Iceland, why are you so magical, mystical, and wonderful? Is it your remoteness? Is it the barren volcanic landscape? Is it the sense of connection within that vastness that is mystifying and utterly fulfilling?
Chapter one had us basking in the urban wonder of Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. Here we are onto Chapter two of Iceland’s wonder for our treak around the southern ring road to the east, with yet another chapter to go! This one includes a crashed US bomber plane, a myriad of horses, sheep, and vast landscapes, and waterfalls, icebergs, and rock formations that’ll make your head spin. Sound good? Let’s do it.
After our initial adventures in the city, we hit the road of a thousand waterfalls. Iceland’s ring road follows the coast all the way around the country, making it an incredibly easy way to travel. It’s in weirdly excellent condition, though if you want to offroad, you’ll definitely need a beast of a 4×4 which we didn’t have. So we didn’t trek into the mountains. We didn’t need to, though, as you’ll see in these images. Every mile pretty much had us wanting to pull over to soak it all in. Just like we got temple fatigue in Cambodia, you do get a bit of waterfall fatigue by the end of your adventures in a country like this. Even then, they’re still utterly wow-ful.
We knew we wanted to suss out the infamous black sand beach with the crashed US bomber plane, which took some significant effort to find. These days locations are so easy to source thanks to instagram, but back when we visited it wasn’t so easy and we did quite a hike to try and pull this off, including crossing streams and getting very wet. Worth it for this wonder.
Yep, there she is in all her glory. Wasn’t easy to get to, but was definitely worth it, I don’t care how overphotographed this baby is. With good reason. Adventurous husband climbed up without hesitation.
This is just pulling off the road when we saw a beautiful view. No official designated viewing area, it’s not like that in the country. You just drive and then stop wherever you want and then just soak in all the wonder that surrounds you. No paid lots and gift shops and staying behind the barrier. and That’s what makes it so rewarding. You are authentically immersed in the real without and controlling facets that distance you from it.
As you can see, I lost my shit about the sheep. Turns out I am definitely obsessed with sheep and their teeny little glorious lambs. They’re weird and cute and wonderful.
With our timing being what it was, we sadly didn’t have the time to spare to actually go exploring the glacier at Skaftafell because our bigger priorty was the iceberg lagoon at Jokulsarlon. That said, we regretted it after the fact and definitely wish we’d had the time. Just a passing glacier devoid of people. Like no big deal.
Burying the dead worked differently here at this historic church. I think it has something to do with the ground being too cold to dig into?
Oh, Jokulsarlon, you have my heart. But goddamn, you were cold as SHIT. We were violently shivering enough to hurt one another if we stood next to each other. The winds were wicked cruel so we didn’t end up staying all that long. But the otherworldliness has sure stayed with me all this time.
Basically across the way/down the road from Jokulsarlon is the ocean are where the lagoon opens up and the icebergs empty out. So you find these giants that land on the black sand beach there. Almost crystal-clear glassy magic, or electric seafoam blue-green.
We hiked to Svartifoss because I’d heard it was the most beautiful waterfall, and I think I would have to agree. It was a short hike but with the cold and upward climb, it felt somewhat long. Worth it, though. Once we were there I didn’t really want to leave.
Basalt columnar formations in the ground. Obsessed with these. Kirkjubæjarklaustur refers to the church (kirk) and if I recall, this meant church farm. The formations are much like Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, and feel hard to believe are naturally occurring once you’re walking them. This was just a quickie pitstop but I’m glad we indulged.
Lastly, one of my favorite random places we stumbled upon. The traveler’s stone cairns mounds of Laufskálavarða. Fields and fields of stone cairns drew us over, at first we thought it was some sort of strange natural occurrence until we got closer and realized this was man-made. Historically, travelers would arrange and stack stones here for good luck while adventuring, and it became a thing. These days it’s discouraged with environmental impact being a concern, but that doesn’t mean we can’t walk through the fields of cairns and think back to what the first people to do this would have been experiencing.
So, that’s it for this installment! Soon we’ll have the Blue Lagoon, horseback riding the countryside, and our last days in this magic country. Stay tuned!