Iceland, A Trip Around The Ring Road
FINALLY! A Part 2! Our trip to Iceland was FAR from over yet. We haven’t even gotten to the good parts! If you haven’t read about the first half of our adventures, you can read ICELAND, A TRIP AROUND THE RING ROAD | PART 1.
Our first stop that I’m sharing with you was our trip to Grjótagjá, which is a small lava cave near lake Mývatn with a thermal spring inside! Until the 1970s Grjótagjá was a popular bathing site, but during the eruptions from 1975 to 1984 the temperature of the water rose to more than 122 °F! The temperatures are apparently lowering back down to normal bathing temperatures again, but the cave is on private property so the owners have posted a TON of “NO SWIMMING” signs, which is probably a pretty smart idea so that no one can accidentally get hurt – or boiled to death. This place was super neat because it was actually on an episode of Game Of Thrones! Also, near lake Myvatn, there is a smaller “blue lagoon” that is nearly HALF the cost of the actual “Blue Lagoon”. It is called the Mayvatn Nature Baths. The lagoon itself is a man-made construction, its bottom is covered by sand and gravel. The characteristics of the water are unique in many ways. It contains a large amount of minerals, is alkaline and well suited for bathing, just like the Blue Lagoon near the airport! This lagoon was only $38 compared to the Blue Lagoons $61!
Next, we wanted to cross of a MAJOR to-do on Candace’s Bucket List… we went WHALE WATCHING! Husavik is considered the whale watching capital of the world, so naturally, we hoped on a boat and set out to see some whales! “North Sailing” is a company that will take you out on a 3 hour tour on a traditional Icelandic oak boat into the Skjalfandi bay to see various types of whales in their natural habitat. They provide you with a super warm suit to keep you from freezing and even give you hot cocoa at the end of your tour! We were able to see many Humpback and Minke whales just swimming around in the bay! Fun fact- you can usually see a whale if you see a ton of birds swarming around in a cluster. Where the birds are feeding, the whales are feeding too!
If you ever want to feel like you’re on a COMPLETELY different planet, visit Námafjall. The Namafjall geothermal field is located in Northeast Iceland, on the east side of Lake Myvatn. At this area, also known as Hverir, we saw many solfataras (a shallow volcanic crater) and boiling mud pots, surrounded by sulfur crystals of many different colors. The place is SUPER stinky. I mean, I had a hard time breathing without wanting to throw up. They say that you get used to it after a while, but I did not get used to it and I had to tap Candace on the shoulder and motion for the train to leave the station because it was bothering me that bad! But it was definitely a place that I would recommend stopping into, even for a few minutes, because it really was a place that was out of this world.
We told you that we counted almost 600 waterfalls on this trip, right?! Well, just because we had seen that many didn’t mean that we were tired of them in the least bit. We headed straight for Dettifoss, which is known as the most powerful waterfall in Europe because of the volume of water that comes from it! It’s spray was so strong that we got SOAKED just walking to it, even though we were easily a half a mile away. The spray even created a beautiful rainbow for us to capture! Also, did I mention that we saw GOLF COURSES?! IN ICELAND?! Naturally, we had to document this occasion with ol Cut Out Tony.
Now, for my most favorite part of the whole trip! The Glacial Lagoon! Better known as Jökulsárlón to the natives, this glacial lagoon is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then because of melting of the glaciers. It is now almost a mile away from the ocean’s edge and covers an area of about 7 square miles! It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland, at over 814 ft deep! The size of the lake has FOUR TIMES IT’S SIZE since the 1970s. It is now considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland! We were fortunate enough to stay at the lagoon over night and able to witness it at sunset. Because of the time of year, Iceland has 24 hours of sunlight right now, so “sunset” really lasts for about 4-5 hours before it just becomes day light again. The views at sunset were INCREDIBLE. Indescribable really! The chunks of ice that come off of the glacier float through a narrow channel and then pop out into the Atlantic Ocean. The waves then push a lot of this ice back up onto a black sand beach which make the ice chunks look like huge pieces of glass! People call this the Diamond Beach!
Alas! Another waterfall! The one is surrounded by dark lava columns, which gave rise to its nameand it is called, “Svartifoss,” which means “Black Falls.” These basalt columns have provided inspiration for Icelandic architects, most visibly in the Hallgrímskirkja church that we visited in Reykjavík! You can also see these same column formations in the cave that we visit in Vik next to the actual Black Sand Beach.
Waterfalls, glaciers, now CANYONS, OH MY! Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon in south east Iceland. The canyon has beautiful steep walls, and creates extraordinary shapes. Its origins dates back to the cold periods of the Ice Age, about TWO MILLION years ago! The canyon was created by progressive erosion by flowing water from glaciers through the rocks. Because it was formed by the glacial waters, I decided to take a sip and see if I could fill my water bottle up with some fresh glacial waters! It was totally clean and delicious!
Finally, unbeknownst to us, we were on our last real day of our Iceland trip. We drove to Black Sand Beach in Vik for starters. The stretch of black basalt (volcanic rock) sand is one of the wettest places in Iceland. The cliffs west of the beach are home to many seabirds, mainly puffins which burrow into the shallow soils during the nesting season. Offshore lie stacks of basalt rock, remnants of a once more extensive cliffline, Reynisfjall, now battered by the sea. These are the same columns that I had mentioned were formed at Svartifoss!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Iceland without visiting the world famous airplane! In 1973 a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, in the South coast of Iceland. Fortunately, everyone in that plane survived. Later it turned out that the pilot had simply switched over to the wrong fuel tank. For some weird reason, no one decided it would be a good idea to clean up the plane, so now it just sits on the beach!
AND, last but certainly not least, we got to end our trip with some EPIC waterfalls. Skógafoss is a waterfall situated on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline. The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 49 feet and a drop of 200 ft. Because of the amount of spray of the waterfall, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days! We were there around sunset so we didn’t see the rainbow, but we saw the sunset through the falls which beats ANY rainbow in my opinion. Iceland always has these weird legends that surround all of the natural wonders, and according to this legend, the first Viking settler in the area buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to keep the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum, but who knows if the legend is actually true!
At the end of our day, we rode off to see Seljavallalaug. It’s nestled in a narrow valley below the infamous Eyjafjallajökull and it’s the oldest pool in Iceland that is still standing. It was built in 1923 by some visionaries that wanted to provide the locals with a place where they could learn how to swim. Unlike today, where Icelanders won’t graduate school without passing a swim test, most Icelanders didn’t know how to swim in the beginning of the 1900s which was a problem since many of them lived off fishing. We never actually got to swim in the pool because this is where poor Candace decided it would be a fantastic place to shatter her leg in three places at 1:00 in the morning! After a ton of running around and being a little frantic, the emergency team showed up and we drove 2 hours to the nearest hospital to get Candace some help. We changed our flights to the next day and got her home safe and sound, and ready to start on her road to recovery! She had to have surgery to place some pins into her bones, and she is on bed rest essentially for a few more weeks, but should be back up and running like the well oiled machine she is come August! If you could, you should totally check out her new and improved website and read all about her amazing travels that she gets to experience almost every month (with the exception of her healing time at the moment)! Of course, any prayers and kind wishes would be lovely for her to have!
We definitely plan on taking another trip back to Iceland to finish up our trip that we had to end a little short, so if you have any recommendations on the South side of the island, please comment below and let us know!