Iceland – Day 10 – Haukadalur

The next stop on the Golden Circle tour on Day 10 was the Haukadalur geothermal area.

This area is commonly known as Geysir after its historically most famous feature, a geyser called Geysir. The word “geyser” obviously comes from the word “geysir” which comes from the Icelandic verb “geysa” which means “to gush.” However, Geysir very rarely gushes any more. These days the big draw is another geyser called Strokkur (“The Churn”). Strokkur proves that it is the much more cooperative geyser by erupting about every 5-10 minutes.

According to Wikipedia:

Strokkur was first mentioned in 1789, after an earthquake unblocked the conduit of the geyser. Its activity fluctuated in the 19th century; in 1815 its height was estimated to be as much as 60 metres. It continued to erupt until the turn of the 20th century, when another earthquake blocked the conduit again. In 1963, upon the advice of the Geysir Committee, locals cleaned out the blocked conduit through the bottom of the basin, and the geyser has been regularly erupting ever since.

We watched and photographed Strokkur’s frequent eruptions for quite some time. The coolest part about Strokkur is that right at the beginning of the eruption, a gorgeous blue bubble forms and lingers for just a second or two, then the actual eruption bursts forth.

My favorite geothermal experience of the day was the part where Strokkur let loose with a particularly effusive gush that completely drenched the majority of the lingering tourists, including Mom and me. (<— Click there to see the results of the drenching). The water smelled of rotten eggs and was surprisingly not scalding hot. I found it highly amusing AND I captured a slow motion video of the entire eruption. It was awesome! (Be sure to watch the video in full-screen mode). I have now crossed “Take an unexpected rotten-egg-smelling shower in a geyser” off my bucket list.

After the shower, we wandered around a few more of the other hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles in the area, but opted not to hike to the top of Laugafell (“Hot Spring Mountain”) as we were wet, cold, and hungry and it was raining.

After a pleasant-enough dinner at the cafeteria connected to the local gift shop plus a wee bit of shopping, we briefly pondered whether or not to hit the final stop of the Golden Circle, Gullfoss. It had already been a very long day, it was close to 7:00 pm and we were very tired and very far away from our little cottage by the sea. But hey, we had already come this far and it would have been a shame not to complete the circle, so we stalwartly forged ahead.

Stay tuned for Gullfoss!

As always, you can click on any of the photos above to see a larger version. Check out many more Day 10 – Haukdalur photos HERE.

NOTE:

If you’d like to watch Strokkur erupt with your very own eyes without leaving that comfortable chair you’re sitting in, check out the webcam that is pointed right at the geyser. As long as there’s light, you shouldn’t have to wait for long. Click there –> http://www.livefromiceland.is/webcams/geysir/

Iceland – Day 10 – Þingvellir

The agenda for our 10th day in Iceland was the famous “Golden Circle” (<–click there to see our route), which consists of the following ultrapopular tourist destinations:  Þingvellir National Park, the Haukadalur geothermal area (commonly referred to as Geysir), and Gullfoss. First up was Þingvellir.

Þingvellir is an extremely interesting area both historically and geologically. The Alþingi (“Parliament”) was established at Þingvellir in the year 930 AD and remained there until 1798. The Lögberg (“Law Rock”) was the centerpiece of the Alþingi and was a natural platform for holding speeches. Every year when the people assembled at the Alþingi, the elected lögsögumaður (“lawspeaker”) would preside over the assembly at the Lögberg and recite, from memory, the entire body of laws.  No one knows the exact location of the Lögberg, but a likely spot is marked with a flagpole.

Of course, it is the geology of Þingvellir that I personally find most fascinating, since I am a major geology nut. Þingvellir National Park is situated in a large rift valley that is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the divergent plate boundary between the North American and European tectonic plates. Iceland is one of very few places on Earth where a divergent plate boundary makes an appearance on land and Þingvellir is the one spot in Iceland where these plate dynamics are most evident. The area is filled with a veritable swarm of fissures where the two plates are tearing apart at a dizzying rate of 7mm (1/3 inch) per year.

