Getting to Volcano Huts isn't easy.
The beginning of our journey was, for the most part, uneventful. We boarded the bus from BSÍ Bus Terminal in Reykjavík and headed west on Route 1, also known as the Ring Road. The Ring Road is a popular road trip choice for tourists, due to both its proximity to some of Iceland's best scenery and the fact that most of the route is paved. The ride was smooth as we gazed out the window at fields of Icelandic horses and immense cliffs with waterfalls running down the sides.
About an hour and a half had passed when our bus pulled into the N1 gas station in Hvolsvöllur. There, we boarded a second bus. This one was larger than the first, with massive tires elevating it far off of the ground. It was the bus that would take us across powerful rivers to our final destination, a remote hotel called Volcano Huts in the middle of Þórsmörk.
From that point on, it was a bumpy ride on gravel roads. At times, I couldn't even tell exactly where the road was, but thankfully, our driver had been navigating this area for a while. When we crossed the first river, the bus felt alive with excitement. Most of us hadn't been to Þórsmörk before, and we soon found out that the first river was minuscule compared to those that waited for us ahead.
The rivers got progressively larger as we moved closer to Volcano Huts. I knew from the "How to get here" section of their website that the last river would be the largest. It's called the Krossá River, and they urge you not to attempt the crossing, even in a specially equipped 4x4 car. "Be safe and hop on the bus across this last river," the website said.
And it was immediately clear when we arrived at that particular river. The current was strong, and it was the widest of them all; the distance from one side to the other caused me to question the bus's ability to make it across. We drove alongside the river for a few moments, and then the bus turned to the left. Somehow, the driver knew that this was the best spot to cross, though it looked as perilous as any other section. The entire time that we were in the river, I expected the current to take us away. But we got to the other side without incident.
The journey to Volcano Huts may be difficult, but once guests arrive, they're rewarded with the nearly untouched nature of the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve. The accommodations are so remote that I was surprised by the welcoming and warm reception area, complete with a bar and a cozy lounge. We chose the "glamping," or glamorous camping, option at Volcano Huts, so we were led to a tent furnished with a real bed, carpet, and an electric heater. Volcano Huts also offers dormitories, cottages, and private rooms, plus a campsite area for those wanting to pitch their own tents.
Staying at Volcano Huts allows you to experience hotel-like amenities in the middle of nowhere. You can take a warm shower, enjoy a hot dinner buffet, and drink local draft beers. The lounge has books and puzzles to keep you entertained, as well as Wi-Fi. There's even a sauna and a manmade pool with geothermal water, perfect for relaxation after a full day of hiking.
It's not uncommon for tourists to avoid the warnings and attempt the river crossings on their own. One evening, Magnus Mar Einarsson, one of the Volcano Huts owners, showed us videos of failed river crossings. It made us increasingly satisfied with our decision to take the bus. At a nearby campsite, two volunteers told us that they had to rescue people from the rivers every single day. Failures occur even with a specialized car, because part of achieving success is knowing exactly where to cross. Snorkels can be attached to vehicles for better odds, allowing air intake in deeper waters.
The round-trip bus from BSÍ costs around $130, and unless you have experience fording a river outside of Oregon Trail, it's the most sensible option for reaching Volcano Huts. In the summer, you also have the option of reaching Þórsmörk on foot, using one of the many trails in the area. Portable pedestrian bridges are set up along the Krossá River
Living at Volcano Huts was a deep departure from the world we were used to, but the peace and quiet was unparalleled. Hikes from the hotel were often absent of any other humans, with the peaks providing stunning views over the entire nature reserve, rivers zigzagging in every direction. The dramatic landscape inspired the name of Þórsmörk, which comes from Thor, the Viking god known for his mountain-crushing hammer. Legend has it that Thor slammed down his hammer on this area and created the valleys, mountains, and rivers.
And as we walked along the trails, we found ourselves inclined to believe that this story was true.
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