Tag Archives: Waterfalls

Day 12 – Yes, We Canyon!

Saturday 10th July 2021. One loses track of time on an excursion such as ours. It was something of a jolt to realise that it was the weekend, at least for everyone else; we just carried on in our little dream world as we explored the southern region of Iceland before joining the “Golden Circle” route tomorrow. And, probably, hordes of bloody tourists.  We’re now within range of day trips from Reykjavik, and it showed in the number of punters and the number of coaches at the various places we stopped for a gawp.

The first of these was yet another Interesting Church, this one on the site of a medieval convent at Kirkjubæjarklaustur, very near our hotel.

Like almost every Interesting Church we’ve come across, it was closed, and I have yet to hear a credible explanation of how come there are all these churches which seem almost universally to be unused on any kind of a regular basis.  Is there a vicar or priest? Is that person a visiting official? Who pays for the upkeep? etc, etc. Anyway, it’s lovely to see such interesting church designs; and this one is not the last of this trip.

The next place we went to has to be one of the most arresting sights of our holiday in Iceland. It’s called Fjaðrárgljúfur and is billed as a canyon.  As you approach it, you begin to get some idea of what awaits.

Then you look carefully and you can just make out a couple of sheep as the merest dots (just left of centre in this picture)

and then you climb to the observation platform and see this

This was the first Shot Of The Day. It is a truly awesome sight, without being completely overwhelming (like, say, the Grand Canyon is).  A remarkable start to our day. You can walk down towards the other end, passing some sheep

(one was sleeping and we hope it didn’t really drop off) and have a look from there.

There’s a figure on the right bank as we look along it from here, and that gives some idea of scale.

We next got a chance to see a couple of uniquely Icelandic things.  The first was a sheep rounding circle.

There are half a million sheep in Iceland – more than the number of resident people – and they are basically free to roam.  This means that you can come across them almost anywhere, sometimes, alarmingly, in the middle of the road as you drive along.  Somehow (by horse, dog, 4×4, anything that works), every September these wandering sheep are rounded up from wherever they’ve got to, a convulsive effort over around three days which is a massive part of Iceland’s culture and something that all farmers have to join in on.  The sheep are herded into the central pen and then individual farmers pick out their sheep (they all have ear markings) and separate them into that farmer’s segment.

The second insight came as we got a chance to try to grasp the impact of an enormous event in Iceland’s – and indeed the world’s – history – the Laki Eruption of 1783-5.  This was of staggering size and impact: an outpouring of an estimated 42 billion tons or 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide compounds that contaminated the soil, leading to the death of over 50% of Iceland’s livestock population, and the destruction of the vast majority of all crops. This led to a famine which then killed approximately 25% of the island’s human population. The lava flows also destroyed 20 villages. The eruption and its aftermath caused a drop in global temperatures, as 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide was spewed into the Northern Hemisphere. This caused crop failures in Europe and may have caused droughts in North Africa and India.

We stopped in the middle of the huge lava field resulting from this eruption.  It’s difficult to convey the scale of it – kilometre after kilometre of moss-covered lava, because only moss – nothing else – will grow on lava, and this takes centuries to develop.

I created a Facebook 3D photo which might help to underline the scale of this.

Our next port of call was what Dagur called the “Yoda Cave” – actually used as the setting at the star of Star Wars – Rogue One, as the cave our heroine dashes into to escape from some band  or other of marauding riffs.

It looks quite impressive from the inside as well.

This is in a part of Iceland that used to be an island, but the volcanic actions raised the land up around it.

This is close to a town called Vik, which has an Interesting Church, more for its location than its architecture.

In the distance to the left can be seen the “Three Trolls”, Reynisdrangar, rocky outcrops off the beach, Reynisfjara. You can get a closer view of them from Vik’s black sand beach.

We headed over towards them and I guess this was the first time we came across hordes of tourists – Reynisfjara is a popular spot and the car park was crowded. There are a couple of lava caves

one of which has basalt columns by it – popular for kids to climb on.

We carried on along the coast a short way, stopping at the clifftop at Dyrhólaey, which has a view over an impressive rock arch

as well as the surrounding countryside

it’s own troll

and – delightfully –

puffins!  Dagur explained that these are often blown over from their usual colony to the east during August.  The fact that some are here at this time of year, and that they appear to have burrows that they are using, implies that this is becoming an established puffin colony in its own right.  I took loads of pics, obvs, and even nearly managed an in-focus one of a puffin flying off.

