and Hofn.

In the morning I crammed into a van with a bunch of other backpackers, mostly Germans (as per usual). The once daily weekday service took a little over an hour to Egilsstradir, where I stocked up on food to last me through Skaftafell National Park. 

After four hours in town, I caught the 4.5 hour bus down to Hofn. The buses from Akureyri and Reykjavik meet here in this small southeastern town, and the only reason people stay here is to change buses. 

From Hofn there are good views to the Vatnajokull glaciers in clear weather, and I was able to see them in a break in the clouds. 

More of SE Iceland, with Jokulsarlon and Skaftafell.

The morning bus to Skaftafell National Park, my next destination, makes a 2.5 hour stop in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. It wasn’t as impressive as I thought it was going to be, but it was still pretty cool. I think the closer you get to Reykjavik the more things get hyped. 

Glacier lagoon.

Another view of the lagoon.

Skaftafell, however, was phenomenal. It was recently added to Vatnajokull National Park, centered on eastern glacial systems and making up Europe’s largest national park. 

The view from the Skaftafell bus stop.

It was a great place to do day hikes of up to 15 miles on marked trails. As I heard 400 times, it’s also home to the largest campground in Iceland. There are no hotels or grocery stores there, but the campground was decent. 

Super helpful instructions in the bathroom.

Views from a day hike.

I decided not to do the hike where the trail seemed to wash out into the abyss.

Views of a glacier.

Descending back to the campground.

Another view of the mountains.

A glacier is somewhere in the background.

A French family next to my tent would stay up running around and being loud outside my tent. A French backpacker and I commiserated the next morning about how obnoxious they were, and she mentioned that she’d gone up and told them to shut up around midnight. At least they weren’t as crazy as the band of Brazilian guys who got in a fight in the pavilion shortly afterwards. 

The beach of Vik.

After 48 hours in Skaftafell, I’m now at the beach in Vik! 


If I had to do things over again, I would’ve just got my groceries and left Egilsstradir on the same day. There’s really nothing to the town, but it was nice to hang out and read in the gas station (with ice cream). 

East Iceland.

The morning bus to Seydisfjordur arrived 20 minutes late, but I wasn’t in a hurry. The driver was the first person I’ve met in Iceland who didn’t accept credit cards. Cash only. Luckily, I had exact change. People here will charge pretty much anything to a credit card, even if it’s just a few cents. Nobody here uses cash except for the German tourists. 

The fjord as viewed from the docks.

There’s a weekly ferry between Denmark and Iceland and I happened to be in Seydisfjordur right before it left. It stops along the way in the Faroe Islands, which I had never heard of until I started planning this trip. I looked into spending a week there, but after a few minutes’ research the cost and logistics didn’t look worth it. 

There wasn’t a whole lot to Seydisfjordur the town except for the above guy who used his assistance dog to race along the road in his wheelchair. 

Sometimes it’s possible to parse out what Icelandic words mean. Like the above sálma bók (psalm book). 

After battling a passive aggressive French man so I could do laundry, I wandered around the fjord and got ready for my three day hike through the eastfjords. 

The beginning was pretty foggy with low visibility until suddenly, at the apex of a long climb, the clouds parted. It was an amazing view to behold, especially with the rare Icelandic sun making an appearance. 

I met almost nobody along the hike except for Icelandic farmers when the trail followed dirt roads. The solitude was nice, but only doing 15 to 18 miles a day gave me a little too much free time. The views weren’t bad, though. 

The next fjord, letting out into the Norwegian Sea.

The huts allow camping, but that would’ve involved walking 2 km out of my way. It didn’t seem to make sense to do that and pay whatever fee when I can camp for free almost anywhere. 

Finally I don’t have to wade across!

Cooking dinner with a view.

The second day on trail was pretty similar, also with spectacular views. I saw another pair of hikers, the first since I left Seydisfjordur. 

