Day 4 Iceland Itinerary-A Road-Trip Adventure

Heimaey Island Ferry ride

 

    My cousin Lesa and I had been in Iceland for 3 days. On the 4th day, we woke up and headed straight for Seljalandsfoss, which was right off of Ring Road near the ferry dock. We had spent the night on Heimaey Island and caught an early 40 minute ferry ride back to the mainland. 

Walking Behind the Iconic Seljalandsfoss

     Seljalandsfoss is one of the most well known waterfalls in Iceland. The water cascades 60 meters from the steep green cliffs above. There is a rocky path running behind the waterfall. I parked and we headed for the path.

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

     “Everyone is staring at you in your skirt and flip flops.” Lesa announced.

     “Let them look,” I answered. “Maybe I think it’s weird that they are in snow suits and boots and it is 64° and sunny.”

     It was true, many of the tourists pouring out of the silver tour buses were sporting full winter gear, including snowsuits . Lesa too was wearing boots and a winter hat.

     “It’s not exactly freezing.” I defended my outfit.

     “Probably because you’re from Chicago.” Lesa, who lives in Florida rationalized.

     The falls created a cool mist that could be felt even from a distance. We made our way to the path that led behind the falls. It was unpaved and rocky. 

     We climbed up a few steep areas, holding onto wall rocks for balance. When we were directly behind the falls, our bodies received a lot more mist sprayed at us, rather sort of a heavy downpour of waterfall on us. It was slippery where the rocks were wet but we made it through without falling. 

     The views of the falling water and the green valley beyond were incredible. I took a moment to “look with my eyes,” and take it all in. 

     On the way back to the car, we stopped at a small snack shop/gift stand to grab a Skyr yogurt and cocoa. We sat in the grass looking at the cliffs and waterfalls around us. A few people were attempting to climb up the cliff. We could see a couple of other waterfalls further down the road but on the same cliff wall.

Behind Seljalandsfoss

East on Ring Road 

    I headed east on Ring Road. Just driving down the street, I couldn’t help but take pictures about every 5 seconds. There was so much to see, waterfalls, lava fields, mountains and glaciers. I stopped the car in the middle of the road, leaping out to look and take photos more times than I could count. Most of the time, we were the only car on the road. We happened upon a house almost entirely enveloped in a layer of lava,  and a farm with a beautiful mountain backdrop. There were wandering sheep everywhere.

Is This Even a Road to Dyrholaey Sea Arch

     Our next destination was the Dyrholaey Sea Arch and Lighthouse. I had been operating on mapping and good planning the last few days and today was no different. We had no wifi and no GPS so I pulled over often to squint at the map and refer back to my notes.

     I was happy that the road I was looking for actually was there where I hoped it would be and pulled off. Several miles down, the road seemed to not be a road anymore, but a pitted dirt and rock path. We did not opt for the 4 wheel drive car and had not been extremely careful about staying off of roads that specify 4 wheel drive cars only. I had growing concerns about the constant ping ping ping of rocks hitting our undercarriage.

     We wound around the steep, climbing dusty road, vaguely wondering if we might slide backwards off the side. I sat forward in the seat granny styles, gripping the steering wheel and willing the car to keep going.

     The car finally pushed to the top and we parked. 

 

Dyrholaey Sea Arch and an Epic View From Above

     “Let’s go check this out.” I called back to Lesa as I raced ahead. “This is one of my starred items.” I had over planned every day, not taking into account the state of many of the unpaved roads. But starred items were “must see” that I couldn’t lop off the list for time constraints, they were what I came here for.

     “Why is everything we are seeing uphill both ways?” Lesa shouted up to me.

     I had reached the top and was absolutely stunned by the sights before me. As I scanned the horizon, my throat tightened and I could feel my eyes prickle. The intensity of the colors, the mountains, the black sand beach and the looming Dyrholaey Sea Arch were overwhelming. I blinked back tears of awe and gazed in silent wonder snapping photo after photo and taking time to just look with my eyes.

     We then hiked to the edges of the sea cliffs, peering over. Grey snow capped mountains were behind us. We were high above the black sand and arch in front of us. Cool fresh air filled my lungs and blew my hair crazily around my head. Wild flowers grew tucked into the crevices of rock. Walking back, we stopped at the lighthouse that reached high above the sea.