But the wind was gale force and so hanging about to try to get a better photo was not a comfortable option. We moved on.

The southern region is marked out, as I posted yesterday, by glaciers and the road to our next major stop offered a chance to get a nice picture of one of them – an offshoot of Vatnajökull, but I don’t know which one, I’m afraid.

The rest of the day was almost exclusively about waterfalls, which was a relief.  It’s been ages since we saw a decent waterfall and I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms.  Our next stop, then, was at Skógafoss, but we were hungry so stopped for lunch at the hotel there before exploring the waterfall itself.

And it’s a splendid sight.  The car park was crowded, as was the shoreline, with lots of people getting in each other’s way as everyone tried to get fucking selfies, which always enrages me. Mind you, I did manage to get something out of other people’s cavorting.

By aggressive use of sharp elbows, I got to the front where I had a few seconds to get a view of the falls unsullied by tourist vapidity. But actually, the second Shot Of The Day came about as a girl walked in even further through the spray towards the falls and gifted me with the perfect shot.

Before the next waterfall, we stopped briefly to view some turf houses in a place called Drangshlíð.

I found this post about them on the web, but it didn’t really leave me any the wiser.

A few kilometres along the road we stopped at Seljalandsfoss, which is another great sight.

It’s very popular, as it’s a waterfall you can actually walk behind

after having done which, you can walk along to another one, called Gljufrabui.



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And that was nearly it for the day’s interesting bits.  We are staying the night in the Sel Guesthouse near Skalholt, and it is a charming place.  Though the charm is somewhat rustic, it has WiFi and other mod cons, geothermal hot water in the bathroom, but no restaurant.  So we made our way to the Farmhotel Efstidalur, which really is a working farm.  From the cafe, you can see the cows

and upstairs in the restaurant you can eat them.  We had a pulled beef salad which was absolutely delicious.  Then we indulged ourselves with some of their home-made ice cream downstairs.

Thus ended our day. We will be Doing The Golden Circle tomorrow, with the major tourist sites and sights that this offers. It should be a good day, and it’s our last day on this tour, so let’s hope for a final Grand Day Out. Please check in tomorrow to see what actually happened, why don’t you?

Day 9 – Go East, Old Man!

Wednesday 7th July 2021. A fine day was promised by the weather man and (for Iceland) sizzling temperatures of perhaps as high as 21°C! Somewhat better than we would have had at home. Schadenfreude lives!

Our overall direction, which you might have guessed from the title, was east, crossing from the northeast region towards the east coast. Dagur started the day with a few stops local to Lake Myvatn, the lake which was overlooked from our hotel.  There are some nice scenes

particularly if you ignore the photographer’s shadow.

The next stop was at a slightly bizarre place called Dimmubogir, not to be confused with the Norwegian symphonic black metal band, of course.  This is a dramatic expanse of black lava

which was lightened somewhat by the voluble song of this little chap as we arrived.

In folklore, Dimmuborgir is the home of the thirteen  ‘Icelandic Santa Clauses’ or Yule Lads. On the thirteen nights before Christmas, these trolls come one by one, not to deliver presents like in the softy UK, but to terrorise Icelanders, each with their own strategy after which they were named. It’s amazing what you can think up when the night lasts several months.

After that we visited a small geothermal pool in a lava cave, which was rather lovely.

It’s called Grjótagjá and is so small that really only one or two people at a time can enter.  A sign outside forbids bathing, but as Game of Thrones fans will know, Jon Snow ignored this sign for a bit of how’s-your-father.  I’m told.

Following this, we set off into the region of Iceland called the Highlands. This is basically a wilderness. In the distance one can see Herðubreið, rated as Iceland’s most attractive mountain.  We never got close enough to form an opinion about this, really.

Above is part of a region which had full vegetation until the 16th century until this was largely wiped out by an eruption from Vatnajökull. Despite this attempts were made to (sheep) farm the land some 100 years ago, which made this the highest farm in Iceland.  However farming was abandoned here twenty years ago.  Generally speaking lava and farming are not happy companions.

