Touring Southern Iceland

17 06 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017

We arise early this morning in order to take a hike to “our” waterfall without any crowds.  The sun is out (of course it has been out all night…) and so far we are dry.

20170617_073034Hooks in the rooms where you hang all your wet gear – I fear this will be a trend.We strike out from Hotel Skogar for the 10 minute walk to the falls.

There is a really nice campsite at the base and quite a few tents are set up.  Janel and Isam are considering an Iceland camping trip so we are taking notes.  Looks like it could be fun, but I will take a warm, dry bed and a clean bathroom thank you very much.

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Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters.  There is a set of 527 steps straight up to reach the top.

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We check it out from down below and the start to make the ascent.

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Long way up – look how small the people on the ground look!

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Made it!

This is quite the morning workout and we are richly rewarded for our efforts especially to be up here alone.

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The hike continues farther beyond, but we don’t carry on too much farther (breakfast and the road are waiting). Oh – and it begins to pelt us with rain…

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This hike continues along the river – I don’t know how far you can go, but it looks amazing.

Breakfast back at Hotel Skogar is nice enough.  I even try the pickled Herring.  It is pretty good, but too sweet. We stock up for the day ahead.

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Packing up is quickly accomplished (even I have become good at not “exploding” my articles in a one-night hotel room) and we hit up my trusty iPhone for Google Maps.

BIG road trip today.  We don’t really have that many miles in total (225km or 140miles), but there is so much to see along our route.

Our end point for sightseeing is supposed to be Jokularson Glacier Lagoon, but there are several stops between here and there that are not to be missed.  The plan is to make all those “extra” stops on the way back so as not to deter us from our end game.  However, we quickly learn to go with the weather.  When the sun is shining you should take full advantage.

 

Hotel Skogar, Skógarfoss to Hótel Laki Efri, Kirkjubæjarklaustur - Google Maps-edited

 

The sun is definitely out this morning and things are looking pretty clear.  We make the wise decision to stop at Dyrholaey Lighthouse first. At Dyrholaey we might have an opportunity to see Puffins!  Evidently in the spring and summer Iceland is home to 60% of the world’s population of Atlantic Puffins.  (The following photo is not ours – I wish it were):

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Just the drive to the tip of the peninsula is stunning.

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We smartly grab our binocs and start Puffin hunting.  There are literally hundreds and hundreds of birds nesting all over.  The Arctic Terns are especially bold and swoop to “attack” when trying to protect their nests.  It is an awesome scene.

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Just when I am figuring that the Puffins aren’t out to play I spot one on a huge rock outcropping out in the sea.  No attempt is made to get a photo – they are too far away.  We can see 2 Puffins clearly through the binocs.  Yay!

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This is as close as I will get to a Puffin:

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I do some clowning around for Levi (my trainer in AZ).  YES – it is cold!

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We take more selfies than normal for us, but seriously – you can’t help it!

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Back on the road. At one point we see a pull-off and a little sign with some very strange rock formations.  Of couse, a stop is made.

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What the …?

Fortunately, there is a sign that explains the cool rock piles.

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Two more rocks added to the piles:

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As we motor on, the scenery becomes even more strange and beautiful.  We stop at an area with miles of moss-covered rocks.

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As the road continues there are huge cliffs rising from one side of the road and then we begin to see waterfall after waterfall.  Seriously.  Who knew?  I finally realize that we are on one side of the Vatnajokull Glacier – “Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe covering 8% of the island of Iceland. Vatnajökull National Park – which encompasses the earlier national parks of Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur – is the largest protected area in Europe and believed by many to be the most beautiful place on earth.”

Here you can see it from space:

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I have been trying and trying to get a good photo of the beautiful Icelandic horses, but so far I have come up empty.  Hopefully there will be another opportunity. But the waterfalls are cool…

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When hunger strikes we are seriously in the middle of nowhere.  Finally a place that appears like it is a last resort crops up.  We have no choice. I can’t even describe how unassuming this little building/restaurant/store is.  I also can’t describe how delicious their Icelandic specialty  of Lamb Stew is!

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This is especially true when accompanied by two Vatnajokull (remember the name of the glacier?) beers! This brew is made with glacier ice and local thyme!!

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Little gem of a spot – off the tourist beat!

As we drive onward  we can definitely see snow-capped peaks and can also glimpse the huge glacier between the cliffs.  I am anticipating what we might see at the Jokularson Glacier Lagoon.  I have seen a few photos online and know that there may be some ice pieces strewn along the black sand beach.  There is a little concern that since it is technically summer, we won’t have much to see.  I hope we haven’t driven all the way out here for a dud.

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As we round one corner close to the lagoon, my heart literally stops. I can’t believe what we are seeing.

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 “Jökulsárlón literally “glacial river lagoon”) is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on 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. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers. It is now 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) away from the ocean’s edge and covers an area of about 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi). It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 248 metres (814 ft), as glacial retreat extended its boundaries.] It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland.”

This place takes your breath away. It is a photographer’s dream.  (There have been several movies filmed here –  A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins, as well as the “reality TV” series Amazing Race.

We can’t stop clicking the camera and smiling.

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Look at the berg in the shape of a whale behind Rich!

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The berg in front center looks like a Puffin!

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We are really lucky to have hit up this spot when it is sunny and gorgeous!

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Enough pics?  Believe me, we shot tons and tons.  Finally it begins to rain again and the car sounds like a good shelter. This is what you look like when you try to dodge the weather:

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We are so happy to have dragged our rain gear to Iceland!

To get to our hotel for the night will require a bit of backtracking.  No problem, the scenery is just as fantastic in either direction.  On our way to Jokularson we had passed this strange sculpture and didn’t stop.  Now we are curious to see what it is.

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Turns out to be theremnants of the Skeiðará Bridge:

“In 1996, the volcano Vatnajökull, which sat beneath Skeiðarárjökull, erupted, melting portions of glacier and creating massive floods. While the girder bridge was built to withstand a hefty amount of flood waters, there was no preparing for the house-sized icebergs that the floods washed down the plain. A number of these glacial shards crashed into the bridge, wiping it out and creating a gap in the main ring road around Iceland.

All that remains of the original bridge today are two twisted girders by the side of the new road. They form a unique monument to the lovely but powerful beauty of Iceland’s natural landscape. “

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Another lame attempt to photo my horses:

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We also stopped by a place we passed earlier that was a particularly “gurgling”area of water that we had affectionately named the “Bubbling Crude.”

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“Bubbling Crude”

Our hotel for the night will be Hotel Laki in the little hamlet of  Kirkjubæjarklaustur (try saying that one!) We were supposed to be staying in a guesthouse, but the proprietor texted me a few days ago and told me he switched us to the hotel due to some construction at his place.  We are disappointed, but hoping for the best.

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Hotel Laki

As we get closer we notice what we think might be a tour bus and people gathered around.  This garners the infamous comment from Rich: “If this place is filled with those hard-drinkin’ Hüsker Düs, then I am outta there!” (some may remember the Danish board game – Hüsker Dü – from childhood).

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Hotel Laki turns out to be a great choice. We hit up the lounge for a beer and then dinner in the restaurant.  We weren’t expecting much, but our huge home made burgers were fabulous!

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This has been an absolutely magical day in Southern Iceland.  We can’t even begin to believe all we have seen today.  The hotel is thankfully quiet as we reflect on today and dream of what we might see and do tomorrow.

 

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One response

19 06 2017
Anonymous

WOW !! MOM

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