Dyrholeay Lighthouse

     The drive back down on the loose stone road that curved down from the cliff was scarier than the drive up. 

     “I don’t think we should be driving up here.” Lesa announced.

     “I don’t think we have a choice now.” I responded. I gripped the wheel and took the steep turns at about 2mph, leaning away from the curves, as if that would prevent us from going over.

The Toes Meet the Black Sands of Reynisdrangar

Viking Lager

     We made it safely down and stopped in Vik for lunch and a little walk down to the Reynisdrangar view point. I saw the sea and ran through the black sand straight into the frigid water.

Toes at Dyrholaey Black Sand

     “Jeez Louise that’s cold!” I screamed…leaping around the sand. 

     “I think I’ll just watch from here.” Lesa laughed.

Hike to the Hidden Hexagons of Kirkjugolfid

     We hopped back in the car with a big list of sights ahead of us. After some confusion with my mapping, we made it to Kirkjugolfid. Lesa was napping and was not interested in checking it out, so I locked her in and set down the path.

Kirkjugolfid trail

     I first passed a grave mound of a “heathen” that was said to have fallen dead on the site. Further up the path was the hexagonal columns created by lava, Kirkjugolfid, meaning church floor. I marveled at the perfect and unique shapes created by nature, similar to Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

Waterfalls and More Waterfalls –Systrafoss and Stornafoss

     I arrived back at the car and “eyeball-mapped” my way to my next stop, folding my crumpled map to highlight the area I was heading. I could see Systrafoss in the distance, a tall thin waterfall zigzagging down a cliff at the end of the road. Lesa snoozed beside me and mumbled that she was good waiting in the car again.

Systrafoss

     I edged across the hill on the soft turf grass towards the sphere shaped waterfall Stornafoss. I got as close as I could without wading into the stream and then headed back to the car.

Ring Road Sights-Skeidera Bridge Monument

     Back on the road, we passed random churches and faced a number of one lane bridges. The sky seemed lower, bluer and more intense, maybe due to the longitude.

     We were nearing the east side of Iceland and as the mountain and glacier sightings increased, the temperature outside the car became colder.

     Just past a long twisting glacier to our left, we came to the Skeidera Bridge Monument. We thought it may be a plane crash sight from a distance but as we got closer, saw it was the metal remains of a bridge. The plaque indicated that it was wiped out by glaciers and volcanic activity years ago.

The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting for…Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

     We hopped back in the car and headed further east, we were about 5 hours east of Reykjavik. There was increasing snow and glacier activity as we went. I was anxious to get to another highly starred item on my list, the glacier lagoon.

    Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon, which I kept calling the “Joe Carlson lagoon,” is connected with the ocean. Huge blue icebergs float in from the sea and break off the glacier. It is said, some of the ice is over 1000 years old.

     We parked and hopped out to significantly colder temperatures, around 34°F. My flip flop feet were shocked at the brisk air, but Lesa borrowed me her back up gloves and we hiked towards the glittering blue chunks of floating ice. Seabirds screeched through the air and Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier loomed in the distance. 

     The sun was beginning to glow yellow. Seals were swimming through the glowing aquamarine icebergs of Jokulsarlon. Our faces tingled with cold and my toes weren’t super thrilled with my shoe preference. 

A Long Ride from Jokulsarlon to Hofn

     It was almost 10 p.m. when we got back in the car with a little ways to go still. I was starting to feel super exhausted and hungry but there was beautiful amazing scenery and some ruins of buildings along the way. It wasn’t that I was falling asleep, but from a day of so much visual and mental input to the brain, I was finding it difficult to drive and focus. It was around 11:30 p.m. when we arrived at our accommodations for the evening, the Hofn Cottages. 

      I chose this place because we would be getting our own little wooden cottage, kind of in the middle of a field. We hit some of the stores in town to see if we could get something to eat but were disappointed to find everything was closed. Fortunately, I had a box of quinoa in my suitcase just in case and we had some cheese we had bought earlier. 

Dreaming of Tomorrow

      The cabin had a small kitchen with pots and pans included, so I cooked it up and we had a couple beers and our meager feast that we were very grateful to have. It was a long but amazing day filled with so many miracles for the eyes. We slept and dreamed of our adventures to come.

Iceland Sunset reflection

Click here to read about Day 3 Iceland Itinerary and Adventure

Click here to read about Day 5 Iceland Adventures

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