part 1 | part 2 | part 3
Sat, Apr 1 - Day 5. Southwest Iceland - Southern Iceland
Waterfalls and Glacial Horizons
Your travels today will take you along the south coast, one of Iceland's main farming areas. You'll see many farms and shaggy herds of Icelandic horses as you head along the Ring Road.
View the magnificent Skogarfoss Waterfall, then proceed to Vik village where you can admire stunning views of a black sand beach and the black basalt columns of Drangey.
Approximate driving distance: 179 miles
Check In - Nupar Fosshotel
breakfast featured a waffle bar with rhubarb jam, orange marmalade, chocolate sauce, & what i discovered was indeed NOT maple syrup but some kind of golden syrup. (the bottle was there, but though the back was written in three languages, none was english.) there was terrible orange juice, but excellent scrambled eggs, a lovely coffee cake thing with pumpkin seeds. i also tried a sausage that tasted so foreign i had to ask what was in it, returning me to memories of egypt's surprise camel sausage, but i was tricked by a mix of chicken, pork, & lamb. & here i'd been so hoping for more reindeer!
we had our first rain of the trip overnight & sporadically throughout the morning, which was pretty great considering the forecast i'd checked at home had said rain EVERY DAY ALL DAY. we drove out to seljalandsfoss, a crazy huge waterfall with crazy huge rocks that you'd be crazy to walk behind, & so we did! the rocks were roped off & slippery, but everyone was going, so we went along carefully. nearing the falls, it was super misty & i was getting unpleasantly damp, but jon's forethought kept me happy & fairly dry - he pulled a windbreaker out of his pocket & wrapped me in it. what a good travel buddy. ^_^ i got some awesome photos from behind the falls, then almost died finishing the rather treacherous walk across to the other edge & back down the cliff face. but i made it & it was awesome.
at the Þorvaldseyri visitor center, we watched a video about the 2010 volcano eruption of eyjafjallajökull, including a ton of footage of the actual ashy mess that was dusted over everything, & learned that it caused the cancellation of 100,000 flights & affected a million people. we went to the hotel anna for lunch - their homemade rye bread was lovely & the arctic char with barley & vegetables far exceeded my expectations. the weird thing was i recognized the song on the radio as an icelandic semi-cover of the violent femmes song "i held her in my arms"... & the next song up was a full icelandic cover of "suddenly seymour" from little shop of horrors! i recorded half of it for posterity - LSoH was my first-ever favorite movie. paying the check, the waitress got all gabby with us about how it's difficult [for jon] to be a vegan in iceland, as there aren't many, perhaps because the animals are so well cared for. she went on to tell us that the sound horses make when chewing grass is super soothing to her & lulls her right to sleep. what a weird thing to tell strangers, yet oddly charming, too.
we saw our first set of dreads on a local working in a mini-mart, then went on to skógarfoss, where we were in perfect time to see a double rainbow crossing right over the falls. a couple was there taking wedding photos; they must've been so stoked.
the next stop was to find the solheimasandur plane wreck that jon had been excited to see, & we really thought it was an unknown thing... but there was a parking lot & signs & a ton of people. i made it twenty minutes walking before i realized there was no way i'd be able to go as far as needed AND then make my way back, so jon went on alone while i trudged back to the car to hang out & wait. turned out that jon had to walk a full hour to find it (fine for him since he walked the 273-mile long trail on purpose), but he got some great pics & was even able to climb on top for a photo. while there, he was also able to return a camera battery we'd found on the ground to the woman who'd dropped it - icelandic good deed accomplished!
the dyrhólaey cliffs were next - a protected nesting ground & some pretty great views of the black sand beach & natural basalt columns. we found the reynishverfi cave & took photos of each other climbing up bits of the surrounding rock formations. on to vik, a tiny little mountain town, we found some dinner (another traditional lamb soup for me), & found my favorite waterfall of the trip after that - set back from the road, utterly isolated, across the softest grass field & over a ladder surmounting a barbed wire fence. we climbed around on it & enjoyed it very much.
there were several of those thin bridges on our drive out to nupar hotel, & we arrived later than we had anywhere else. the sky was perfectly clear & our room had another private back entrance to a huge viewing area, but the northern lights only showed up for a weak appearance. jon still tried for shots of them & the moon's crazy 22-degree halo before we decided they weren't exciting enough to continue being cold, & called it a day.
Sun, Apr 2 - Day 6. Southern Iceland
Explore the glacial wonders in Vatnajokull National Park, Europe's largest national park. Visit the park's majestic Skaftafell area, which is located between two glaciers and offers many hiking possibilities.
Continue to Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, where blue, white, turquoise and black-streaked icebergs shift and dance. Don't forget to keep an eye out for seals resting amid the glaciers!
