Iceland 2016 – Southwest Iceland (Part 4)

Unfortunately, this will be my last installment of my Iceland 2016 adventure. So I will take this opportunity to be sentimental and reflect on my experience, almost a whole two months later. Iceland feels like a dream. Like I was never even there. I recently printed out about 250 pictures (out of the 700+ I took) and put them in a photo album. As I was putting these pictures in the album, I had a hard time believing that it was me, Mike, and Ricky in those pictures. We weren’t actually there for real, that was a dream! Those places weren’t places on earth, but some computer generated picture of another planet!

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A picture from the beginning of our Southwest Iceland adventure – somewhere on Rt 36

Iceland is such a unique, amazing country, with so much to offer. Our adventure didn’t even scratch the surface. I feel as though I could spend the rest of my life exploring just Iceland and never get bored or run out of things to discover. I truly hope to return one day and visit the things that I missed.

So now that we got that over with, let me tell you about our adventure in Southwest Iceland, which took us a little over a day – leaving Reykjavik on the morning of Day 4 of the trip, staying in Skógar that night, then meandering back to Reykjavík on Day 5. We made many stops along the way to Skógar and on our way back to Reykjavík. This post is a bit long, but we fit a lot into these days!! Don’t worry, though, it’s mostly pictures. 🙂

Day 4

We had amazing weather on Day 4. We left Reykjavík pretty early in the morning so that we could shove as much into the day as possible. Instead of heading straight toward our destination on the Ring Road, we decided to take a quick detour and hit part of the Golden Circle.

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Self portrait somewhere along Rt 36

Stop 1 – Þingvellir National Park

This was the only stop along the Golden Circle that we hit. After spending some time on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we were kind of overwhelmed with the crowds and tour busses that we encountered in Southwest Iceland, especially along the Golden Circle.

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Speed limit sign on the way into Thingvellir – sad because people were speeding

If you haven’t already figured it out, I love geology. I love learning about everything geological that happens on Earth, and, more importantly, why and how. Continental drift, volcanoes, how things form, types of rocks, and so on. It’s fascinating. Þingvellir actually is where the North American and European continental plates are slowly moving away from one another, at about 1-18 mm per year. So needless to say, Þingvellir National Park had a lot to offer me. Across the park, you will see fissures, ponds, rivers, etc. We walked along part of Almannagjá, which is a big rift that leads to Alþingi site (the first ever democracy, organized by the Vikings that settled Iceland). Fun fact: Þingvellir translates to “Parliament Fields”. Everything was debated and decided outdoors. If you’re interested in history and/or government I recommend you research more about it. It’s quite interesting.

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Oxarafoss (I think)

Also along the Almannagjá were – brace yourself – some of the backdrops for scenes in Game of Thrones. As in where the scenes were actually filmed. Now, I won’t give you any spoilers, I’m actually only on Season 2 because I’m a late bloomer. And I am also adamant on reading books before watching the movie/show counterpart. But anyways, Mike and Ricky (and others we walked by) were so excited and were talking about how this character did this on that rock and blah blah blah…I was too busy being awestruck by the actual formations to pay attention to their ramblings.

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A picture taken while walking along the Almannagja trail to the Visitor Center
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Walking through where the continental plates are tearing the earth apart!!
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A vastly different landscape everywhere you turn

Þingvellir was a really neat stop, which was 100% unplanned, but I’m glad that we decided to take the time to visit. It was fascinating to see the different landscapes and learn about the first democracy. We wandered around for quite awhile before heading back to the Ring Road and continuing east.

Stop 2 – Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfurárbui

We wandered around these waterfalls for over an hour. There was so much natural beauty to admire, and we had some gorgeous weather for it!

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Seljalandsfoss – My favorite group picture from the trip
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Blue skies – great day for a walk
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Glujufurarbui – a waterfall behind cliffs!

Stop 3 – Eyjafjallajökull

This was a super quick stop to read the sign and check out the volcano that made such a big stink in 2010. You may have heard about the volcanic eruption that created a giant ash cloud, grounding all air traffic to/from/over Europe for quite some time. There’s also a visitor center close by, but we didn’t take the time to check it out.

