Monday morning, we explored the small town of Djúpivogur via car, filled up with gas from a crusty station, and began our long drive around the southern edge of the island.
The four days covered in this post start in Djúpivogur with stops at Jökulsárlón, Fjallsárlón, Skaftafell, Vik, Skógafoss, an overnight stay near Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, and two nights at a country house north of Thorlakshofn. From there, a hike at Skógafoss, horseback riding near Hveragerði, and a trip into Reykjavik.
Fish farm walls.
This is how you get a face full of horns.
View from above.
The long road.
Our first stop was Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. We parked and walked through a field of dive-bombing terns to the rocky edge.
The lagoon was full of icebergs of all shapes, textures, and colors. It was overcast, but some of the icebergs glowed an unreal blue. In the distance, the wide mouth of the glacier spilled into the water.
We unpacked our lunch and spent an hour watching icebergs bobbing and crashing into each other in the swirling current at the lagoon’s mouth. Baby terns rested on the icebergs while their parents dove for small silvery fish in the water. As the parent returned with food, the babies squawked.
The distant glacier.
More blue ice.
After lunch, we went to check in for our zodiac boat tour, but the reservation hadn’t gone through. There were no more openings for the day from that vendor or their rival. We were bummed, but glad our view was still free and amazing from the shore.
Off the main road, we drove for a few miles down a rocky road to the smaller Fjallsárló lagoon. We hiked from the parking area to find shallower brown water but equally impressive glacier views. It was uncrowded.
People for scale.
Not as blue.
Cool x 2.
Back down the main road and another dirt road, we stopped at a glacier canyon near Skaftafell.
It was starting to rain, so we only hiked part of the way up the trail along the western edge. We were parallel to the glacier, and its powerful force could be seen on the massive rocks below. The scale of the glacier was awesome and terrifying.
Looking across the glacier.
Those specs on the top right are people!
Massive and dusty.
Further down the road, we scoped out a narrow and bumpy route for a potential hike.
We guzzled burgers for dinner in Vik at the same place we stopped with A and D (1,900ISK/$14.50 each. Craft beer was 1,100ISK/$8.30 and not ordered, half liter Cokes for 350ISK/$2.65 ordered).
A wanted to use the camping gear she had been lugging around, so we dropped her off at the scenic campground at the base of Skógafoss. J and I drove to our nearby cabin with overpriced rooms, lots of power outlets, massive bathroom, self-checkin, and free breakfast. A Chinese man monopolized the outdoor hot tub while his female friends and family wore bathrobes and chatted loudly in the lobby.
Tuesday, J and I ate a big breakfast and joined A at Skógafoss for a 7.5 mile hike up the path along the lush gorge feeding the falls. Along the way, we passed more waterfalls, lots of sheep, and some great views.
We stopped for lunch at a spot overlooking three waterfalls and between the roar of two.
Sheep don’t care.
A seriously steep drop.
J after our scenic scramble.
Paint me like one of your Icelandic waterfalls.
A on the precipice.
After the hike, we went to the Black Sand Beach near Vik to see the basalt formations and watch puffins. While J and A took in the view, I fell asleep on the soft pebbles near the water. Puffins and paraglider flew above me.
Determined to pet an Icelandic horse, we drove back down to Vik and I lured two over to the fence with carrots. After six carrots and a lot of petting, I washed my dusty hands and we drove up the road to Seljalandsfoss.
At the waterfall, I saw a nearly 270° rainbow. Due to mist, I couldn’t photograph it.
The carrot eater.
Not 270 degrees from this angle, but still nice.
We bought some groceries in Selfoss, then drove to our accommodations in the middle of nowhere.
The property was easy to spot from the narrow country road: a large multistory building amongst a complex of other smaller buildings on farmland spouting geothermal steam.
The weird country house.
The host wasn’t there to meet us, but the door was unlocked. Inside, we found a modest farmhouse interior decorated in the style of the elderly. It reminded me of the old house from the family farm in Montana. I liked it.
But our floor was one section of a larger building that almost felt like a school house. We opened a door off the living room and ended up in the main hallway and stairwell. Another man with a lot of camping gear was rustling through stuff on the floor of another room. He wore shorts and a wool pullover, as was popular in the 90s.
Who was this man? Was he squatting there?
Without meeting the host, it was hard to know who belonged at the house. To make matters worse, we had no key to the main door and the hallway door had a weak lock.
We texted the host for more information about the keys and weirdo, but it wasn’t until 11PM that she wrote back saying that she never locked the doors and that it might be normal for someone to be staying there.
The man started crashing around the basement kitchen around midnight as he made dinner.
This didn’t calm my protective mind, and I couldn’t fall asleep. I propped a large chair up against one door and locked the main door from the inside. I climbed into bed around one, only to be awoken by a tour bus pulling up next to the bedroom window.
Inside were three people celebrating the end of a long day with drinks from a thermos. They wandered off into the darkness, perhaps to eat dinner.
I lied awake in bed, trying my hardest to figure out what was going on.
Wednesday morning, we ate breakfast and theorized that the strangers were tour operators that lived in the house during the summer. We locked our possessions in A’s bedroom just to be safe.
Since I was tired grump, we decided to keep the day mellow and drive to a nearby farm to go horseback riding.
Our guide was a petite blonde girl from Scandinavia who was working in Iceland for the summer. She knew little of Iceland, but she was a good instructor. A and I let our horses stop to munch grass more than the guide seemed to like. She didn’t want us to fall back. We didn’t want our horses to be hungry.
Each of us got a sturdy Icelandic horse for an hour-long ride around the farm and to the edge of the hills (7,000ISK/$53 each). My horse was old, but sturdy.
Like flies to sticky paper.
Our dusty steeds.
My old ride.
That afternoon, we drove to Reykjavik for noodles, for me to finally buy an expensive sweater, and a walk around town. We ate tasty fish and chips from a cart near the old harbor. A finally saw firsthand how the city was nothing special.
Honey comb style.
A colorful harbor view.
That evening, we returned to the house to find the chair pushed away from the hallway door. I was weirded out until I discovered a brand new toaster that the cleaning woman had tried to leave for us.
We toasted bread that evening and played rummy.
Thursday morning, we woke at six and left the house a half hour later for the airport.
There were long lines to check in, get through security, and reclaim our sweater VATs. Once again, A had bad luck with Delta and was delayed check-in. She barely made it on the plane in time for departure, and I suspect she will never fly Delta again.
The five hour flight felt smooth and fast. I watched the recent Spongebob movie and Interstellar. Neither held my attention by the end.
In New York, our connecting flight was delayed five hours due to a rain storm. We hung out on the small plane as most of the passengers disembarked. The flight attendants and pilot were funny, and we enjoyed listening to them chat as the rain fell outside. We even got a free cocktail and snacks.
The plane continued on to Detroit, and we had just enough time to catch a later flight to Nashville. We arrived at 11PM, and J’s father drove us north into the countryside.
Our trip was over, and we felt a little sad. No matter how new and interesting our next phase of life might be, it will be hard to top the last five months.
Now I just need it to get cold enough to wear my sweater.