The most dramatic evidence of the rifting in Þingvellir is called Almannagjá, where the rifting forms a canyon. The left side of the photo below marks the eastern boundary of the North American plate.

The next photo shows the opposite end of Almannagjá and the North American plate is on the right side here.

Öxará (“Axe River”) flows through part of Almannagjá and at one spot in the river is a grim little pool called Drekkingarhylur, where, up until the early 18th century, adulterous women met their demise.

Öxará drops into Almannagjá further upstream as the lovely waterfall called Öxarárfoss.

On the way back to the car after visiting Öxarárfoss, we took a little detour into a beautiful old forest of evergreen trees, quite the rarity in Iceland.

I discovered something interesting about Almannagjá while I was doing a little bit of research for this blog post. In 2011, a new fissure manifested in the south end of the canyon, right in the middle of the walking path that multitudes of visitors used every day to visit Almannagjá. Scientists speculate that the fissure may have begun to form as a result of an earthquake in 2000 and had been covered with a fairly thin layer of gravel and dirt. The path into the south end of Almannagjá was closed for quite some time while a wooden walkway was constructed to prevent people from falling into the 32-foot deep crack. Compare the next photo with the new walkway to the one below it, which I took from close to the same spot in June, 2006. (Also notice the lack of PEOPLE in the 2006 photo. Tourism in Iceland has increased significantly since our first visit).

I could have happily wandered around the fascinating fissures of Þingvellir for the rest of the day but it was already mid-afternoon and we had a ways to drive to the other Golden Circle spots. So off we went.

Next up is the Haukadalur geothermal area (aka Geysir)… stay tuned!

As always, you can click on any of the photos above to see a larger version. Check out many more Day 10 – Þingvellir  photos HERE.

Iceland – Day 9

Our first task on Day 9 was to get up way earlier that we would have preferred in order to catch the ferry back to the Mainland. Since we hadn’t had time for breakfast (plus the hotel breakfast was WAY too expensive), we ended up having a most delicious pastry and coffee on the ferry. Again the ride was enjoyable but uneventful.

Looking back on Heimaey

Looking back on Heimaey

Approaching the Mainland - Eyjafjallajökull

Approaching the Mainland – Eyjafjallajökull

After arriving at the ferry terminal at Landeyjahöfn, we backtracked on the Ring Road just a bit to visit a very popular waterfall called Saljalandsfoss.

The best part about Saljalandsfoss is that the cliff behind the falls is undercut, enabling adventurous visitors to walk behind the waterfall. After waiting for the busloads of tourists to clear out, I donned my raincoat and headed up towards the falls while Mom waited patiently and took photos and videos of my adventure. Walking behind the falls was a really fun experience and I got completely soaked in the process.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a brief behind-the-falls video:

So anyway, now Saljalandsfoss is my favorite waterfall in Iceland.

We finally got back on the road and pointed the car in the direction of Reykjavik. We stopped again at the really cool waterfall, Urridafoss that we had visited on our first day, and then stopped for lunch at our favorite petrol station in Selfoss for another pizza (me) and burger (Mom).

Our next and final accommodation was a little house located near the Greenland Sea on a peninsula called Alftanes just southwest of Reykjavik. We had originally planned to stay right in the middle of Reykjavik, but this place that we found on AirBnB was a gem and just a 3-minute walk to the beach.

On our way through the neighborhood, we stopped and visited with some more horses.

After settling in to our new home for the next 5 nights, we relaxed for a good long while and ate some yummy soup for dinner. Later in the evening, I walked to the beach and saw that the sky and clouds were showing some promise for a great sunset.

I checked the weather app on my phone and noted that the sun would be setting at 11:51pm. Yikes! I wasn’t sure that I wanted to stay up that late, but I could tell that the sunset was going to be something special, so about an hour before sunset, I bundled up, gathered up my multiple cameras, and headed for the beach. And boy, was I glad I did!

It was quite spectacular and people literally talked about that sunset for days afterward. It was hard tearing myself away because it just kept getting better and better, but at 12:30am I finally called it quits and went back to the house, which looked so cute bathed in a soft pink glow.