Further on in this wilderness is another slightly bizarre place, based on a settlement on an original farm called Möðrudalur. A company called  Fjalladýrð set up a company and now operate a campground and set up some buildings in a sort of modern take on traditional Icelandic construction.

As well as camping facilities and this accommodation, the company operates 4×4 tours into the surrounding wilderness.  Somewhat specialised vehicles are needed.

And there’s rather a neat little church nearby, too, which we added to our collection of neat little Icelandic churches.

We carried on eastwards (rather than head into the Highlands proper, which requires serious preparation, vehicles and cojones) and stopped to admire yet another waterfall, this one called Rjúkandafoss.



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The observant among you will by now be thinking “hold on – didn’t you rabbit on about this some days ago?”. And you would be right. But the Other Rjúkandafoss is a different Rjúkandafoss, you see, and is in the northwestern region, by Holmvik. But well done for paying attention.

Our journey took us into a town called Egilsstaðir, where we took lunch. Well, we paid for it, to be completely honest with you (and the restaurant). On the way in to town, I noticed a building which looked like yet another unusual church, and so we went in search of it after eating.  And it’s a remarkable building.

Sadly, access to the tower was locked. Damn!

The next town on our itinerary was Seyðisfjörður, but our route took us past (yet) another waterfall, which actually had two parts, upper

and lower.

Seyðisfjörður styles itself as “the heart of culture, heritage and hospitality in East Iceland.” It’s certainly a pretty place with all sorts of colourful buildings

as well as a cruise ship harbour (this was the Viking Sky, a 900-passenger ship so relatively small by cruise ship standards – relatively large by eastern Iceland fishing town standards though… we encountered the blue buses full of cruisers at some of the sights we visited).

The church is attractive outside

and lovely inside, with a wonderful scent of wood.

With the Seyðisfjörður box ticked, we simply then had to head back across the hills to get to our hotel.  En route, there was some great scenery

and a completely bizarre art installation

This is called Sæki Þetta Seinna, or “Heavier Mountains”, and I simply can’t be bothered to type in an explanation, so here’s a photo of the “explanatory” sign.

This is what the TVs were facing:

Accurate neorealism and minimalism? Or just utter bollocks. You decide.

Anyway the final town en route to our hotel was Eskifjörður. The town features a modern version of the fish processing factory we first encountered at the Herring Museum, and as a result the town smelt (see what I did there?) rather strongly of goldfish food… Anyway it also featured yet another unusual church.

which we’ve added to our burgeoning collection, and a rather cute hotel setup called Mjóeyri, which is a central building and several cottages.

The route to our hotel took us back through Reyðarfjörður, which has a remarkable aluminium smelting operation on its outskirts (it was hoped that this would save the village by bringing in jobs, but it didn’t really work, sadly).

And so we ended our day at the Fosshotel in Fáskrúðsfjörður, which has a lovely setting and a very, very slow kitchen.

And so to bed, with the ongoing journey towards south Iceland starting tomorrow.  Please come back and see how it went, won’t you?



Day 8 – Making a great deal more foss

Tuesday 6th July 2021. Yes, I know that obsessing about the weather is terribly British, but it simply has to be pointed out that today was the first day that the weather outlook for us here

was better than at home.


In reality, the weather here today really was pretty good – even, at times, a little too warm.  So, we’ve been lucky so far.

Our first stop was actually to the “supermarket” just along the road so we could buy something that would serve as lunch.  It wasn’t what we’d think of as a supermarket and the selection was a little sparse, but we found some pizza-ish sort of things that would probably do, and – mirabile dictu – a couple of apples.  To be honest, whilst the food we’ve eaten in the hotels and restaurants here has been very well-cooked, well-presented and tasty, we’ve discovered that They Don’t Do Fruit And Veg Much here, so the quest for dietary fibre is often, erm, fruitless. That’ll be me showing my age, then.

So: a morning of waterfalls beckoned.  Firstly, the most powerful waterfall in Europe – Dettifoss.



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As I hope you can hear from the sound on the video, this is an awesome thing. It must be said, though, that we preferred those from yesterday.  Dettifoss, because it’s carrying such a volume of glacial rock fragments, actually looks a bit muddy.  I know it’s pathetic to expect pristine white water, but there you go: we’re tourists – what do we know?  Dettifoss is one of several waterfalls along a canyon, and there was an insight into the impact of the glacial sediment on the water flow via a view of whatever the geologists would call the side street of a canyon.

