Day five in Iceland and off we went towards the south-east, moving towards Vik, our next destination!!! On our way there though, we planned to visit two particularly popular waterfalls, the Skogafoss and the Seljalandsfoss! Both waterfalls are extremely beautiful, but I have to admit that my favorite was Skogafoss. The sheer magnitude of this massive body of water was breath-taking. It is in fact one of the biggest waterfalls of the country, with a width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters – that’s about 200 feet!! Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, on a sunny day you can always see a single or a double rainbow just below it! Legend says that a Viking settler in the area buried a treasure in a cave behind (or under) the waterfall. On the right side of the waterfall is a staircase (around 400 or so) which leads to one of Iceland’s most popular hiking tracks. The climb up is tiring, but the views at the top are spectacular to say the least. I think this was the most in fact one of the most beautiful views I saw during my stay in Iceland and I would definitely recommend the climb to anyone visiting Skogafoss.
The amazingly beautiful Skogafoss with its double rainbows 🙂
Enjoying the breath-taking views from the top! ❤
More shots from Skogafoss!
Seljalandsfoss, another gorgeous waterfall, is slightly closer to Reykjavik and is also around 60 meters high, but has a much thinner cascade than Skogafoss. It is a very picturesque fall and what makes this one special is the fact that you can actually walk BEHIND the fall! Be careful though! It is VERY slippery as the ground is of course muddy and very mossy! I actually had my fair share of slips and took one big fall (head first!!!) just as I was leaving! Don’t worry though, no physical injuries, just my damaged pride!
Walking behind Seljalandsfoss is a tricky business!!! Hope you have a good pair of boots and good balance! 😉
In between our waterfall sight-seeing, we decided to venture slightly into Thorsmork National Park. We didn’t get that far in as the roads started becoming more and more rugged, thus making them less and less manoeuvrable. Even so, we got to enjoy some great roadside views, and managed to say hello to some of the fluffy and wooly locals!! (as you can see in the photos below!) If you like hiking, then Thorsmork National Park is definitely the place to visit! There are a variety of short and long trails where every type of visitor can hike according to his or her own abilities. It’s quite easy to find trail maps around the area, as well as online.
The local fauna as well as some scenery from Thorsmork National Park
Now, onwards we go towards Vik, the southernmost village of the island, and around 180km away from Reykjavik via Route 1. It also has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! It has long stretches of black basalt sand, and offshore, lie gigantic stacks of basalt rock, remnants of a once more extensive cliffline, now battered by the sea.
Local legends say that these basalt rock formations – the Reynisdrangar – were in fact trolls, trapped whilst escaping out to sea with their boats at dawn (apparently trolls have severe sun allergies of some sort!). We decided to spend one night in this picturesque village – staying in a newly renovated hotel – Icelandair Hotel Vik.
Hotel selections are limited around the island – so pre-booking is ideal, especially during peak season (June – August). Walking along the beaches of Vik is a unique experience. This beautiful place has a magical quality to it, maybe its the huge black rock formations, (which really do look like giants trapped in an eternal struggle in the sea) or maybe its the pitch black beaches, which add an aura of mystery and stark beauty to the coastline. Whatever the case, Vik is an absolute beauty – venturing outwards from the village rewards the visitor with exceptional vistas and sights. The Dyrhólaey Peninsula, for example, is very close and well worth a visit!
We decided to explore the vicinities the next morning, on day 6 of our stay in Iceland, before venturing out further east towards Hofn, our next stop. The view from near the Dyrhólaey Peninsula and the hills around it is spectacular! Towards the north one can see the massive glacier, Mýrdalsjökull. To the east, the black lava columns of the Reynisdrangar come out of the sea, and to the west the whole coastline in the direction of Selfoss is visible on clear days. In front of the peninsula, is a gigantic black arch of lava standing in the sea, which gave the peninsula its name. It truly is a huge arch, measuring up to 120 meters in height, with ships actually being able to sail through it at certain tides!
Views from the Dyrhólaey Peninsula
Onwards we drove towards our next destination, Hofn, where we would be spending our coming night. Before that though, we visited the Skaftafell, a preservation area within the Vatnajökull National Park (seen in the photos below).
I had already mapped out a short hike of about 5.5km (round trip) towards the Svartifoss (Black Fall), a waterfall surrounded by dark lava columns, which actually gave rise to its name. These are the same columns which provided inspiration for Icelandic architects, most visibly in the Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík (as mentioned in Part 1 of this article). The hike was an uphill trek so it took us about one and a half hours to get to the waterfall. It was not an easy walk, but boy was it worth it! Views along the way were very scenic, with many good photo opportunities and rest stops available. At the end of the trek, one finally arrives the Svartifoss, which is amazingly beautiful and one of the strangest waterfalls I have ever seen! The upside down lava columns give it an otherworldly, alien-like appearance, and the blackness of the stone just adds to the dramatic scenery! I would definitely recommend this hike if you are in the area as it is doable for most, and the end vistas are rewarding to say the least! Getting back to the visitors centre was much easier than the climb up, as most of the trek was then downhill.