What an incredible way to end an already incredible day!

As always, you can click on any of the photos above to see a larger version. Check out many more Day 9 photos HERE.

Iceland – Day 8

On Day 8. it was time to say a sad goodbye to our little Cottage #7 on the Mið-Hvoll farm and move on to our next adventure. We had to set out pretty early to drive to Landeyjahöfn to catch the first ferry to Heimaey. Heimaey  (“Home Island,” pronounced “hay-may”) is the largest and only populated island in Vestmannaeyjar (the Westmann Islands), a small group of volcanic islands just off the south coast of Iceland.

We made a few photography stops along the Ring Road on the way to the ferry terminal. (Click on any of the photos to see a larger copy and/or visit the whole gallery for Day 8 HERE).

Mama Whooper Swan and her 5 cygnets.

Vestmannaeyjar from the Ring Road

The 4-mile ride on the ferry Herjólfur was uneventful and we soon pulled into the harbor at Heimaey (“Home Island”). The harbor, the only one along the entire south coast of Iceland, was nearly destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1973. The entire population of the island, about 5,000 people, was was quietly and calmly evacuated to the mainland shortly after the eruption began in the wee hours of January 23, except a group of volunteers who stayed behind to attempt to mitigate the destruction caused by the eruption. Someone came up with the crazy idea of spraying cold seawater on the lava flow in an effort to prevent the lava from closing off the mouth of the harbor. About 400 buildings were destroyed during the 5-month eruption, but the harbor was saved. (If you’re interested in reading a more detailed account of this event, pick up a copy of John McPhee’s very fascinating book The Control of Nature. and read the chapter entitled “Cooling the Lava”).

Every year, the people of Heimaey celebrate the anniversary of the official “end of the eruption” with a festival called Goslokahátíð. Oddly enough, we just happened to have arrived on Heimaey on July 3, the traditional start of Goslokahátíð, which later became apparent by all of the black and orange balloons and such decorating the whole town.

Shortly after disembarking from the ferry, we boarded another boat, this time with the purpose of taking the “Circle Tour” around the island with Viking Tours. It was a fascinating trip replete with tons of information about the history, natural history, and geology/vulcanology of Vestmannaeyjar in general and Heimaey in particular. The beginning of the tour was all about the 1973 eruption and the “new lava.”

Some of the “new lava” and the volcano Eldfell (“Fire Mountain”) that produced it.

Elephant Rock

The captain of our boat was a local and it was interesting getting a first-hand account of life on Heimaey before, during, and after the eruption. A few times during the tour, he maneuvered the boat inside sea caves to check out the nesting birds and such, and in the last one, he pulled out a saxophone and demonstrated the excellent acoustics of the cave.

Common Guillemots

 

From the southern tip of Heimaey, one could see the newest island in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, Surtsey, which is also the southermost point of Iceland. Surtsey was born during an eruption that started in 1963 and lasted for 3 1/2 years.

Surtsey is just left of center, way off in the distance.

After the extremely worthwhile and enjoyable boat tour, we went in search of a place to eat lunch and ended up at a slightly weird cafe that served pizza and hamburgers (and puffin, which, needless to say, we did NOT order), then we checked into the Gistihúsið Hamar, after which we set out on a drive around the island. I had considered not bringing the car over on the ferry to save a little money, but I was glad I did. The island was quite a bit larger than it looks on a map. Here are a few of the things we saw on our drive:

Toward the bottom of the photo above is Ræningjatangi (“Pirate Cove”). In July, 1627, a group of Algerian pirates landed at this spot and proceeded to take 242 of the residents captive – nearly half of the population of the island at that time. The captives were taken back to Algeria as slaves and the incident became known as the Turkish Invasion (because Algeria was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time).

In an effort to find puffins, which are allegedly QUITE abundant on Heimaey, I climbed over a fence and followed a path to the edge of the cliffs toward what I understood to be a puffin observatory, but unfortunately found only sheep , including this one that was blocking the path. I went around.

