This day was arguably the most tiring of the trip. We had a long day on the road and had a lot of sights we wanted to see along the way. One might think that getting out every half hour or hour to stretch ones legs and breathe in some fresh air might be rejuvenating, but anyone who has ever done the slow saunter through a city for hours on end knows that the stop-and-go method of travel is truly the most taxing.
That said, it was an incredible day! What began as a very misty, foggy, rainy day turned into a gorgeous day for a drive with bursts of sun coming out in the late afternoon. This post is bursting with pictures so follow after the jump if you’d like to see and read more about our second full day on the road.
We left Hestheimar Horse Farm in the morning after an hour ride through their pastures. We took showers and hit the road just before noon. Our first destination was Seljandlasfoss, a large waterfall that you can see long before you even arrive. It’s remarkable in that you can actually walk behind the waterfall for a notable view and a bit of a soak (here’s where you’ll want your waterproof rain jacket, pants, and hiking boots). It’s a fun stop on your way to Vík and there are two other waterfalls nearby you can visit as well.
As always, one must stop for the obligatory hot dog. This, plus a cookie, an apple and some chips constituted lunch, though there were sandwiches and a homemade meat stew on offer. There was also a young Icelandic man playing improvisational guitar right behind me and it was so soothing and tranquil. We stayed to listen for just a bit, but got back on the road after buying his CD. We listened to it in the car toward the end of the trip and decided it is way too mellow for driving, but would make perfect music for dreamy afternoons or falling asleep. (P.S. when was the last time you bought an actual CD?!)
It felt like we spent the day chasing waterfalls but it’s more or less par for the course in Iceland. They are everywhere! Skogafoss is a 20-minute drive from Seljandlasfoss and another monstrosity that you can easily see from the road. It was amazing to get so close to its base and we couldn’t believe how quickly the water grew into a calm stream after dropping so many meters. There’s a footpath that goes up the side of the waterfall, granting you a view from the top of the precipice.
From Skogafoss, we got back on Highway 1 and made our way further south to Dyrhólaey, a small peninsula of volcanic origin. From the end of May through the end of June, thousands upon thousands of birds come to these cliffs–and indeed cliff-sides slightly further inland all the way to Vík–to roost and lay eggs. It’s a protected area with no shortage of impeccable bird watching (see the end of the post for a video). We were a bit early to see the puffins, but they take over the area in the summer months.
You can walk around on the cliffs or walk down to the black beach, but do be warned that the tide comes in swiftly. We saw two men get soaked up to their calves in a spot we were standing in just moments before. The tide here is nothing you want to mess around with.
From the main road leading from Highway 1 to Dyrhólaey you can take a gravel road that looks like you shouldn’t be on it. Take it. Compared to the other lookout point there were only a handful of people and the view is incredible. Adam and I sat for a while with a couple of beers and laughed at the birds coasting on the air currents. We talked a lot about this year and our future and Iceland and what it’s like to spend time together. Sitting there on the edge of a cliff, facing a fear, and being totally relaxed is one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Please note the sheep jumping in the bottom right corner of the above picture. Along with waterfalls, there were sheep everywhere! And horses. And they were always up to no good, like jumping on their mamas and running out in the street in front of cars. Really, though, they are prone to wander and if you’re driving you should keep a clear eye out for them. They’re wily little guys…
The next natural stop is Reynisfjara, or Black Sand Beach. You’ve been looking at it the whole time you were at Dyrhólaey, but it’s wonderful to see it up close, especially the otherworldly basalt formations. They are insane! There are thousands of birds roosting here as well and it was fun to see them swooping and flying above us. You’ll want to be careful of the tide here as well, however. We saw a girl (and her camera!) get tossed around a bit and she walked away completely soaked.
The southern town of Vík is only a ten-minute drive from here and there you’ll find a couple restaurants, shops, and a gas station. It’s a nice place to refuel and rest before tackling any more driving. With hindsight, I might consider staying here for the night, because by this time it was nearing 6:00 pm and we were feeling a bit loopy from the day’s drive and activities. But we muscled on for another two and a half hours to Jökusárlón, the ice lagoon located on the southeastern side of the island. This is a great time for a solid playlist or two and some meditation (but remember to pay attention!).
This stretch of driving was truly incredible. The landscape varied between moss covered lava rocks, lava fields that had been pummeled into sand, grassy fields for sheep and goats, and final a glacial tundra that was breathtaking. We took a couple detours along the way, including one that was slightly forbidden, but according to Adam that’s how you see the good sights : )
Nothing prepared us, however, for Jökusárlón. It is…I don’t know what! Completely different from anything I’ve seen before. Marvelous. Enchanting. Spectacular. Magical.
We marveled at the views for a while before making our way to that night’s guesthouse. It was a perfect spot, ten minutes from the lagoon and right on the water with a great view of the mountains, but we were there less than 12 hours. We didn’t arrive until 9:30 that evening and left early in the morning for a boat ride on the ice lagoon. They did make us a late dinner, which was more than appreciated, and had a tasty breakfast spread.
Man! What a day! This was such an extraordinary part of the trip, but if you can believe it, there’s even more to come. I’ll share more next week! ( P.S. You can see our first full day in Iceland here)
Until then, here’s a silly little video of those birds coasting near Dyrhólaey: