Another big day! We got up early to have breakfast at Hotel Höf and headed first thing for Skaftafell.
Apr roaching the based, we could see Skaftafelljökull looming overhead. We decided to do the short 2km hike to see Svartifoss. The day started warmer that it had been all week and combined with an ascending hike, we actually had to take off 2-3 layers which was probably the first time we’ve been too warm this whole trip! Svartifoss is definitely unique with its black basalt columns. Lonely planet described the falls as gloomy but even on a cloudy day, I would say peaceful and secluded. You feel enveloped by the basalt columns around you. We will return one day for a glacier hike!
After Skaftafell, we headed towards Vík but not before passing the expansive Sandar which is black sand ”desert” and one of the most isolated areas in Iceland. I wouldn’t want to get lost there!
We also drove through Kirkjubaejaeklaustur and visited Kirkjugólf which is a area of smoothed down hexagonal (and other shapes) columns formed by cooling lava. It was once mistaken for a man-made church floor and hence its name.
The drive around Iceland continued onwards with ever changing views. We stopped briefly at Laufskálavarda and layed on our on stone the towers already there for good luck.
We then drove onwards to Vík. The sky cleared up and while Vík was initially unassuming, a quick drive around the corner west of Vík down a parallel road to the Ring Road leads you to a beautiful pebble and black sand beach with caves and hexagonal pillars to explore. We stopped for a lovely picnic lunch during the sunniest afternoon we’ve had since our first 2 days in Iceland.
Following a delicious lunch, we continued westwards to the Golden Circle. We first went to Gullfoss (Gold waterfall) which consists of two waterfalls. There are two parking lots there, we took the upper one and in fact waiting in a car for a while in the hopes that the rain would pause. It didn’t so into the rain we went but luckily it had slowed to a drizzle by the time we got to the falls. I thought the most impressive part was the narrow ravine into which the water rolls.
Still drying off, we ventured to point number 2 on the famous Golden Circle – Geysir. Turns out Geysir hasn’t been active for a while so we watched it bubble for a good 10 minutes. In the past it has only been activated by seismic activity. Fortunately for us, we didn’t know there was a smaller geysir right next to the well known namesake Geysir, Strokkur. It was quite the surprise when it went off right as we walked past it! Amazing it hadn’t given itself away the whole time we were walking up to the park! Strokkur goes off every 8-10 minutes and we even got a ”double geysir” on video! Our favorite geysir was Litla Geysir – the little geysir that just doesn’t give up, it just keeps on boiling.
After Geysir, we went to our final Golden Circle stop – Þingvellir. Þingvellir’s claim to fame is its historical importance in Iceland’s history – it is the location of its first parliament and possibly the first recored ”democracy”. It was here by this fissure-riding valley that chieftains made important decisions as a group. Þingvellir translates to parliament fields. Here, the shifting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates can also be observed as they move away from each other at a rate of 2cm a year.
By the time we were done the Golden Circle, I was hungry and tired! We headed to Rekjavík for food but was misguided by a typo in lonely planet but ended up at the Seabaron by the harbour. Deceptively plain from the outside, it´s a simple restaurant full of character serving up soup and grilled fish kebabs among other choices. You pick based on what’s still sitting in the fridge and then you sit back and marvel at the myriads of ”treasures” on the walls as you sit on your buoy and wait for your fish to grill. It´s budget friendly too. We had the lobster soup and halibut for under 3000 ISK.
A delicious meal done, we were finally ready for a place to lay our heads. We checked into the Reykjavík downtown hostel and to our pleasantly surprised to find out were upgraded to a private room with a bathroom. What a treat for our last night! Next time I think I’d like to try the loft hostel although it might be noisier due to being located in the core shopping area.
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