I asked the warden at the last hut how much it would cost to camp and use the hut’s facilities. Apparently camping with bathroom use alone is $15, which is more than most village campgrounds with showers, kitchens, and wifi cost. So I walked another 20 minutes and set up my tent away from everyone else next to the trail. 

My last morning on trail I waited until 10:30am for the rain to stop, but didn’t get any luck. The tall grass and mud everywhere would’ve soaked my feet anyways, so I just bundled up in my rain gear and trudged the last few hours to town. Rather than take the scenic coastal route, which wouldn’t be too scenic during a low visibility rainstorm, I mapped a route through the mountains to Borgarfjordur Eystri. When I arrived some Nordic looking woman pointed and laughed at me from her heated dry car, but (except for my soaked shoes) my bright green, yellow, and orange rain outfit kept me warm and dry. 
The campground in the town, population 90, looked totally trashed. There was trash everywhere, and hordes of Icelanders (they were all talking to the locals in a non-English language, so I’m assuming they’re Icelanders) in their 20s taking down their tents at 2pm. The police were on the scene doing what I think were breath tests for alcohol, but I couldn’t be sure. The seagulls were having a heyday with all the debris, and I managed to snag a campsite in the chaos. Not that it really mattered, since there were only 10 people in the campground Sunday night. The workers all looked pretty shell shocked from Saturday night. 

East Iceland

Finishing my Jokulsarhlaup hike at Reykjahlid, a bustling metropolis of 128 people, put me back on the Route 1. Also known as the Ring Road, this two lane highway loops around the country and will take me further on my monthlong journey back to Reykjavik. 

Reykjahlid sits on Lake Myvatn, an area known for birdwatching and hiking. At the recommendation of an Italian hiker I met on the Jokulsarhlaup, I stayed in a campground uphill from a church farther from the center of town. Granted, this town had fewer people than my introductory chemistry class so it just meant an extra 8 minute walk to the gas station. 

The gas station seems to be the center of activity for all these Icelandic villages. In the smallest locales they double as grocery stores, restaurants, and bus station. This was true for Reykjahlid. After buying some skyr, an Icelandic yogurt-type thing that has a really strange texture but is amazing, I sat on the terrace and played typical Iceland tourist bingo:

  • Germans older than 30? Check. 
  • An inexplicably large group of rowdy French teenagers with no adult supervision? Check. 
  • Israelis overloaded with way too much camping gear? Check. 
  • Bus of Asian tourists? Check. 

Reykjahlid fit the usual Ring Road checklist. 

I took a bus two hours along the Route 1 to Egilsstradir, which at almost 3000 inhabitants felt like walking through Manhattan on a weekday. Egilsstradir is the largest town in east Iceland, the country’s least visited area with paved roads. It’s a service town with not much to it other than discount grocery stores and its excellent location as a springboard for exploring the Eastfjords. 

Really craving fresh (by remote arctic island standards) produce and a hot meal, I was distracted by a Subway next to the Bónus grocery store. Only twice have I  dared to go to American chains while abroad: after a late night flight in Bucharest, where McDonald’s is apparently more upscale and has reserved seating; and a week later in Bulgaria when about to miss a bus. Both times were with friends amongst whom we had passports from three different continents, so it was semi international. 

In a Nordic country where a restaurant meal starts at $35 a person (I do miss $5 tapas lunches with tinto de verano in Madrid), I was willing to break my rule. In doing so I had the 999 kronor ($8.19) 12 inch “American pizza” sub with spinach, pork, mayonnaise, green peppers, salt, and tomatoes. Totally worth it. 

After buying all my provisions for the next few days, I went across the street to a different discount supermarket…this time with disgusting microwave pizzas and a functioning microwave!!!! Hikertrash trail magic happens in Iceland, too!

I totally made a mess of the microwave and tried to clean it up as best I could, though the Icelandic teenagers working there didn’t seem to care in the slightest. Totally content on pizza, I wrote my dad yet another postcard from an obscure locale. I send him postcards from every town I visit on all my travels when possible, and I’ve sent him some from pretty obscure places (Republic of Kosovo, Transylvania, rural Ethiopia, Gibraltar, etc.). 

