3 Apr 2013

Iceland Highlights 2013 - Day 3: Drive from Reykjavik to Vik

The following morning I set off from Reykjavik, heading east; my destination for the evening was Vik, about 190km away. The weather was lovely, with pretty clear skies for most of the day. I stopped at Kerið, a volcanic crater lake on the road towards Gulfoss, but unfortunately the sun was a little low in the sky, and it was covered in ice, so I was unable to appreciate the colour that one sees later in the year (a bright blue/green). I had a little hike around the crater and then down to the water's edge (which was all ice) before heading back on my journey to Vik.

From Kerið to Vik there doesn't appear too much to stop at along the way, apart from a couple of impressive waterfalls, but I was pleasantly surprised! Straight after rejoining the ringroad I passed through the town of Selfoss. As I crossed the bridge into town I noticed a striking church on the banks of the icy river, so pulled over to take a shot.

Heading further east I passed lots of interesting geology (you can't travel anywhere in Iceland without seeing cool scenery), and took a turning off the road to the north, to explore a little. The mountain ahead of me was Hekla, which has become a little active (near the end of my stay I was hoping that there might be some action that would strand me there to take more photos, as there had been some ominous earthquakes, but no such luck/bad luck!) At the end of the road I stopped, played catch with a dog that presented me with a lump  of volcanic rock to throw, and stopped to enjoy the view below along the road on the way back to the ringroad. For such a rugged country there are some remarkably picturesque spots too.

Onwards on the last stretch of the journey towards Vik, the sun still shining, and I finally arrived at the first of the two spectacular waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss. I sat on a bench in the sun, drinking some Skyr yoghurt, eating a rye bread sandwich. As I ate the sun was coming around the side of the hill and onto the falls. I was quite surprised at how much ice there still was, as I'd visited on the exact same day the previous year and it had been completely ice-free (and this was also supposedly a much milder winter). I climbed the snowy steps on the opposite side of the falls, getting covered in spray and worrying about slipping in the process. When I got back down and cleaned off the lens and filters the sun was completely on the falls, producing a beautiful rainbow. It doesn't get much better than that!

And the ice formations on the far bank were unlike anything I'd seen before too; they looked like hundreds of grey and white eggs.

Next stop was another waterfall just around the corner (about 30km away) - Skogafoss. The sun was in the wrong place (I was about an hour late), but it was still impressive. I tried to recreate an atmospheric shot I took the previous year, but without the mist and rain (and blue anorak) it just wasn't the same.

From there it was only 30km more to my destination. The sun was quickly disappearing and I wanted to get to a beach near Vik for sunset, but I also wanted to get to the hostel to make sure I got a lower bunk-bed! Sunset took priority (it was only for one night, after all, so a top bunk wouldn't be the end of the world), so I drove to Reynisfjara first, a beach I'd visited the previous year that is on the other side of the headland from Vik, from where you can see a couple of the stacks off the coast, and where there are some beautiful basalt columns. It was a beautiful evening, with very little wind for a change. On my previous visit the winds had been so strong that I couldn't even use my heavy-duty tripod and the car kept getting whipped by the wind (and the beach was a couple of metres higher too)!

I sat on the beach, tripod firmly sitting there without being blown away, and watched the sun dip beyond Dyrholaey at the western end of the beach and the lovely golden light on the basalt columns to the east.

After a beautiful sunset I drove around the headland and into the picturesque Vik and to the cute little Nordurvik hostel where I found there was still a lower bunk available! Apart from a French party who'd stunk the hostel out with some fried fish and a headache from dehydration, as well as the skies clouding over stopping any chance of northern lights, it had been a fantastic day, with more sunlight than I'd had during my whole trip the previous year. If only those skies would stay clear and those aurora make an appearance...

Click here to see Day 4: Vik to Jökulsárlón 

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