You can see the clarity of the water which is out of the mainstream.

The second waterfall of the day is visited on the same hike which took us to Dettifoss. It’s called Selfoss, and it’s also pretty impressive.

You can see photographers on the far side of the canyon. These are the keen beans who have risked the tyres and suspension of their vehicles and a possible broken ankle or two to get to the Dedicated Photographer side of the canyon. Ok, the view of Selfoss would have been better from that side, and you can also get a Classic Shot of Dettifoss from over there; but our schedule, and my not-preparedness to lug a tripod over rocky terrain and spend much time setting up long-exposure shots, conspired against my achieving anything other than the standard Tourist Pics (which I’m very happy with). Dagur did his Pro Photographer bit as best he could at Selfoss, given that his clients were too pathetic to go the extra mile.

But the two falls were anyway impressive to see.

And that wasn’t the end of the foss we had to make this morning, as there was a third waterfall to visit, Hafragilsfoss, down another rocky track.

It wasn’t possible to get really close to this one because the track, even under normal circumstances a somewhat tricky descent, was impassable because of rockfall.  Such a shame. No, really.

It was getting towards lunchtime by this stage, and we were understandably anxious to get at our pizza-ish goodies, and Dagur suggested that we could hike to lunch at Katlar, which was along, you guessed it, a rocky track a little further downstream in the canyon. So we loaded up with lunch goodies and set off. We hit a decision point and, through a process that I don’t quite understand but am very grateful for, took a side track. This was actually a revelation, as it led through a landscape that we simply hadn’t come across before in Iceland, involving, as it did –  trees!

and wild flowers!

It really was a gorgeous walk, beside a river which of course gave rise to more photo opportunities.

After a while, we wound our way back towards Katlar, which is a gorgeous gorge

but decided in the end, and mainly because of the increasing numbers and importunateness of the flies, to head back to the car, where we ate our lunch in air-conditioned comfort but with no view.

At the next stop, we agreed between us that it wasn’t worth spending time heading toward the lava cave that Dagur had originally in mind (we’d already passed a couple, maybe not so grand, earlier in our walk).  However, the car park for that trek was interesting as it illustrated the difference between how serious Icelanders go on serious camping holidays

and how the Germans do it in Iceland.

After this, we went to an oasis of calm called Ásbyrgi Canyon.  This is a huge horseshoe-shaped wall of rock with a lake at its foot (Icelandic legend has it that this was a hoofprint of Odin’s 8-legged horse, Sleipnir. I couldn’t possibly comment on the veracity of that.)

And yes, a rocky trail leads down to the lake and at first blush it didn’t look as if it was going to be all that calm

but fortunately the bus load of Americans left shortly after we arrived and it settled down a bit. From the lakeside, you can’t capture the scale of the place in a photograph. You have to climb up to a viewing platform to do that.

But I did try a little snippet of video (creative director again was the distaff side) to give some idea of what it’s like on the lakeside.

We then headed back to the hotel, via a small town called Husvik, the Whale Watching capital of Iceland, where Dagur took the Land Rover off to clean it whilst we pottered around. The town is typical of our experience so far here, in that there are some attractive buildings

but much of the town is basically workmanlike rather than pretty.  It does, however, feature an unusual church, which we of course added to our collection of same.

After Husvik, we headed back to the hotel but Dagur took us by an alternative route which enabled us to get some insight into the reason for the lupins in Iceland.  You  can see them dotted about in the laval soil here.

Dagur told us that he remembered being driven along this road by his father when he was quite young, and it was just black sand. And this sand had been a major problem, particularly as it blew in the wind; soil erosion was one issue, and damage to cars’ paintwork was another. So the lupins were planted to combat soil erosion and they work – but it’s still ongoing and will be a task that carries on for generations to come.  The authorities are trying to leaven the mix with grass planting as well as lupins and this seems to be working overall; the problem is really to decide exactly where to cover with the programme, as a huge area is affected by this issue.

And thus ended another varied and interesting day, apart from the bit where Jane educated the hotel bar staff about Boulevardier cocktails. We have another V&I day in prospect tomorrow, with – who knows? – perhaps even more puffins! But much of the schedule will be decided on the hoof and so you’ll simply have to come back here and find out what we got up to, won’t you?