On our way back toward town, we stopped at a pasture along the road and visited with an adorable baby Icelandic horse and a few curious sheep. Did I mention that sheep outnumber people three to one in Iceland? I’m pretty sure I’ve photographed most of them.

This was by far my favorite sheep in all of Iceland.

From there, we drove over to the “new lava” area and poked around there a bit.

We finally got back to the hotel close to dinner time and then went out to look for another place to eat.

The first restaurant we tried was closed for dinner in preparation for the Goslokahátíð festivities. The second place, located in the adorable shopping district shown above, had several empty tables so we went in and sat down but were quickly informed that all of the tables were reserved. OK, fine. We finally ended up at Subway. And it was delicious.

Our overnight stay at the Gistihúsið Hamar was by far the least comfortable night in Iceland for us. There were no blackout curtains or shades in the very large window, there were very few electrical outlets for our plethora of gadgets and, worst of all, the Goslokahátíð celebration apparently required extremely loud and pounding music to be played right outside our window until 4:30am. The alarm to get us up and to the ferry on time came WAY too early the next morning.

Directional sign near the harbor

Iceland – Day 7

On Day 7, we thought we’d give Dyrhólaey another try. If you’ll recall, we drove to the top of Dyrhólaey on Day 3 and couldn’t even get out of the car because the wind was blowing so hard. Day 7 was a much nicer day with much less wind and a morning that was absolutely free of rain, so it seemed like a good day for another attempt. After making an appointment to go horseback riding in the afternoon, we headed in the direction of Dyrhólaey. By the way, Dyrhólaey means “door hole island.” For obvious reasons. Except it’s not an island.

I decided first to stop at a parking lot below Dyrhólaey that seemed to be quite popular (i.e. crowded). I first noticed this breathtaking sight:

This large chunk of basalt sitting right on the beach is called Arnardrangur (“Eagle Rock”) because eagles used to nest here, although no one has seen any here since 1850. There were bunches of people clumped together taking photos toward the cliffs and I knew that could mean only one thing: PUFFINS!! And sure enough, there were puffins. Lots and lots of puffins.

Please note that the puffin in the last photo appears to be sitting on a puffling. Awwwww!!!

We spent an inordinate amount of time photographing puffins. They were quite plentiful and they are SO very adorable! We wandered around the area and got great views of the beach below Dyrhólaey, then went down to said beach and spent another inordinate amount of time there.

The photo above shows where a Dutch couple fell 40 meters down to the beach when the edge of the cliff gave way at the end of May this year. They both survived.

Oh, and there were more PUFFINS!!

With our horseback riding appointment rapidly approaching, we reluctantly tore ourselves away from the puffin place and off we went back to the farm. As soon as we started driving back to the farm, the rain started. Of course. We were, however, absolutely DETERMINED to ride Icelandic horses on this trip so we went ahead with our plans.

We met up with our super nice guide, Deborah, then headed to the horse place and got our trusty steeds and ourselves all ready. Mom was assigned to a very handsome blond horse whose Icelandic name meant “Sunshine.” I got a brown and white fella whose name in Icelandic meant “Chief.” Mom’s horse was a slow-poke and mine kept trying to go back to the barn.

Neither of us had been on a horse in quite some time (and then some), so even getting ON them was an adventure. Icelandic horses are, in general, smaller than other horses but boy did those stirrups look high off the ground!! We kindly requested a box to stand on to facilitate the process. Mom made me promise not to film the horse-mounting process, so, being the good, obedient daughter that I am, that part will have be left to your collective imagination.

With Deborah expertly leading the way, we headed of toward the nearby black sand beach for our rainy, windy ride. Keep in mind that any photos taken DURING the ride are not very high quality as I was too busy trying to hold on for dear life to worry much about composition, focus, exposure and such. Plus it was raining. And REALLY windy.

Upon reaching the beach, Deborah asked, “Do you want to try going a little faster?” We both responded with a resounding, “NOOOOOOOOO!” But I think we went faster anyway. Icelandic horses have an unusual gait called the “tolt” which looks really smooth and easy, but to me it just felt bouncy.