The dramatic Svartifoss!
Back on the road once again, this time travelling towards another spot I had been yearning to see since I first heard of Iceland – the Jökulsárlón Lagoon!!! This is a large glacial lake at the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. This lagoon has been a set for a number of movies, including A View to Kill, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Die Another Day and Batman Begins.
The lake is filled with fish that drift in from the sea with higher tides. Seals also gather at the mouth of the lake, although I did not manage to see one when visiting. What I did see was a large number of sea birds, particularly Arctic Terns, although other birds such as seagulls and Skuas were also present. You could either walk along this marvellous wonder of a lagoon, or else opt for a boat ride within the lake. We opted out of the boat ride, but spent the better part of an hour appreciating the impressive views. It is a truly spiritual and sobering experience, watching these massive pieces of ice, which had broken off a prehistoric glacier, floating within the lagoon in their watery silence. It’s also a huge eye opener about our current global warming situation. The lagoon was only formed in 1934-35, and it continues to grow at a rapid rate on a yearly basis. It is now about 200 meters deep where the glacier snout originally existed!!
This was our final sight-seeing stop for the day and we once again took to the road and headed towards our destination for the night. Hofn, meaning ‘harbour’ is located on a peninsula in the south-eastern part of Iceland and is mainly a fishing port surrounded by the sea on three sides. You can see some breath-taking views of the Vatnajökull from here, as well as see some lovely beaches and sea views.
The crystal clear waters at Hofn ❤
The food is also delicious, with one of Hofn’s more popular catches being the delectable Langoustines (Norway Lobsters). If you are in the area, you have to try out these tasty little critters! Almost every place in town serves fresh langoustines, usually grilled with butter, parsley and garlic, so go ahead and dig in! You won’t be disappointed!!! I chose an eatery which is very popular with locals, as well as visitors, Humarhöfnin. Reservations are usually recommended as the place gets crowded (it’s a local favourite), but we were kindly given a nice table for two by a window with a view of the port. The menu was straight forward – a presentation of dishes making use of mostly local ingredients. I already knew what I wanted before even entering the restaurant so fresh grilled langoustines it was for me!!!
Nomnomnomnom! Langoustines for dinner!!
After our meal a walk along the harbour and marina closed off our long day – and we headed back to our simple but comfortable guesthouse in the outskirts of town – Dilksnes Guesthouse! (http://www.dilksnes.com). This place had the most amazing views, the hosts were lovely and very friendly and inviting, even though their English was limited. Bathrooms were shared, as were kitchen facilities, the rooms were clean and the bed comfortable.
Day 7 and we checked out of Dilksnes Guesthouse, moving further East towards our next stop for the night – Egilsstaðir! Our drive there once again showed pretty coastal scenery. We were now driving into the Icelandic Eastfjords which, although less dramatic than the more popularised Westfjords, are still beautiful and feature mountainous peaks, fjords, graceful waterfalls, rocky cliffs and wildlife! We stopped at Stöðvarfjörður (a very small village of 200 or so inhabitants) for a short break to snack and take in some picturesque views, and were then on our way again.
Driving through the Eastfjords rewards you with some breatk-taking coast views!
Driving in Iceland is an absolute joy. Route 1 is well paved and easy to manoeuvre, drivers are polite and cautious and the scenery is amazing everywhere you look. We also managed to get a glimpse of a herd of wild deer during our drive that day! ❤ We arrived at our destination by late afternoon.
Egilsstaðir is one of Iceland’s larger towns, a main regional transport hub and center for local commerce. It is not pretty like Hofn or Vik as it is more industrial, but it is very close to lovely Lagarfljót, Iceland’s third-largest lake – home of the Lagarfljót worm – aka Iceland’s very own lake monster!!! I searched and searched that afternoon, with no luck at all :(. Maybe next time I visit the worm will come up to say hello!! We stayed in a more commercial hotel whilst in town – the Icelandair Hotel Herad – http://www.icelandairhotels.com/en/hotels/herad – It was comfortable enough, very clean and had a nice ‘in-house’ restaurant and bar. We stocked up on some snacks, and other basic necessities in town and then turned in for the night – starting tomorrow, we were going to start our journey northwards towards out next destination – Myvatn!
Keep an eye on this blog to continue your journey with me along Iceland’s ringroad as Part 3 describes my adventures in the north of this magical country! More whale-watching, ‘hot springing’ 😉 and volcano climbing coming up!!
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