Last chore: camp stove fuel. I’d been relying on a used butane canister I got for free at the Reykjavik campsite, but was in danger of running low after a couple weeks of constant use. Luckily the gas station, again the center of town, had some on sale. At $12 for a medium sized canister it wasn’t that much more expensive than in the US, and with how few I’d been seeing lately I didn’t want to tempt Fate. Boy Scout motto: be prepared. 

The Jökulsárhlaup

Day One

Waking up to the soft battering of raindrops against my tent, I put off packing up and leaving the Husavik campground as long as I possibly could. Right as it got to the point where I really had to head to the harbor to catch my bus, the rain stopped. Of course, the eternal Icelandic clouds didn’t go away. 

Trail junction.

An hour’s bus ride got me to Asbyrgi, the northern terminus of the popular Jökulsárhlaup trek. While waiting for the hordes of Chinese tourists to use the bathroom and get back on their tour bus, I explored the Vatnajokull National Park visitors center. There wasn’t a whole lot in the building, and I killed extra time by using Whatsapp to send my Londoner friend instructions that if I didn’t survive the hike I wanted everything I had to be put towards running a cat sanctuary in the mountains.

The hike follows for two days a the rim of a gorge overlooking a powerful river, with campsites and lava formations along the way. Since the trek is in a national park, Europe’s largest, all visitors must spend the night in an established campground. There’s only one between Asbyrgi and the southern terminus of the hike, so it was easy to pick which one to stay at. 

The trail goes through the treeless tundra.

Pointing the way to the campground.

There are drones everywhere in Iceland.

Campground at night.

Day Two

I woke up practically sweating in my tent. To my shock, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! That changed quickly, but it stayed pleasantly warm all day. For the the first time in Iceland I didn’t wear a jacket. 

Day Three

At 8am I jolted awake, still confused each morning by the sun being much higher and brighter than I’m used to at that hour. Convinced the others, who went to bed 12 hours ago, would be long gone, I was a bit surprised to see that I was the first one up. 

I packed all my things and left the free hiker campsite at Dettifoss, stocking up on the water the ranger kindly leaves each day. I thought it was a bit strange that a campsite next to Europe’s largest waterfall would be dry, but I’m guessing the water is too silty to drink. It looked quite milky during my walk the previous evening. 

The next part of the trail wasn’t marked, but rather a matter of cutting west and then south from the waterfall across grazing land. 
It was a bit rougher than I’d expected, since although the terrain was flat I had to hop from mound to mound of dirt across the dried up fields. 
A two hour break in the sun next to a large lake was one of the highlights of my day, without a soul in sight. I didn’t see a single other person that day (other than a farmer in a truck who kindly offered me some water) until I got to the Krafla mountain geothermal area. 

My home for the night.

From what I read at Krafla, there was an eruption in the 70s. The black lava fields were pretty neat to walk around in the evening sun, and they’re still emitting steam. 

Exhausted and unwilling to continue, I set up camp not far from the tourist boardwalk and called it a day. 

Day Four 

A lava field near my campsite.

More lava.

The Ring Road and campground at last!

I continued through more lava fields throughout the morning on my way down to Reykjahlid, a town of about 130 people on the shore of Lake Myvatn. It was my destination largely because it’s on the Ring Road and thus I could catch a bus to Egilsstadir, my next destination. 

After a few hours I reached the town, finally able to shower and eat Pringles. 

Arctic Coast

Akureyri and Husavik are on the north coast near the middle.

The once daily bus through the Kjolur Highlands dropped me off in Akureyri after a five hour ride (including an hour stop at a geothermal area). 

Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland, though at just 18,000 inhabitants it’s really not a bustling metropolis. 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle in an inlet, it’s in a decently picturesque setting. My main calling here was to take a break from hiking and figure out what I was going to do next. 