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Stop 4 – Rútshellir

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Entering farm country

Rútshellir is one of 200+ man-made caves throughout the farms in Southern Iceland. This cave was used to store hay. There were also many sheep and lambs wandering around here – they were so cute!

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Rutshellir

Stop 5 – Dyrhólay

Pronounced “Deer-lay”, here we saw fascinating rock formations and black sand beaches. This is a prominent location for birds, and when we were there (late May), the beaches were closed for nesting season. Mike spotted a few puffins!

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Rock formations, it was about 8 PM at this point…
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A natural sea arch

Stop 6 – Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara is one of the black sand beaches on the way to Vík – the southernmost town in Iceland. Here, a sign warned us to watch out for “sneaker waves”, sneaky waves that would pull you out to sea. Basically it meant: refrain from swimming because there is an undertow and rip tides.

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Rock formations right off the shore – when you see it…

Right on the beach are these gorgeous, natural basalt columns.

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This is me sitting on the columns, which are huge

There was also a cool hollow on the other side of these columns with rock patterns that were equally awesome!

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Ricky, to demonstrate the scale of these formations

Stop 7 – Vík

A wonderful little town – that was actually a town. Here we wandered around and took in the views from where the local church is located. We didn’t stay too long because it was getting late (even though the sun was still out) and we were a bit tired.

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Vik’s church – around 9 PM
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Part of Vik, picture taken from the church

Stop 9 – Skógar

We stayed here for the night. Before turning in, we enjoyed some beer, ice cream, and some coffee. Well, I was the only one who enjoyed the coffee, because I have the ability to drink it and then fall asleep. (Note: not decaf, I don’t believe in decaf).

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Iceland beer
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Delicious house-made ice cream and my coffee

Day 5

We started off the day in Skógar, exploring the waterfall just outside our hostel. It was actually right outside our hostel – less than 30 seconds away. Astounding. This country never ceased to amaze me. The weather wasn’t all warm and sunny like the day before, but we fully enjoyed the day anyways.

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Mike and I attempting to be cute – I think we did an ok job

In the above picture, you may notice a skinny dark green line going along the hill in the background. Those are stairs – and we went up those stairs. It felt like forever, but the views from the top were well worth it.

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The top
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The view
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We followed the river for a little while

After we had our fill of Skógafoss, we went back on our way to Reykjavík for our last night. Our only stop was actually a hike – Reykjadalur. This was our Blue Lagoon – the iconic geothermal hot springs that all the tourists “must put on their lists”. Instead of the actual Blue Lagoon – we hiked to a geothermal valley and took a little dip in the hot river!

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Driving through the town Hveragerthi – known for it’s geothermal activity
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The beginning – 3 km one way to the geothermal river

It was very misty along this hike. We felt as though we were in the Misty Mountains! Many Lord of the Rings quotes were dropped on this hike.

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We also passed a few hot pots, belching sulfur fumes. I almost lost my breakfast when we had to walk over a bridge that spanned a big one. It didn’t smell pleasant at all.

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Stinky!

It was a little chilly, so stripping down to our bathing suits took some convincing. We actually decided at one point during the hike that we would just take a look and then head back. But who were we kidding – once we got there, we had to jump in!

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Water droplets on the GoPro
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Laying down to stay warm!

We tried to go quickly on the way down since we were wet and it was chilly, misty, and started to actually drizzle at one point.

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Mist for days

This hike was a great way to essentially end our trip. Our night in Reykjavík was a bit more wandering around, but we were so exhausted, we didn’t get very far.

Our travels through Southwestern Iceland showed us a different side of the country. It was much more farm land, but there were always mountains, volcanoes, or glaciers in sight, wherever we went. We saw a lot more waterfalls, and also a lot more tourists. It was a completely different feel than both the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Reykjavík.

Each part of Iceland we visited was completely different and refreshing. We saw and did a lot during this vacation. Even though we didn’t get to see “all” of Iceland, we fit so much in to the 5 full days that we were there it didn’t even feel like we missed much. Our trip was full of adventure, awe, and lots of SpongeBob quotes.

If you ever go to Iceland – I wish you the best of luck. Don’t be overwhelmed with all of the things that the country has to offer. Just pick a direction and go! You won’t regret it!

Happy Travels and Happy Life!

XOXO Dri

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