This was the view of Dyrhólaey  from our turn-around spot:

Since Mom didn’t dare let go of the reins to take photos during the ride, this is just about the only photo of me to commemorate the experience

As you can see, taking a selfie with a horse is not an easy task :)

So that was the last day of our stay on a farm near Vik, and what an eventful and memorable day it was!

Iceland – Day 6

Now that I’m actually BACK from Iceland, I’ll try to get caught up on my daily trip reports. It got a little overwhelming while we were there because we were SO busy, plus I took SO many photos (8,883 to be precise) and I just didn’t have time to go through them every day. Now where were we? Ah yes, Day 6…

On Day 6, we woke up to the usual rain, but carried on with our plans to visit the tiny hamlet Skógar and the nearby waterfall Skógafoss nonetheless. Skógafoss is an impressive waterfall that can be seen from the Ring Road but is best experienced up close. If you go, be sure to bring something to wipe the water off your camera lens because this waterfall produces a lot of spray. It’s possible to approach quite close to the falls, but you WILL get wet. And if you have a lot of patience, it might actually be possible to get a few photos without people in them (which is generally my preference).

Sometimes it’s nice, however, to leave some people in a photo to lend a sense of scale.

A trail that climbs up the right side of the waterfall leads adventurous visitors to loftier views of the falls. Continuing to follow the trail would lead one on a long trek over the Fimmvörðuháls Pass between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. We opted not to do this.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Skógar Folk Museum, which contains thousands of artifacts and several reconstructed buildings from the settlement period of Iceland’s history. There is a fascinating reconstruction of a turf farm, where you could walk inside and get a good feel of what it was like to live on an Icelandic farm during that period.

The indoor part of the museum was extremely interesting and we could probably have spent hours inside perusing all of the thousands of exhibits, which included an entire reconstructed fishing boat.

Nearby there was also a Museum of Transportation, which we opted not to visit as it was getting quite close to closing time. We did opt for the apple cake and coffee in the coffee shop, however. Yum.

On our way back to the cottage, we decided to take a side road that led to a glacier called Sólheimajökull. Sólheimajökull is an outlet glacier of Mýrdalsjökull and due to its location and shape, it is very sensitive to climate change. Sólheimajökull has retreated dramatically in the past decade which can be seen in the vast moraines that have been left behind. Visiting it was kind of depressing.

Sólheimajökull is one of the glaciers featured in a very interesting documentary called “Chasing Ice.” It’s on Netflix if you’re interested. You can also watch a time-lapse video of Sólheimajökull’s retreat HERE.

Back at the cottage on the farm, we were rewarded with our first semblance of a sunset since our arrival. The views of both Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull were also quite stunning and you can actually see both of them in the photo below. Eyjafjallajökull is to the left of the big rock island called Pétursey and Mýrdalsjökull is on the right above the farm. (Click on any of the photos in this post for larger views).

 

Iceland – Day 5

I have fallen terribly behind in going through my photos and in blogging about our adventures, but we’re taking a little down time today (Day 11) so I thought I’d work on getting caught up.

Day 5 was a challenge. The morning was ok, but in the afternoon the rain was relentless and the wind was the fiercest yet. It was starting to feel like we were going to have horrendous weather during our entire two weeks in Iceland. It was hard not to feel a little despondent, although despondence is not an option when an adorable dog is patiently waiting for you to play fetch with him. (I later found out that my surrogate dog’s name is Whiskey and that he is a shepherd/border collie mix).

After lunch we headed into town (town being Vík í Mýrdal, the southernmost village in the mainland of Iceland). We went to Icewear, a souvenir-type store with bunches of I-can’t-afford-those Icelandic sweaters and lots of other stuff. Afterwards we went to the small grocery store but the check-out line was too long and we didn’t actually NEED anything anyway. As we were leaving, Mom said, “Now let’s GO somewhere!” During our previous jaunts east on the Ring Road, I had noticed a side road that went off up a canyon of sorts and I had wondered where it went, so that’s we decided to find out.