A night stroll through Akureyri’s botanical gardens, the world’s most northerly.

I’ve been staying in campgrounds in towns, and they can be somewhat hit or miss. They usually cost around $12 a night, but that’s where the similarities end. A lot don’t have kitchens, and since meals in restaurants are so outrageous I end up cooking on my little MSR Pocket Rocket camp stove (which survived the PCT and is still kicking in Iceland!). Groceries tend to be decently priced as long as you buy imported, non-Icelandic goods (I don’t understand why fish is so expensive) which is not what I anticipated. 

There wasn’t a whole lot that appealed to me in the town other than the chance to get Indian takeaway from a downtown shack, which was delicious. It wasn’t that spicy, but after spending 9 months in Spain I’ll do anything to get spicy food for a change. I didn’t do a whole lot other than wash my clothes, hang out with a German woman biking around Iceland, and roam the world’s most northern botanical gardens, but it was a relaxing day. 

The view from Husavik.

With the help of Google Translate, I was able to figure out the bus schedule further north along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. An hourlong bus ride got me to Husavik, a pretty little whaling town 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle. 

The main thing tourists come to Husavik for is whale watching, but I instead wandered around and enjoyed all the brightly painted houses. The town is one of the bigger ones in the region, but still smaller than the population of my high school. 

I took advantage of the geothermal hot pools, which every town in Iceland seems to have. A great way to pass the afternoon before my next trek. 

Kjolur Trek

Iceland with the Kjolur route in red.

Nobody lives in Iceland’s interior highlands. For over 1000 years some parts were largely avoided and rumored to be the hideout of thieves, and thus weren’t properly explored until the middle of the 20th century. It doesn’t see as many visitors since it’s off Route 1, the Ring Road, and I decided to do a five day hike through the area. It’s pretty inhospitable and surrounded by glaciers, with the only access being a gravel road open about seven weeks a year (the hiking season in Iceland is even shorter). NASA sent the Apollo astronauts near here to do some training missions since it was considered moonlike. 

Day 1

I packed up all my stuff at the Geysir campsite and headed over to the gas station, where a German woman my age told me she’d been waiting since the bus failed to show up the day prior. 

Me and the Kjolur bus.

At precisely 10 o’clock, right on schedule for our bus, one of the special vehicles which ply the interior highlands showed up and began dropping off passengers. The German woman didn’t think that was the bus. Her English wasn’t the best, so I went up and confirmed with the driver that it was our route. Pretty much all the Icelanders speak flawless English, but can get impatient with people who aren’t on their level. As the token anglophone among what seems to be the entire population of Germany on holiday in Iceland, I usually am the one to communicate and work this kind of stuff out. 

Gullfoss waterfall.

The bus made a half hour stop at Gullfoss, a waterfall, and I connected to a tour bus’s wifi to quickly check the weather forecast. Everything looked good!

Start of the hike.

I was dropped off at noon at Hvitarnes crossroads, a junction in the middle of nowhere. At least six of the seven others were German. 

The 8 km to the Hvitarnes hut were flat, and I did the walk in about 100 minutes. I stopped at the hut to enjoy the view of the glacier and eat with a German couple, who let me try their dried fish. It wasn’t bad. 

The Hvitarnes hut is reputedly haunted. They say there’s a female ghost who harasses male hikers in the night if they sleep in a bed. The Icelandic hut association hired a priest to come and perform an exorcism-type ceremony not too long ago, but she’s supposedly still there so I guess they wasted their money on a quack.

The next few hours took me along a river through more barren flatlands. While everyone else split from the trail to stay at the hut, I kept on going a couple kilometers and set up camp just as the evening rain started. 

Day 2

Even though it’s light out constantly, it still gets fairly cold at night (and the high has been around 6C/43F each day with constant strong winds). I bundled up in my four layers and continued following the river to the next hut, where I took a break in my sleeping bag in the rare sunshine for an hour and a half. 

