“Wow” is likely the word most commonly expressed throughout Iceland. At least it was for us. The natural beauty of the landscape is intense, extremely varied and a glimpse of primordial earth. Vast expanses of barren yet unmistakably alive wilderness are teeming with powerful waterfalls, canyons carved by fast flowing rapids, and steam escaping the earth through tears in its crust. It is humbling to say the least. As if time there is measured on a different scale, and one on which we need not factor in. It was like driving through the imagination of Bob Ross on LSD (Classic Bob Ross). There are happy little friends at every turn and just when you notice something incredible, there is something even more spectacular around the bend. The land is constantly outdoing itself.
Day 3 started with a makeshift breakfast in our room at Hotel Edda in Skogal – one seedy bun with an unreasonable spreading of Smjor Icelandic butter. Delicious! We picked up an over-priced but necessary coffee from the nearby hotel lobby ($4 CDN each) and were back on Route 1 heading east toward Solheimasundul beach.
We pulled off the road to an inconspicuous parking area and another tourist advised that the site we had come to see is about a 45 minute walk from the road to the beach. It did not look that far but the cold, harsh wind stretched every second.
(Strong winds on Solheimasundul Beach, Iceland)
Finally, we arrived at the wreckage of a US Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane that crashed in 1973. So eerie. The contrasting twisted white metal and black sand looked post apocalyptic. Apparently everyone survived the crash, unwittingly creating this iconic landmark.
(Plane Crash on Solheimasundul Beach, Iceland)
(Plane Crash on Solheimasundul Beach, Iceland)
After the long, cold walk back to the car we regained feeling in our hands, shook the black sand out of our shoes and continued down the highway to Dirholaey and Reynisdrangar rock formations. First we stopped at Dirholaey, which translates to “the hill island with the door hole.” It is really a massive black arch of lava reaching out into the sea, which sounds better than the literal meaning, but still not nearly as impressive as the actual view.
A short drive further and we were at Reynisdrangar, three black lava sea stacks. If you watch Game of Thrones, think iron islands of the iron born.
(Reynisdrangar, Iceland – from the west side, facing east)
(Reynisdrangar, Iceland – from the east side, facing west)
We stopped in Vik to visit the Icewear Woolhouse (Vikurprjon) where we showed great restraint and only bought a thick wool blanket to commemorate our stay in Iceland. We had a quick bite to eat (more gas station hot dogs) and carried on to the east.
In my research of Iceland, I read many blogs that described the temptation to stop every 5 minutes along the highway to admire the scenery and take pictures. That temptation is very real and often irresistible. We did stop many times but the pictures just don’t do justice to the surroundings. The following are just a sampling.
(Eldhraun Lava Field, Iceland)
(Massive glaciers spilling through mountain ranges. These are frozen rivers of dense ice, formed when the accumulation of snow exceeds the rate at which it melts, often over centuries.)
(Endless fields of purple flowers called lupines. These are all over the country, however we were told the actually originate from Alaska and were brought to Iceland some time ago.)
We later stopped at Fjallsarlon and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoons on the south end of the Vatnajökull glacier. Our cameras didn’t capture the enormity of these glaciers. The icebergs floating in the lagoons are the broken shards of ice that had fallen off the glacier. Jokulsarlon Lagoon actually flows out into the north Atlantic ocean. The turquoise icebergs float majestically in the frigid waters while the waves crash violently over them and wash them ashore. The black beach is lined with all shapes and sizes of beautiful ice sculptures.
(Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon)
(Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon)
(Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon flowing out into the North Atlantic.)
(Icebergs from the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon washed ashore.)
We finished the day at Hotel Jokull (Hotel Glacier) in Hofn. This was the cheapest we could find and still ran about $200CDN per night for a small double room with a shared bathroom. It was cozy and clean and included breakfast so we were happy. We splurged on a nice dinner in town at Pakkhus restaurant right on the harbour. We will soon be writing a separate post on the food of Iceland so I’ll skip that for now.
(Hotel Jokull – Double Room)