It was a pretty amazing drive but hard to get good photos because it was raining so VERY hard. The road kept going and going and I was getting nervous because the weather was SO bad and we had NO idea where this road went. I kept envisioning us breaking down out there in the middle of NOWHERE and having to walk for help in that torrential rain.. Mom kept urging me on, bless her adventurous little heart, but I finally had to turn around. Hey, the rental car is in MY name, not hers!! 😉 We did get to see some pretty cool scenery that, I’m sure, would have been stupendous had it not been for the weather.

But mostly it all just looked like this:

The highlight of the drive came on the way back when we saw this pair of Whooper Swans with their single baby cygnet.

And then we headed back to the cottage, fervently hoping for better weather on the morrow.

Iceland – Day 4

Day 4 of our Iceland adventure involved a very long drive and was the most spectacular day yet. Here are some of the highlights:

Foss á Siðu

Foss á Siðu

Dverghamrar ("Dwarf Rocks")

Dverghamrar (“Dwarf Rocks”)

It is rumored that Dverghamrar is a dwelling place of the Huldufólk or “hidden people.” We didn’t see any hidden people (of course, because they’re hidden) but I’m pretty sure we heard them.

Walking through an Icelandic forest

Walking through an Icelandic forest

The running joke in Iceland is that if you get lost in an Icelandic forest, just stand up. This forest was a little taller than that, however, but also very small.

Fossálar

Fossálar

I’m not sure if Fossálar is this waterfall’s true name as there was no signage, but I did a Google search and it seems to be well-known by that name. However, Fossálar means “Foss Alarm” in English and I think that is just a bit too punny to be a waterfall’s real name. I like it, though. And the waterfall was amazing.

The approach to Skeiðarársandur and the glacier Vatnajökull

The approach to Skeiðarársandur and the glacier Vatnajökull

Remnants of a bridge destroyed by the 1996 eruption of Grímsvötn and the ensuing jökulhlaup.

Remnants of a bridge destroyed by the 1996 eruption of Grímsvötn and the ensuing jökulhlaup.

A jökulhlaup is a glacial outburst flood that is the result of a subglacial eruption. They generally produce an insane amount of water.

A vast field of lupine.

A vast field of lupine.

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón (“Glacier River Lagoon”) is a glacial lake that started to form around 1934 by the retreat of the glacier  Breiðamerkurjökull. Large chunks of ice calve off the glacier on a regular basis and are deposited in the lake, where they remain until they become small enough to get swept out to sea via the river Jökulsá. It is a stunningly beautiful and fascinating place, the experience of which is only slightly marred by the vast quantity of visitors (and, per Mom, by the dearth of pancakes).

Jökulsárlón was our turnaround spot so after taking a ridiculous number of photos, we began the 3-hour drive back to our cottage. We had remarkably decent weather during our journey on Day 4, only to return to more pouring rain on the way back. Sigh.

Iceland – Day 3

The theme for Day 3 in Iceland was wind & rain, wind & rain, and more wind & rain. It was tempting just to stay warm and dry inside all day but the rain let up for about one minute in the early afternoon and that was enough to get us out the (Unfortunately, that was about the ONLY minute in the whole day that wasn’t horribly windy and rainy).

Our first destination was Dyrhólaey, a cape with a very large arch through it that is visible from our cottage. I wanted to go to the top to see the lighthouse and also because I’ve heard it’s the best place in the area to see puffins. (Click on the photos to see a larger version if you wish).

There is a steep and narrow dirt road that leads to the top of Dyrhólaey and up we went. On the way up, we encountered several people who were WALKING up the road. They could barely stand up against the wind and we smugly commented on how foolish that was. Immediately upon arriving at the top, it became quite apparently that getting out of the car was a VERY bad idea. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a strong wind. So back down we went. This was the view on the way down:

Unwilling to give up on the day, we decided to head over Reynisfjara, a very cool black sand beach with an impressive display of columnar basalt and a cave, Hálsanefshellir. We had to link arms to keep from being blown away, but once we got to the beach, the wind wasn’t so bad. We spent a very long time at Reynisfjara photographing the waves and the different perspective of the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. I even managed to spot a single puffin high up on the cliff, but was only able to get a couple of very bad photos of it. Here is the view looking back at Dyrhólaey.