I didn’t go in the hut because I wasn’t sure if a warden would pop out of nowhere and charge me the $40 or so hut fee, but the German hiking club didn’t seem to care. In the future I’ll have to see if I can do the same. 

The path (really a sheep trail) meandered between some mountains to arrive at Hveravellir, a roadside rest and geothermal area. They charged a very reasonable 500 kronor (~$4) to shower and wade in the hot springs with the rowdy French school group. 

It was so relaxing that I considered staying the night, but instead I filled up on water and began the 25 km dry stretch across the barren moonscape. 

Navigation isn’t that hard when you’re traveling across a flat unvegetated valley with two massive glaciers always in view, and I had no trouble orienteering my way across the lava fields with my compass. All those Boy Scout orienteering courses came in handy. Again, I set up camp right as the rain started. 

Day 3 

I woke up to stronger and wetter winds than usual, and immediately set off across the foggy landscape. My orienteering took me within 5 meters of my target, a monument dedicated to five people who died of exposure at that spot in the 18th century. From time to time the bones of all their livestock pop back up. 

After a breakfast break at the mouth of a cave away from the wet wind, I shot west and linked up with the Kjolur Route. The gravel Kjolur Route links Reykjavik to Akureyri in the north, cutting across the interior. 

I followed the Route the rest of the day, dodging the very occasional car and taking shelter from the wind behind a massive boulder near the intersection to Kerlingarfjoll. I hiked an hour before setting up my tent in a sheltered area near a waterfall.

Day 4

I hardly slept at all because the wind was so strong it felt like half a dozen people were shaking the tent all night. The last 7 km to Kerlingarfjoll were on a gravel road, and upon reaching my destination I had to make a decision: hike a 47 km route around the Kerlingarfjoll mountains or just do day hikes. 

Much of the circular overnight route was unmarked and required fording rivers followed by steep scrambles up stony ravines at a decent altitude (for Iceland). I decided against that route because doing it by myself while sleep deprived, cold, and wet without a trail in an area with few hikers seemed like not the best idea. Instead, I opted to explore the area through day hikes! Which was a great decision. 

Thingvellir and Geysir

It seems that the vast majority of visitors to Iceland, especially those on tour groups, spend the bulk of their time in the southwest near Reykjavik. This gringo trail involves a series of easy day trips from the capital along with a popular three day trek near the south coast (the huts for which fill up months in advance, though camping needs no reservation). 

The first item on my Icelandic agenda was a five day trek through the unpopulated interior highlands, but there were a couple stops along the way on the tourist trail that piqued my interest and seemed to warrant some time. 

The “bus” (really a van) dropped me off next to the campsite in Thingvellir National Park, 23 km east of Reykjavik. The first democratic parliament was set up here by the Vikings in 930 to solve disputes and make laws, being in a field easily accessible by overland routes from across the island. 

The path from the campsite to the main attractions.

A scenic 3 km walk led to the main attractions, which are also geologically significant. Thingvellir straddles the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and there are lots of large fissures and geothermal areas throughout the area. Since so many of my geology textbooks in college had pictures of this place, I knew I had to pay it a visit. 

Through the fissure.

I spent about five hours walking around, exploring the tiny old church, and people watching as the tour buses dropped off hordes of elderly visitors (next to the most expensive bathrooms I’ve ever seen at 200 kronor/$1.50 per use; there were free ones a five minute walk away). 

The fields of Thingvellir.

After hanging out with other European travelers at the campsite, which is where all the young backpackers stay in Iceland since lodging is so overpriced, I spent a very windy night in my tent before taking the noon bus to Geysir. 

Number of people I witnessed scream after putting hands in the water: 2.

Geysir is supposedly where the term geyser comes from, and every 8 minutes one of them shoots up jets of water 20 meters in the air. Spending four summers living within a half hour drive of 65% of the world’s geysers in Yellowstone may have made my expectations too high, since Geysir seemed quite small. It was still very nice, and there were lots of free heated places to hang out in the oversized gas station next door. 