Approximate driving distance: 72 miles
it was snowing horizontally when we woke, but wasn't yet sticking. breakfast included the usual eggs & toasts, the same combination sausage as the last place, roasted tomatoes, & some icelandic honey that i found less sweet than what i've had elsewhere. on the drive up to jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, we listened to a podcast jon had found on iceland's "hidden people" (listen here!), & it was pretty interesting to play while looking at the exact things mentioned in the podcast. the weather changed to rain & back to snow - we later learned, after experiencing same, that each valley has a different weather system. weird!
there was basically no visibility just before the lagoon, but it cleared up enough to see the near-arctic icebergs! i stayed in the car while jon ran around photographing them - the photos i could get out the car windows were plenty for me - & it was neat to think that i've now seen icebergs near both poles. we didn't see any seals hanging around them, but we really didn't see much animal life in all of iceland aside from birds. with extra time to spare before jon's glacier hike, we detoured to see the svínafellsjökull glacier down a stupidly potholed road, & it was worth it.
we drove on to skaftafell, where jon had paid a kingly sum to hike up into a glacier cave. i considered going, but decided in the end that i'd hate it, & knew i was right when they started outfitting jon with hiking boots & an ice axe. i went over & waited a few hours for him in the visitor's center, where i enjoyed a delicious buttery oaty bar thing with apricots & flax seed & some refreshingly fast internet (especially needed since nupar hotel's wifi was unacceptable - i could barely check email via ssh).
i spent some time looking for a good restaurant for us, & found one only twenty minutes past our hotel - the fosshotel klaustur restaurant, where i had double langoustine: lobster soup with fried cauliflower & grill oil, & broiled lobster tails with lemon & herbs. despite no longer serving the amazing-sounding rutabaga dish listed on their website menu, they made jon a lovely vegan pasta dish with zucchini & peppers, & he was so happy that he didn't mind waiting while i had dessert: a cherry cake with milk chocolate mousse, raspberry coulis, & fruit. i wish they gave me a better word for that cake than "cake" - it was to cake what cookie dough is to a cookie, but somehow without being raw. i loved it, but i'm a sucker for chocolate & cherry.
the rain kicked into high gear as we got back to the hotel, & the sky was fully seattle, so we had no hopes for auroras at all. that was okay, though - i doubt any normal night could've beaten what we already saw anyhow. i tried the other dry soda i'd bought, the red one that turned out to be cranberry, & it was much tastier. we didn't have internet at nupar, so i read for a while & then went to bed.
Mon, Apr 3 - Day 7. Southern Iceland - Reykjavik
Drive along the scenic south coast back to the west. On your way, make a stop at Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that you can actually walk behind!
At the Thorvaldseyri Volcano Visitor Center located beneath Eyjafjallajökull Volcano, you can experience the 2010 eruption and its impact on the area and the whole world.
You'll also want to make a stop in Hveragerdi, a hot spring village famous for its geothermal greenhouses where flowers and vegetables are grown year-round. Return to Reykjavik in the late afternoon/early evening.
Approximate driving distance: 214 miles
we had breakfast looking out at another day with zero visibility, & felt very grateful that we'd already done all the things suggested for today. the guy at the front desk was unreasonably sad to see us go; apparently he thought we had another night? it was weird. anyhow, we packed up & went on a 3.5h drive to stokkseyri through tons of fog & alternating snow & rain. on the way, i took a comparison pic of the farm in front of eyjafjallajökull, & we again counted our good fortune at having great weather until we didn't need great weather anymore.
at stokkseyri, we ate at a restaurant called fjöruborðið that boasted of magical langoustine soup; of course i had to try it. & holy shit i was glad i did. ALSO THE GARLIC DIP?!?!? the garlic dip that they just GIVE OUT FREE with their homemade bread was SO FUCKING GOOD that i ended up mule'ing a cup of it all the way back to the states for friends to try. it was served cold & is vegan, so the best i could determine was that it's puréed roasted garlic, balsamic, a bit of sugar, some cornstarch... must recreate.
another hour or so later we were back in reykjavik. we tried to hit the zoo, just a few blocks off our hotel, for their deep-sea exhibit, but it was too miserable & snowy & we just said fuck it. the hotel was nice though under construction (as had been many places, since we went in the cheaper off-season), & since we'd done everything we wanted to do, i internetted & lazed in a two-hour bath while jon listened to a woman play the piano outside our window & sing odd american covers - notably, "piano man". funny, the only music we heard the whole trip was icelandic covers of american songs...
jon went out on his own to get some vegan mozzarella sticks, & i had a decent seafood soup at the hotel restaurant, then we napped until we left for the airport at 4am.
Tue, Apr 4 - Day 8. Depart Iceland
Your vacation comes to an end today. Please be prepared to leave the hotel about 4 hours before the departure of your flight, to allow time to drop off your rental car at the airport.
the hotel gave us free vanilla skyr and juice since the breakfast bar wasn't open yet, & we drove an hour through mild hail into keflavik international airport. jon noted that he'd seen yet another lost glove during his drive the previous day, bringing our total count to seven for the trip. an airport shop had my favorite drink from the trip - "superberries purple" - & i bought it again for the flight. there was an interesting case of confiscated goods in the airport...
delta messed around with me a bit, but in the end we found ourselves in the six-extra-inches "comfort seats", so i couldn't be mad. they even served sandwiches of turkey & apple chutney on a croissant, bringing me back to my first favorite sandwich, turkey with grape jelly. (hey, i didn't like peanut butter... anyhow, try it sometime!) i got some good shots of greenland on the way home - though we were flying at 36k, the sky was crystal clear, & we saw a good amount of both greenland & newfoundland.
i was pleased that new york security didn't care about my garlic dip - they didn't even ask about my positive "did you visit a farm or touch any livestock" customs question that usually gets me pulled aside - but they detained jon for a minute. we said goodbye after he made it through, as he left for a bus back to rhode island & i went back into JFK for a five hour layover. seven hours after THAT, i arrived forty-five minutes early into seatac, & gratefully returned home to my reptiles.
that was a wonderful trip, made all the better by strfvr. :)