Here’s a very small sampling of the impressive columnar basalt:

 Visitors to Iceland just LOVE to make stacks of stones:

The pounding surf and the Reynisdrangar sea stacks:

The walk back to the car was absolutely horrendous, as the wind was now in our faces. We were so glad when we finally made it back to the parking lot that Mom tried to jump into the first tiny red car we came to. “Wrong car!” I yelled. “What?” Mom yelled back as she started to climb into the car, much to the surprise of the guy in the driver’s seat, I’m sure. “WRONG CAR!” I yelled louder over the crazy wind. “Oh,” said Mom, and off we went to find our own red car.

By that time we were done with trying to brave the weather so we retreated to our cozy cottage and listened to the howling wind from the INSIDE for the rest of the evening, fervently hoping for better weather tomorrow.

I propose that we change the name of Iceland to Windland.

For a few additional photos from Day 3, go to my SmugMug Day 3 gallery HERE.

Iceland – Day 2

Our second day in Iceland was quite eventful, even though we didn’t leave our charming cottage until after lunch. The weather has been pretty unpleasant and we were kind of waiting around to see if it might change. It didn’t but we decided to venture out anyway. (It did get nicer the further east we went).

The cottage where we’re staying for the first week of our Iceland adventure is on a farm called Mið-Hvoll (“Middle Hillock”) located a few miles west of the adorable little town of Vik. These are some of our neighbors on the farm and the surrounding area:

Oystercatcher

We decided to take a road trip to the east on the Hringvegur (“Ring Road”). Along the way, we stopped at a place called Laufskálavarða, which is a lava ridge that is absolutely covered with stone cairns. Adding a stone to a cairn is supposed to bring travelers good fortune on their journey. We couldn’t have added a rock if we had wanted to as there was nary a spare stone to be found.

Iceland is replete with waterfalls and it is very important to photograph every single one. We saw a waterfall off to our left and wanted to get closer to take photos. We saw a car coming onto the highway from a side road and thought surely that side road would take us closer to the waterfall. We soon came upon this scene:

Creepy, right? I’m thinking, “We have no business being here. I’m backing on outta here.” Mom says, “Let’s go have a look!” She was quite insistent. So I crept along slowly, waiting for someone to come at us with an axe or something. There were absolutely no signs of recent inhabitation, just a bunch of old vehicles and a handful of sheep.

I speculated that those were the vehicles of all of the other people who dared to approach the creepy house. Also please note the preponderance of red vehicles. Our rental car is red. Time to go. (We did survive the experience unscathed, by the way).

Next stop was Kirkjubæjarklaustur (“Church Farm Cloister”).  A Benedictine convent was established here in 1186 and was in operation until the Reformation in 1550. The prominent double waterfall, Systrafoss, is a reference to the nuns of this convent.

Another nearby attraction is Kirkjugólf (“Church Floor”). This interesting geological formation is comprised of columnar basalt seen from the top. It’s not hard to imagine how Kirkjugólf got its name.

We stumbled upon this cute little waterfall, Stjórnarfoss, quite by accident as we were on our way to photograph a different but not nearly as photogenic waterfall.

After eating dinner at the local gas station and picking up a few things at the grocery store, we decided it was time to head back. On the way, we pulled off onto a couple of different side roads to try to get photos that captured just how weird the terrain was in that area. The lava is covered in a thick layer of moss and it’s pretty surreal looking.

And this here is an Icelandic forest:

We made one last stop on the way back at the town of Vik. There is a beautiful black sand beach there with cool basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar. I braved the wind and cold to capture some dusk photos and videos. It was spectacular.

And that’s it for Day 2. I’m not sure how many photos I’ll have for Day 3 because the weather is the worst yet and is not letting up for a second!! I really REALLY want the weather to get nice long enough for us to go horseback riding. Cross your fingers!