The horde waiting for the geyser to go off.

Overlooking the geothermal area.


Early on the 4th of July I left my hostel, making the 13 minute train journey from Copenhagen Central Station to the airport. The main reason I went to Denmark was because flights to Iceland were way cheaper, and I very much enjoyed my first taste of the Nordic countries. 

Next stop Iceland!

I caught my direct 2.5 hour Scandinavian Air flight to Reykjavik. From entering the Danish airport to clearing Icelandic customs I never once had to show my passport. Iceland seems pretty lax on that kind of stuff. I heard that besides the airports, the only building in the country with security is the American embassy. Statistically, Iceland is one of the safest and least violent places on the planet. 

Me and my Japanese PCT buddy Courage.

Reykjavik is a 45 minute bus ride from Keflavik International Airport, which was built by the Americans when we occupied Iceland in the Second World War. My PCT hiking buddy, who I met near Mexico and was in my core group all the way to Canada, was heading to Paris as I was entering Iceland. We got to hang out for a little bit at the bus terminal, where he recommended a lot of things to do and see in the south. If all goes well, I’ll visit him late next summer in Japan. 

The two of us looking a little more ragged at the northern terminus of the PCT.

I went on the Reykjavik walking tour, run by three guys who go to the University of Iceland. It was very informative, and one of the Canadian girls on the tour was telling me about her obsession with and photos of all the fluffy Icelandic cats. The guide confirmed that the dogs and cats in Iceland tend to have lots of fur to keep them warm. 

A fluffy Icelandic cat I befriended.

I’d noticed that the locals aren’t nearly as tall or blonde as in Copenhagen and Malmö. The guide said it’s because the country was founded largely by Norwegian men who brought brides kidnapped from places like Ireland. So around 40% of the Icelandic genetic makeup is Celtic. 

The night before I arrived 28,000 people gathered to watch Iceland play France in the quarter finals of the Euro Cup (France won). That’s almost 8.5% of the country’s entire population of only 320,000! It was an extremely unlikely series of games that led to such an underdog making it to the Euro 2016 quarter finals. In the Copenhagen hostel they delayed the lights out time because of the Euro Cup. There are posters of the Icelandic football team ALL OVER Reykjavik. 

The Icelandic football team.

One thing that’s been a little weird so far is the total lack of darkness. It’s light all day, with a late afternoon sun at night.

I took the above photo in the Reykjavik city campground at 2:30am when I got up to go to the bathroom. 

It’s true that the Nordic countries are very expensive, but there are ways around the worst of it. I’m staying in the campground, which is $17.20 a night rather than $36 a night in the hostels, and cooking my meals. Campgrounds outside of Reykjavik are cheaper (usually around $11.40) and camping outside of towns is free. 

Roughly the route I’ll be following in Iceland.

Bus travel is really costly, but I got a bus pass that covers the above route and saved me a lot. I’ll be cutting from Reykjavik to Akureyri in the north via the remote Kjolur Route and then looping back to the capital via the Ring Road over the course of around four weeks. It looks like there’s a ton to see and do on this route, along with a lot of overnight hikes of up to six days. 

The grocery stores in Reykjavik seem pretty reasonable, and there are a lot of inexpensive American products that are hard to find and overpriced in Spain. Like peanut butter! The mediterraneans think it’s disgusting, so it’s only in foreign groceries in Spain, but here it’s $2 a pound. I’m definitely taking advantage of that. I did get a massive meal at the above shack, where there’s always a crowd speaking Icelandic out front. Best fish and chips I’ve ever had. 

Whaling is legal and controversial.

I wouldn’t call Reykjavik my favorite place with all its sprawl, but it’s been fun enjoying the world’s most northerly capital’s bookshops, library, and subarctic botanical gardens. I’ve finally got everything ready for my round-the-island trip, and I head to Thingvellir National Park tomorrow. It’s where the settlers established the Althingi, a semi-democratic body, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. I heard about it thousands of times in my geology classes and finally get to see it. Then I’ll head to Geysir, the geothermal area where geysers got their name, and later do a 90 mile hike in the Kjolur Highlands. 

The sprawl of Reykjavik.

Copenhagen and Malmö

Me and the three other English teaching assistants. Last day of work!

The students all left last Tuesday, but teachers and staff have had to come in until the end of the month. However, it’s been pretty easy with arriving at 10 and leaving at 1:30. It’s a little weird being in the school, preparing for the next academic year, without all the little ones running around and screaming. I almost kind of miss them…

Getting ready to leave Madrid after nine months was a bit of an adventure, having to balance:

  1. Trying to find a place to put my stuff over the summer
  2. Getting my travel papers while my residency card is being renewed
  3. Getting my deposit back on my apartment

All three tasks were a resounding success!

Giving and receiving the typical Spanish goodbye kisses took some time, but when I walked out the doors of the school it was finally summer break! No more school until October 3rd!

A quick lunch in Puerta del Sol in central Madrid made me opt to go to the climate controlled airport early rather than spend any more time in the infernal Spanish sun, with temperatures reaching up to 100F each day and almost nonexistent air conditioning. 

First stop on my two month Nordic trip was Copenhagen! After less than three hours in the air I arrived in Denmark, my first time in Scandinavia. I helped translate English to Spanish for a nice young couple, both women, who complimented me on my Spanish…and then asked if I was a local, which seems to be a common assumption! I’ve been asked for directions at least once a day in the Copenhagen area. 

A map of the area around Copenhagen.

My first day I took the bus across the ridiculously long bridge to Sweden, linked by land for the first time in 2000. I’d heard the round trip bus fare cost 100 Swedish krone ($11.78) but was a bit dismayed to find it was actually 100 Danish krone ($15). Still, not terrible. 

We were stopped upon reaching the Swedish border, which despite being in Schengen is now manned. Being the only non-European Union citizen on board I had the following conversation (I’d forgotten my Spanish travel permit in the hostel):

  • Guard: How long you stay in Scandinavia?
  • Me: Don’t tell him two months. I have a round trip ticket, I’ll leave your country this afternoon.

The guard looked at the last time my passport had been stamped, way back in March coming back from Bulgaria with friends, and handed me my passport back without mentioning I’d have way overstayed if I was on a tourist visa.

Inadvertently became a library member while printing a copy of my travel permit at the Malmö city library.

Malmö was a pretty town, with lots of nice parks and probably the most impressive public library I’ve ever seen outside of the US. 

Overcast skies and empty streets in Malmö.

There wasn’t a whole lot to do other than wander around aimlessly through the greenery, so the 5 hours the bus allowed was more than enough. 

Copenhagen! I have since fixed my glasses and learned how to smile.

The 3 hour walking tour was one of the best I’ve been on in Europe, largely because we had a really great guide. Copenhagen’s a great city to just walk around, with phenomenal architecture and cobbled streets. The hostel was also phenomenal, and surprisingly cheap by Scandinavia standards at 140 DKK ($21) a night. There’s even some ovens in the large public kitchen! The first I’ve seen in a European hostel. 

There’s a hippie commune from the 70s called Christiania that’s still active in Copenhagen, but photography was prohibited. I don’t think they wanted pictures of all the smoking, which is illegal in Denmark. I felt like I was back on the PCT there, especially when the clouds became dark and thunder sounded in the distance. 

I took cover in the National Museum and perished Denmark’s Viking relics and Greenland colonization exhibits, which was all quite interesting. Early tomorrow morning I’m hopping on a flight to Reykjavik, after having spent a very nice three days in and around Copenhagen. Very excited for Iceland!

Downtown Copenhagen. It stormed shortly after.